Thursday, May 13, 2010

Final Exam

This week was our last week indoors with Laura The Tennis Pro. Our “season” began in early September, so it’s like a three trimester clinic. As such, Laura typically spends this last indoor day with the Monday group giving us our final exam.

One thing we’ve been working on for lo these many months is our Four-Person Volley skills. Every Monday during the warm-up, all four of us are up at the net and Laura feeds one of us a ball. Our job is to work together, passing it across the net to another player, and keep that volley rally going for 20 hits without the ball ever bouncing.

If we do this drill in pairs, two of us hitting back and forth just to each other, we can hit 20 fairly often. We get into a Zen kind of place and volley for what seems like ever. But the four of us together – not so much.

Our highest Four-Person Volley rate remains at 14.

I can attest to the fact that it feels indescribably awful to be the person who botches up shot number 15 -- either by hitting too hard, or missing a ball that’s come to you. Laura never belittles us, but you can tell she, too, is exasperated. “Ok, let’s move back to the base line,” she’ll say, when it’s obvious that she can’t take the disappointment one more second.

We always start the drill on such a positive note. You can see it in our faces, in our postures, that we are ready to please her. “We can do this,” one of us will say aloud. And we should be able to. But so far, we haven’t been.

I think one problem is this: you cannot think about anything else during this exercise. We’re all close together and we have to react quickly to a ball that has very little distance to travel. You can’t think about your runny nose or whether there’s enough Soft Scrub at home for the cleaning woman. No carpools, no errands, no LOST. And most of all, you cannot think about how much it will mean to Laura if we can just make it to 20. You have to be mentally 100% present and stay that way for the entire time. I think this, more than our physical skills, is where we might fall short.

On our exam day, Laura The Tennis Pro moved us into position for our Four-Person Volley drill. We faltered a bit at the beginning, but then started to hit our stride. I’d like to tell you that finally, on our last indoor clinic of the 2009-2010 season, we successfully hit 20 balls to each other without a one of them touching the ground. But we didn’t. I think we got to 13.

We would have stayed and tried all day for Laura. Just so she’d feel like she wasn’t wasting her life and her talents trying to make tennis players out of us. But instead she moved us back to the baseline, trying to hide her resignation with some contrived lilt in her voice.

Then the real final exam began. A Tennis Clinic Stew of all the drills we’ve been working on for years. And that, we rocked. We even dazzled her at times.

She smiled for the whole clinic and even said we played great (a jaunty little phrase that rarely passes her lips). So, I dunno: Volley Drill notwithstanding, I think we aced it.

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