I don't want to brag, but when I was in secondary school I was pretty good at the old game of tennis. I played for the school team for three years and, well, let’s just say, my one-hand backhand was really, really good.
I loved playing it, and badminton as well, as much for the social side of things as the actual sport and have so many happy memories of a group of close pals laughing at training and shouting support from the sidelines during matches.
For years, I watched all the major tournaments and I had my favourite players (Steffi Graf) and knew all the stats. Tennis was actually a big part of my teenage years.
Fast forward a good few years (decades) and faced with trying to fill hours of lockdown, plus a love of online shopping, I ending up buying the family rackets, balls, and a very reasonable membership to some outdoor courts.
It has been great to rediscover my love of the sport and to gradually get better again. To get moving, and find exercise that doesn’t feel like a massive effort, has been really positive. Plus, getting outdoors during this amazing weather we have been having, and to be with my family, has all been amazing.
It has been even better to see my nine-year-old daughter, Joan, get more interested and improve each time we play. She is the kind of child that can get frustrated if she isn’t finding something easy. So, learning to work hard at something in order to improve has been a huge benefit to her.
There have been many mini John McEnroe moments, whereby she has moaned, given up, and just walked off the court.
If she misses the ball, the racket falls to her side and the shoulders slump. My husband and I then have to coax her back into the frame of mind to give it another go.
On the flip side, her delight when she hits a good ball is wonderful to see and is something we can all remember happening when we were children. The feeling we got when we mastered something new and got really good at something, the sheer happiness could be such a rush.
The other thing tennis has reinforced for Joan is how to be part of a team. She has been playing basketball for three years and they were just getting to that stage where the children were divided into teams and learning to play games when we went into lockdown, so, I think, getting back to a sport whereby she has to play as part of a duo or a team has been really good for her.
Another lovely thing to come from rediscovering tennis is that Joan has been able to play safely with her friends. It is so important, the longer we are in lockdown, that children get to reconnect with schoolmates and friends. It has been a long time, in their worlds, to be apart from one another, and I know, in many cases, it has become difficult for children.
I see Joan’s grumpy mood improve after only a few minutes of running around chasing a ball with a pal. It’s a combination of being outdoors, seeing friends, racing about, being loud, and laughing: It’s good for their little souls. And, really, if she goes on to get a great interest in the sport, that would just be a bonus.