Tennis Lessons for my Son

I am something of a natural-born tennis player--meaning, I play like someone who has never had lessons. I'm also blessed with a superb athletic ability, so that even though I go a decade without setting foot on a tennis court, when I pick up a racket I'm instantly as good as when I played for the very first time.

My 15-year-old son decided this summer that he wanted to take up the sport, and asked me if I would give him some lessons. "Sure," I responded with enthusiasm, "how about next month sometime?"

Kids nowadays are into "instant gratification," so he seemed to feel waiting an entire month was too much to ask. He even accused me of "doing nothing" at that moment, even though he could clearly see I was involved in getting comfortable on the hammock.

A nurturing and involved parent, I decided to forego my nap and drive my son down to the neighborhood courts for a lesson or two, because that's just the kind of dad I am and also because my daughter baked some cookies for us to take along.

Once we had stationed ourselves on either side of the net and began tapping the ball back and forth, it was immediately clear that my son had been practicing. In fact, one of his shots came directly at me with such speed it was all I could do to dodge out of the way. "Hey," I shouted, "you made me drop my cookie!"

"Why didn't you hit it back instead of ducking?" he taunted. (Remember, he doesn't understand how to play the game.)

"Let's just do a set," I suggested. Sometimes, the big dog has to remind the little dog who runs the herd. I cranked up and fired a bullet, my serve sizzling through the air so fast it fried the fuzz right off the ball.

"Net," he called for some reason.

I took pity on him and tapped the next one more softly.

"Out," he shouted.

"Look, do you want to play or not?" I demanded.

Apparently my next serve was to his liking, as he returned it to my forehand--initiating the following exchange between my brain and my body.

Memo To: Feet From: Brain Subject: Get Moving!

Dear Feet, we are here and the ball is over there. Move!

Reply Memo To: Brain From: Feet

Dear Brain, in receipt of your memo, referenced above. Please explain "ball" and why we should care about same.

Reply Reply Memo To: Feet From: Brain

Would you please just get going? We can debate this later!

I put everything I had into my lunge, moving faster than Tiger Woods at NASCAR. Unfortunately the tennis ball was in some way flawed, bouncing out of my reach in a most defective fashion.

"My point!" my son called gaily.

I accepted this gratuitous comment with typical good sportsmanship.

"You're not supposed to swear," he advised me.

My son is at the age where he improves 80% with every stroke, whereas I am at the age where there was an 80% chance I would HAVE a stroke. After ten minutes of chasing back and forth trying to return his woefully misdirected shots, I tossed the ball up and walloped it, sending it soaring over the fence and into the weeds.

"Go get it," I wheezed.


"Those are the rules," I told him.

"But you did that on purpose!"

"Hey, have you read the rule book? No. Have I? Yes. Now go get the ball."

"Aren't you going to play any more?"

"No, I'm going to lie down. I'm having internal bleeding. Are there any more cookies?"

Grumbling, he went off to search for the ball. I gazed up at the sky and made a mental note to complain to the homeowner's association about the presence of a tennis court in our neighborhood. I mean, what kind of thing is that to have in a place where there are children around?

- Bruce Cameron -

[ by W. Bruce Cameron Copyright © 2003 -- { used with permission } ]


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