Unbound

Letter to My Younger Self-Pete Sampras

... Pete Sampras/theplayerstribune:

Dear 16-year-old Pete,

You’re about to go pro, and you’re pretty excited. Deep in your heart you know you’re eventually going to succeed. But believe me, it’s coming a lot sooner than you think. You’ll have your early ups and downs, but in just a couple of years, you’re gonna fight your way into the Top 5 in the world rankings, and you’ll win the U.S. Open, beating the likes of Ivan Lendl, John McEnroe and Andre Agassi in the process. At 19, you’ll be the youngest player to ever win the U.S. Open.

That’s when everything will change.

You’ll be an up-and-coming American with no exposure one day; then, when you wake up the morning after winning the Open, you’ll be on talk show after talk show. All eyes will be on you, and the attention will take some getting used to — it won’t mesh well with your reserved personality.

There’s more to being a pro than just playing tennis.

There’s more to being a pro than just playing tennis. The more successful you are, the more people will want out of you. It won’t always be something you’ll want to do, and it won’t always be fun. The pressure will be as exhausting as anything you’ll ever do on the tennis court. But as a tennis champion, you have that responsibility. You play tennis because you love the game, not because you love the limelight, so get ready. Think about getting some media training. It’ll go a long way. Luckily, you’ll be out of the game before these things called Twitter and Facebook come around. Be thankful for that. One day you’ll understand what I mean.

Oh, and put the newspaper down. Don’t read what people are saying about you. No good can come of it. And if you do hear or read something negative about yourself, don’t sweat it. Let your racket do the talking.

On top of that, don’t forget to take care of your most important weapon: your body. Be aware of what you’re eating. There will be times when you wake up in the middle of the night before a match craving crazy things like hamburgers and pizza. It’s because your body is missing something. If you ignore those cravings and don’t figure out what your body needs (and it’s definitely not burgers or pizza), you’ll get on the court the next day and fall flat.

One day, everyone will be a nutrition freak. Be ahead of that curve.

Appreciate your parents. They give you the coaching you need. They always support you. They let you be your own man. And now that you’re ready to go pro, appreciate that they’ve given you as much of a normal childhood as possible. They never have and never will put too much pressure on you. Those are things you can’t see as a 16-year-old — the sacrifices your parents make.

Pay attention to all your parents do and take notes. It’ll come in handy one day when you have a couple of boys of your own.

Play hard, do it on your own terms and stay true to yourself. Do that, and you can’t go wrong.

Sincerely,

Pete

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