I’ve always been terrible at sports. When I was younger, at one time or another, I was on a little league team for every sport you can imagine: basketball, soccer, baseball, hockey, etc. Alas, I sucked at them all. (Actually, I was kind of good at hacky sack in middle school, but I don’t think that counts as a sport.)
In basketball, I couldn’t shoot. In soccer, I’d always give up the ball. In baseball, I threw like a girl. Hockey was just a mess.
I ran cross country in high school for four years. I stunk at that too. Four years and my proudest achievement is a 34th place medal at one of the easiest meets of the year.
So, a few weeks ago, spring sports tryouts came around at Lindbergh High School and I had a brilliant idea! Why not try out for the tennis team? It’s a sport I’d never really tried before, but how hard could it be? Maybe this was the one sport I could be great at.
The day for tryouts, I went and turned in all the necessary forms and I borrowed a racket from someone in one of my classes. (Yeah, I didn’t even really own a racket…) I showed up to the courts confident that I could make the team. Tennis has always been known to be sort of a blow-off sport at Lindbergh, so I wasn’t fazed at all.
Well, tryouts were a total mess. The JV coach, who we’ll just call Mr. C, was in charge of cutting kids from the team. About 48 boys showed up and they only have room for 40. Mr. C gave the old “The hardest part of my job is cutting kids…” spiel. He then proceeded to explain that the most likely kids to be cut would be seniors who had never played tennis before.
So, at the point, I figured I was pretty much screwed, but maybe if I played really well…
During the warm-up run, I kept up with the front of the pack, trying to show that I had the necessary endurance to play such an intense game as tennis. During the stretching, I showed how truly limber I am. (Okay, that’s just weird.)
The first day of practice mostly consisted of just hitting a ball around with people. I didn’t know the scoring system, but I mooched off the knowledge of a couple friends. At one point, I was playing a couple kids and they insisted on playing a full set. “A full set is six games, but I’m sure you already know that,” said one of the kids. Uh, yeah…
Whenever Mr. C came around to watch us play, I’d always try and put on my best game face. Even though I kept hitting into the net, I’d tried to act like I knew what I was doing.
Day two came around and I still had a fair amount of confidence. If I was really that bad, then they would have cut me immediately, right?
Before practice, I worked with my girlfriend who is on the girls tennis team and I learned the scoring system and the importance of following through when swinging the racket. I was pumped and ready to make the team.
Mr. C explained at the beginning of practice that he really didn’t know how to cut kids, so he’d just have us play games against each other. We’d all be paired with a partner and we’d play another team. After a full set, the winners would go on to play with the Lindbergh tennis team for the rest of the season. The losers would have to take the long walk of shame.
I ended up getting paired with another kid who played “maybe twice a year.” Well, I’d like to say we triumphed over adversity and fought hard to victory. But, in reality, we sucked and lost almost immediately.
My partner and I walked up to Mr. C and explained that we lost. He asked for my name and scratched it off his clipboard. But, just for good measure I guess, he wrote “cut” next to my name also. Thankfully, Mr. C knows how to handle things like this very well and he had the perfect words to say. “You’re gone.”
I started walking away from the tennis court, head hung in shame. I turned to apologize to my partner, but I look back and Mr. C is explaining to my partner that he should stick around. Wtf? The deal was if you lost, you left I thought. Oh well.
I found out over the coming days that although eight kids were supposed to be cut, only four were in the end. And possibly the favorite thing I learned was that Mr. C allowed two kids to walk on the team a week after tryouts had ended.
During my short stint as a tennis player, Mr. C constantly emphasized the values of respect. This is probably what I’ll take away the most. “This is a gentleman’s game. Be respectful to one another.” Oh respect. Like when you don’t know the names of your own players? Some of whom have been on your team for three or four years? “Great serve…uh…John…right?” But I digress…
In the end, I wasn’t too broken up. The whole tennis idea started out as a joke. I didn’t really have that huge of a desire to join the team, but it was kind of interesting to try out something new. However, after seeing how the tennis team is run, I feel sorry for any kid who actually wanted to join and was cut. This was the most back-assed tryout I’ve ever seen. Whatever, it gave me something to do for a couple days.