Sports have always been an important part of my life. As a kid, I played pickup football games in the alley where I lived. Since it was narrow, running plays seldom worked. So the typical play was “everyone go long.”
I played in the outfield in Little League baseball, like my hero Duke Snyder. I was a fair but not outstanding hitter. The only time I really connected was when we were fooling around before a practice and I hit another kid in the head with a bat by accident. My stomach went though my feet I felt so bad.
Over the years I have also participated in basketball, volleyball, ping pong, racquetball, running, intramural wrestling and skiing, but tennis was my sport.
In tennis there are certain plateaus reached. I had one friend who never took a set off me. Against the top junior player in Hawaii, I took a set once, but never beat him.
All those years hitting tennis balls against a backboard, practicing serves with a bucket of balls, rallying and playing matches. Tennis provided the vehicle for me to travel, meet people, get into a top college and stay fit. When I no longer could run because of an arthritic hip, my sport changed to platform tennis. On the smaller court I was competitive and put less stress on my hip. In fact, I have a mystery novel coming out in July inspired by this sport called Court Trouble: A Platform Tennis Mystery.
Now that we’ve moved to Southern California where there is no platform tennis, I’ve taken up pickleball.
How many balls have I hit over the years? I calculate that I hit 1.5 million tennis balls during the ten years I played competitively. Add in the next fifty or so years of playing racquet sports several times a week, it probably totals another four million strokes. You’d think with all that practice, I’d be more consistent. The problem is that the aging process more than offsets the improvement. Still getting out on a court is something I look forward to. My biggest challenge still is expectations. I expect myself to play better than I do. I get mad when I don’t play well and hate to lose. When I’m in a zone, I play well and enjoy the game. It’s a constant internal argument on whether I get upset because I’m playing badly, or play badly because I get upset. Some days my strokes flow, the ball goes where it should, I anticipate well and I make the points. Then there are times when the shots go wild and out of control. Five and a half million strokes, and I still miss-hit the darn ball.