I grew up in Spain, the second of seven siblings, three girls and four boys. The oldest one and the two who follow me being boys, I was always more involved in playing tag than playing with dolls, and I liked it that way. However, it was still a boy’s world, and, although sports were always present in my family’s life, especially soccer and tennis, those were activities to help burn my brothers’ energy. My parents were more keen on my gearing towards learning languages and reading, two things I also greatly enjoyed, so I was content. I was an active child, in a very general way. But I did love a certain sport. I loved tennis. In my house, other than my brothers, who played it a little, it was a TV sport. In a tennis-crazy country like Spain, we watched every tournament, and followed every national and international champion. First, as a little kid, McEnroe, Lendl, Connors, and then the Spaniards Sanchez Vicario, Ferrero, Edberg, Wilander, Agassi, Navratilova, Graff, Novotna, Seles … you name them, I knew them. I could tell you how they played, the shots they were best at; I breathed in their concentration, suffered when there was none, and witnessed, open-mouthed, their temper tantrums, their victories, and losses. You can say I learned to play tennis by proxy. But I still longed to play, the real deal.
It wasn’t happening, though. With such a busy household, priorities were set, and tennis was kept in the TV for me. Aside from a particular time (I must have been 9 years old) when I asked my parents to sign me up for lessons. And they said yes. There I was, on the clay court, ready to put into practice all that wonderful theoretical TV-tennis knowledge I had. I was given my mom’s 20-year-old woodenframe Slazenger racquet (with its original strings; that tells you how little she used it … ). The coach, an Australian guy, happened to ask me if he could look at my racquet; I handed it to him, and he turned it over in his hands, interested, and then handed it back to me politely. I was so happy, I thought he had noticed that it was as unique as I felt it to be, the tool that would help me become an active part of this sport that I loved so much. I realized many years later that he must have been in fact shocked at its antiquity. No one had played with such a racquet in a generation. I was put to hit balls with 20 other kids, all in one court. I think I hit the ball twice in one hour. I tried one more lesson, with equally disappointing results. I gave up.
So I kept up with the one tennis I was good at. TV-tennis was never disappointing in its delivery of world-class performance, and I would never have to fight to hit the ball with twenty other children.
Fast-forward quite a few years: a new country, a husband, a new career, and two kids later, there I was in the Upper Valley, trying to come up with things to keep my then five-year-old older son busy and active. I happened to buy a kiddy tennis racquet, and a few balls, and he really liked to hit them. He was actually quite good in his hand-eye coordination. I took him to hit some balls to the Huntley Meadows tennis courts, and there I met this nice guy who is teaching tennis to some people. He tells me that I should consider taking my son to learn to play tennis at the Club he works for. I think it is a great idea. Enter the River Valley Club tennis program. My son starts lessons (one-on-one, what a concept!) with Dave Bailey, and he is engaged, busy, learning and loving the sport I always loved. Snif, snif. My younger son joins in.
All of the sudden, I wonder if I could try as well… Today, my older son has made it to the High School Varsity tennis team, I’m so proud of him. And both of my children have embraced tennis as a part of their daily life, making friends and getting to know a sport that will go with them wherever they go. As for me, I have enjoyed the real-tennis-learning process, at last!! It has been a few years, a lot of coach patience, a ton of awesome experiences, and great new tennis friends. Here I am. Playing tennis, like I always wanted, and loving it at RVC.
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