Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Eyes on the Prize

Derek Eye on Ball

It's so easy to get caught up in the here and now with regard to junior tennis. It's so easy to get frustrated and discouraged when your children are so close, so capable, so darned good at it, but they still miss out on their short term goals. We've seen it and experienced it over and over again, and there are days that we wonder how on earth these boys press on.

But they do. They play their guts out and sometimes come up short. They walk off the court in tears and hating the game and never going to play again and then ten minutes later ask when they can play again. They are one billion times stronger than I am.

And so we leave the courts and we cry it out and we talk about the match later when everyone is calm and we look for the positives to carry out of the experience. It's so easy to focus on the negatives - so easy to pick those out, for some reason. Identifying the negatives is important, sure, but the only way to build and to grow is to find what went well, and capitalize on those things.

We are fortunate enough to have coaches who care - who are willing to travel nearly three hours on their own time to watch them play. What a blessing. We are also fortunate enough to have friends on the same journey - farther down the same road - who can talk us down and help us see reality. What a blessing, indeed. 

One of those tennis moms wrote this on my Facebook wall over the weekend, "Junior tennis is unlike any other sport. Watching these kids struggle with their emotions while having to fight through matches with no support from a coach or parent is so hard. I can't help but think it will create self-motivated adults who can think for themselves."

Joshua Serve

She's right. My heart breaks while I watch them, some days. It splinters into tiny shards of soul-piercing glass to see them fight so hard and end up just a few points away from a win. It shatters to see them unable to break through an opponent's game. 

But somehow, at the same time, my heart swells with overwhelming pride to watch how hard they try - how alien it is for them to give up, even the the face of ridiculous odds. It soars to watch them hold their heads high, take a deep breath, and step back up to the line to serve against a player who is leagues ahead of them.

I don't know where this journey will take them. I don't know how long they'll play competitive tennis. I don't know if they'll peak in high school and just play for fun afterwards, or if they'll end up playing college tennis. We've got a lot of time before that plays out.

But I do know that the lessons they've learned through the process are priceless, regardless of how far they go. The lessons of perseverance and self-reliance - the lessons of mental toughness - the lessons of conflict management on a personal level - the lessons of pushing yourself farther than you ever believed you could go - those are the lessons that create success in any endeavor, and I'm so proud to watch them learn them.