Back story: I picked up a tennis racket for the first time my Sophomore year of high school for three reasons: 1.) I didn’t want to be in marching band. 2.) My best friend Sam did it. 3.) Being perfectly honest, the skirts looked pretty cute. At the time I had no idea where a cheap Walmart racket and a bucket of balls would take me.
So I opened a few cans of balls and my dad and I headed out to Harmon park to see if I was any good. Spoiler alert: I wasn’t. The first time you pick up a tennis racket, unless you’re some crazy natural born athlete, you will not be good. Tennis is awkward. We started off trying to see just how many balls out of our bucket of 12 I could actually hit in the court. Not even in the singles lines or even the doubles lines. In. the. Court. As in, not over the fence. It was a struggle, but slowly but surely, the number went up – I went from 2/12 to 12/12. Finally, Dad started hitting the balls back. I played my first ever season at the top of the JV line up, which, considering the first few times we went to the park, was pretty impressive.
In high school, tennis gave me something to do. It gave me access to the world of team-sleepovers and the trademark sock tan of a school “athlete.” It gave me perfect mix of the camaraderie of team friendships and independent competition. Eventually, it gave me leadership opportunities where being “the best” didn’t matter so much as making the season worthwhile for others. In hindsight, even as an educator with the upmost respect for academics, I can’t see why everyone would ever suggest cutting athletics from schools. My participation in a sport fostered a different type of growth – the kind I would never have found inside a classroom.
With our coach after our 3rd place finish (1st Doubles)
Lady Warriors senior night with the entire team.
Fast forward to College: I can say with certainly that although I love my University dearly, my first year at BGSU was terrible. We all have this illusion that you leave for college and suddenly life is automatically great. You meet the friends that are going to be in your wedding. You spend your free time laying outside on the quad, playing frisbee, wearing summer dresses and having life altering, deep conversations with your peers. News flash: That vision is a lie. I was so bored. I was either taking to few credit hours, or I just couldn’t find a way to care about my Gen. Ed. classes – to this day I’m not sure which. I quickly went from being the girl involved in every organization possible in high school to the college freshman who was too afraid to attend a meeting, too afraid to try something new because she spent her entire thirteen years of school in the same close-knit community. Enter once again: Tennis. Finally, in February, after weeks of saying I’d go and then making a weak excuse about having “too much homework” or something of the like (clearly a lie because as I said before, I didn’t have a grueling schedule) I finally went to a Club Tennis practice.
I’ve been a member of BGSU’s Club Tennis ever since. Tennis saved me my first year of college. I spent a long time being the worst person on the team, but I realized that regardless of my skill level, I needed it. I needed tennis. I needed the built-in friendships of a team. Shortly after I started going to practice, one of the girls on the team asked if anyone was interested in representing Club Tennis at Dance Marathon (BGSU’s biggest Charity event). I had been wanting to participate, but I didn’t have anyone to go with me, so I said sure. Selina is now one of my two housemate – both of whom I met through club tennis
BGSU Club Tennis at the Midwest Championship in Madison, Wisconsin
So now, in addition to playing on the club team, I drive every Sunday to play in a mixed doubles league. Every week, I drive to the courts to get beat by people older than me, some of whom even have children with my age. I play with professors and administrators, older men who are out of shape but strong, and women who are not powerful, but consistent. I don’t care one bit that I keep losing (okay, I care a little bit.) For me, I need tennis. Since my first year of college, I have dived deeply into the world of academia and have taken on various leadership positions. I play tennis because what you get out what you put in. I can choose to be competitive, but I can also choose to simply have fun. I’ve always loved learning, but in tennis I can learn in a different way. When I play tennis I learn about hard work, focus, and drive. I’m not athletic, not a natural born athlete, usually I’m not even in shape, but I can still play. I play tennis because it humbles me – I have to try, and I have to try hard. Tennis is a way for me to be the best that I can be beyond the classroom, but it’s also a way for me to escape. I need something where I don’t have to think, which is weird, because tennis is a sport where you do have to think. You have to think a lot. What I mean is, I need something in my week where I can shut out everything else. When I step onto the green court with white lines and lace up my Nikes (the ones I only wear for tennis), It doesn’t matter that I have a paper due or I messed up leading my organization again. The only thing that matters is a tiny florescent colored bouncy ball, the tiny jump I make right as my opponent hits it toward me, and motion of of my arm as I swing my racket. So it doesn’t matter if I lose. All that matters is that I am able to play.
Playing a doubles match in Wisconsin