Thursday, February 24, 2011
Game. Set. Choke.
In true Tai Tai style, I started having tennis lessons about 2 months ago. I love tennis. I've played it on and off my whole life. Watching the Australian Open this year brought back such vivid memories of hot Australian summers, massive glasses of green cordial with lots of ice and Dad peeling oranges for us while we spent long nights watching epic matches.
I've been having lessons twice a week with John, my American coach who had the fastest serve in the US as a 9 year old. That's no joke, I've seen it. It comes and goes as fast as a block of Cadbury's hazelnut chocolate in my house. He's a great coach - observant, calm, helpful and a bit of a laugh. Everything a Tai Tai could want in a tennis coach. Unless of course you were that sort of Tai Tai looking for that sort of tennis coach who might just be a bit more 'hands on'. I, of course, am not.
I have been improving. At first my strokes were more baseball (i.e. out of the park) than tennis (i.e. in the court), but I'm slowly starting to remember that those lines are on the court for a reason and that Roger Federer didn't just wake up and be the best player in the world. Apparently you do, in fact, have to work at it.
Now, I'm going to put myself out there and say I'm pretty sporty (somehow I even managed to be Sports Captain at school), which doesn't mean I'm necessarily very good at sport. Just that I can do most things if I have a stab at it. I'm not saying I'm bad, more.....mediocre.
And the good old game of tennis is the perfect example. Well, actually, I bring another far more intriguing talent to tennis which blows mediocrity out of the park. I like to call it Choking. While I don't wear a nasty strangler of a necklace on court, nor turn blue from the left over Tim Tam caught in my throat, I do in fact choke, regularly. You see in lesson time, I rock. I smash the ball into the court, crack a topspin forehand, rip a backhand down the line and occasionally even get a winner in against a once very talented 9 year old. Then it comes to a Sunday afternoon match with some friends and what happens? I choke. As in can't get a serve in. As in hit every ball out of the park. As in choke. Choke choke choke choke choke. This doesn't sit well with me, being somewhat competitive, one might say.
My tennis coach eloquently observed my talent at this morning's lesson...."It's interesting to see how your personality is reflected on the court. You can hit the mother out of the ball when we're training but then when you're playing points or matches you pull back, you choke."
Well yes thank you John. I can see that. Quite clearly actually. Nice to see we're on the same page here. And what do you propose I do about that Coach?
After a few uncomfortable (for me) conversations at the net about my inherent ability to choke, John tells me to take the pressure off myself, to stop being so hard on myself, to give myself time to find my groove, to breathe.
I'm thinking perhaps he could be alluding to more than just my tennis?