The tennis community is truly something special. If you haven’t experienced it yet, just wait . . . you will. Whether it’s a coach inviting your child to join his academy’s warmup at a tournament or a parent offering a protein bar to your child when he forgot to pack one or a child comforting your child after a tough loss, the community is there and it’s there en force.
And, when a challenge or a tragedy strikes our tennis community, we rally. We speak out. We show up. We stand together in support.
Nothing illustrates this more clearly than the support coming out for one of our top junior players, Sean Karl. I wrote about Sean‘s recent diagnosis of Ewings Sarcoma a couple of weeks ago. Since then, the Facebook group created by a group of his tennis friends has grown to over 1500 members posting daily words of support. A couple of tennis parents joined forces to create a logo, merchandise, and website to raise money to help offset Sean’s medical expenses. Roger Federer posted a video on YouTube encouraging Sean to keep fighting. Babolat sent Sean a racquet autographed by Rafael Nadal. The tennis teams at several universities have written Sean’s initials on the backs of their shoes, showing their support for his battle.
And, this is only one example of our amazing community. If you think it ends when your child is done with junior tennis, you’d be wrong! A new-found adult tennis friend of mine lost his father suddenly to leukemia last week. His local – and global – tennis community showed its support by sending emails, cards, phone calls, Facebook posts, and, most importantly, by coming to his father’s funeral. One attendee called the funeral a “virtual who’s who” of local tennis coming out to pay their last respects. They were all people that my friend had met through his years of playing and coaching tennis. He is now an adult. His tennis community is still there for him and will be probably forever.
Now I’m seeing my son create his own tennis community. Thanks to the Maccabi Games, ITF, USTA, and summer tennis camps, his community extends around the world. And thanks to Facebook and Twitter and FaceTime, my son and his community can stay in touch anytime, anywhere. And, they do! These kids are learning incredibly valuable lessons about friendship and healthy competition and what it means to be part of something bigger than yourself.
The amazing thing to me about this community is that you may lose track of it for a while – even a long while, as I did – but it will still be there when you want or need it. After 30+ years away from my tennis community, I reconnected thanks to my son. I have re-established friendships with my former tennis buddies whose kids are also now playing and traveling to tournaments. We ask each other for help with warm-up courts, or local restaurants, or a place to stay. We check in with each other to see how the latest tournament went. We keep up with each other’s non-tennis lives, too, also thanks to Facebook and Twitter, and support each other when needed.
If you think tennis is just about what happens between the lines, think again. The relationships your child – and YOU – is forging now will be there for years to come. The tennis community is truly something special.