Sunday, September 23, 2012

Tennis vs. Me

My tennis crush started last year when I picked up a tennis racket for the first time.  It was a surprise love affair because I have a long history of being really bad at sports.

In 6th grade I was a 5'10" flat chested, braces-wearing, permed hair tween who was as awkward as I looked.  Occasionally I was picked first in gym class by an idiot-child who erroneously believed my obscene height would equate to physical prowess. This was simply not true.

In gym class, I would frequently duck during basketball scrimmages.  Once while playing volleyball I was hit right in the face with the ball because I wasn't coordinated enough to lift my hands and shield myself.  In truth, the only physical activity I could do with any amount of competence was run.  Add a ball, and it just got complicated.

Fast forward three decades, and not much has changed (although I'm happy to report my braces are off and I did finally manage to grow some breasts!).

Now I have two children, and every Saturday I sit and watch them take tennis lessons.  Their coach finally convinced me to try tennis.  My kids made it look so easy; I thought I may have a chance.

I completely fell in love.  I wasn't good, but I thought I could get better.
I really worked at getting better.
My goal was to get good enough to wear a tennis skirt without feeling like a fraud.
Finally, I got to that point.  That's when my tennis crush blossomed into love. I was adequate at a sport that allowed me to shop for and wear cute clothes. Awesomeness.

I suppose I should have known Tennis would eventually break my face heart.

It happened on a beautiful fall evening during a weekly tennis clinic.
The clinic instructor groups players based on skill levels.  I was accustomed to playing on the court of shame..the losers' court...the court for newbies and klutzes.  That's my court.
But I'd been practicing...

Finally my moment to shine came. The tennis coach placed me on the advanced court. I was going to play doubles with three tremendously skilled women. I had arrived!  Like a young person moving from the kid table at Thanksgiving dinner to the grown up table, I had advanced.

I stood tall as I approached the court in my snazzy tennis skirt and hip shoes.
I was ready. I would impress them.

After a brief warmup, the game started. My partner and I scored first. I was feeling strong and confident.  The other team served to me. I swung, hit the ball over the net, followed through on my swing, and promptly hit myself in the head with my racket.

"Ouch," I thought.

I continued playing. I wasn't about to let that little misstep slow me down or cause me to lose focus.  Then I started sweating.  Strange because it was a cool evening, but I was under a lot of self-induced pressure to beat the crap out of my opponents play well.

I hit the ball again, and again I wiped more sweat from my face. I was really starting to sweat. I nonchalantly wiped more sweat off my face.

As I hit the ball a third time, I looked down at the ground in time to see a large drop of blood splash to the court. That's when I realized I wasn't sweating.  I was bleeding from my head.

The game stopped as the other three women looked on in horror. Not only had I hit myself in the face with my racket, causing a bloody gash under my eyebrow, but I had then repeatedly smeared blood all over my face.  I was either a tennis bad ass or a complete fool.  Can we go with tennis bad ass?

After being tended to by fellow tennis players who included a nurse, an eye doctor and ironically enough a psychologist, I was sent home to heal.

As I sat at home with a bag of frozen peas on my face, my daughter looked empathetically at me and said, "It's ok, mom.  I think you are still pretty good."  My son just wanted to hear more about the blood.

I suppose I'll never qualify for the US Open, but had anyone taped my obvious display of tennis inadequacy, I'm quite sure you'd be seeing me on the next episode of "The World's Funniest Home Videos."

Tennis, anyone?

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