“It’s History. It’s Over. Focus on Today.” and More Wisdom from My Father by Billie Jean King
Posted on June 1, 2017 by Billie Jean King
Billie Jean King is a winner of 39 Grand Slam tennis titles, a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and a champion for social change and equality. She serves as Atria’s Well-Being Coach.
At 15 years old, I appeared on the front page of the Long Beach Independent sports section for the first time. Unfortunately, it was for a match I had lost 6-0, 6-0 – the worst loss possible. I was very upset. Here I had finally gotten on the front page and it had to be for that.
My father nipped my complaining right in the bud. He pointed to the newspaper and asked, “What does the article say?”
“That I lost,” I replied.
“And when does it say it happened?” he continued.
“Yesterday,” I replied.
“Exactly,” he explained. “It’s history. It’s over. Focus on today.”
Great advice from the strong, loving, enlightened man who helped shape who I am today. After that, I never read my press clippings, and I still don’t. I learned if you lose, you stop crying, get on with it and get better for the next time.
My father was Bill Moffitt. (Yes, that’s him and me in the photo.) He was born in Montana in 1918. He played basketball at Long Beach City College, served in the Navy in World War II and was a fireman with the Long Beach Fire Department for 35 years. He and my mother, Betty, were married for 65 years. He passed away in 2006.
When my brother Randy and I were growing up, our dad was much more open minded and supportive than most in the 1950s. If Mom was tired, he’d say, “You go lie down. I’ll cook.” He’d even scrub floors. We all ate dinner together almost every night and talked about the day’s events and what was important to us. Dad would lead the discussion, but he encouraged us all to speak our minds. He and Mom were a real team, and I am so grateful for that. When it came to our parents, Randy and I got lucky.
Randy and I were both athletes from the time we were very young, and Dad encouraged us equally. He taught us to dream, to go for it – and most important, to never, ever underestimate your opponent. It’s not over till you’re shaking hands at the net. Was he ever right! That’s how I was able to beat Bobby Riggs in the Battle of the Sexes in 1973 – because I respected him first.
Today, I speak with many fathers who tell me how important it is to them that their sons and daughters have equal opportunities. When I had the honor of meeting President Barack Obama, he told me he remembered watching the Battle of the Sexes when he was 12 and it influenced how he raised his daughters. Think about that. The way my father raised me ended up influencing how the President of the United States raised his own children. It’s proof that by being true to our values, living authentically and setting a good example, we can have a lasting impact on others we may not even realize at the time.
Thanks for the advice, wisdom and encouragement, Dad. And Happy Father’s Day to all extraordinary fathers who work hard to inspire their children to succeed in life.