Blog Post #4: What Tennis Means to Me
What Tennis Means to Me:
My relationship with tennis has been a long and complicated one. It started at the early age of 5. My parents decided to let me try out a variety of sports to see which one I enjoyed the most. They had began the search in the stereotypical girly sports of dance, ballet and gymnastics. My mom had come from a family of cheerleaders and she loved the idea of me being into dance or cheer. After a few classes of each, my interest fizzled out. My mom told me that I would come up to her in the middle of a dance class and say “Mom, how do I win?” She then realized that I may be interested in a more competitive sport. Across the street from the gymnastic center was a tennis club. My mom walked me across the street one evening after another failed gymnastic attempt and we watched the little Minnows class of 4 and 5 year olds play over the miniature nets. I was hooked.
My very first coach was a very goofy and charismatic man that made tennis so much fun. His enthusiasm and love for the sport helped keep me engaged and my love for the sport grew. His excitement and energy was a big influence on the way that I coach my students today. I worked my way through the program and grew my game level by level. I picked up soccer and basketball along the way, but never dropped tennis. I loved it and I was good at it. I often was the youngest and only girl in all of my clinics. I played nearly every day either in clinics, or with my peers. I loved playing matches and points because I was super competitive.
One night, my parents sat me down and asked me where I wanted to go with my tennis. I knew that I didn’t envision myself going pro, but I was interested in playing D1 College Tennis. We realized quickly that we needed a plan to complete this feat. I did not come from a tennis family, in fact, I was the only one who played in my family. We didn’t have the guidance that I needed from a pro, because I really didn’t have a private coach most of my junior career. I was nearing high school and it seemed that time may be running out to get myself on the path to collegiate tennis. We started our search for a tennis pro that could help me on this journey.
One day my good friend and I were playing outside in the rain and a man came out to watch. My mom and him talked for awhile and watched us play. Little did I know he would be my guide to playing D1 Tennis. From that day forward he opened my eyes to all of the things I didn’t know were involved in playing tennis in college. He started perfecting my unconventional form that I had adapted throughout years of playing to win, without much technical training. He started gearing up my training calendar and filling it with tournaments across America. Previously I had only played local tournaments and this was a big change and commitment. He had me scheduled to travel out of state for two weekends a month to play tournaments. Everything had changed, and I really loved it. I enjoyed the new direction my tennis had taken and I loved fighting towards a goal each day.
High School season was soon approaching. I went to my first day of try outs and I was beyond nervous. For an outgoing person, I had very little confidence in my tennis. An almost delusional amount of insecurity. I remember being thrilled to have made the team. I ended up playing first singles all four years and going undefeated in conference for all four years as well. High School tennis was a great experience. I loved being with the girls on my team and traveling. I felt like a super star at my high school for going to state and winning sectionals, and was constantly in the local paper and on the record boards. I was a big fish in a little pond and my confidence was starting to grow in my tennis.
Junior year came around and I started traveling to colleges on recruitment visits. Thanks to my coach, my ranking had really improved nationally and I had prepared myself well to have a good tennis resume on these visits. I would often link up tournaments with college visits to continue to better my ranking. The offers started pouring in at all divisions. Being an only child, I started to cross off the further schools from my list. I wasn’t ready to venture so far just yet. Eventually I settled between two scholarships. The first option was a Division 1 School and I would be fighting for a spot near the bottom of the lineup, and the other I would play the top position at a Division 2 School and once again be the big fish. The decisions was grueling and I spent many nights tossing and turning over the choice I had to make. Finally I knew what decision I had to make and I signed with the Division 1 School and decided to be a little fish for the first time in my career.
The first week of College tennis had me really questioning what I had gotten myself into. I had blisters on top of my blisters and my muscles were so sore it was hard to sleep. But I loved it. The workouts were a big adjustment and being a Division 1 Tennis player became my full time job. We would train for 2 hours each day on the court, paired with a workout in the gym and every few days a sprint session that had your insides turning. All of this was worth it when it got to match time. I loved putting on my uniform and representing my team as I geared up to compete with my best friends. The comradery of playing on a team and cheering for each other with a “Let’s Go Norse” and hearing the echoes of your teammates as they fought along side you is something I will never forget.
Balancing school and tennis became second nature. I was an art student and would spend my days on court and my nights in the studio. The four years flew by and they are still some of my favorite memories. I lost heart breakers, and I won battles. I fought tooth and nail for my team and I can proudly say I gave 100% effort on the court for every second of my four years. My time at NKU brought me to places I had never been as we traveled all around America playing tennis. Could it get any better than that? Our team had great victories and hard losses, but it taught us lessons and shaped us as players and people. Then all at once, and much too quickly, it was all over.
I remember my last match as an NKU tennis player like it was yesterday. Everything was riding on this match for our team to go to conference. If we won, we kept going and if we lost, my career was over. We won doubles, and things were looking great. I was in a tough three setter against a team I had never beaten in singles. I was SO nervous. I knew that I would remember my last match forever and I wanted to have good memories of it. I was ahead in the third set when my teammates came over from the other side of the courts to stand in support. They were all crying and I knew that we had already lost. In that moment I had to be the strongest mentally that I had ever had to be. I was no longer fighting for my team, or fighting to get to conference. I was fighting for the little girl who had dreamed of being right where I was at that exact moment, on that court. I won the third set 6-4. I turned around after match point and did a fist bump to my parents and grandparents who had attended nearly every match for my entire college career. We all cried.
After playing in college and meeting my goals I felt a sense of achievement but also a sense of loss. I missed tennis. I then decided that I needed to be around tennis in some form. I called it needing to get my “tennis fix”. I needed it to feel like.. well, myself. That is when I took up coaching and never looked back. I now coach most of the Junior Programs here at Harper’s and give private lessons. Seeing my students grow and improve in the game I have loved for so long gives me a new sense of accomplishment. I especially love coaching the babies, the youngest group. That is where my journey began and I hope to inspire another little Sierra to fall in love with the sport that has brought me everything.
XOXO Tennis Girl