I know that someday you'll find better things.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Tennis Pro

If Team Sanders-Robinson had an official t-shirt, this would definitely be the logo.

Maybe you've heard me joke that our kids don't do sports; they do homework and lots of it. It's true-- there's not time for both (or not time to do both well.) 

So, homework is our sport.

Alas, there was a brief and shining moment when we tried to enroll the kids in tennis-- a sport which, if enjoyed, could become a lifelong hobby. 

A classy sport.
A dignified sport.

At one point or another, all three kids have been enrolled in lessons.

Is there a tennis pro among them?

Swiss Miss

Hannah had the discipline but not the motivation. She had a discerning eye when it came to evaluating incoming serves, and she could quickly and accurately detect whether the ball would be in or out. 

She never took a swing at a serve that was destined to be out. In fact, she often stood by patiently watching as serves landed in the boundaries, too. 

Hannah was the picture of neutrality. 
She was the Switzerland of the tennis world.

She could and would hit the ball, as long as it came right to her. She just didn't want to have to run (or even walk) to swing at it.

A Menace to Tennis

Caleb had all the enthusiasm in the world and absolutely zero coordination. He'd swing wildly every time the ball came to his side of the net without any regard for where he should direct the ball in its return. 

His technique was of a variety that made mandatory helmets for the players and onlookers seem like not just a good idea but an absolute necessity for safety. 

It's safe to say that more of his tennis balls soared up and over the fence than those that actually landed in the court-boundaries or even within the fenced area.

One could make a case that he sent more tennis balls up and over the 15-foot fences than anyone else at the facility. Ever.

Keep Your Eyes on the Ball

And then there was Mia.

From age two, Mia waited desperately to be old enough to take tennis lessons. In our city recreation program, the most cost-effective option required that participants be at least five years old. 

She'd seen the older two kids take lessons, and she'd played a little here and there with the rest of our family at the local courts. We'd purchased her an itty-bitty Dora racket. ("Tennis rocket," she'd called it as a toddler.)

Even during casual family play, it was obvious that Mia had the most natural athletic ability and coordination. She could hit the ball with a precision and control that made it seem easier than breathing. 

Mia was going to be a force to be reckoned with.
Except for one small thing: focus.

For this reason, her tennis lesson experience was possibly the most disastrous-- or at least the most inefficient.

During instructional time, she would try to balance her racket vertically on the ground. Sometimes, even worse, she'd position it horizontally on her head.

During demonstrations, her eyes were on the skies. ("But Mom," she'd say later, "I'm pretty sure I saw a bird's nest in the tree near the fence. I was trying to see what kind of bird it belonged to." Or sometimes, "But Mom, wasn't it unusual that there were six planes that passed over us on Thursday when there were only three last Tuesday?" )

During wait-your-turn-patiently, she invented some sort of game to amuse herself and the other participants, which meant that nobody was in the ready position when it was eventually time for each future star's respective turn.

From the sidelines, I called out reminders to her--probably to everyone's great relief and/or annoyance. I tried to gesture. I tried the evil eye. I did everything I could to influence her behavior in the moments leading up to her turn to serve and return serves.

Finally, it would be her time to shine.
Finally, the coach and onlookers (who'd probably been rolling their eyes in exasperation) would get to see her at her finest.

Such skill!
Such strength!
Oh, how they would marvel when they saw.
How could she be so young and so coordinated?

They never got to see her in action, though.

Every time it was her turn--literally EVERY time-- something else seemed to be catching her attention.

"Keep your eyes on the ball!" I called out again and again, but to no avail.

"What on earth happened out there?" I later asked her.

"Sorry about that. See, the sun was just right, and I could see the shadow of the ball, and then I could see the shadow of the racket, and the shadow of myself, and it was all so cool, seeing that whole little shadow world. I guess I just forgot to hit the ball..."

Better Luck Next Time

During a recent Pre-Spring Cleaning session, I discovered all three kids' rackets in the garage, long outgrown. As I added them to the box of items to consign, I wondered if our sport-ship had truly sailed.

Maybe it's time to try golf?


Look what came home following "College Week" at the elementary school. 

"Tennis?" I asked, "I thought you wanted to be a veterinarian!"
"I did, but my teacher said if we went to college, we could do anything we wanted, and tennis is what I want to do."

Good luck, kid.

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