Darran emailed and asked, “So exactly how many tennis teams are you on?” I sensed a disbelieving inflection in his question. Knowing Darran as well as I do, I suspect he typed the question with one eyebrow arched up.
I asked myself, “Why?” Why do I choose to play on more than one team? Why do you find me, and others, on a neighborhood tennis court one day, then play competitively on an indoor court the next?
I am (significantly) past the age to qualify for Wimbledon and can hit mind-blowing mishits that cause my opponents to double-over in laughter. I play because I am with friends; members of my chosen tribe. They accept me for who I am, unforced errors and all. On my next ball hit beyond the baseline, I wince, they cringe, I promise to do better, and we start the ball in play again.
We are born into families. We have no choice on which family or where. Brothers, sisters, and non- binary peoples, related by blood or adoption, become our first tribe. In a few years, we set out into the world and walk in social circles built on friendships discovered on school yards and sports teams, and in activities that range from chess clubs to Guardians of the Galaxy fans.
By our early twenties, we open our arms to someone sitting next to us in a university class or a church pew, looking for like-minded people and possible friendship. A random drawing by a college software program assigns names to the same dorm room. That random pairing could develop into the strongest and longest friendships, a bonding like a tribe.
Then an upward career move rips us away. Days are spent with some people that we would never hang out with—co-workers, friends of your significant other, and parents of your children.
This all brings us to today and your tennis tribe. How do you find tennis mates? You can follow a vetting process to find good people and avoid the drama queens and manipulators.
Run from captains that play weaker players because they are friends. Roll your eyes at the egomaniacs and gossipers. Shake your head at captains that announce, “I will only play the 4.5 players, and not the lowly 4.0 players”—a decision that breaks apart stronger pairings. Avoid teams with ringers because those teams may dissolve into bickering prima donnas.
Move on. You are worth it. Over time, you discover your people, your tennis tribe.
“Darran,” I responded, “The number of teams I play on is based on the published match dates, my work schedule, and the charm and likeability of the players. I seek out like-minded players, as well as proven tennis skills. I discovered hundreds of people with whom I hope to build life- long friendships. I will see YOU, and the rest of my tribe, on the court.”
Barbara Wyatt is a Writer, Photographer, USTA Official, and Mobile App Developer of iKnowTennis!, the tennis rules app. Her poem, Ode to Tennis, an amusing poem on the joys and frustrations when learning tennis, is available at Amazon. She can be reached by e-mail at BarbaraW@iKnowTennis.com.