An Independent School • Grades 5-12

by Peter Byerlein, head JV tennis coach

I miss the routine. The structure of the day, being in a school environment. The pulse. The stream. Where I fit into the community. Each day, or shift in my case, I aim to find the focus, the connectedness, and maybe losing it, for whatever reason. Then finding it again. From this daily scramble, I have come to believe in group energy to transform us. Last week, in Head Coach Melissa Lloyd's email, she wrote to the idea that to create inner positive feelings, or to move your mind away from being in a negative space, it requires a shift; an expenditure of energy.

Sometimes such a realization is difficult to access, or to bring forward into practice. How do I get moving again? Most of the time, it isn't an automatic, a snap of the fingers. Nothing, so it seems, can shake being stuck. There is no energy now, or on the horizon, I'm sure of it. I have experienced this condition, this rut. Yikes.

I am reminded of stories from sports as a possible way to activate, as are the valuable exercises Coach Melissa shared. In athletic competition, what triggers a change in momentum that we seek? This is a risk-taking affair because just doing it once or twice may not be the thing to turn the tide. Futility can be a gift. To be utterly fooled in an instance, can be a valuable lesson. You can wake up. Another example is to reach deep inside to attempt some kind of “hustle play,” that in and of itself offers no immediate payoff. It could be an essential building block, though. Others see it, and maybe feed off of it.

I am impressed by women's college softball. No matter the situation, or circumstance, they're always running, moving, hustling. It's not rote. It's a belief. Their efforts are not tied to an outcome. Whatever the scoreboard says, winning or losing, is not the concern. They're committed to competing for themselves and each other, not looking for an easy reward. The higher purpose.

Whenever we are facing an adversity or significant disappointment, it's important we allow ourselves to feel. The way it should go, or is supposed to go just isn't happening. What can we do? Take a moment if you can. Realize there may not be a quick fix. Decide to be more present. This acceptance to feel, rather than try to control too much, can lead to awareness. Here it is: an opportunity. Maybe the slight headache will let up, you're not tired as you once convinced yourself, energy emerges. Pointing fingers, seeking perfection have lost allure.

Gradually, you're back in the flow. By acknowledging vulnerability, you're playing creative and spirited tennis again. The kind you are capable of. What changed? Does it matter? Heck no, you're back. Your second serve is a moment of great excitement.