|I nestled down on a grass - perched on top of the hill overlooking courts 13 and 14, next to my good friend Bonnie. On my way from the car, toward my spot, Parents and players offered bits and pieces of the team's performance as I walked passed them, in search of my daughter. I was shocked to discover my 8th was grader struggling to keep her own in her last match of her first season playing high school tennis. It was horrible, and even more distressing - she was playing the number three singles player. This should have been an easy win. She had played nicely during the first set, beating her opponent 6;0, lost the second set 2;6 and now appeared to be losing the third set 4;0 or something, I’m really not sure, I was too stunned by it all.
Suddenly, I hopped up, sparked by an inspirational thought, I trotted down the hill towards the coach. “Can I talk to her?” I asked, knowing full and well that I wasn’t really allowed, but had to try anyway. The coach shook her head no. The both of us watch as Laney hit yet another ball into the net. “If they change sides, will you tell her something for me?”
I doubt I’ll get to.” She replied. The score was now five games to one. IF her opponent won the next game, it was all over. I clapped and gave Laney a verbal word of encouragement, “Come on Laney!” Amazingly, she won the next game making it five to two. Seven games meant they would be switching sides. ‘It’s odd. I said, having trouble getting my words out. “That’s seven games, you can talk to her.” My breath was filled with excitement. This is why I came down here. “Remind her of the match she played with Pete, where she was down four games at match point and came back to win.”
The coach looked at me a bit confused. “Just tell her ‘the match with Pete’; she’ll know what you're talking about.”
And so she did, she walked up to the fence, leaning with her arms overhead and reminded Laney of a time when she dug deep to win a match whose outcome really didn’t matter (except for those playing it).
There was quickness in Laney’s step as she approached the service line readying herself for a service return. And thus it began. Laney’s point by point battle to win this match. She changed approaches and was playing very conservatively. Her new goal: Hitting the ball over the net and between the lines. Occasionally, shed attack the net or hit with great pace, but mostly it was a long ping pong game, with Laney determined to be the winner. With each game win, more of her teammates gathered at the benches in front of the court to watch. Unbeknownst to Laney, the girls’ team win was banking on this outcome. They clapped for her at every point win, and verbally encouraged her when she lost a point.
As her mother, I knew how much winning today meant to her; especially with so many of her friends watching. Her social status as an eighth grader would rise because her teammates were mostly seniors. The victorious win would be part of tomorrow’s morning announcements at school, further underscoring her rise. Plus, a win would mean she would finish the regular season undefeated! I was very nervous as the points seemed to drag on. I could barely watch each time the girls went to deuce. And I help my breath every time her opponent held match point. .
Three hours and fifteen minutes after the first point, Laney won with the third set score seven; five. One of her teammates, a senior named Kelly said to the others, “Let’s go over and giver her high fives as she walks off the court. As the proud mother, I wanted to join them but held back. Let her have her moment with her friends. It’s a big thing for an eight grader to hold so much clout with the seniors, even if it is for a moment.
It took us fifteen minutes to walk up the hill and head for the car, with all her teammates and their parents standing in line wanting to congratulate her. During her entire struggle, her opponent only had to win one more game to end the match in her favor. Laney was determined not to let that happen.