Turn Your Tummy and Stay Calm/The Basics Don’t Change


Yesterday Ax and I returned to the tennis court for a lesson with Coach Tommy. The plan was I’d watch Ax for half an hour, then take fifteen minutes for myself, which is all I wanted to test my foot with.

During Ax’s lesson, I heard Coach say his usual stream of bizarrely-authentic sounding compliments: “Great swing! Look at that ready position! Way to watch the ball! Nice speed! good footwork! Way to get there! Looking good!” No matter how gangly Ax’s body or how wildly his balls traveled, there was always something positive Coach could point to, ball after ball after ball after ball.

And I nearly teared up with gratitude for being able to give my child the experience of learning a new skill, being so obviously imperfect while being ingrained with that much love and validation. 

I mean, imagine if my daily internal voice were inspired by that? “Way to serve the muffins! Nice lunchbox remembering! Good exiting the house while clothed! Excellent dental hygiene! Sweet dishwasher loading! Looking awesome folding those napkins! Way to pay the bills! Nice drop-off line navigation!” How much more joyful and confident would I feel? Probably lots.

Meanwhile, back on the court, Coach Tommy was starting to pepper the compliments with actual suggestions: “Turn that tummy! Stay calm!” and when Ax took the suggestions, the ball magically connected with his racket, flew solidly over the net, and into the opposite court. 

“Look at that!” Coach noted the difference. “Ok let’s try that again, turn the tummy, stay calm and —-“ and the ball sailed straight and powerfully over — Ax giggled, and returned to ready position. “Again!” He squealed. 

When it came my time I decided to stick with the kiddie slow balls, to focus on form and not need to run as much. And dang if I didn’t turn my tummy and stay calm Every. Single. Shot. Like magic. Feeling mighty.

Turn the tummy, stay calm. I called across the court, “I think your tips for Ax are helping me!” And Tommy said, “The basics don’t change. It’s just some people have more practice.” I’m gonna keep going.