Always Motivating and Pushing Me

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.
 
Paloma Asensio, member since 2005.

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