For TueNight.com by Kate Goldberg
I charge down the line and join my doubles partner at the net. We are prepared to crush anything that comes our way. It's a glorious spring day and we are dominating our first match of the season.
Our opponent sends a lob in my direction, but unfortunately (for her) it doesn't catch enough height to clear my head. I rotate my body sideways, point upward to locate the ball in the glistening sun and wind my tennis racquet around in perfect form before delivering the devastating overhead shot that could win us the game.
"Deeeeep," our opponent calls from the other side of the net. "Are you freakin' kidding me," I say, under my breath, certain that the ball was way inside the line. My partner Chrissy runs over, tells me to "shake it off" (who the hell is she, Taylor Swift?) and convinces me to keep playing. We win the match on the next point, shake hands with the ladies we just defeated and smile as we head off the court to have lunch.
As a stay-at-home mom in my early 40s, I've spent the last decade searching for ways to keep my mind from going numb while the kiddos are in school. I've dabbled in journalism, taught dance to toddlers and even wrote and directed seven school plays at the elementary school. But playing in a suburban women's tennis league is the one thing I credit with helping me maintain my competitive edge, a trait that will definitely come in handy as I prepare to rejoin the workforce and get back in that game.
See, most days consist of a typical and often monotonous routine: slinging food, driving carpools, deconstructing piles of dirty laundry -- not exactly the glam career I envisioned when walking down Commonwealth Ave during grad school at BU. Most days, it's totally cool and I am happy to have this time with my kids and my Crock-Pot! But after going through the process of creating a profile on Linkedin and days later attending a local networking meeting, it became evident that I would need to bring the drive and motivation I've had on the court into this next chapter.
Different things inspire different players when it comes to tennis. Sure, everybody wants to win, but for me, it is how we win. Just like in a work environment, some crazy stuff goes down in tennis, even among civilized suburban mommies. Overcoming these situations and continuing to play can sometimes be a challenge.
Last season, Chrissy and I were in a heated match where one of our opponents (who has a not-so-nice nickname in the league) was cheating point after point. Even players on the surrounding courts took notice. Without a formal line judge, our choices were to forfeit and walk off the court or just finish as quickly as possible and get the hell out of there. We were exhausted, and the match was extremely close - in fact it went to a tie-breaker in the third set. Even though my partner and I were incredibly frustrated, we drew upon all of our physical strength and mental toughness to take our opponents down. Victory never felt so good!
Other times, we've gone up against ladies who used stall tactics or played mind games to throw us off. Once, opponents showed up with a ruler to measure the height of the net, insisting that it did not meet tennis regulations. And they were pretty bitchy about it. I'm no expert, but the net was pretty darn close, and wouldn't we all be at the same advantage or disadvantage in play if the net was a little too low? They considered leaving, but we talked things over and they eventually agreed to stay. It could have gotten ugly, but we kept our cool and used some clever negotiation skills to convince them. I think they ended up beating us, but not because they derailed our concentration at the beginning. They were just better players!
Over the years, playing tennis has gotten me out of the house and into a game that forced me to use all kinds of different strategies to find success -- many of which will help with my next career move. As it stands, I'm heading back to work for a lot of different reasons. Both of my boys are aging up and are pretty self-sufficient, so I am excited about the reemergence of a daily intellectual challenge. And while my car isn't on the verge of being repossessed, the teenager is on the verge of going to college so an extra income will definitely help.
Thankfully, because of the game I feel like I've still got it goin' on and I'm pretty confident that I'll land a great gig sooner than later. I've been told that folks who play competitive tennis, or any sport for that matter, use an abundance of skills that translate well in the workplace, and I can't wait to see how this evolves for me. In the meanwhile, Chrissy and I will continue to kick ass on the courts -- and we won't let any obstacle keep us from going for that win!
TueNight is a weekly storytelling publication for women in life's middle. www.tuenight.com