Monday, December 13, 2010

A Miracle on the Courts

Do you not know?  Have you not heard?  The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.  He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.  He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.  Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. ~ Isaiah 40:28-31

It was an action-packed day at Sycuan Tennis Club on Saturday.  Our captain, Stacey, had a game plan for the day and we arrived early in the morning to warm up for the team tournament.  A win in the first round would put us in a strong position to earn a berth in the regional tournament in Las Vegas.  Only one team in our division would qualify... the stakes were high.

"We are going to need to recover from a six point deficit when we put our mixed doubles teams on the court," our team captain said after we fell behind in the singles portion of the first match.  In order to win, we will need to get to a super tie breaker in mixed doubles."

Our opponents had played in numerous tournaments and they were on the verge of closing out a first round victory.  I looked at our two mixed doubles teams as they entered the courts.  They stood tall and full of confidence.  Larry and Ninon played hard and won, shrinking our opponents team lead to four points.  Our team-mates were only part way across the tight rope and the safety net below had been removed.  Mike and Shelley would need to be near perfect.  So far, they were.  Their match was a nail-biter.  When the set ended up tied, it was time for a tiebreaker, winner take all.  Mike and Shelley pushed so hard to win.  They won the tiebreaker, however, we were still three games short of a victory.

Left to right, team captain, Stacey, Mike, Corri, me, Ninon, and Shelley
(Larry is taking the pic... see him  in the photo below)
Larry is all smiles as his team-mates sing happy birthday
My mind flashed back to 1980 when I was rooting for the USA men's hockey team to beat the heavily favored Soviet Union.  I wondered if maybe the lead had become insurmountable.  I remembered how joyful the country was when our young amateurs defeated the powerhouse team from the Soviet Union.

Players from each team gathered along the sidelines to offer support.  There were cheers every time an amazing shot was hit and it came down to the wire.  I could barely watch as I witnessed my team-mates tie up the match.

It was now time for the "super tiebreaker."  The first team to win seven points could start dreaming about Vegas.  Mike and Shelley accomplished their mission and the team won round one 23- 22.

There were still two more team matches to be played before sunset.  We ended up losing the last match in another super tie breaker but the team spirit and the community spirit was at an all-time high and enough points were accumulated to give us first place in our division.  In my eyes, we pulled off a win because we practiced often and we believed we could do it.

As I think back to all that took place on that special day, I think about how calm my team-mates were.  Like the San Diego Chargers, they started off in a bit of trouble and ended up finishing strong when everything depended on it.

Over dinner at the resort, one of my team-mates asked me, "do you ever get tired?"

"Not when I'm on a tennis court", I answered.  The question reminded me of the Bible verse above.  If you are ever feeling "depleted,"  play this video listed below.  You will never feel the same way, ever.  Check out the video below to learn more about our everlasting God and to discover how trusting in the Lord will lead to new strength.  Let me know how this works out and thanks for visiting.

P.S.  I got inspired to email my team this morning about our experience on Saturday and about our tennis future.  Since the team gave me permission to "share" our tennis lives here on this blog, I am including the email to the team.  The note has applications beyond tennis.  As the different parts of my life come together, I am thankful that the people I am connected to are willing to share.  Check out the letter below...

Good morning team,

Stacey's coaching acumen and the team's willingness to spend countless hours
practicing are proving to be a winning combination. At the heart of each team
member is a burning desire to contribute and perform to the maximum of our
abilities. It is my honor and privilege to be a part of this group. I believe
that we are only beginning to discover the potential that is inside of each one
of us.

When Jimmy Connors was a young boy, he always left the courts kicking and
screaming, always wanting to stay longer. He never got enough and his passion
for tennis only grew stronger. I see a bit of Jimmy in each one of you, that
passion to keep learning more about the game and to keep improving each week.

The stars seem to be in alignment for us. Think about all the "coincidences"
that set up this big tournament win. First, Larry discovered the tournament and
encouraged us to go for it (it was the last time we would be allowed to play as
true 4.0 players). Then the new rankings came out. Like Stacey said, "there
was good and bad in it." We chose to see the good and adapt. We now have two
4.5 players on a 4.0 team. According to the rules, because we are playing in
this tournament under the 2010 rankings, we are still eligible to play in a
regional 4.0 tournament in Vegas in April. Should we capture another win in
Vegas, this team will continue to be eligible for entry into a national
tournament and we will be allowed to participate as 4.0 players.

A good friend of mine offered me some encouragement recently when I was having a
challenging day. The advice was to simply "BELIEVE." That is my random thought
for today. I do BELIEVE in each of you. Words cannot describe the feeling I
get inside when I am with all of you. My wife recognizes how special you are
and she can't wait to be a part of this in Vegas and beyond.

Thank you all, for giving me the kind of day that others dream about. Saturday
was a "10" from the beginning of the day when we rode together to the very end
when we celebrated Larry's birthday with new and old friends at Cheers.

I also wanted to thank you for giving me permission to share our awesome story
on my blog this morning @ 8:08am. Every member of this special team has a role.
We need to be ready when our fearless leader calls upon us. I do have a certain
kind of fear of this team inside of me. It's known as "reverential fear." It
means that I never want to look any of you in the eye and see sadness because I
let you down. I know there will be times when each of us get wins and losses
and that's normal. I'm not afraid to lose. I just want to make sure that I
always do everything in my power to be my absolute best. Every day, I promise
to make the right food choices, to exercise properly, to get adequate sleep and
to fill my mind with positive thoughts so that I will never have to look you in
the eye and see any of you disappointed because I did not push myself to be
my best for the good of this team. Our time of preparation is NOW and we have
much work to do for regionals.

We have a special purpose and the stars are in alignment. Please don't be
afraid to dream big dreams. This is our time and we are a "BLESSED" group. Do
you BELIEVE? See you on the courts...

Mike Mulligan

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