Intro. to UBC Tennis: Back to Basics

Feels like it’s been forever since I played a sport. My exercise routine for the last 3-4 years has consisted of a bit of running, a lot of walking, a bit of weekend hiking, and 1-2 yoga classes a month.

Desperate for something new, something to distract me from the fact that I’m exercising…it’s time to take up a sport.

A quick inventory of what I loved as a kid that could satisfy what I’m looking for today? Ballet, volleyball and tennis. Quick process of elimination and tennis it shall be. I have a racket – (affectionately called ‘an oldie but a goodie’), and the classes at UBC Tennis Centre just happen to start this week.

The lead up to lesson 1:

15 minutes early, as always, I sit in the impressive UBC Tennis Centre, able to watch the action on the courts as I wait for my 1st class. There’s a kids class happening. As I watch the spunky youngsters soak up the drills, and passionately chase that little yellow ball, I can barely contain my enthusiasm. Good or bad, skilled or not, that’s about to be me. My enthusiasm is quickly snuffed out. I’m already anxious I may have signed up for too advanced a class. But, I reasoned, somebody has to be the worst. Now the reception area starts to fill. A couple of men arrive. One drops into the push up position, the other breaks out a skipping rope for a vigorous warm up. I am terrified. I haven’t hit with any regularity in 15 years. Even when I did, all I did was rally – I was never interested in learning the rules of the game, or even how to serve. What have I gotten myself into?   As I sit wondering if I should quietly back out, maybe sign up for a lower level, Godwin the coach comes calling. Tennis 2.5 starts now. Those very athletic men continue with their skipping and push-ups. Three women appear and answer Godwin’s call. As I’m about to breathe a sigh of relief at the true make up of this class, something new to worry about. I’m the only woman not in a tennis skirt.

Lesson #1: The class consists of 4 women including me, one young man and Godwin the coach. Any of that anxious chatter in my head that only ever tries to undermine what I take on, melts away immediately. Everyone is warm and ready to learn. No questions from Godwin asking how long we’ve been playing, no judgement, no ‘show me your serve’…just genuine warmth as we begin our first drill. From the service line, an easy rally, with the goal of keeping the ball a certain height.  Eventually we move back to the baseline. Now, we work on deciding where to position ourselves to receive the ball. I learn that by the time the ball is half-way between my opponent’s racket and the net, I need to decide where I should be to receive it. Just committing and making that decision, already makes me feel like I’m playing better. Before the 1st lesson is over, I am tackling what I think is my biggest tennis challenge – being in the right spot when the ball lands on my side of the court. I leave elated. I am dripping with sweat. My heart’s been beating fast for an hour and a half. I’ve had the time of my life. I feel like I’ve improved, that maybe I could even be good at this one day! Did I mention I sweated more and worked harder than I ever did in any step class? Success!

Tamara Slobogean is a local TV producer who has blogged about her experiences as the Blushing Frugal Bride. She’s now blogging her way through Tennis 2.5