This is a serious late night edition of the Life on the 649, especially since it is neither 6:49, nor a workday anymore. It is the middle of the night between Friday and Saturday. I am laying in bed, not able to sleep, and blaming a soar back for my inability to fall into slumber, which likely was aggravated by my strenuous tennis match this evening (last evening?), and also probably stemmed from sitting on the damn train! So there is my connection to the 6:49 and hence my applicability to this blog. The fact that I am awake has just given me opportunity, but the real topic is the power of the handslap that I experienced tonight (last night).
I went to the US Open a couple of times this summer, and I got a chance to see the Bryan brothers play doubles. These guys are probably the best doubles players in history, and certainly the most unique. They are twins, and if one wasn’t left handed, you’d not be able to tell then apart. The only way I can tell them apart is that Mike rhymes with right, and so Bob is the lefty. Anyway, I noticed that they dress alike, they move alike, and they have their signature Bryan Jump Chest Bump after great points and match victories.
One thing they also do is slap each other’s hand in between each point. It is an amazing rhythm to watch: at the end of a point, whether or not they have won the point, the brother at the net hops up, turns around and comes back to his partner, where they slap hands and quickly converse on the strategy for the next point. Watching doubles a lot, I see lots of partners doing this. But watching the best doubles team ever do this on every point in such a synchronized fashion is mesmerizing. You actually cannot tell if they have won the point or not, because the enthusiasm for that meeting is always the same. The hop, the turn around, the handslap, the conversation, another hop and back to positions.
So I figured I would try it. I played my normal doubles on Wednesday night this week, a couple of matches with different partners, and then again tonight (last night) in a USTA league match. The results were awesome on all accounts, and we kicked butt in each match. The handslap did not cause us to win so “handily” but it do something for our team morale, and I noticed that I had more fun than I usually do.
Tonight’s (last night’s) match was with my good buddy Albert. I let him know at the start that we were going to handslap between each point. At first he thought this was tiring and tedious, but at the end he actually like it and commented something that I have also felt. He wasn’t sure if the handslap was celebrating the point just completed, or if it was psyching us up for the next point, or if it was a little of both. There may be some science around the handslap, but I think the biggest benefit was in psyching us up for the next point.
You see when you play doubles, there are good shots where you both celebrate and are happy. But there are also times when you make a bad shot or your partner makes a bad shot. Generally teams do not celebrate the bad shots, and so they anger and guilt linger on your side of the court. The momentum shifts when morale goes down, and the edge favors the other team. Lots of players get down on themselves after bad shots. And I often wonder if my partner thinks I suck because of my bonehead playing.
The handslap erases this negativity before it can start. In between each point my partner and I are psyching each other up for the next one. We all make mistakes, but the power of working together for the common cause is what binds us and makes us stronger. If we can keep psyched up, we can tackle each point with positivity, and that camaraderie is fun because we are battling together. The hand slap, normally reserved for celebration after winning points, now makes every point feel like a winning point.
I noticed this feeling this summer as my 15 year old son Gregory and I were playing as partners 2 on 2 volleyball. We had never played volleyball together before, and yet we instinctively handslapped between each point. Something about the volleyball handslap is particularly appealing and hard to describe, except to say that because you are using your hands more and there might be more blood in your hands from hitting the volleyball, the handslap feels more meaty. But the result in camaraderie was the same, and that bonding moment is engrained in my memory — one of those supremely positive father and son moments.
So if you have not used the handslap recently, I would suggest you do. Heck, thinking of its power got me to write about it at 2am! But what if you could get that feeling with your colleagues at work, or with the other parents on the soccer sidelines…or your spouse. What if instead of thinking another person sucks because of a bonehead move or a bad shot, you hopped up turned around and shared a handslap with them? Let them know without words that you are in this game together and you’ll go get ’em on the next point…together.