I still have the determination I had in high school tennis and unfortunately the same smirk when I serve!
Monday night I played a United States Tennis Association match in the Devil’s Thumb neighborhood in Boulder. Although I had been warned, I was late for warm up since I didn’t anticipate the severity of the clogged rush hour traffic. As I drove down Foothills parkway the 50 mph gusts struck my car in shuddering blows. When I arrived at the courts, the temperature dropped as I stood shivering in my tennis skirt. How would we manage this wind? Some of my team dispersed to other courts down the road. My partner Sherilyn and I drove around a corner to a somewhat more sheltered one at the end of a cul-du-sac.
We met the opposition and started our warm up. The deafening wind thundered down from the foothills and slammed the ball onto the court. I would have to slice my balls higher tonight to get them over the net. I generally like playing in wind because I like to lob into to it. The ball moves around making it an unpredictable target and also keeps it on the court. I slice the ball which keeps the shot low forcing my opponent to hit upward into the current which often carries it off the court. I have played singles matches where the wind played to my advantage. Near the end of the match when it abruptly stopped, I sped up the game knowing my opponent could start playing their game again. I usually consider myself lucky when the wind starts to blow, but with this velocity, tonight might be a different story.
We were ready to begin the match so Sherilyn and I conferred about which of our opponents might be the weaker and stronger player. Both of them seemed athletic and could cover the court. Their solid ground strokes and volleys at the net would be fierce to defend. One had a slice which intimidated my partner.
The wind whipped between the houses and continued its erratic churning. The surrounding trees cast shadows which moved in fitful patterns across the court. Lobbing would be a risky choice. Just before we started I mentioned to Sherilyn, “Just go for it at the net. I’ll try to set you up.” She is a great player and once she is up there she can put the ball away. I am a singles player at heart and love to play from the back of the court. Unfortunately, at 4.0 tennis, whichever team has someone stuck behind the baseline often loses.
The match began with my service loss. Our opponents hit all the angles with the force of the wind at their backs. We had a glimmer of hope when we won 2 games and the score was 2-3, but those were the last games won by us in the first set which we lost 2-6.
In the second set we quickly found ourselves down 1-3. I am used to being alone out there in singles so in between games I had a little pep talk with myself. I smiled realizing the wind had died down a bit. I thought, “Just keep slicing cross court and receive, approach, and volley. Use the wind to your advantage.”
Then I trotted over to my partner and said, “Sherilyn just play your game. You have to run up to the net.”
“They have been hitting the ball at my feet all night,” she said, “I can’t get up there.”
“Let’s just pretend like it’s practice. Don’t look at them. Just play like you usually do.”
Sherilyn reluctantly agreed and walked back to her side.
During the next point she hit the ball cross court, ran to the service line, and then smashed it into their alley. Our point!
“Sherilyn! You’re back!” I screamed. I ran over and high fived her.
We won the next 5 games, winning the set 6-3. In lieu of a third set, we played a 10 point tie-breaker and won 10-6. “Woohoo!” We won the match.
After shaking hands with our competitors, I congratulated Sherilyn for blasting back and going for it by playing her game. She needed to feel confident again which she accomplished by pushing herself. I believe you have to stick with your plan in order to win. Even if we would have lost, at least we would have given it our best shot.
I think this message can be applied in life. We may set goals, but become discouraged when we meet opposition. We find ourselves back on our heels when we lose confidence. Doubt can cause faltering. We all make mistakes, even the pros. Sometimes a little reassurance is all we need to get back in the game. I try to keep the positive comments I have received stored away like precious treasure I can retrieve when I need inspiration. Recalling encouragement helps me to put the focus back on my aspirations. I realize that it takes a lot of resilience, determination, and tenacity. There will always be set backs, but when I feel vulnerable I say to myself, “I can do this.”
I know it will take courage, fortitude, and endurance to achieve my objectives. I plan to log in a lot of hours practicing my skills. I will keep my eye on the ball and hope for a breeze because I can always use a little luck!