I have become this woman I didn’t even know existed five years ago. You know her, she runs around all day in her tennis clothes, making excuses and re-arranging her whole day, just so she can play tennis. Sometimes twice a day!
Like many of you, it started slowly, innocently. Some of my friends and I decided to start playing over three years ago. We were beginners, and when I say beginners, I mean we wore running shorts, t-shirts and running shoes to our first lesson. Slowly, we graduated to yoga pants. Then, we bought skirts. And then, tops that matched. It took a couple months before I would buckle down and buy tennis shoes. Then we all bought new racquets.
We were ready – or so we thought! Lessons and drills are easy compared to the real game. We headed to the big leagues at HTC – Tuesday and Wednesday Round Robins and then Wednesday day league. We gained a little confidence, but how do you get on a REAL team? You form your own! And then it mushrooms to where you now need a spreadsheet to keep track of where to be and when. Yes! We’d finally made it!
But, I got ahead of myself: So you think you know all there is to know about tennis? You’ve got the swing volley perfected; the put-away shot at the net is your specialty, or the lob that drives the other team crazy or the killer serve. All this is good, but here are the REAL Rules & Basics according to the Real Housewives of HWTA Tennis!
It’s all about the outfits, and the right outfits are key. Match without looking too matchy. A great example – Barbara Daniel! Well done! No sport has better clothing choices. A close second might be yoga, but it doesn’t really hold a candle. And the shoes – Wow! The industry has taken it up a notch for us. Just ask Pam Duke! And when you really want to step it up, it’s hard not to admire the opponent who shows up wearing pearls! June Cleaver would have been so proud! Just another way to accessorize!
It’s all about the gear, too. Get a good tennis racquet, but be constantly shopping for a new one, or “trying one out.” It’s good to announce that you are “demo-ing a racquet,” so that if you are making lots of errors, you can blame it on the loaner racquet. And for goodness sakes, don’t forget the cute tennis bag! This bag must hold all of the items that are now necessary to step onto the court: Advil, band aids, drying powder for your hands, towels, special sunglasses, tissues, roller bars, koozies, water bottles, trail mix, hand sanitizer, bands of all types – wrist, knee, arm. And at LEAST two tennis racquets.
Most of the rumors about tennis are true. Any time you put that many women in a competitive situation together, you are bound to have drama. Yet, the sportsmanship, the laughter, and the thrill of a good shot outweigh everything else. I love my tennis family, and I think we get along because we are not all best friends. As a wise woman recently told me, if we didn’t play against our friends, we would never play.
Tennis is a sport you can play your entire life. And this I know is true: the older and more seasoned a player, the worse she is going to beat you. She may have a laundry list of injuries with braces and wraps on every limb, but she has more strategy and ball placement skills in her left pinky than you do in your whole body. Get ready to make a fool of yourself. Betty Choate has made many a twenty-something beg for mercy!
Beware of the players who say they are “laid back” – “don’t care,” or are “here for the exercise.” They are actually the opposite. Their casual attitude is all part of the Oscar-winning performance in a tennis drama. Beware of the opponent who tries to engage in friendly conversation. (Betsy DeCelle) It’s her way of breaking down your guard so she can eat you for lunch.
Speaking of food – tennis is a fantastic vehicle for food and drink – sometimes before, or maybe after, right? Either of these may actually be the main topic of conversation as you enter into that 3rd set tie-breaker! For some, this is the part you will look forward to the most. For others, it may be the sole reason you play!
You will get injured. Sprained ankle, plantar fasciitis, tennis elbow, torn muscles, pulled ligaments, the list is endless. We all know the player who wears a brace on just about every joint and muscle. The direct correlation is: The more braces you wear the better player you are. You are a seasoned veteran, battle scars and all. Hats off to all of you, the Pam Andersons of the tennis community!
Rituals and Other Superstitions
We all have them – bouncing the ball X number of times before serving, a team huddle or the “don’t say it out loud” look when it’s 9-8 on the 3rd set tie-breaker or match point. One of my favorites is Diana Davidson saying “Okie Dokie” before each and every serve! And what’s up with all of us going to the bathroom as soon as we hit the doors at HTC! But you know the saying, “It’s only weird if it doesn’t work.”
You gotta love the creativity and the humor of how we see ourselves, or maybe as we want to be perceived.
We’ve got the tried and true: The Racquettes or The Lobetts
Then there are the classics: Penn Pals or You’ve Been Served
Some go back to food & drink – Racquettes & ‘Ritas
And others push the envelope – Sets & the City, and Best Sets of Your Life
Your Money and Your Time
It takes a lot of both if you get hooked on tennis. Oh sure, there are the private lessons, team clinics, and the clothing and gear we already covered. But what happens when your team advances to State or the always-needed tennis trip to the beach on the premise of more clinics to perfect your skills? Add in the lodging, the shopping and the happy hours and you find yourself planning the next trip even before you head home.
So why do we play? As the Real Housewives of Huntsville Tennis we are addicted! The clothes, the exercise, the socializing, the food and drink all bring us back to those courts several times a week – even at the risk of injury and humiliation. We step on those courts and can just focus on getting the ball across the net in that box that can seem small some days and forget about all our stresses outside the baselines. That’s why we come back!
SCORE – LOVE/LOVE