writing

Scary Merrie

Tennis skirts! I looooove tennis skirts! Okay, whoa lassie, who the hell cares about tennis skirts? Blogs should offer advice or something upbeat everyone can relate to, or personal musings. Nah. There are no rules for blogging, except keeping it clean and honest. But wait, isn’t tennis an elitist form of recreation? I’m discriminating. Yes, and no. People play it at private clubs, public parks, and if they have a court, in their own back yard. Elitist, not anymore. Tennis is neither segregated, or gender specific.  Look at Arthur Ashe and Serena Williams for turning a once all white sport into a widely integrated one. As for gender equality, bravo to Martina Navratilova, Billie Jean King and Venus Williams for coming out of the closet in a very public arena.  

Anyone ever play truth or dare? I had not until my most recent employment. When introduced to a group of residence hall advisors, I told them 3 three things: I’d once climbed Mt. Everest, I was a published writer, and a tennis fanatic. They didn’t believe the Mt. Everest claim, nor did they believe the publishing claim. Shame on them for not reading my fiction! But, they were dead right on the tennis claim. I AM a tennis addict and very fortunate that my work allows me time off to play 4 times a week.

Playing tennis is SO healthy! My mind is sharp when on the court, free of life’s niggling doubts and worry. Once a game begins, all I think about is balls, racquets, strategy, and placement. In the past year I’ve improved so much that another player told me she was impressed by how good I’ve gotten. This, coming from a dynamic 70-something woman who’s been playing the game all her life. Tennis is anaerobic. You run, you stop, you hit, you stop, you serve, you momentarily wait to see if the ball’s going over the net, or not. Heart rate up, heart rate settles, heart rate up, heart rate settles. Tennis can be dangerous, but not if you play defensively, and know when to stop when injured. Driving a car is dangerous, but not if you drive defensively.

Which brings us back to the subject of tennis skirts. Sure, I could play in shorts, or yoga pants, or cargo pants, but I have nice legs, and don’t mind showing them off.  ELEVEN is my new favorite designer, partly owned by Serena Williams, who with her build, often has trouble finding outfits for tournaments where she’s comfortable. Following that, she began a tennis wear company targeting women who don’t want to spend games pulling shorts out of their crotch, or wearing a skirt once only to have it shrink in the laundry. Being older myself, I like that she’s making skirts 12 inches long versus the usual 10, which is great for anyone under 30, but a little embarrassing for someone my age. ELEVEN uses a silky material that’s light as a feather, and uses pleats in an array of colors. She also markets the style of petals arranged in layers like a tulip.

Used to be, only white was allowed on tennis courts. White shirts, skirts/shorts/slacks, white shoes, and white visors. Not even a skirt with red trim was acceptable. Borrowing this quote from “Quora” on the Internet: “Every Tennis player will have a particular apparel sponsor and the sponsors are the ones who generally decide what the player should wear cause they are going to sell the product on his name and they are paying him/her for letting them do so.”

“Market demand will always be for new type of colored sports outfit cause number of people going for all whites is way less than supporters of color. Sponsors can sell more products if the favorite player of someone is wearing the colored outfit. As a result the sponsors will make players wear the outfit that are designed by their designers taking into consideration the players personality and the (sic) market demand.

“Also unlike earlier, now tournament organizers don’t have any rules in regards with the clothes of the player, which (sic) is because many sponsors must have requested them for the same. Again Money talks here. So there is absolutely no problem for marketers and players to wear colored clothes… Wimbledon is one of the very few tournaments that has strict rules about only whites and the players have to follow that.”

I too own 2 white skirts, one made by Athleta with pleats, and one from ELEVEN, pleated in the back only. Last count, I’m embarrassed to admit that I own an unusual number of skirts, including one made out of a light denim material. I’ve found that with the 12 inchers, you can tell people you’re wearing a skort, or mini skirt. Who’s going to know? I for one dislike shorts and the chafing of my thighs, whereas tennis skirts have shorts built in made out of a nice complement of Spandex and cotton.  For my feet I wear New Balance and own an array of different colored ankle socks. Remember ankle socks with the little ball attached on the back? Thank goodness, that style is over! In addition to my shoes, I own 1 tennis visor, 2 racquets, both made by HEAD, 1 grip glove, 1 headband that I no longer need as my hair is short, and an Athletic sweatshirt with a hole to slip your thumb through.

On one of my teams, we play outdoors year round. That’s when I need to layer. I own 4 pair of running tights from the days when I was a runner, and 2 heavy hooded sweatshirts. Also, a fleece lined windbreaker and cotton gloves that I rarely use. It’s nearly impossible to wear gloves while hitting balls. This game, played with good friends, humor and slight competitiveness by women from ages 42 to 86, was founded 4 years ago with two women, myself and my best friend. At first, we played singles, but as time went on, we began to grow to accommodate doubles play. I Some of us are just outside for companionship, nice weather and exercise. Members come and go, like the ebb and flow of the ocean. Sometimes, we cut ourselves a break and after an hour and a half, head for coffee.

It’s true that we’re at odds with the name of this team. Team Ruffles v. Team Viking. I hold out for Viking, as 3 of us are giants at the net.  My best friend holds out for Ruffles, as she loves the look. We now number 12 members, but sometimes only 2 show up, and sometimes 3. Sometimes we fill two courts, side by side, and sometimes we play both Saturdays and Sundays, weather dependent

The only time we don’t play is during rain, sleet or if the temp is below 10 degrees. You’d be amazed at how quickly you warm up when you’re running around a tennis court. Platform tennis, another racket sport, expressly played in the winter months is as invigorating. Team Viking members are not crazy, even though last winter, when our regular courts took down their nets, we brought our own!

Anybody can tell that by looking at my skirts, I am NOT a ruffles sort of person. I like pleats. Pleats are orderly, and drape nicely across one’s butt. I’m an orderly person, and all but one of my skirts is pleated. I think I should be the poster girl of tennis skirts.

Next come my tights. When it’s cold I wear footless tights. They are white, white/black horizontal stripes, leopard, bright blue and bright pink. I never wear capris. I don’t understand capris, other than for fashion sake. Nothing that I know of as yet keep the tootsies warm, except hot packs.

As for my shirts, I have all colors and types, stripes and alligators, men on horseback and one dragonfly.  All I care about is that my shirts are comfortable, cool when it’s hot, and warm when it’s not.  I’m sure I’ve not doing my arthritis any favors, but I will play tennis until I can’t play tennis anymore.

Over the past year that I’ve been playing 3-7 times a week, I’ve found that playing tennis is serious business. I’ve been invited to join USTA but declined on the excuse of cost. I now manage two teams myself, having recruited 40 players to form 4 blocks a week. Granted,

I don’t grunt every time I serve, or read my crystals before a game, or refuse to play with certain players. I love tennis, the sense of accomplishment and pride I feel when I’ve played really hard, and, of course, winning. Tennis is not just for me. My partner came for a reason, and it’s my job to assist her so we can score well. Play in harmony. Not bicker or hold grudges. Sometimes I have low scores, and beat myself up for a while, but the better I get, the more I play, the less times there are that I play poorly. Thank heavens! The thing is, in tennis, singles or doubles, someone has to lose. Although America doesn’t like its youth to lose, encouraging that everyone’s a winner, the fact is that there are winners, and there are losers, and it’s been this way for centuries. Losing should make you strive harder to win. Winning should keep you humble, because most likely, you started at the bottom, like me.

Here’s the thing. I prefer doubles tennis, which for those readers who know nothing about the game, means there are 4 players on the court, two on each side of the net. Winning each game is dependent on each of the partners playing well, being awake and alert, and having court presence. When you play doubles, you cannot steal all the balls and run all over your partners’ side of the court unless she wants you to. That’s not really playing doubles. That’s playing singles in a doubles setup. That’s running yourself ragged in a very short time. Court presence is knowing where to stand when your partner is serving and trying to gain the net. Court presence is also always being where your partner is not, in case the ball is hit where no one’s home (empty area). Not only might you get hurt but it’s very bad form not to play by doubles rules during a doubles game. You have a partner for a reason. Use her. Alas, the end score never shows how hard you worked to hit that baseline ball, or return a cross court close to the net. Instead, it only shows who won, and who lost. Eventually, if you stick to the sport, you will experience winning more than not.

I try to pay it forward when new members come on board. I was new once, and actually was told I couldn’t join a league because my inexperience would make fellow players play down. The audacity and cruelty of that comment has never been forgotten. So, I try to give tips, and always, always complement my opponent and partner when they get a good get.imageThese compliments come from the heart, and my heart is in the game.

I’ve learned so much in the past 4 years since forming my own team, and joining others. My legs are strong, my heart is healthy, and I feel, after playing for two hours, so invigorated. Best of all, I’ve played with black women, Indian women, and every week, a 97 year old, plus occasional round robins with men. This game offers almost more diversity than the United Nations!

Tennis to me is a real high. When I first stepped onto a court, I’d constantly be saying “ sorry, sorry, sorry” if I missed a seemingly simple shot. What I forgot is that Tennis is the only game in the world that gives you love. Remember that, and while you’re at it, raise a racket!

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1 thought on “Scary Merrie”

  1. Is this a revision of an older musing? Pretty sure I read most of this before…and your job reference is out-dated!

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