Since it’s dusk and I’d like to enjoy a Caribbean sunset, I’m going to forego structure and just brain dump on this one.
6:45 a.m. On the practice court with two Venezuelans.
7:25 A look from both players that says, “Holy crap do these girls ever miss?”
7:30 A “Has it been an hour yet?’ glare with parched tongues drooping from sides of mouths
8:00 “We are near death. Please let us stop.”
8:30 Exhausted stagger to breakfast where heads decline enough to get omelet in hair while coach laughs knowingly
9:00 2-hour nap while coach goes for 4 mile run J
Free time until 2pm, which for me, includes, several unexpected species interactions including: Alpha-dogging a four foot long iguana, getting struck by a scurrying badger who was either extremely lacking in agility or just damn blind, feeding a weasel (as much as I want that to be a metaphor, it isn’t), and an inadvertent attack from something avian which went after my bread roll like Ghandi on a bender.
Back on the courts for a second practice and then tournament sign-in, which in this case means 128 players standing in a line staring at each other’s fitness levels, girls giggling and guys ogling.
Now awaiting word on whether the girls get into the tournament, or whether we’ll spend the next week training on the practice courts in preparation for next week’s tournament.
As this is our third day here, I decided their comfort level had reached a point where I could make them uncomfortable. To this point, I’ve solved a lot of their travel issues. Today, however, things change. They said “We have no more towels in our room.” “Solve the problem,” I replied. “We have no hitting partner.” “Solve the problem,” I replied. “We don’t know how to sign in for the tournament.” Once more, I said, “Solve the problem.” As a coach, it is incumbent upon me to teach independence on and off the court. Perhaps the self-reliance gained from these off-court trials will serve as confidence builders when on-court issues arise. Perhaps the Solve the problem mantra will work its way into their subconscious such that it appears in times of competitive despair. One can only hope, right?
I’ve asked the girls to write down their thoughts so far. Here’s a taste:
“This being my first pro tournament i can already see and feel the difference. I see the different intensity these girls have versus the juniors. I feel how much they want it and how much they are willing to fight versus the juniors. The atmosphere is also very different. They are very welcoming, everyone here gets that we are all fighting for the same thing and we’ve worked hard for this. I just finished and I’m exhausted after hitting for one hour when I usually do two with no problem back home. Even the practice is different. Since we only have a limited time, we have to make the most out of that hour. I’ve already learned and absorbed so much and it has been just the first days. I cannot wait for the rest!”
“The competition is fierce. Not in the level of play, but in their hunger to win. It’s cut-throat. This is not a game to them. This is work and this puts food on the table. They aren’t mean, but you can feel the intensity, focus, and drive in the atmosphere. When I visualized a 10K professional tournament, I was expecting 17-18 year-olds just starting out on tour. But, most of these girls are 24-25 years-old. Many are in college or graduates. I respect and admire the drive they still have to unlock their potential. Though the competition is fierce, these aren’t amazing players. The biggest difference between these girls and juniors is their fight and sheer will to win. It’s incredible that this alone can make up for not being a great player, and that’s how many of them are winning matches.
“Pretty much everyone speaks English here. In the U.S., it’s rare that people are bilingual but for the most part, the players are fluent in at least two languages. The boys are exceptionally better than the girls. The worst boy here would easily beat the best girl. Also, the guys are ridiculously good-looking.
“Finally, the parents. Go to any USTA national and I guarantee there will be at least 3 clinically insane tennis parents. But most of the people here aren’t traveling with parents and it’s refreshing not to have to deal with that insanity.
“Sorry I didn’t have much else to talk about, but to be honest, I’ve been too exhausted from playing that I haven’t done much else.”
Ah, the minds of fifteen year-olds!
Off to watch a Caribbean sunset.