WORTHINGTON -- It was the great quote machine himself, Yogi Berra, who once said, “Baseball is 90 percent mental. The other half is physical.”
Yogi should’ve played tennis, a sport where the mental game is quite possibly even more important.
Perhaps it’s because tennis is so personal. If it’s singles you’re playing (as opposed to doubles, where you at least have a partner to help cover up your mistakes), you might be able to blame your racket, which is the direction Yogi, himself, went once -- except he was talking about his baseball bat.
“I never blame myself when I’m not hitting. I just blame the bat and if it keeps up, I change bats. After all, if I know it isn’t my fault that I’m not hitting, how can I get mad at myself?”
Blaine Doeden, a junior at Worthington High School, is (you guessed it) a tennis player. He’s also on the school cross country team in the fall, and he’s on the YMCA swim team in the winter.
Doeden has spent a lot of time in the off-season considering his mental game, which he decided needed improving this year as he began his second season at No. 1 singles. He seems to be improving, indeed. A year ago, he lost a three-set match to Ryan Borstad of Lac qui Parle Valley that eliminated him from the section individual tournament. Already this season, he avenged that loss with a two-set victory over Borstad.
The third of three brothers who participated on the WHS boys tennis team, Doeden is continuing a family tradition. First there was Ben. Then there was Bryan. Now it’s Blaine’s turn.
The Globe interviewed Blaine for The Drill recently. You can go online at www.dglobe.com for video footage. Here’s a sampling of the interview:
QUESTION: Can you tell us a little bit about your tennis family background?
ANSWER: “I really didn’t start playing right away. It was really me just following my brothers to the court, watching them hit balls. They’d make me run around and pick up the balls for them -- kind of as a working ball boy. And years after that, my brother Ben was a senior and my brother Bryan was a sophomore. So all three Doedens were playing for the Worthington tennis team all at once.”
Q: What do you love about playing tennis?
A: “The thing I love about tennis is you can do so much with it. It can be a heated competition at a meet -- everything for the section, for the match -- and then you can go hit on a Sunday afternoon with your friends. It’s the same sport, because it has such a different atmosphere depending on what you’re doing.”
Q: How important is the mental game in tennis? What’s the most important mental aspect of the game that must be learned in order to be successful?
A: The latest thing I’ve been trying to improve on is the mental game. I tend to get frustrated in matches, and it can become a problem affecting my game. The next step I want to take to becoming a better player is to kind of fix the mental game and stay cool in matches.”