Saturday, November 22, 2014

My New BFF

by Meredith Harrington

My new BFF is Tennis. It’s been said that it’s the only game that gives you the most love. Ha ha, get it? Love! If you aren’t familiar with the game, love stands for zero in the scoring system. You start at love, then move up to 15, 30, 40 and possibly deuce. For deuce you keep playing until someone scores ahead by two) (i.e., 6-4, 7-5).

In my case, tennis began with a renewed effort to play with a best friend on public courts three hot summers ago. Both of us had been avid players 30 years before, but life got in the way. Babies were born, toddlers joined Gymboree, toddlers grew up and went to school, until at long last, our free time became free for us to choose what we wanted to do. I was an empty nester, but my friend was not. So, we tried meeting early on Sundays to get in a set or two. I didn’t especially enjoy singles, so I invited a few friends to turn us into a doubles team. Then I bought a $5 Groupon to join Baltimore Tennis Patrons, a USTA-tennis league, and started playing mixed doubles, while keeping my weekend game alive. Not a fan of mixed doubles, I however passed my name around, and by fall, was playing with a northern Baltimore County tennis rec league, women only. Loving the friendliness of women’s doubles, I then was invited to play indoor summer with another group, and then 4 more!

Always good at creating names for characters in my books, and titles for short stories, I decided all my teams had to have names. We are Team Viking on weekends. That's due to some members playing dynamite net, and others standing 5 feet 10. I jokingly refer to my Wednesday night team as Seal Team 6, since we are indeed team 6. Then there is LRC, CRC, TLC, LOL, and Queen of the Court. From one game to now 7, I seldom sit still for long. It’s not just love of the game that keeps me going, it is mostly a chance to be with like minded women my age that keeps me showing up day after day.

Members of all of my 5 teams are the most interesting women I’ve had the pleasure to meet. We range in age from 37-95! One of us used to live in Africa as a missionary, another gave birth in Sweden, another held a career in architecture before marriage in her 40s, another is a writer at Johns Hopkins Childrens Center, and while most of us do not share the Far Left political point of view of some, we love her anyway. But on the court, we are Merrie, Sue, Jan, Wendy and Ann, plus whomever can join us that day.

Tennis is great mental therapy. When I step on the court, everything – good thoughts, angry thoughts, negative thoughts – get tucked in the recesses of my mind so that tennis is my only focus. If that doesn’t happen, i will struggle to return hits and score. Tennis is a great physical workout for arms, shoulders, lungs and blood flow. It’s anaerobic because you start and stop a lot. I used to box and that too was anaerobic, which makes your heart pump harder with the on again, off again movement. In the past year, my tennis playing has disallowed me from fitting into last summer’s cap sleeved shirts. My shoulders and biceps are too jacked!

The best reward from playing so much tennis is not simply the winning of sets, or so much as learning new strategies. Instead, it is all the new friendships I’ve made, and old ones I’ve renewed. It’s about camaraderie, laughs laughed, gossip shared, recipes exchanged, and next week’s games planned. Which is why when you play tennis, everyone shares the love.

by Meredith Harrington

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