Learning to take the good from my tennis experience

Moving past what could have been to what can still be

photo of a player walking across a tennis court.
PHOTO: John Fornander / Unsplash

By: Jeeya Parasbhai Khavadia, SFU Student

I dreamed of becoming a professional tennis player when I was young. And no, I’m not a professional at this age, nor do I still compete at that level. But if I could go back and make a different decision that may have changed that outcome, I would. I started out at a tennis academy when I was six after my father, who was a tennis enthusiast, convinced me to give it a shot. There were three levels at the academy: beginner, intermediate, and advanced. I was assigned to the beginner rank, where I met my best friend from school. 

It wasn’t long before I developed an infatuation with the sport. I’m not sure why — it could have been the coach, my teammates, or my best friend from school. Whatever it was, it made me attend every class without fail. The more I went, the more matches I won, and the faster my coach took notice. 

After a few years, I had become good enough that my coach thought I was ready to compete in the advanced category, completely skipping the intermediate competition. That’s when things began to change. I was 10-years-old at the time, and everyone in the advanced level was at least five years my senior. They had their own group of friends with people their age. I began to feel a little lonely. I had lost all of my academy friends. Everyone I had become close with was still at the beginner level, and my best friend from school dropped the sport altogether. 

I felt so lonely that I stopped going to tennis classes on a regular basis. Without as many practices, I began to lose my grip and knowledge of the sport I had been playing for four years. When I did attend sessions, I had been away for too long and I couldn’t keep up with the more advanced players, missing shots that came my way.

From then on, I began to lose interest in the game. I was no longer the emphatic tennis player who participated in every match and couldn’t wait to attend classes. Back then, I thought my situation would never change: that I would feel this way about tennis for the rest of my life. Back then, I was a little girl who had lost all hope, sobbed uncontrollably, and eventually left the sport.

Now that I’m older and can reflect back on my experience, I realize it was a mistake to walk away from tennis. I can’t help but think that I would have been a professional by now. While I can’t change the past, I didn’t let my disappointment of not reaching professional status stop me from returning to the sport I still love. I’ve joined a new tennis academy, and I attend it daily. It’s become my favourite part of the day.

It’s so important to remember that setbacks and difficulties are a normal part of the journey. When faced with obstacles and difficulties, it’s easy to become discouraged. But it’s critical to view mistakes as opportunities for growth and learning, as every end marks a new beginning. 

This can be made easier by a support system of friends or family who can help you see things from a different angle, and offer support when the challenge feels too big. If you don’t have that support in place, you do have yourself. In those times, I like to think of the same girl who quit tennis. I think of what she needed, and I become that for myself. Instilling myself with the confidence, bravery, and encouragement she never had.