Friday, January 22, 2010

Do The Right Thingy

I’m not kidding: I think my game changed when I replaced my vibration dampener.

I don’t usually call it a dampener. I call it my racquet string thingy, which, as the name implies, is a little rubber doohickey that you can attach to your racquet strings. I used to think its job was to help you identify your racquet if it was sitting among many of the same brand, but in fact its job is to reduce the vibrations of the strings when you whack the ball, in theory making things a bit easier on your arm.

Dampeners are all pretty much the same size and shape, but you can get them in many different designs. My first one was a green four-leaf clover. I found that dampener years ago at the bottom of my son’s tennis bag and stuck it on my racquet on a lark. From that point on I never gave it a second thought.

This past fall when I bought my new racquet, I realized that the green clover was going to clash with the orange frame, so I acquired a new thingy– I’m not completely sure how – and the clover went into retirement. This new thingy was a bright yellow smiley face. Maybe it, too, had been my son’s, or maybe Laura the Tennis Pro gave it to me. It was fine. It did its job – it dampened. And it fit with the racquet color well enough.

But it didn’t feel right. I would look down at my racquet strings, notice the smiley and flip the racquet over expecting a “frowny” on the other side. It seemed like it should be witty like that – one side for “good shots” and one side for crappy ones. But the face was smiley on both sides and I became disappointed anew every time I flipped it, always hoping for a different outcome.

“I hate my little rubber thingy,” Gina said to me one day. (We all call them thingies.)

“I love yours!” I said. Gina had the sign of the Tao – classic black and white.

“I’m not a Ying/Yang kind of person,” she said. I’d thought everyone was.

“I’m not a Smiley,” I said about my own thingy.

“That’s for sure,” she said. “Wanna trade?”

And within 30 seconds, we each had a more appropriate – maybe even more righteous – thingy on our racquets.

My sign of the Tao totally rocks my TeamZen racquet. I started playing better instantly. Instantly. You truly cannot underestimate the power of the right thingy.

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