I have played two sports in my life: soccer and tennis. Naturally, tennis was a better fit, but when I was nine years old, I decided to quit. After years of playing, I realized my six-year old sister was somehow better than me. Embarrassed and confused at how someone three years younger was so skilled, I decided I didn’t want to pick up a racket ever again.
This was a shock to my parents. My family eats, sleeps and breathes tennis. I often come home to find them sitting in the kitchen, drenched in sweat after a three-hour tennis drill, somehow finding the energy to stare at the television as Roger Federer closes out a five-set match.
When I was 10, we moved to a new house that happened to be a block away from six tennis courts. It was the perfect time for me to start playing again, but my sister, who was nine years old at the time, had gotten better. Knowing I couldn’t return her weakest serve on my best day, I didn’t go near the courts and decided to take up running instead. While she practiced, I ran around the lakes, avoiding the tennis courts as they were a chilling reminder of my lack of skill.
In high school, I decided to play soccer. I was horrible. My parents, being the loving and caring humans they are, told me I would be the best player on the field and would no doubt make junior varsity as a freshman. Nope, I played on the C team.
I hated the sport, but refused to quit. My drive to be better than my younger sister at some sport motivated me to continue doing something I had no interest in. It wasn’t worth it.
I started finding excuses to skip practice half-way through my sophomore season on the junior varsity team. The head coaches didn’t care about the lower-level teams, and the program was too competitive.
I had come to hate both of the sports I played. I was too scared to try a new sport, like running cross-country or track, and I couldn’t keep playing soccer.
One day during the summer before my junior year of high school, I came home to my family about to go play tennis. My mom asked me to come, and I begrudgingly complied. After putting my old tennis shoes on and grabbing one of my family’s many backup rackets, I walked out the door. We picked a court and I walked slowly to the base line, turning around to face my sister.
To my surprise, everything fell into place. I hit shots I had never hit in my life, and I’m pretty sure I aced my sister on a serve, but she might remember things differently. I had more fun playing a sport than I had in a long time.
My family went to the courts almost every day that summer. My first day back was for sure a case of beginner’s luck, and soon, I started to get frustrated. I realized the potential my sister had, and the feelings of embarrassment began to come back. Some girls from high school encouraged me to try out for the team, and this time, I decided to go for it.
Tennis tryouts were completely different than soccer tryouts. The coaches were nice and I had fun. I felt accepted by the team and I knew the coaches cared about my success.
My biggest regret in high school was quitting tennis. Looking back, while my sister is naturally more athletic than I am, our tennis skills were always the same, and it was only when I quit that she truly got better than me. Quitting something I loved out of fear was a mistake. There always was and will always be someone who is better than me, but that’s what makes playing sports fun.