Over the years I have had many inspiring, challenging and wonderful teachers. The inadequacy of my memory has left me void of many of their wise elocutions. However, I manage to recall that somewhere in the delightful blur of my childhood, my longtime instructor and coach told me tennis is a lifelong sport.
When I was old enough, my parents enrolled me in lessons through the town recreation center. Twice a week, I would gleefully shuffle, backpedal, and sprint all over the court. I loved everything about those lessons, even cleaning up the balls at the end. In hindsight, the tube we used to suck up stray balls was just a spray painted PVC pipe with rubber on the ends, but back then it was a most fascinating contraption.
Beyond teaching the rules of the game and basic skills, those lessons offered a crash course on forbearance and sportsmanship. Those not prodigal enough to find themselves playing on the ATP or WTA world tours are responsible for the enforcement of boundaries and rules on their court. In tennis “the line is fine” but it is also the final call of whose side the shot in question falls on. A deep serve too good to return could easily be called a fault. It would be exceedingly easy to make bad calls, usurp an opponent of a deserved point, and sail through straight sets on dishonesty. An opponent that makes bad line calls is sure to rattle even the seasoned player, and may cause such frustration that they actually lose a point or two.
It is only with encouragement from my various instructors over the years that I have grown to let this genteel eccentricity of the game go. I have carried this lesson on honest and civilized competitiveness with me on and off the court. Character building experiences like mine are a dime a dozen at Dan’s Best of the Best sports camps all over the East End, and are sure to enrich your child’s summer, if not their life.
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18 Goodfriend Drive, East Hampton
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