A couple of weekends ago, I attended The United States Tennis Congress on a tuition scholarship. Think tennis camp interfused with TED-talks. The U.S. Tennis Congress is the brainchild of fellow adult recreational tennis enthusiast P.J. Simmons (Road To 4.5 Tennis). He’s a self-professed Tennisaholic who took up the sport in his 40s and is now making up for lost time.
P.J. figured there were many other adults just like him who were passionate about getting better and who would love the opportunity to learn from world-renowned tennis professionals. He be right.
The Tennis Congress is a magical world where I am not the only player on the court to have watched tennis how to videos on youtube. Where online-based tennis instructors like Craig O’Shannessy (Brain Game Tennis), Will Hamilton (Fuzzy Yellow Balls), and Ian Westermann (Essential Tennis) are larger-than-life celebrities (and yet super friendly and totally willing to talk to you).
(You know Ian and his tennis pal Ira Meiling from the hilarious viral tennis videos your teammates have tagged you on/forwarded to you:
How NOT to Make a Line Call
and How NOT to Treat Your Doubles Partner.)
Where doing jumping jacks, lunges, and many other dynamic warm up exercises before playing tennis is mandatory.
Where my personal Head Coach was Debbie Graham, former world top #30 in singles and top #10 in doubles.
Where 12-Time Grand Slam Title Winner Owen Davidson can name Billie Jean King, John Newcombe, and now Christy Vutam as doubles partners he has won at least one set with. Wwwhhhhhhaaaaatttttt.
Where I got to hear Davidson, Emilio Sanchez (former world #1 in doubles), Gigi Fernandez (former world #1 in doubles), John Austin (Wimbledon Mixed Doubles Champion with sister Tracy), and Tim Mayotte (Olympic Silver Medalist) share – sometimes hilarious, sometimes heartbreaking – constantly captivating stories of life at the top of the tour.
Where former #1 in Tanzania Ronald Rugimbana graciously stayed after a session to give me personal tips on my volleys. Where Craig Cignarelli, who has coached several #1 nationally-ranked juniors, blew my mind with his singles strategies…and then sassed me to no end over it. 😀 Where former top players in Spain Gerard Galindo (top 150) and Lucas Regas-Melero (top 100) taught me some much needed footwork and doubles nuances, respectively.
Where my roommate New Yorker Tammy Ferrari and I quickly became old friends and stayed up till past midnight every night discussing the tennis tips we learned that day and trading war stories as USTA captains.
(I have GOT to tell you about this innovative team tennis captaining strategy Tammy came up with on how to do your lineup and keep your sanity: send the whole season’s lineup out at the beginning of the season but only list one person for each line of doubles. Those people are then responsible for finding their own partners for that match. Whoa.)
I could go on and on and on. It’s wonderful. And what might be almost worth the cost of the excursion alone is the culture. The atmosphere is…delightful. So very nice. Earnest. All in the fashion of its founder P.J. The adult recreational tennis world isn’t always nice, but I’m in a conference room full of very friendly adult recreational tennis fanatics and where there are no egos and no ratings talk. Just people who want to get better at tennis and who would probably all be willing to go out onto the court and try to hit 10, 20, 30+ balls in a row within the doubles alley with me till we succeeded.
“Improve, not prove,” urged The Focus Coach Bob Litwin (Live The Best Story of Your Life) to us tennis instruction-hungry athletes during the opening welcome dinner, and that mantra rang in my ear throughout the event.
(By the way, the doubles alley is called the tramlines in Australia. Something you might want to know if you were invited to help Owen Davidson in his presentation and he’s telling the audience about using the tramlines to work on their consistency while you’re just hitting groundstrokes all willy-nilly. Sigh.)
But now I’m home, and let me tell ya something, Toto. We ain’t in Kansas, anymore.
Er, or Arizona in this case.