I had originally intended to write another article this week but I made a last-minute decision after my experience this past weekend with my tennis team at the conference tournament. Unfortunately, it didn’t end how we had expected and hoped, but I think I gained something even greater this year by being on this team than I might have gained winning a conference championship. In just a year, I have gone from being strangers with a group of fellow athletes to becoming sisters. Sisters who bicker, challenge each other, and roast each other for little things, but sisters who also build you up, push you to go the extra mile on the worst of days, and who make you realize what being an athlete is really all about.
So what is it all about? Playing a sport is not always about winning the title, which I know is cliché and most athletes would laugh at, (including me), but it’s so much more. I’ve learned that being a part of a team is learning how to grow together on and off the court, field, etc. It’s holding each other accountable to be a person of integrity. It’s learning how to be a person who honors themselves and others in all that they do. Being on a team has taught me to compete for a bigger purpose than myself, and how rewarding that feeling is.
I’ve learned so much more in one year of college tennis than I have in all my years of junior tennis. I have learned that is important to be the classy team and to never stoop to the levels of unfair or nasty competitors. It’s a waste of time and energy and learning to not react at all rather than fighting back is more satisfying anyway. I’ve learned when the last thing I want to do is pick up a tennis racket, lift another weight, or run another 800, how to remind myself that the work will pay off in the long term not just for my personal success, but for the success of the team. I have learned to be true to myself, because your teammates, although they might give you a hard time now and then, will find the best qualities in you, and build you up when you feel like you want to break yourself down. I’ve learned that hard work seriously does pay off and how to trust the process. I’ve learned how much more rewarding it is to say you’ve truly left everything out on the court even in the lightest of practices because really, why half-ass anything? I’ve learned that even the most polar opposite personalities can learn how to mesh when the well-being of a team is at stake. I’ve learned the love a coach can have for his/her team, and even when you feel like they are pushing you past your limits, they are doing it because they know your potential. I’ve learned a completely new definition of family that no amount of words can bring justice to. Most importantly, being a part of team, the 2016-2017 Liger Tennis Team in particular, has taught me what it means to be better.
To Gretchen and Maddie, thank you for being such great leaders to look up to. You are both very different in many ways, but each of your characteristics created quite possibly the most fun, entertaining, and inspiring dynamic for our team. You guys exemplified what it means to be selfless while still holding yourself to the highest of standards and refusing to accept anything less than great for yourselves. You clearly have learned that you can surpass limits you might not have thought had been possible in your four years, and you’ve shared your wisdom by simply putting your nose to the grindstone and working to test those limits everyday.
Thank you for teaching me what it means to have a tough skin. You didn’t put up with any bullshit because you knew you were so far above it, and when you did happen to whip out a snarky comment it always shut everyone right up (and made me laugh every time). Your type of humor is hard to find, and your down to earth personality kept everything pretty wide open and real. Your game reflects your confidence and you thrived under pressure. Bottom line, you’re a badass on and off the court who demanded respect just by the way you carried yourself with class, the right amount of sass, and an undeniable work ethic.
Thank you for being like another big sister/aunt/mom for me this year. I know I could always go to you if I had any problem on or off the court, and you would help me come up with some sort of game plan or give a word (or novel text) of encouragement. You’re scary fit and sometimes I get exhausted just watching you track down literally every ball your opponent hits. I hope one day I can be half the competitor you are in every aspect of life, and if I ever need brain surgery I call dibs on you. Your POSITIVITY and love for your teammates and the game was contagious, and I’ll miss the love you radiate.
To the rest of the team, thank you for making this year so awesome. I cannot wait for many more 6 hour bus rides, 5 hour practices, and plenty of 800s (not really but at least I’ll have a great group to do them with). Love you guys. #StirTheSauce