Today was the end of the first week of tennis camp for our Girl. Every day this week, there had been discoveries, exciting tales, and wonderful new friendships. Perhaps no day yielded a prouder moment for her than the first, when she told me, “When we were practicing our serve, I hit a perfect one, from my service line to the line at the other side of the court. And then, you know what? All the kids lined up to give me a high five!”
We, she and I, had both brought up the topic of tennis camp or lessons this spring, not for the first time. We looked into the various options, but she see-sawed for several days, at one point, giving a definitive “no”. Then one day, after hitting the ball around for a bit, she finally told me, “I’m ready for tennis camp.”
You see, while we don’t have dreams of cultivating the next big tennis star, we are extremely proud of the Girl being at tennis camp for a simple reason: She finally overcame whatever fear she’s had over the past three years, and agreed to go to tennis camp. She’s been hitting a tennis ball for the past four years, and loving it, and doing quite well. She listens to instructions, and patiently follows through to improve. But whenever the topic of tennis camp or lessons came up in the past few summers, she always held back. Having known my daughter quite well for over nine years, I think I finally pinpointed the issue this year: her fear of failure. I’ve seen that familiar look in her eyes over the years, and the implications in her voice that seem to say, “If I can’t do it perfectly, I don’t want to look like I failed.”
Well, whatever it was—her pure enjoyment of the game, or her desire to learn more, or an inner voice saying, “So what if I’m not the best”—she overcame her personal turmoil and got to love her first week of tennis camp. So much so, that she has asked to be registered for the second week (along with her brother, who will be going on half-days). She certainly wasn’t the best, and never won the cap for “Player of the Day” once this week. But of course, that didn’t matter. She learned something much more valuable than the perfect serve.