“Champions keep playing until they get it right.”
—Billie Jean King, Former U.S. Women’s Tennis Player
Winning any type of event or competition is one of the greatest feelings in the world. It’s proof that the victor has outperformed, out-hustled and outsmarted his or her opponent. Yet, champions are never created with just one win. For champions, it’s about executing perfectly in each game to win every match.
Feeling content with a performance, win or lose, is one of the biggest mistakes an athlete can make. Complacency, which is difficult to overcome, can delay or stop an athlete’s progress. Championship athletes always want to get better, and they work hard to fix the little mistakes in their game to approach perfection.
Never be satisfied with your last competitive performance. Study how you can become better at your sport and implement it in your training. Your opponents are constantly training to get better; shouldn’t you?
Billie Jean King took that approach. From the time she was 15 until she retired from the game at age 46, she competed as a professional tennis player. Known for her quick thinking, ability to read opponents and powerful strikes, King controlled the court whenever she played.
Her most famous victory was against former top male tennis player Bobby Riggs in 1973. Billed as “The Battle of the Sexes,” it was the match that King took the most personal pride in winning. King was—and is—a strong advocate against sexism in sports and society, and she felt like Riggs did not take her seriously because she was a woman. Big mistake. King beat the brash-talking Riggs (6-4, 6-3, 6-3) to win the match in convincing fashion.
King spent 31 years of her life competing. She went all out during training sessions so she could be at the top of her game, no matter who her opponent was. She was not content with winning a match; she wanted to be perfect while doing so. Spending countless hours working on all aspects of her game, King trained with a focus on making her own game “right.”
During her illustrious career, King won 12 Grand Slam singles titles, 16 Grand Slam women’s doubles titles and 11 Grand Slam mixed doubles titles. At the age of 66, she continues to compete off the court. King founded the Women’s Sports Foundation, whose goal is to help advance the lives of girls and women through sports and physical activity.