Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Unforced Errors

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Since I'm married to sports aficionado, I've learned the game of tennis and actually enjoy watching it. Of course once two women came on the scene who turned the tennis world upside down, I've watched it ever since.
Unforced error is tennis term that means: the ball you hit was not good - it went outside the line or in to the net. You did not score the point and the opponent did not cause the error - you did. Perhaps you double faulted or hit the ball wide. None of these are intentional.

The official definition is: Error in a service or return shot that cannot be attributed to any factor other than poor judgement and execution by the player [Source: Glossary of Tennis Terms ]. But poor judgement is entirely subjective. There is no mention of physical fatigue, tactical decision making, and mental game.  See more at: Tennis Game.

The thing about unforced errors is that they don't necessarily determine the outcome of the game. What really matters is your proportion of unforced errors to winners; typically if you have more winners you win.

An example of an unforced error is a double fault. In tennis a fault occurs when you do not serve the ball within the lines of the opposite box. This is the only space that a serve can land. A player has two chances to serve a decent serve. If you miss twice its called a double fault and it is also considered an unforced error. Now it takes a lot of effort and skill to place the serve in the box. Because you're playing against an opponent you think tactically and so you do things to the serve that make it difficult for the opponent to return - after all that's the point of the game; you're trying to win points. If the serve is not returned it's called an ace and the player who served wins the point. So you may serve with a high speed, or your placement is always on the line, or you may also spin the ball. As a player, you're always going to go for it, because the rewards outweigh the risks. It never looks effortless when an unforced error is committed.

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Here's what Roger Federer - currently ranked #2 for men, has to say about unforced errors:

“I don’t care about unforced errors. The guys that love the statistics, they love those things. I don’t care if I make 20 or 60 unforced errors. I don’t care, as long as I’m doing the right things and staying true to my game plan and it makes sense. If I’m just making errors and I can’t hit a winner any more, then I’m in trouble, clearly."


Sports provides great analogies for our lives particularly our spiritual lives. So what's the point?

  • Sometimes you have to go for it.
  • No one is perfect - perfection is unattainable for imperfect human beings even for the #1 players.
  • You'll never know until you try,
  • Once you've made the error, put it behind you and move on to the next point. Don't get bogged down by your errors.
  • When you go for it, give it your best effort 
  • There are things out of your control like the wind, or the crowd.
  • In tennis it's about the win.


Tennis like life is complicated and requires some mastery. The only way we can master life is with God. Don't let the fear of failure prevent you from going after your goal. Even if you've failed, don't stop trying. Give every effort one hundred percent. Don't get stuck on your failures, but instead keep moving. We're not perfect, so all of us will make errors at some point, but with God's help we will succeed especially if what we are going after is what He has in store for us.




True humility and fear of the Lord lead to riches, honor, and long life. Proverbs 22:4 (NLT)

Furthermore, because we are united with Christ, we have received an inheritance from God,[a] for he chose us in advance, and he makes everything work out according to his plan. Ephesians 1:11 (NLT)



Have you made any unforced errors lately? How did you recover?


1 comment:

  1. There are so many wonderful parallels between sports and life. I used to play tennis. I wasn't very good at it but even that tough me something.

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