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Monday, March 28, 2011

Pride and Joy

Pride and Joy

These two boys never cease to amaze me. Honestly - I'm not an overly emotional person - I very rarely cry, but I spent this weekend with a huge lump in my throat and constantly wiping at the corners of my eyes.

Derek and Joshua have been taking tennis lessons since the last week of January. They started out taking a couple of clinics a week, with 8 or 10 other kids, and about a month ago, they started working with a pro once a week. We've played a lot of tennis in the last two months - we've played more days than we haven't - and we've had a blast. They absolutely love it.

Their tennis club hosted a tournament over the weekend. The USTA has a new approach to teaching younger kids how to play tennis, and the tournament was designed to accommodate those new rules - smaller rackets, smaller courts, lower compression balls - and the boys' coach encouraged them to sign up, to gain some experience and play against some other kids.

So we did, and we've been talking a lot about expectations - obviously, we weren't in it to win it - two months of tennis lessons were not going to turn them into Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, after all. Honestly - I was a little worried. One of my children, who shall remain nameless but looks just like a miniature version of me, is just a teensy bit competitive. He hates to lose, and when playing his brother, has been known to burst into tears at the end of a lost match. The other child, who also shall remain nameless but looks just like a miniature version of his father, doesn't APPEAR to be competitive, but has a tendency to beat himself up (quietly) after he doesn't do well.

We have no idea where they get these traits. Okay, we do. Let's just say the freaky similarities between the grown-ups and their clones extend more deeply than just looks...

In any case - they played the tournament. They lost in their singles matches. They lost in their doubles matches. I watched with tears streaming down my cheeks as Derek faced a boy that had a dozen tournaments under his belt - the balls went flying past him so quickly he rarely got a touch with his racquet, and when he did, he told me later, his finger tips went a little numb. But he probably had a 90% first serve, no double faults, and he won a few hard earned points. I watched with a lump in my throat while Joshua worked to adapt to a smaller court and a more experienced opponent than he's ever faced, and go on to win one game in his first match, three in his second, and never once make a scoring error.

And I couldn't be more proud. They were consummate sportsmen. They shook hands and chatted before the matches. The warmed up and smiled. They called the scores correctly and fairly. They called faults and outs with much grace toward the other players (maybe a little too much grace occasionally...). They supported and encouraged each other in doubles and treated each other with respect when a ball was badly hit. They lost and ran to be the first to the net to shake the hand of the other player and tell them "good game." They walked off the courts smiling and talking with their opponents.

They came home, asking if they could go outside and hit balls up against the garage door, and could I please book a court for Monday so they could get some more practice in. Joshua was lying on the sofa, eyes almost closed, clutching his racquet in his hand and asking to please go outside for just a little longer to play.

In two days, Joshua played a total of 36 games, and Derek played 32 - and they were still eager for more, and asking when the next tournament they could play in would be.

I think children may be the most amazing creatures on our planet. I was so impressed with all the tournament competitors - their respect for each other and the spirit of fair play. They played their hearts out. They celebrated quietly. They lost gracefully.

And now I'm all teary again, just thinking about it.

We'll be doing it all over again on Saturday - with Joshua, at least. Derek's too old for this next tournament, but I have no doubt that he'll be there, rooting for his brother and making notes for his next match.

I'll be sure to pack tissues. (sniff)