Does losing a lot make me a loser?

So I lost another tennis match last weekend.  This is nothing new, really.  As my high school son remarked on Skype to his college siblings, “Yeah, Mom likes tennis, she plays a lot.  Most of the time she loses.”  Which pretty much sums up the past few months on the tennis court for me.  And it’s getting annoying, because I think I’m actually playing better than I did before – I’m just not winning, that’s all.

For a while last summer, after one of the worst USTA (United States Tennis Association) seasons of my life, I thought about giving up tennis.  Turning my energies to something where I had a chance to improve.  But to what?  Not yoga – a teacher once stood beside me and loudly suggested that “some students” could benefit from private lessons before coming to group classes.  And this was after I had been doing yoga for a year.  Certainly not golf — don’t even go there.  Handicrafts?  No, thanks.  Cooking?  Although I enjoy it, I don’t see myself cooking more than I do now: I’m not going to teach classes or write cookbooks, blog about food, and so on.  My husband doesn’t want the next Barefoot Contessa anyway — at least he doesn’t want a wife of that size (now Giada de Laurentis, that might be another story).

So I figured I might as well keep playing tennis, since I like the sport, enjoy getting exercise outdoors — plus I like the clothes, the social aspect and organizing teams.  Even though I’d been starting to think of myself as a loser, not merely as someone who loses more than she wins, I told myself this attitude had to change.  That the self-criticism had to stop.  If I couldn’t play and have fun, there was no point in playing.  So for a couple of months I avoided playing tennis in leagues at my club, because they felt too evaluative.  I played random people for fun, and I didn’t think much about the results.  Tennis almost became a recreational activity again.

But I missed the organized matches.  So this fall I went back to league tennis.  I resolved to stop judging myself and just play.  To stop talking so much and watch the ball more.  Hard to do — at least hard for me.  I’m starting to see some improvement, however – but it’s not yet reversed my losing record.

And that’s the rub.  Because in tennis matches that “count,” captains won’t pair you with a strong partner unless you’re playing well, i.e., winning.  And you don’t stand a good chance of winning unless you’re paired with a strong partner.  So I have to win in order to impress the captains of my teams who are making decisions about when I get to play and whom I partner with.  But without a good partner, it’s tough to win.  And sometimes if your partner is perceived to be a lot better than you, the win is credited to her abilities, not yours.  See what I mean?  Just playing “for fun” is a nice idea, but that’s not how it works in ladies tennis.  

It’s easy to make excuses for why I lost.  “Well, my partner wasn’t having the best day.”  Or, “I love playing with X, but I think our opponents really had her number – they were hitting lots of balls to her backhand.”  Ladies who play competitive tennis have many ways to blame losses on our partners.  The fact remains, however: we lost.  We lost together.  We might think we played really well, but a 6-2, 6-1 score doesn’t sound as though we put up a fight.

So I have a choice: I can accept an identity as a loser.  Make whatever excuses I choose, but tell myself I’ll never be a “contenda” and should just have fun with tennis until my knees give out.  Or I can tell the negative voice, my own “voice of judgment,” to quiet down and stop branding me as a loser just because I’ve lost a lot of games lately.

It sounds simple, but it’s not.  Life itself is full of wins and losses: jobs, health, relationships, money, happiness.  Just because we lose doesn’t mean we’re losers, though.  Losing might actually make us stronger, more able to face difficulties we have to confront in order to win the next time around.

But losing still sucks.  I refuse to become a loser.  In fact, I don’t want to lose as many tennis matches in the next six months as I did in the last six.  I’ve done my share of losing for a while.  Now it’s my turn to win.

Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris



  1. Tell that VOJ (voice of judgement) to get under a bushel and stay there! In my every so evaluative world, one is a winner for getting out of bed in the morning and trying to make the most of the day. End of discussion.

    Now as for tennis, maybe if you grunted like Steffi Graff?

    • Anne Rosales says

      Hey, we could all do worse than Steffi — Tennis Hall of Fame, plus Andre is crazy about her. And everyone’s crazy about him.

  2. Hi Anne:

    I came across your site back in the fall when I was searching for like-minded tennis players/writers.

    Your post on losing really struck a chord as I’ve just finished a piece on the same topic. My post is called “Minor Adjustments” at

    Let’s connect. Hope you find the same parallels in our approach.


    Alex P

    • Anne Rosales says

      Alex, thanks, love this, and love your blog! Let’s connect more on email, as I have lots more thoughts but don’t post nearly enough of them . . .


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