It was years ago when I played in the final of an "under 12" tennis tournament in Vancouver, BC. At the time I was expected to win these local tournaments quite easily because I was playing tennis at a much higher level than the kids in that age group. In the final, I was up against a boy I had beaten a handful of times before without much resistance, so everything was lined up for another junior tournament victory. I remember walking around the tournament site and I ran into the trophies that were all perfectly lined up next to each other, one was for the winner and one was for the finalist.

There was just one problem - the finalist trophy was much, MUCH nicer then the winner trophy, although the winner's trophy was bigger the finalist one had this beautiful fake gold surrounding the entire trophy with a beautiful carving of someone replicating a serving motion. I wanted it badly. I held it up, I kissed it in a club photo, and I even walked around with it while other players stared at me looking very confused. When I was a kid I loved variety, and my trophy cabinet would look great with this new golden trophy that would add some zest to my cabinet of other boring tennis trophies I thought.

It was a game-time decision whether or not I would actually act the part that would help me lose the match and be united with that beautiful trophy. So I came up with a plan - I would fake an injury midway through the match. That way I wouldn't let my father (who was my biggest fan to say the least) down too much, and I would have a great excuse if anybody asked how I lost. With the score at 4-4 in the first set, I found a perfect opportunity to fake my injury. I ran for a wide forehand and perfectly rolled over on my ankle and fell to the ground; the performance would have made any Italian soccer star proud. I winced and mumbled and was told by the local physiotherapist who was court side (damn it!) to take my sock off to check the swelling and to apply ice on it, so I did. She noticed that there was no swelling but I insisted that I be helped off the court because I couldn't continue. So I was helped off and laid on the couch with my leg up so I could elevate it. I congratulated my opponent and continued to apply the ice pack to my fake painful ankle. Everyone waited until all the age groups finals matches were finished so that the trophy presentation could start.

I patiently waited for my moment to take home that golden trophy that I had my eye on all day long. The presenter always called the finalist names first, so my turn was coming up to go up and receive my trophy. I was so excited that for a split second I completely put my attention on the presenter and the trophy and completely forgot about my umm injury!


It was right at that moment that I LEAPED off the couch and confidently walked up to the podium. I shook the hand of the presenter, grabbed my trophy and turned around to give my thanks to the tournament sponsors. To this day I'll never forget the look on everyone's faces as I turned around to face them, they were looks of complete and utter confusion. The worst part of it all was that my dad was in the crowd as well. He knew exactly what was going on, and he started to walk towards me and with a quiet voice whispered into my ear, "I'll go get the car started." That was my signal to get the heck out of there and never return...

Author's Bio:

The Anxious Athlete story in an inspirational journey about a professional tennis player not only having to deal with the on court battles in his life, but also the off court battle in the form of an anxiety disorder. After suffering from debilitating panic and anxiety for 6 years, Dennis found a natural route out of his mental health struggles and with it fulfilled his greatest dreams on and off the court.