THE SUM TOTAL of my tennis knowledge prior to my spring lesson at the Rosemary Beach Racquetball Club fit neatly into one fuzzy green ball. Love means zero. Hit the tennis ball over the net. Hope the ball bounces in bounds and then sails out before the opponent volleys it back.
Arriving at the Panama City, Florida clubhouse as a sponsored media member, I removed any and all expectations, and walked away with a few gems of knowledge that I think will serve me well for some time to come.
Get a gripOn the gritty clay tennis court, my eyes wandered over to the others in the group as we rotated for each drill. As their turns approached, I watched their footwork, dissecting each step. Their bodies profiled the ball before swinging low to high above the shoulder. I captured each moment while mimicking their movements with a few practice swings. Jerky at first, the pantomime paid off when my turn approached.
The presence of other more talented players accelerated my learning of the more complicated steps.
Accept help from others
We started a new drill hitting the ball halfway to the net. With the shorter distance, I kept arriving too late to hit the ball. An endless array of balls bounced under my racket as I swung at big whooshes of air.
Beverly, who played regularly with her husband, pulled me aside to offer some help. I readily accepted her offer as I had watched her consistently hitting the balls to the proper destination. I abandoned by pride, which seemed to allow me to learn from someone I had just met.
She showed me how to execute a complicated cross step. Learning from Lesson #2, I copied her cross step in preparation for the drill to come.
I began getting the timing down. The first few tries, I stumbled while executing a pirouette to avoid hitting my butt into the clay of the court. Beverly reassured me I would eventually get it. I continued to practice with sheer determination, and my feet finally cooperated. I hit a ball. I turned to Beverly and smiled with gratitude and simultaneously let out a whoop.