Ask Beatty: Life Lessons That I Learned from My Father

Cropped image of handsome man playing tennis on tennis court outdoors
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When I was a little girl growing up in Winnipeg, Canada, children of all ages would flock to our house to play not only with me but with my father. My dad was everyone’s playmate; always available to offer advice and teach the boys and girls of Burrin Avenue how to swing a bat, throw a ball, play badminton, tennis, soccer, golf, volleyball and football. Our front and back yard had every imaginable piece of sports equipment. Boxing gloves and our pingpong table were kept in the basement and used primarily during the cold winter months.

We were never at a loss of something to do. Those were the days when children were safe playing in the streets and when fun consisted of healthy outlets. It was unimaginable for the children to remain indoors, unless of course they were doing homework, eating or sleeping.

When I was 3 years old, I began taking figure skating, dancing lessens and piano. I think that I first held a tennis racket at age 5. As the years went by, it became clear to everyone that I was not going to be a champion skater, ballerina or Mozart. My father bought me my own tennis racket when I was 11. He would take me to the school yard where I would practice hitting balls up against a brick wall nearly every day after school. Those were the days before indoor courts and private tennis clubs.

One day my father decided that I was ready to begin play on a real court. We found a public court, but unfortunately, I could barely hit a ball. My backhand was worse than my forehand and my serve was a disgrace. We called it a day and went to lunch and happened to notice on the sports page of our local newspaper that the Manitoba Junior Tennis Championship was beginning that very day. I convinced my dad to drive to the city park so that I could enter the tournament. Considering my morning play, the idea seemed preposterous.

When we arrived the tournament directors told us that we had missed the deadline and that it would be impossible to put me in the draw. I’m not sure how we managed to convince them otherwise, but they finally agreed that I could play. Perhaps they felt sorry for me. Or maybe because I was an unknown, they believed that allowing a young child to play one round would not disrupt the the projected outcome of the tournament. Whatever it was, I was in!

Within a short time I heard someone call my name. I met my opponent Cynthia who was experienced and who was the current 12-and-under Manitoba Junior champion. We shook hands and headed for the court. My dad sat court side and watched the match, hoping for the best. I’m not exactly sure what happened, but the tennis gods were kind to me and I couldn’t miss a shot.

My serve was powerful and my ground strokes were impeccable. The match went on for a long time. Finally it was match point. Cynthia slipped on a backhand shot. I took advantage of her misfortune and put away the ball for a winner. I could hardly believe what had happened and neither could Cynthia or the crowd.

My father was beaming proudly and had a big smile on his face. He reminded me of one of life’s eternal lessons that still governs my life and work today: Never give up. Anything is possible. Be willing to change your mindset and strategy. Stay in the game. Play out the points. Negotiate for what you want.

I ended up winning the tournament, and it was the beginning of a very successful and fun tennis life, which I continue to enjoy today. I won numerous provincial and Western Canadian championships and achieved a no. 10 ranking in Canada as a junior. I traveled extensively throughout Canada, playing in various tournaments throughout the country. I made many friends and learned the important lessens of winning and losing.

My first tennis tournament and my father’s words of wisdom of never giving up have always stayed with me through good and bad times. I bring this philosophy into my private practice, because I know that having a good coach can and does equal great success.

Never give up on your dreams. They can become a reality. Even if you can’t hit a ball or are down in life, don’t let anyone or anything stand in your way! Remember to say NO to the naysayers who try to steal your joy. If you need to, seek out good coaches to help make your dreams a reality.

It’s spring and time for new beginnings. By the way, I’m playing the best tennis of my life thanks to the pros at SPORTIME and the East Hampton Tennis Club.

Beatty Cohan, MSW, LCSW, AASECT is a nationally recognized psychotherapist, sex therapist, author of For Better for Worse Forever: Discover the Path to Lasting Love, columnist, national speaker, national radio and television expert guest and host of “The Ask Beatty Show” on the Progressive Radio Network, which airs live every Monday afternoon, 3–4 p.m. EST. She has a private practice in New York City and East Hampton.

Beatty would love to hear from you and welcomes your questions and comments. Email her at [email protected] or visit beattycohan.com for more information.

Beatty Cohan, MSW, LCSW, AASECT

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