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  • Writer's pictureDr, Vijayshree Patil

National sports day blog 1 : My tryst with Tennis

My mother loves tennis. She gets it from her late father, Nanu, as we used to call him. Growing up, she did not get the opportunity to learn the sport. Money was tight. So when my sister and I came around, she signed us up for coaching lessons at the age of eight, at a Tennis Academy in Mumbai.

Sincerity and hard work came naturally to us. It must be genetic. Before we knew it, we were putting in between three and six hours a day on the tennis courts. We were blessed to have good coaches who taught us everything they knew. This was my life from the ages of 8 to 18. We did everything at the tennis courts. From birthdays, to Holi & Diwali. We spent more waking hours there than at our own home.

As I got older, I started entering into tournaments. First, in and around Mumbai, and eventually, all around the nation. It was an uncomfortable time. I struggled with confidence and was filled with self doubt and frustration. Competing did not come naturally to me and I constantly fought fear and anxiety that built leading up to the tournament and peaked as I walked onto the court. I wanted nothing more than for the match to end and to step off the court.

But, I continued to work hard. As I grew older, my results never really improved, but I started becoming (relatively) comfortable with being uncomfortable. My family encouraged me to have fun and shifted the focus away from the outcomes of my matches. This was a big deal, especially since a lot of money had been spent on my tennis education and massive sacrifices had been made by my father and mother. They could see something a lot of others couldn’t. The intangibles were obvious to them.

My 10th standard board exams rolled around when I was 15. I really didn’t know what I was capable of academically until then and I did very well. My results brought with them a welcome uptick in confidence which had a spillover effect onto the other aspects of my life. I started enjoying my tennis more as the results stopped defining my life as being a success or a failure. My academic and sporting lives started feeding off each other. The end to my so called tennis career was starkly different  to the start. The initial self doubt was fast vanishing and I was firmly on the path to being the kind of person I wanted to be.

Indian philosophy speaks of the divinity associated with living in the present. By that measure, I say sport allows you to experience divinity in a way few activities do. Playing tennis taught me about hard work. About winning and losing. About fear and courage. It made me self aware and taught me the importance of honesty. Most importantly, it allowed me to experience the joy of being in the moment.

The National Sports Day in India is celebrated on the birthday of Major Dhyan Chand Singh, considered one of the greatest ever to play the sport of field hockey. Not every sportsperson is fortunate enough to win three Olympic golds. Luckily, that isn’t the only measure of success.

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The writer is an 34 year old Engineer who runs a successful start up in Mumbai.

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