My Tennis Journey

After a recent visit to my parents in my hometown of Mountain Home, Arkansas, I was reminded of my beginnings in tennis.

My mother organized and ran a variety of programs through the Parks & Recreation Department in the 1960s, 70s, and early 80s from synchronized swimming, to building a swim team, to tennis lessons. My older sister, younger brother, and I did it all: Red Cross swim lessons, swim team, softball, tennis lessons, and free swim days. #mountainhomearkansas

I recall tennis lessons at the public park courts with my mom at about age 10, a kids’ day camp type situation at the Racquet Club, and vague recollections of either taking lessons or just playing at an indoor facility in Midway.

As I got older other sports like swimming and basketball gained interest and I didn’t play tennis in high school. Throughout high school and college, I would occasionally grab my cheap Walmart racquet, a can of balls, and play somewhere with a friend or two or three.

One semester in college I took a 1-hour tennis elective just to have enough hours to qualify for a loan. It was in this class where I learned how to manage a “big kids” serve rather than dinking it in like that proficient 10-year-old beginner.

My tennis obsession began in 2015 after having gastric bypass surgery for weight loss (Thanks, Dr. Josh Roller!). Obvious to some is the physical activity aspect of life-long success with weight loss, but it was so strongly encouraged by Roller Weight Loss that I knew I had to find a consistent activity. Walking, jogging, and playing basketball were all out – BORING and horrible on your knees.

Enter Kim Wood: my sister is the true athlete in the family and was one of the top 2 players in the state back in high school. As a mother of a serious, traveling, nationally-ranked son, she picked tennis back up in San Antonio and was an amazing 4.5 player. She checked out tennis in my state and area and told me where to join, how to register with USTA, bought me a cool, REAL racquet and my nephew picked out my fancy Wilson tennis bag! I had the equipment and a location.

I started by joining Cardio Tennis sessions almost every night and on Saturday mornings. No one was rude or judgmental at Cardio: everyone was just there for the exercise and fun! This is where I heard people talking about leagues and teams. It was already October and no singles league teams had room and I had no idea what to do. A Pro at FAC (Fayetteville Athletic Club), gathered up enough new-to-the-area and new-to-tennis ladies for a 3.5 team. I was a 48-year-old, self-rated 3.0 who probably should have begun at 2.5, but knew I could be competitive as I lost weight and got in shape. Also, I was technically a college athlete, having swum without a scholarship for a semester at Hendrix College.

I lost my first match 0-0, the double bagel! My first lesson was learned here – tennis is fun and you meet so many people from diverse backgrounds! Jennifer Rogers was my first opponent and was so patient and pleasant that we are still friends on and off the court! Who would be EXCITED after a double bagel? Me! I called my sister immediately to tell her my results, but the fact that I was becoming active again and could even step on the court was a true achievement.

When I won my first game (not set, not match), I called again. When I won more than one game in a set I called her. My sister was always supportive of my gleeful journey and always encouraged me to just keep playing. It’s for the exercise, the fun, and meeting cool people.

When I started playing on a Spring League team (which the area League Coordinator helped me find), I finally broke down and bought a package of 4 lessons with a Pro at FAC, Dillon Yeilding. I spread them out so I could just focus on one thing as I played matches and attended a weekly drill at Memorial Park. It took me a year to use up those 4 lessons, but as I got better, I had a specific problem, deficit, or frustration each time to have Dillon help me with. It was perfect for me. (Matt Hogan, Melissa King, Wakako Yamaguchi, Robin Wise = #saturdaymorningdrill)

When I won my first singles match I was high as a kite! When I was slaughtered in my subsequent match my sister taught me my second major lesson: tennis is a humbling sport! Regardless of abilities, some days it’s just not your day AND you have to remember that the other person across the net is also trying very hard to win.

I now have a core group of cool tennis friends, play in most leagues as each season rolls around, have had two knee replacement surgeries (right then left, both in 2020, Thanks, Dr. Hanby!), and won a state championship with my team who also went to sectionals in Mobile, Alabama and made a respectable showing.

Tennis is fun, great exercise, and social. There is a place for everyone: all ages, abilities, backgrounds, races, sex, and even financial status. There are always independent teams who do not play out of a club, so players do not have to be a member of an expensive club. There are lots of parks with courts that anyone can play on, and yes, you can still buy a racquet and can of balls at Walmart!

I was under the impression that people would be very judgmental when I was unsure of a rule or etiquette, but with very few exceptions, that is not true! Everyone was super kind and helpful when I told them I just started playing and encouraged me to keep playing!

Tennis is a sport you can begin at any age and play through any age! I hope to play until I am 90+!

#tennis #getoutandplay #tennischampion #FACtennis #rollerweightloss #ozarkorthopaedics #arktennis #USTAArkansas USTA Arkansas United States Tennis Association – USTA (Official) USTA League (Official) Fayetteville Athletic Club Kristin Webb Libby Smith Kim Wood Matt Hogan

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Family Vacation: 1979 Edition

We traveled a lot when I was growing up, but not the fancy trips on airplanes, hotels, or even overseas. We drove places, admired the beautiful scenery, read Archie comic books and library books, and stayed with family or friends of my parents.

For a full year leading up to the summer of 1979, we planned a 5-week family vacation.

Perspective Reminder: there was no such thing as a cell phone, internet, home computer, or even push-button telephones (we had rotary phones and only needed to dial the last 4 numbers if it was in town). 

Process: My mother either called or wrote letters to the Chamber of Commerce of numerous cities and small towns throughout the Midwest, Pacific Northwest, and Southwest of the United States. Then we waited a week for the mail to come in: pamphlets, letters describing local interests and accommodations, brochures, etc.

Mom would lay out piles of these treasures on their king-sized bed for my brother, sister, and me to pore over and talk about what we thought sounded interesting or fun.

From all this information, plus taking into consideration where friends and family lived (Oregon and Montana for example), mom set the route. *Map to be included in the next post.

Also during this time, we either bought a Coleman pop-up camper or maybe just spruced it up. We were already serious camping people, often combined with lake or canoe trips, so the prospect of camping out for 5 weeks was not anything new in itself.

Dad also ordered a custom-made new Dodge Maxi-Van remarkably similar to the picture below I found online! That had to be a serious splurge they had saved up for! It was maroon and silver, and the custom part was how the two bench seats in the back could be configured: facing forward like normal, facing each other with a table in the middle, flat like a bed, or, our favorite for times when we drove for most of the day, a “lounge” with the back seat set regular, but the front seat flattened out. Cool!

NOTE: no one wore seat belts in 1979, so all of these configurations worked with no safety restrictions to ruin our fun. We could play cards at the table, read in our lounge, or sit on the seats facing forwards.

Kim always had dibs on the front and center bench, staring intently at the highway or road between mom and dad’s captain’s seats in the front because she would get car sick otherwise. Bob could read, sleep, sing, talk, or do whatever in a car. I was somewhere in between; as long as the road wasn’t too curvy, I was fine reading in the back or gazing out the side windows.

One other thing my dad created before our trip was what he called a “Grub Box.” If we were going to be camping out and cooking outdoors for 5 weeks, there were some things we needed to have readily available all the time. It was a wooden box approximately 3 feet square with a front that dropped down with chains on hinges to be a sort of table opening up to a mini-pantry with cubby holes. Salt, pepper, sugar, flour, some canned goods, and other non-refrigerated goods could all be stored neatly in the Grub Box. What a genius my dad was!

**This one is going for $335 on Etsy and is similar, but my dad came up with his own idea and made an even better one himself back then, before the Internet, Amazon, and Ikea.

We also had a large cooler we iced up and drained at every possible stop to keep things like milk, cheese, mayonnaise, hot dogs and the like.

Man, were my parents amazing planners! They really thought of everything!

International affairs nearly spoiled the whole thing and we almost did not get to take this incredible journey. If you are old enough to remember, there was an oil crisis to do mostly with events in Iran. With the serious spike in gas prices, doubling the cost per gallon, my parents were uncertain we could still afford to take such a long trip in a big van pulling a camper.

But we did …

**Trip stories in subsequent posts this month**

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