In the fall of 2021, we arrived in SaddleBrooke from the Boston area. The pandemic was solely responsible for us taking the plunge to move to the southwest and take our work with us. Had it not been for the horror of the pandemic, we would still be suffering the cold and dreary months of New England. A silver lining? For us, definitely, for so many others, tragic consequences.
We bought our home online, knew little about this community and pulled up on Tuesday, November 16, 2021, to be greeted by a family of eight deer. It was a good omen. Still working remotely, we began to settle into a life in the desert. I am still adjusting to the vast, bright sky of the day and the extraordinary sunsets that begin to greet us daily in late September.
I had been accustomed to exercising four days a week at a gym, walking my dog on long, forested trails and doing a lot of sitting by our fire to stay warm. None of these were a possibility in SaddleBrooke. I hadn’t, still don’t, the patience or attention span to take up golf. I told my husband, “I think I’ll try tennis”?? I had played one time at overnight camp when I was 10. I still remember the moldy smell of the wooden racket case.
I bought some rackets on Nextdoor and signed up for a lesson. From there, it was suggested I go to a clinic that some women in the “hood” organized. I showed up, stomach in knots and completely terrified. What was I doing? Joining a clinic of tennis players and I could barely hold a racket. I had no clue what “volley”, “watch the ball”, “you were looking at your spot”, ground stroke, lob, etc. … meant! But I was trapped for the next 90 minutes. At the end, a lovely woman invited me to play with her group on Wednesday. I knew she was being totally gracious and welcoming. I did not cave to my fears, I showed up, racket in trembling hands. Looking back, I honestly don’t know where I got the courage to battle my insecurities around competition or not being capable! But, I did.
I joined these gracious ladies a number of times and then hubby and I decided to join the club. I remember having the bright idea of looking in the directory for any other two and a half players to see if anyone might hit with me. I found about four! I emailed them all. I got one response. That first summer, I managed to play a lot. People needed a “body” to make up a court with all the Snowbirds having departed.
I soon found myself completely enthralled. I loved the sensation of hitting the ball and running around. It would be quite a while before I really began to understand the fundamentals of play. Tennis affords us a physical, technical and intellectual challenge. It engages all our attention and demands us to think and do simultaneously: Doubles require that we do that in a partnership, a dance. I managed to tolerate my incompetence and insecurities—in short, I talked back to my deprecating psyche and shouldered on.
It has been two years later, and I am wholly addicted. I go into withdrawals when away from the court. I still get butterflies in my stomach each time I make my way to the courts. I have been aware of how much I have developed and, more significantly, how infinite the development for this game is.
I am writing this narrative in hopes of encouraging others who have not tried tennis—or, perhaps something else—that it is truly never too late. In fact, trying something so challenging in my 60s has helped me to realize that stimulation and challenge is vital for my well-being.
My sister sent me an article a few weeks ago. The study demonstrated the effects of tennis on increasing one’s life span (visit wellandgood.com/sports-that-increase-life-expectancy/). Why? Because there are so many things rolled into one: Exercise, cognitive stimulation and, most importantly: socialization.
I want to end this by saying that as much as I have devoted and will continue to invest in my game, the best part is ALL the incredible friendships I have developed. It has enabled me to have a sisterhood (sometimes brotherhood) that keeps me laughing, exercising, engaging, empathic, inspired and connected. I love my friends and I can thank the gift of tennis for that!
The cherry on the cake for me, is all of the adorable tennis apparel!