|Grace at tennis camp|
The girls just finished a week of tennis camp with their cousins, a summer tradition now for three years. Their head coach is Dave Okun, who was also a coach to my sister and me growing up. Though I haven't played tennis seriously since high school (my sister still plays), all those hours I spent on the court are a part of me. Dropping the girls at tennis camp feels different than dropping them at basketball, or soccer. The thwack of ball hitting racket has an emotional resonance with me still that is tied to my memories of my parents (many time champions of the "Married Couples" tournament at the Haddon Field Club) and my youth.
The truth is, though, that although at one point I was a promising tennis player, despite my hours of lessons and clinics, I never became that good, because I turned into an emotional basket-case on the court. Really. Once I hit the big time (read: varsity high school tennis), I played with a desperate fear not to lose rather than any over-whelming desire to win. It is still a little embarrassing to me, so much so that a few years ago when I was invited to the Hall of Fame dinner for a teammate who was being inducted (Kim Lamania--she was amazing), I contemplated, for a moment, not going, because it meant reliving all those feelings. I know this is ridiculous. Nobody, nobody at all, has thought about this for even one second other than me. This is probably true for all teenage anxieties. All life anxieties, perhaps.
A good coach, if you listen to him, will tell you this. I wasn't ready to listen all those years ago, which is a shame, because I'm sure Dave and many others were giving me all kinds of wonderful advice. I know he did, actually, because when I picked the girls up at camp the other day I noticed a painting that one of Dave's players had done. There were two, in fact, and both quoted Dave. One read,"If you can't hit a winner, don't hit a loser," and the other, "Make a decision."
I don't know what this year ahead will be like but I know that, since my mom died, something has fundamentally shifted in me. Or perhaps I am the same but the ground beneath me has shifted, and now I have a different view. I find Dave's words very wise, so much so that I think I'm going to live by them for a bit. For the day by day, "If you can't hit a winner, don't hit a loser," (i.e. get out of bed, be kind, do some work, breathe) and for the long-term, "Make a decision" (i.e. LIVE). For though I never quite mastered it in tournament play, I still remember that wonderful feeling of hitting the ball right in the sweet spot, the power of my arms, my legs, all of me, making a decision and doing something about it. Though you were never guaranteed that it would happen, when it did, it was magic.