Originally Published: July 30, 2018 9:55 p.m.
Most of us have loved playing sports of some kind throughout our lives, and God knows we want to continue doing what we love and probably have gotten pretty good at.
But there are times though our aging process that things happen to our body that derail us, sometimes temporarily, and sometimes for good — those are unwanted, sad and disappointing moments.
It can be as simple as a pulled muscle, twisted knee, bum shoulder, hip replacement, cataracts, balance problems or worse; yet some type of illness jumps into our body and bang we’re dealing with surgery and chemo.
Bottom line is we get slowed down and it’s just not easy to deal with.
When a professional tennis player reaches that time in their lives where they know they have maybe a year or two left to play on the tour, they start making some changes in their schedule.
Roger Federer plays a much lighter tournament schedule, picking and choosing what he and his team of advisors think makes the most sense.
Andre Agassi’s body aches and pain and stiffness finally caught up with him, to the point before a match he’d have to actually roll out of bed and crawl to the shower to let some hot water try to bring him back to a point where he might or might not be able to play his next round’s match.
We’ll the good part for them was the amount of money they pulled in while playing, where for us it’s the enjoyment of a competitive match, friends and making our bodies get a work out and trying to maintain some athletic skills.
It pains me when someone I’ve known for years tells me they will no longer be playing, sometimes they even bring their tennis gear to me to give to someone who has a need.
I see the sadness in their eyes, it’s like losing one of your best friends.
So we compensate and learn to cope. Some players, who have an injury with their right arm, decide to play with their left. They may never reach the same level they played before, but they’re still playing.
Other’s let pride get in their way. If they can’t play as good as they once did, they’re certainly not going to let one of the players they’d beat 0-1, now beat them 3-3. They just can’t accept it mentally.
Many former professional players fall under this category, they feel they have nothing to gain and lots of pride to lose.
As we age, we lose a step here and there, our reflexes aren’t what they used to be, but there’s still that great aspect of hitting that ball in the sweet spot, cracking a ball down the line or the perfect lob over someone’s head. We fight back at the aging process and still try to enjoy the competitive spirit within the level we’re at each time frame in our lives. We tell the fish stories of when we beat so and so back in 1975, but still relish the three times a week we’re playing.
Watching some 90-plus year old’s play gives me hope. I’ll stand and listen to them try and intimidate their opponents, take the three or four steps each shot their body allows them and watch the smile and grit of determination to do what they’ve done for the past umpteen years.
They will be damned to not do what they’ve enjoyed doing until they just can’t, and I hope to become one of them as the years go by. And when I can’t, there’s always the TENNIS Channel.
Chris Howard is a local USPTA Tennis Professional with over 45 years in the racquet and fitness industry. He can be reached at 928-642-6775 or firstname.lastname@example.org.