Offense is risky.

In relationships, it’s much easier to play defense and erect walls if it appears like the conversation might travel too close to home, or crosses into unfamiliar or uncomfortable territory. Naturally we play defense well. We sidestep answering certain questions, we dance around topics. We maneuver based on where the other person leads. Yet at some level we all desire to connect with people in a genuine way.

If we merely relied on our natural defensive abilities, we would not get too far down the path of intimacy in our relationships. It would take special people to repetitively, offensively, strategically ask the right kinds of questions persistently and consistently in a manner pleasing to the whim of my mood on a given day. The odds would not be in favor of collecting many close friendships.

I lost my tennis match today. The funny thing is I’m not very good at defense on the court. My style of play is much more suited toward the take-charge-and-attack-the-net strategy but today I found myself trying to anticipate the move of the other person and adjust. Early on in the match I played aggressively and sailed some balls long and some wide. So instead of being mentally tough and continue in my efforts to groove on my offensive game, I became discouraged with my performance and turned down the dial. I tried to play conservatively by taking fewer risks. I lulled myself into thinking that playing it safe was a winning strategy.

Playing offense takes energy and creativity. It takes resiliency and a high degree of self assurance knowing that if I misfire (either the tennis ball or a question in a conversation) I’m still an okay person. It means that I have to be gracious with myself by not expecting perfect performance especially when I’m off on a given day. Offense requires my putting my best stuff out there regardless of the outcome; the way the person on the other side responds is outside of my control. Offense has to do with being willing to throw off perceived hindrances, generating some internal energy, and going for it. For me. I think offense is tough, risky and worthwhile. And I think it is a winning strategy both on the tennis court and in life.

Generating Power

Generating Power

racquetballTennis is one of my loves. And improving my game is a constant focus which brings me a great sense of joy and stress-relief.  After I won my tennis match today, my opponent and I debriefed with the tennis pro who offered his insights. He said I played a smart match. Inwardly I knew what he was talking about—I figured out early on in the match that my opponent would send a ball blazing fast to my side of the court if I gave her a ball with any pace on it. So I quit hitting the ball hard, especially to her forehand. Then the pro asked us what we thought about the match and my opponent blurted out with a hint of frustration, “Well, she can’t generate any power on her shots!” I offered some of my thoughts without giving away my strategy and after the conversation thanked them both for their time and for the match and got in my car to drive home.

“Hmmm…” I thought, “Nobody has ever said that I can’t hit the ball hard before. Oh well, she’s just mad she lost.” And then I tried to blow it off. But weeks later, I found myself referencing her comment out loud and replaying it in my mind and somehow trying to prove her wrong. I can hit the ball hard. Yes, I can hit the ball hard, but so what? I knew something was going on at a deeper level.

As a personal coach, mother, wife, daughter, and friend I spend a lot of time helping others generate power to move in a certain direction in their lives, sort of like a power detector, reflector and deflector. I ask lots of questions and draw people out. I help people figure out what they are good at, or what they like to do and assist them in coming up with a plan to move toward that context or to focus their energies better. In fact, I love to do it so much that my own desires sometimes get lost. Maybe it’s easier for me to help others figure themselves out than it is to look in the mirror.

I’ve begun to think that perhaps my opponent was right on some level. Her comment got me thinking that it might be time to learn how to generate more power on my shots so I can break through to another level in my tennis game. Then I can come up with a win I feel better about—a win on my terms because my offense required her to adjust her game instead of the other way around.  I have a feeling I need to focus on my core strength. Lord have mercy. And I best be working on my abs.