Your Serve: Finding My Tennis ‘Angel’
A tennis pro’s unwavering support on and off the court helps a high school player make the cut in life.
By Annie Beier
If you’ve heard the name of my tennis pro, it’s probably because he and his brother set a tennis world record. But that’s not how I think of him. To me, he’s a person who has influenced my life in so many significant ways.
He’s helped me through hard times. He’s inspired me to never give up. He’s made a larger impact on my life than anyone else in my tennis career. I know he cares about more than just my tennis; he cares about me as a person. And I can’t thank him enough for everything he’s done for me.
Five minutes after meeting him, I knew he was going to be the best pro I’d ever have. He was happy, enthusiastic, kind, honest, helpful and caring — and a wonderful instructor. His teaching style was perfect for me. After a couple of lessons, my mom booked a weekly lesson with him for the year.
I would always look forward to my time working with him and improving my game. I played tennis a lot throughout the week, but my favorite time was always his lesson. He always knew how to fix any problem I was having, and I could see myself improving.
As the year continued, I started to get nervous about my high school tennis team tryouts in the spring. Only 14 girls would make the team, and I was up against tough competition. It was all I could think about. I’m a pretty analytical person, and every way I looked at it, I just couldn’t see myself making the cut. I had been playing tennis ever since I could remember, and loved everything about the sport. And I was nervous beyond belief.
Then, disaster. We had a bad winter storm, and the roof of the indoor tennis club I played at collapsed under the snow. Thankfully no one was in the club at the time, but we all scrambled to find new indoor places to play.
While trying out a new clinic, the new pro kept telling me I wasn’t hitting the ball correctly and would need to change my strokes. I barely made it through the session without bursting into tears. Tryouts were in a few weeks, and I knew I’d never be able to change by then. I was so upset and depressed that I just didn’t want to play tennis anymore.
I was scheduled to have my lesson with my regular coach the next day, and I just didn’t want to go. I wanted to be done with it all. But I reluctantly decided I couldn’t give up now. Maybe he’d have a quick fix for me.
And as soon as I saw him, I knew he’d be able to make me feel better. After only an hour on the court with him, I was no longer discouraged and found new confidence. He told me to go home and write 100 times, “I will make the high school team,” and to also write a press release about tryout results with me making the team. “You have to believe you can do it,” he told me. I did what he said, although inside, I still had doubts. I met with him the next week, a week before tryouts, and he told me again to believe in myself, that I could do it.
And you know, he was right — I could do it. That Friday, I found out I had made the team. I was so excited that all of the hard work had paid off.
When I called my coach that night, he was as excited and as emotional as I was. He kept telling me how good of a job I did. The fact that me making my high school team was so important to him is what makes him such an important person to me. I cried as we spoke on the phone, because he has had such a huge impact on my life.
A few weeks later, I saw a blog he had written. Without using my name, it was about my experience. He had a photo of the “I will make the high school team” lines I wrote out. He wrote what it meant to him as a pro to be able to help me through this life-changing experience. This most amazing pro just got even better.
I continued playing my best tennis, motivated by his kind words and support. I had a great first season as a freshman, made wonderful new friends, and have never forgotten how I got to where I now am. He gets so much credit for the player — for the person — I’ve become that I can’t thank him enough. Anyone who has an “angel” as great as mine in his life is a truly lucky person.
Annie Beier is now a sophomore at Brown University studying biomedical engineering and a recreational tennis player. She played four seasons on her high school team, highlighted by reaching the semifinals of the state doubles tournament.
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