Anyone who knows me, knows that I love tennis. I’ve been playing recreationally since high school and competitively since 2007 via OTA, TLGTA, USTA and GLTF. Prior to 2011, the Canadian winters prevented me from enjoying year round play outdoors. Even though I had access to indoor courts through friends and associations, it was often inconvenient and too costly for me to play as often as I would have liked. The move to San Francisco definitely changed all that but I would consider it to be #6 on my list of the 5 reasons why my game as turned a significant corner in 2013 (and truthfully late in 2013). Here are my main reasons:
Health and Fitness – In February 2012, I joined Sports Club LA with the intent to get fit for my sister’s wedding that May. By then I had dropped 25lbs, followed by another 15lbs by July. Sprints, weights, tennis, swimming, low sugar diet were all part of the winning formula. Since then, I’ve had to alter my workouts to strengthen other part of my body to prevent injuries. At this year’s USGO in May, my back tightened up pretty badly before my first round match and it never recovered throughout the entire tournament. I sought the help of a chiropractor to get my back sorted out, which he did, but he told me that I should consider focusing on my other muscle groups (butt, legs, thighs) to offset all the pressure being absorbed by my hips and back. That wake-up call was enough for me to look at working out differently and to focus on injury prevention and recovery.
I have a life outside of tennis
I took a month off tennis in October to let my knee heel and to make time for friends and family. I skipped a wedding and visit home to play Districts in August which at the time was a ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity, but selfishly I risked not being able to recover and peak for West Coast Cup. To be perfectly honest, I felt with evenings and days free it would free me up to find the perfect suitor and become a “kept” man. That did not quite pan out — obviously I enjoy my career and my independence too much for that to be true. It was nice to hit the gym and get into a nice rhythm (tennis plus weights rarely happens on the same day now), great to have brunch with friends (mimosas and tennis don’t mix) and nice to sleep in on the weekends. I’m glad I made it home for Canadian thanksgiving where I recharged with my mom and my sister on Sunday and my close friends who opted to celebrate on Saturday.
Trust in the right coach
Tennis Tim has been my go-to for advice for almost two years since I moved here. The very first clinic that I attended was run by him and I was taken aback by his sense of humor (he can get pretty salty) and his directness. We’ve spent many hours on the court and I’ve been the most open with him about tennis and life than even some of my close friends. During one lesson he asked me if I was seeing anyone special, to which I replied “you, of course”. We looked at 2012 as our starting ground, but 2013 was all about focus — playing more matches, getting more consistent and earning my 3.5 rating. We’ve worked on many aspects of my game including tactics for singles and doubles, short balls and my serve. I never sliced my serve prior to working with Tim, but I trusted that I could learn it, and execute it in matches. It’s hard sharing him with so many that seek his advice; I often expect same day responses to texts and emails and with a newborn I get that my expectations are unrealistic. When he does respond, he’s always right and has helped me find confidence in my game. Tim, thank you so much for everything; I’m looking forward to 2014.
I’m coming on two full years as a member and I couldn’t be happier. I met Tim through GLTF, a volunteer organization focused on promoting queer, inclusive tennis. We have a great mix of men and women, all sexual orientations and skill levels. There’s a balance between social and competitive events and the executives work tirelessly to keep the momentum alive throughout the full year. Through GLTF I met many people who I would consider some friends, some rivals and some who I hope to have the chance to rival soon. This year while I hoped to do more, I’m happy that I volunteered at San Francisco and Oakland Pride and co-lead Compass Singles with Craig Schmidt. I’ve had many experiences, namely West Coast Cup that I’ve blogged about that will standout among my many memories from the past two years. My renewal for 2014 is pretty much a done deal.
My willingness to seek out a coach, get fitter and change my technique in my 30s proved to me how badly I wanted to excel in tennis. Tennis was my breakaway sport from soccer; no one else in my immediate family played tennis or invited me to play tennis so I felt it was mine for the most part. No one else could have an opinion on how, when, and with who I played. From 2007-2011, I won the 2007 Detroit Open Consolidation Doubles and the 2011 TLGTA Rust Remover. Being in the city and around so many who loved the sport, pushed me to want to get better and once I was fit enough to play long back to back matches, I figured it was time to focus on technique and tear apart the aspects of my game that needed work. I’m no different from many athletes like Tiger Woods, Serena Williams, Mao Asada or Maria Sharapova who have overhauled their technique in pursuit of winning. Aside from technique, I also realized my emotions were a problem; choking, temper tantrums and wanting to win too badly affected me in every loss in 2012 and early 2013. I tried different things such as hypnosis and music to bring myself back to earth which has helped a ton; it’s allowed me to let my game come through and to keep the mental aspect in check.
There were times that I “Liked” or said “Congratulations” when someone posted via social media that they won a trophy that I felt should have been mine and 90% of the time I was gracious about the loss. All that emotion, disappointment and determination to improve goes right back into tennis and I’m pretty sure that Tim gets all of it during our lessons. I’ve had success this year because I wanted it, pure and simple, and I used winning/losing/jealousy as drivers to continue improving. The harsh reality being in a city where you can play outdoors year round is you have to improve to get the higher ranked people to hit with you — call it ‘snobbery’, call it ‘bitchiness’ — this is the norm in this city. I wouldn’t consider myself to be part of this category as I would hit with anyone who loves the game, but I would be lying if that wasn’t a motivating factor for me to want to get better to play the next tier of player in this city.
There’s quite a bit of tennis left in 2013 to be played. Looking forward to hitting for fun, playing socially and competing against friends in tournaments. Life can be tricky as I do not know how much longer I will be able to play tennis, but so long as I can, I plan to do my best and enjoy every match and every opportunity to compete and win.