There are lots of advantages to growing up in a neighborhood where the boys outnumbered the girls at least five to one. I sure learned to get along with boys, to be friends [not a girlfriend] with boys, to work together and to be "one of the boys" - all skills that were useful in later life.
But one of the disadvantages was that there were always enough boys around for two teams of anything, so they didn't need to let me play to have a full team. Being more interested in books anyway, that never bothered me and I could happily retreat to my world of far-off places and interesting times while they played softball or kick the can, or whatever.
The real downside was that whatever competitive spirit I had never really developed much. In some ways it turned inward - striving to make the best grades, to have perfect attendance, and generally to be a Miss Goody-Two-Shoes pain in the ass. Not bad goals, but all internal.
Then about ten years ago I started to play tennis - badly. Lessons at county parks and recreation led to joining a community tennis club, followed by a weekly clinic and my tennis skills had improved markedly. I was up to "advanced beginner" and loved the game.
You know, you have to love a system that has "advanced beginners". Encouragement and brutal honesty in two words.
I've played for at least five years now on various lower level USTA club teams - always enjoying the play, but mostly losing, losing, losing. But that really hasn't bothered me. How much can an Advanced Beginner [see how I capitalized it and made it a title, not a condition!] expect to win? A couple of years ago I got ranked up from 2.5 to 3.0 and was thrilled, especially since I wasn't playing all that much better. But now I had a tennis - no, an athletic - goal: to be a solid 3.0 and hold my own.
Sadly, when USTA revised player ranking last December I was down-graded back to the 2.5 level. But I was not deterred. At an excellent clinic in November I had picked up a couple of new skills - ones that I was actually able to employ on the court. [I know a ton, but executing is a totally different ball game.]
And now suddenly this spring I am winning. In my "social" league I have won two of four matches, and in my USTA league I've won two of three matches. (You do realize these are doubles, not singles, don't you?)
Which brings me to yesterday. It was a hot, sunny afternoon [and I forgot both my hat and my visor] and incredibly windy - literally gusting to 40 mph. We were playing on old clay courts that had been dressed, but were like dust pits. Between the heat and the wind it was like being a sponge in the Sahara. I kept drinking all the water I could and still felt like I had a mouth full of sand. But Marni and I prevailed.
They were younger and one was probably a tad better than either of us - but we prevailed. They lost the first set and so changed places for the second and won that one. But we kept our heads in the game, figured out how to play around their new set up and won the tie-breaker finishing strong with the last four points. We prevailed.
It felt so good. Lying in bed last night I realized that I have found my competitive gene!
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