I hold on to my racket tightly, check grip (the second corner of the hexagon in the groove of my palm)
check feet placement ( looking to the side, my weight on my heel)
check body posture (feet apart, upper body slightly bent, eyes focused on the coach)
bouncing lightly on my toes (like the pros! I have seen on TV)
Damn the ball just flew past me…
I will be the first to admit I was never a sporty person. Even as a child, I was more content reading books, listening to music, letting my thoughts run around rather than straining my feet. I would not describe myself as lazy. I am all for easy morning walks, even the occasional mountain treks. And there was a point in life (somewhat short!) when I was actually on my house athletics team. But even while trying to draw inspirational lessons from my life for my children’s benefit (when I am given to a little bit of “stretching the truth” should I say!). I find it difficult to describe myself as a sports lover.
I never saw the thrill in running behind a ball, as if my life depended on it. Well actually I suppose I could have taught myself to appreciate the thrill. But I chose to avoid it. Reason – I suffer from the worst possible case of “Ballania“! Balls – the bouncy soft lawn tennis kinds, the deceptively innocuous but hard-hitting cricket kinds, the little white egg like table tennis kinds, or the hard metallic – ‘break your nose if they hit you’ basket ball kinds and I have never been friends. And like two polite acquaintances who dislike each other, we always avoid each other! The result on the court is hilarious.
I studied in a boarding school for girls. That took great pride (and rightly so!) in turning out “well-rounded personalities”. Sports being considered universally as one of the important rounds in a “well-rounded personality”, was understandably high on the list of things to be mastered by students. Countless unsuccessful attempts were made to help me find ‘My sport’!
One of the earliest memories is of me in the Basket Ball court. Have you ever watched basket ball on TV? Don’t you just love the way those impossibly tall men and women effortlessly sail through the court and dunk the ball right into the basket. Well what the TV cameras don’t quite capture or deliberately choose to hide is the potential deadliness of that bright orange ball. If you ever find yourself on the wrong side of a muggery. Pray you have a basket ball in hand. One rough shove in the face of your intimidator will have him rushing to the hospital, nose gushing blood, leaving you safe and ‘unmugged’ . There was no way, I was going to let my nose be ruined for life, by those longitudinal grid like metal lines. One has to always consider potential career in modeling. So what if I never grew above five feet? There could be a time when five feet nothing, may be considered desirable. Fashion world is fickle. Everyone knows that… Right?
The next sport I attempted – Table Tennis. My reason? You guessed it! The size of the TT ball. The teacher was just relieved to have me pick something, I guess. Table tennis was not bad really. If one didn’t mind looking ridiculous. Bouncing an egg like ball around a dining table like table over a 6 inch net. I discovered Table tennis was not only “safe” for my nose, it was also good for my soul.You see, inexplicably it wasn’t a favored sport in my school. The TT table was tucked away in a hall that no one ever checked on. Allowing me to pretend I was playing while I was only hanging around admiring the racks of trophies that proudly announced the accomplishments of the school athletes. My little ploy was soon busted. I never understood why spending time gazing at other people’s trophies was not considered “time spent gainfully”. It wasn’t as if there was a chance of me getting one of my own. At least let me look at them! Anyway against my better judgement I was dismissed from Table tennis and sent to Cricket. I guess my teacher liked the idea of 22 people keeping an eye on me.
Damn those cricket balls. They are small but what they lack in size, they make up for in impact. Everyday the class would start with some field practice. The coach tried unsuccessfully to teach me . “Don’t be afraid of the ball, he said. Join your palms together and hold it near your chest” . I looked at him like he was mad! Did I look so stupid? I loved my delicate long fingers. No way was I going to break one by coming in the way of that crazy ball. Understandably, no one wanted me on their team. And every evening when captains were appointed and asked to pick out their teams. I was inevitably the last one standing. And you could sweep the ground with the chins of the team that got me.
The coach must have been kind-hearted, or someone with a little understanding of child psychology. Worried that I may develop permanent psychological scars he introduced us to baseball. Now here was a sport I almost liked. I don’t particularly like the way Americans spell or the way they dress. Neither am I a big fan of Mc Donalds. But at the risk of sounding disrespectful to my country (cricket is a religion in India) or the queen (You see she ruled us for more years, than I care to remember!) I have to say this – ” I Love Baseball”. The ball is large enough to be caught easily and soft enough to not cause any permanent damage. One gets three chances to hit the ball and as long as someone hits the ball, one gets the chance to score a run. My kind of game totally.
Alas! in India its not considered a serious sport. Soon I was again tossed around from one sport to another. Till, I became old enough to have my say. As soon as I reached senior classes I got myself out of the sports rut and never looked back at another court or pitch. As far as I could see, “I had had enough”.
But strange are the ways of life! Almost 20 years later. As a mom of two young children. I was determined to not pass on my “handicap” to the kids. And so found myself on grounds/ courts and pitches again. After trying our hands at cricket, badminton and table tennis, we found ourselves on a tennis court. The coach were fantastic, the company good, and my children found “their” sport. I being the good ‘taxi mom’ that I am, religiously dropped and picked them.
Some of the other moms decided they too wanted to “learn the game”. I cited multitudes of reasons, why I couldn’t join. “Knee trouble” – true, “too busy” – occasionally true, “already exercising enough” – false! And then, one day I just ran out of excuses. A very dear friend asked me to stay for one lesson and I did. I held gingerly in my hand a borrowed racket, closed my eyes and waited for the ball to zoom past me.
But it didn’t! It made contact with my racket and bounced smartly off to the opposite court. I was ecstatic. Was god playing tricks with me? But that day the magic continued. And then I heard the words I had resigned myself to never hear (at least in relation to a sport) “you are a natural” – the coach said. I was shocked! Could it be? That almost the only sport I hadn’t tried was the sport of my calling.
So maybe I was not “sports challenged” just “mis- challenged” . That night I dreamt of all the things I could have been. Only if my sports teacher had “identified” my talents correctly. Needless to say, in my dreams I reached unimaginable “Tennis heights“, piled up with medals and proud trophy lineups. But I am a woman of the world. I know dreams mean nothing (apologies to Freud).
As soon as morning struck and kids left for school. I dragged my poor husband to a sports supplies shop. There we examined rackets and settled on the “best”. Yes it was expensive. But. I believe money should not come in the way of “natural talent”.! Imagine if Steffi Graff, or Maria Sharapova, never managed to reach their full form, for lack of a good racket? You know what I mean? I waited impatiently for evening to arrive. Tennis time found me properly kitted out. (I hadn’t got one of those skirts yet! but I was going to fix that soon) New racket in hand I reached the court almost cockily. “Bring it on” I seemed to be saying. Remembering all the tips the coach had given me the day before.
I held on to my rackeI tightly, checked grip(the second corner of the hexagon in the groove of my palm)
checked feet placement ( looking to the side my weight on my heel)
checked body posture (feet apart, upper body slightly bent, eyes focused on the coach)
bounced lightly on my toes (like the pros!i have seen on TV)
And damn the ball just flew past me…
Not one to give up easily, I hung on. But it soon became clear to me that the “naturalness” of the day before was an exception. “Beginner’s luck” I think it’s called. Sadly, it became evident to the coach too.
So! what more can I say?
If anyone there is looking for a super-light, mega power , tennis racket that has been used just 30 minutes!
you know who to ask!
Do Any of you suffer from “Ballania”? In this huge world of super fit, sporty people I feel a bit lonely.