Learning to Lose with Grace
I tossed the green fuzzy ball up into the air above my head, letting it drop back down into my open palm. That toss was too low. So I tried again, and squinted as the sun momentarily blinded my view of the ball — but my tennis racquet instinctively swung up over my head hitting the ball in a strong perpendicular line over the net to the edge of the box where my opponent was standing. Anxiously. Waiting.
This time, she didn’t even touch it. And I won the point: 15-love.
Winning games, matches, and tournaments as a high school tennis player was something I did very well. I enjoyed nothing more than serving the ball so hard it knocked the racquet out of my opponent’s hand. I felt like a queen, and the tennis court was my court.
But it didn’t feel so good when I was the one who got the racquet knocked out of my hand. Yeah, it was embarrassing. And totally deflated whatever ego I’d created after my previous win.
When I was a senior at Haltom High School, I won district in singles tennis. It was a big deal. Only a few other women in the history of the high school had ever pulled it off. And, to make the victory even sweeter, my dear dad, George Angle, was my high school tennis coach.
A guy’s doubles team won the district championship, too. So we all (including my mom) hopped on a plane and headed to the regional tournament in Amarillo. I vaguely remember my dad telling me how good the girls were going to be and that I needed to focus. “Think about bending your knees during your backhand,” he said. “Go the net. And keep the correct grip on your racquet.”
It was hot that day; it was always hot on Texas tennis courts. But I didn’t even have time to break a sweat before I got swiftly — and completely — beat. Nope, didn’t even get a game off the rock star standing on the other side of the net.
I cried. Pouted. And drank a lot Dr. Pepper after that humbling experience. But first, I walked over to the net and shook my opponent’s hand: “Good game,” I said. “Good game.”
High school tennis taught me how to lose, and how to do it with grace. Winning is easy. It’s what we all strive to do. It’s the goal. Failure is what happens when we don’t.
Looking back, I’m glad I lost, not just that game, but the many games and tournaments before it. As an adult, knowing how to lose has made failure bearable. I don’t dislike the people who’ve beaten me, because I know that the game of life is long. And nobody is keeping score of how many times you fall down (or fail), but rather how many times you get back up.
Today, I’m a terrible tennis player, but I’m a good loser. And the game is just getting started, and it’s no coincidence that it always starts with love.
For more than a decade, Sarah Angle has worked as a Texas-based writer. She began her career as a daily newspaper reporter and photographer, and now splits her time between journalism and marketing communications. Since starting her own freelance writing business, Sarah has worked for brands such as: Frito-Lay, RadioShack, Dairy Queen, Honda, Sid Richardson Art Museum, Samsung, and Pizza Inn. As a journalist, her work has been published in the Washington Post, Boys’ Life magazine, Texas Observer, Fort Worth Weekly, The Dallas Morning News, and 360 West magazine. In 2014, she won first place from the Association of Alternative Newsmedia for her feature story “From the Land of the Lost.” The following year, she earned a fellowship from the Investigative Reporters and Editors organization and became a board member for the Society of Professional Journalists, Forth Worth chapter. Currently, she teaches in the School of Strategic Communication at TCU. Sarah lives in Fort Worth with her darling daughter and a house full of books and mid-century modern décor.