“I think I can, I think I can. I think I can.”
-The Little Engine That Could
This blog is not about tennis or sports psychology. This blog is about giving people hope, and the cultivation of optimism. The belief that anything is possible. We are all blessed with the tools to become successful, but oftentimes we get in our own way. We don’t believe that we can do things. But the truth is, we can. Let’s recall my all-time favorite children’s story…
A little railroad engine was employed about a station yard for such work as it was built for, pulling a few cars on and off the switches. One morning it was waiting for the next call when a long train of freight-cars asked a large engine in the roundhouse to take it over the hill “I can’t; that is too much a pull for me,” said the great engine built for hard work. Then the train asked another engine, and another, only to hear excuses and be refused. In desperation, the train asked the little switch engine to draw it up the grade and down on the other side. “I think I can,” puffed the little locomotive, and put itself in front of the great heavy train. As it went on the little engine kept bravely puffing faster and faster, “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.”
As it neared the top of the grade, which had so discouraged the larger engines, it went more slowly. However, it still kept saying, “I–think–I–can, I–think–I–can.” It reached the top by drawing on bravery and then went on down the grade, congratulating itself by saying, “I thought I could, I thought I could.”
–The Little Engine that Could, Mabel C. Bragg
Mabel C. Bragg, a school teacher in Boston, wrote this story in 1930.
Well her her story lives on to this day. Here is an email I received from the great Alma Prelec in Boston.
A few weeks ago I received an email from my 9th grade cross-country coach reminding me to keep running throughout the summer so that I will be in shape for this fall. I wasn’t very excited to run after lounging around all of June but quickly I was back into the routine of doing about 5k every day. The only problem was, I would ALWAYS stop around halfway for just a bit to catch my breath because I’d think I couldn’t keep running. This was really bothering me because I didn’t want to have to keep stopping during tryouts.
One day I was reading your blog and I came across the entry about you during one of your first yoga classes. You described how you had to hold your arms out in a position that seemed to go on forever. You noted with frustration how an elderly woman near you seemed to be having a much easier time than you even though you were clearly in better physical shape.
Then you had a revelation! Even though you were in better shape, she was more comfortable with the yoga poses and therefore more confident and had better mental toughness.
So yesterday I went running again. As I ran, I thought about your post. As I neared the mid-point, I thought to myself “I am definitely fit enough to do this. All I need to do is be strong enough mentally.”
And then I did it! It was pretty amazing. I didn’t even feel tired when I got back home. Thanks!
–ALMA PRELEC, Boston Massachusetts
PS Congrats on getting your book in the US Open!
So that’s what I’m talking about.
How will you say, “I think I can” today?
Thanks for reading.
Come on out tonight @ 7:30pm to the Cryan Tennis Tournament at Mercer County Park, West Windsor, NJ for 1st Round Doubles action – Ed Tseng and Dan Horowitz.