Sunday, September 20, 2009

Tennis Lessons

Some of my most important lessons in life have come from my experiences on the tennis courts. Yesterday I got to play side by side with my daughter and our opponents included a couple of people that live on our street and a nephew and niece. There are two pros in our community that played for the local high school team and put our town on the map in the tennis circles. It felt so good to see so many talented players, young and old, filling up the courts on a beautiful Saturday. Yes, life is so good outside the cave.

My wife and I have always encouraged our three children to find their passion in life. We have exposed them to soccer, baseball, wrestling, gymnastics, karate, football, horseback riding, surfing and my favorite, tennis. It is such a joy to be able to share my passion for tennis with my kids and since I didn't break anyone's nose yesterday, my daughter has already asked me to play mixed doubles with her once a month in the socials that her tennis coach sponsors.

My first tennis lessons cost me about 25 cents each when I first made the varsity in high school as a sophomore. The number one player lived a couple of streets away so he was my ride home. After practice, I would bet him a soda that I could defeat him. He always wiped me off the court but I got great pointers for a great price and his guidance helped me to advance.

While still in high school, I taught both my parents to play. My dad got tennis elbow and had to use a sling for several weeks. I loved coaching but my understanding of bendable joints vs. rotational joints was limited and it was not until I started coaching in Canada that my playing and coaching skills would be refined. I met Peter Burwash and he completely changed my forehand. He also taught me the causes of tennis elbow. He started out as a hockey pro and entered the tennis world after a hockey injury ended his career. He became the number one player in Canada and founded the largest tennis company in the world. My daughter's tennis coach worked for him before returning to his roots in our town.

During my three seasons in Canada, I got to meet the members from the young president's club. They booked the entire five star resort I worked at for a week. Their leadership skills intrigued me and I learned a lot from just being around these young leaders. You had to be under age forty and a CEO in order to be eligible for this group.

I got to be on Canadian national TV when the resort I worked for sponsored a celebrity Pro/Am tournament. My pro opponent was ranked 300 in the world and he made mince meat of me in the televised doubles match. My students from the camp wrote me to tell me how terrible I played. My future in tennis was not going to be as a player, but as a coach and I used money I made from tennis lessons to pay for college.

I became a member of the U.S. Professional Tennis Association while still in college and landed a tennis director position at a resort in North Phoenix. I was selected from one hundred applicants. One of my first students was the owner of the local Auto Trader. He became a close friend and mentor and when I got married, he was in my wedding party. When the club changed owners, my student invited me to work for him and the best perk was that all of his employees got free tennis memberships. I worked for him until he sold his company. One of his first employees moved to San Diego to start his own Auto Trader in 1980. When my wife and I got married, I interviewed for the Auto Trader job in San Diego and we started our new lives in California.

The greatest lesson I learned from Peter Burwash was not about tennis but about the "3 C's"- Consistency, Commitment and Concern. These daily posts are about all three. First, I must strive for consistency and must do this daily. Second, I must make a commitment to do my best throughout each day. This means being the best husband, dad, and member of society. Finally, I must show concern for others in the world around me.

To quote a customer that I just saw the other day, "Every day, every time, without fail, no exception." This is what the "3 C's" mean to me.

I encourage you to put some fun in your life. For me, it means playing tennis once a week and spending time with my family. Why not take a tennis lesson? Maybe I will see you on the courts. If you live in my community, check out the Faila brothers. They will teach you how to play and I promise, you won't have to worry about tennis elbow. Have a great Sunday.

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