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"Hash Mark it!"
An exert from the book, "Serving the Master" by Kay McDaniel


There is a short sequestered line located on a tennis court that is no bigger than 3 inches. It is called the "hash mark." Players know it as the mark that divides the right side of the court (deuce) from the left side (ad). Even though it is quite minute in comparison to the other lines on the court, I have found it to be a significant visual to help control emotions while in competition.

Remember the last time you played for over an hour and the games were tied? The competitive juices were flowing and soon, someone would win the first set. Abruptly, you miss a "sitter." Another unforced error, and the momentum of the match could turn for your opponent.

Guess what? Another mess up! Now, you are steamed and mentally unprepared to play the next point. Fuming over your last ridiculous mistake, you walk toward the backcourt to retrieve the ball. Your head shakes in frustration, not believing your pathetic attempt to execute a winner. A mere moment passed, and before you knew it another point and game has been tabulated, not in your favor either!

Nothing infuriates an athlete more than "unforced errors" or simply stupid shots! The worst defeat is the one inflicted on yourself. You kick yourself so much that your opponent's task is made easy. How can you avoid that self-imposed punishment? How do you stop the bleeding? One way is to "hash mark it"!

The key is to maintain control of our emotions. If we don't, they tend to misfire and create more noise than 4th of July fireworks. If not properly taken care of they can spark your opponent's confidence while extinguishing your own spirit. When it's needed, go ahead and express yourself! Take a moment to "unload" and redirect your emotions positively. Part of the learning process is allowing yourself to feel the sting for that misplaced shot.

However, once you walk past the hash mark located dead center on the baseline, get over it. As you literally walk over the mark, strive to leave the past and its negative emotions behind by immediately focusing on the upcoming point. For some, that line comes much too quickly! If you are still too rattled to walk over the hash mark and start another point, buy yourself some time to "hash out" that last point. But once your foot lands near that hash mark it's time to let it go! Forget those defeated feelings and face a new point, prepared for an opportunity to win.

Yes, it may be difficult to overlook those raw "inexcusable" errors, but train yourself to be "in the present." If you don't, the opponent is just waiting to grab a few more points from you.

Your weapon of choice? "Hash mark it!"