Dec 12 2015
By Emily Autenrieth

Scott Sutter has led a successful life, building a winery, raising three sons, and succeeding in the sport he most enjoys, competitive tennis. He shares how a serious sports injury placed him at a crossroads: he could either give up doing the thing he loves or rebuild himself slowly and get back into the game. Scott chose rebirth, and says his morning ritual was a key part of his success. 

I started playing competitive tennis when I was 10 years old. By age 13, I was playing tournaments; I worked hard through high school to be the top player. After college, I started playing with USTA League, our nation’s largest recreational tennis league. I still play as much as possible throughout the week. Here I am at 50 years old, and I’m still playing at a high level! That’s really important to me. And I met my wife, Ann, through tennis. We might not have ever met without having this common interest.

One of most exciting things about tennis is how I find myself through the game. Sometimes it’s great to hit the ball as hard as I can to get my daily frustrations out. After a while, the game immerses me. It really shifts my concentration from outside concerns to the game I’m playing, and I stop thinking about the bad or challenging parts of my life because the match demands all of my focus. This aspect of tennis is why it has gotten me through so many tough situations in my life. 

So, when I suffered a serious sports injury to my arm a few years ago, I felt terrified. I thought I might never get to play again. So much of what had kept me healthy and happy was in jeopardy.

I couldn’t imagine losing the ability to do what I love to do, so Ann and I turned what looked like a terrible event into a catalyst for change. When we sold the Mt. Pleasant Winery not long after my injury and I shifted into a consulting role, I had the opportunity to spend time with the personal trainer Ann had hired me for Christmas. After just the first day of talking with a professional about my injury and aging, I really noticed a difference. I knew that if I stayed with the program the trainer had set up for me, if I approached it with the same consistency as I did my other rituals, I could solve this condition with my arm. And I did. I’m now hitting the ball like I did when I was 35 instead of 50. It took me three years of intense work but I not only got back to where I was, I got stronger.

Starting my day with a ritual is really important for me. Most people don’t realize that the patterns we choose each morning dictate whether we are going to go out and conquer the day or just sit around and wonder why we didn’t! My ideal morning ritual is to have the coffee pot programmed to brew at 5:30, drink my coffee, put on my workout clothes, bike to the gym, take a hybrid athlete class, do speed work, and hit the treadmill. I always feel much better when I get my day going this way. I have more energy and when I see it through, I see results.