QUESTION (From Brett Elkins)-As a longtime fan of yours (whom I might add that I still needs your autograph), as wanna be racquetball father and player, as a follower and a friend (I hope its mutual Cliff or my 9 year old son Cody might disown me), but my newsletter readers are dying to know the following which I still can’t comprehend (but maybe they can): Are you ready Cliff for my question (and one of your wicked returns). But please be gentle here…remember I am a novice:
“Cliff, how can a charming, debonair 48 year-old man destroy a talented Jr. USA team member Nick Bernal recently whose 1/3 your age in 3 games; and then take down the former all world Jr. champ & top 10 pro Markie Rojas aged 20/21 (half your age–I might add ); and next spit out his brother #4 IRT pro Jose Rojas; and then almost beat #3 pro Alvaro Beltran in a breaker and then like a war hero be asked by Alvaro to get from you one of your famous, autographed shirt with cliffswain.com tattooed on it and then nonchalantly ace the king “Kane” 6 times in a row killing that sitting duck in both directions with no answer until he gets lucky a few times against you. Is it simply your charm, those classic All-America looks, an easy going demeanor or just a famous reputation which causes player convulsions leading to inadequate returns and a slow, steady sinking death, or is it just a case of an old, yet good looking guy having an unstoppable serve? Or even better still, I want to know if you, just like Rocky Carson, with all of those cool, all natural supplements he’s selling too have uncovered the fountain of youth and now you want to share this discovery with my readers. Cliff my readers are ready to Ponce on this one (get it Ponce de Leon) so let me know. I just need a few point myself…for my D league matches.
ANSWER (From Cliff Swain)-–Great question Brett and wow even calling me old when you are you are my senior? Ok so here is my secret- I always have thought & still think that the “old age” excuse is just that, an excuse. I hear all kinds of excuses at all levels about age, injuries etc. and to me that is a clear sign of weakness… Preparing your excuse–should you lose or sharing your excuse with the world after a loss is poor behavior to say the least. My dad always said to me, “Cliff, if you play at all, you’re not hurt so if you’re injured…don’t play”. Thus, whenever, I decided to play that was it- if anything was wrong with the way I felt, I always kept to myself. One year, I found out two months into the season, just before The US OPEN and I would need knee surgery. The previous year I had lost my #1 ranking to Sudsy & I desperately wanted it back. I had two choices: Burger King or McDonalds (sorry Brett’s bad joke): 1) Ok- Get the knee surgery & miss the next 3-4 months & 2) have no chance at being #1 or play & do my best. What I knew from my dad was again the fact that if I played, I wouldn’t make an excuse. So I kept the injury to myself, beat Sudsy in The US OPEN finals & got my #1 spot back at years end. Winning that year was definitely one of the things I’m most proud of. Not that I was #1, but that I laid it on the line 100%, took the risk, played with pain & didn’t tell a soul (except for my mother & father (and dog-Brett’s inserted joke of course). Making them proud is as great as it gets. Here is my formula for winning:
Take these Steps:
a) Show up fully prepared which means the following….
b) Be 100% in shape. I always remind myself that it doesn’t matter if I win in 45 minutes or 3.5 hours. If you’re are worried about the match going the distance then YOU have created pressure that doesn’t need to be there. I wasn’t worried about a long match with anyone so it created a sense of calm rather than the opposite feeling which is PRESSURE.
c) Be 100% practiced and prepared to play. If you have not devoted the effort and time to practicing and training, then once again YOU have created worries which cause pressure.
d) Always take care of the little things… Equipment (racquets, grips, stringing, shoes etc. Eating properly the night before, a good night’s sleep and yes being hydrated. If you’re worried about these things because you didn’t take care of them when you should have then YOU have added stress & pressure when it could have been easily avoided.
NOTE: My favorite expression is “Control what you can control.” You can’t control the court hinders, the refs calls, the bad bounces, or even the angry opponent, but you can control the other things that are very important. You can control your destiny. Brett, I hope that is “ageless” advise and the secret sauce to my success against some of these great young players.” And have fun playing win or lose. It makes a difference.
(Brett Elkins, is Chairman of Outdoor Racquetball Hall of Fame; the #1 selling Amazon author of the parent-teen drivers education book titled “Teach Your Teen to Drive…and stay alive and he runs traffic schools nationwide. He writes a hilarious and did I say funny monthly newsletter so email him at Brett@trafficeducation.net (it’s free). Or follow him on Twitter-Brett Elkins@racquetdad)