Tennis takes a significant level of athleticism. Getting back into the sport after a long hiatus is a whole different ballgame. Literally. Tennis-after-40 or tennis-after-having-babies or tennis-after-knee-and-shoulder-surgeries? Not as pretty as tennis-at-17.
I’ve never been known as the athletic type. I do my best to stay active enough to play with my kids, but I am not graceful on my feet or with equipment or while moving fast. God placed me on this earth for some purpose, of that I am certain, but it does not involve games with things flying at me. Keep your eye on the ball, make contact, follow through? Not my love language.
But, at the invitation of a close friend, a trusted friend, I joined the beginner tennis clinic at my local club. I had not played much since high school and found picking up the racket brought back many teenage insecurities. Since this is tennis-after-40, however, it was high time I squelched those unkind voices and just played.
Turns out, I love it. After the first few (very ugly) lessons, I caught my groove and could happily play for an hour or two. The other students and I chased one another’s rouge hits across the court, all the while laughing at our mistakes and learning a few lessons about women, specifically women-over-40 (give or take).
1. We are excellent cheerleaders. With each pong! of a solid hit, for every match won (our own or our opponent’s), at all the successful serves, there is always a “great job” or “nice hit” from the other gals in the group. Isn’t this what women do best? When we set aside the crazy mom-petition drive to prove ourselves, we shine at the opportunity to support one another. When we realize the other women in the room have our backs, we can accomplish anything.
2. We apologize too much. “Sorry!” “My bad” “Oh, that was my fault.” Yep. I heard (and said) it all way too much. And guess which group didn’t say it? Across the board, I didn’t hear the guys apologize like the gals. Sorry ladies, but we need to cut the crap. Mistakes are part of life. A ball hit to the wrong side of the court, a serve into the net? Just pick up the next ball and try again. I’m sure there’s a life lesson in this, but obviously I haven’t learned it enough to preach it. Sorry.
3. We struggle to be assertive without being, ya know, bitchy. Sharing the court while playing doubles can be tricky. It takes clear, quick communication to be sure you don’t bump into your partner or miss the ball. “Yell ‘Got it!’,” our coach instructed when my partner and I politely defered to one another and lost the point. We kindly apologized to the coach and each other before offering encouragement for the next shot. So many of us were taught that to be assertive is harsh and unladylike. Rather, to be commanding, to speak your mind, to stand your ground all takes confidence, not rudeness. And confidence is quite possibly the most beautiful asset, the most ladylike attribute a woman can wear, on or off the courts.
Thanks to a racket and zippy little yellow ball, I found a great workout, lovely friends, and a few more things to love about being woman who is “over-the-hill.” Ha!