One Point Said It All

Posted on November 5th, 2015 by

The Minnesota State High School Girls Tennis Tournament just ended last week.  83 TLC girls were in it.  5 out of 6 individual champions were TLCers.

These girls are my heroes.  But not for the reason I would have stated when I was younger. Watching them play, I now know what is possible. I watched player after player practicing the Three Crowns of attitude, effort, and sportsmanship, regardless of how they were playing.

One of my favorites? Maddie and Isabel (not their real names) were playing a semifinal match to determine if their team would go to the state final. It was tight and their match was critical in order to possibly move the team to the finals. Maddie played with a big smile on her face the whole match, whether she won or lost a point.  It was as if she didn’t realize how serious the situation was, how important this victory would be.  Believe me, she did, but her attitude was to treat every point as the imposter it was in the grand scheme of life.

Isabel had more of an intense expression throughout, focused like a laser.  And yet, she was aware of something beyond herself. In the heat of the battle, she applauded her opponents’ good shots.

In all the great play from both girls, one point stood out.

At a critical juncture, their opponents went on a furious attack at the net.  Maddie was at the service line when the girl on the other side blasted an overhead at her feet.  Maddie stabbed at it and missed, then turned around thinking the point was over. But Isabel was behind her and somehow got to it and flipped up a lob, which her opponent crushed at Maddie’s feet again. Maddie again stabbed at the ball, missed, and everyone thought the point was over. Except Isabel, who lunged at the baseline and somehow again got her racket on the ball, sending a deep lob back. Their opponents let it bounce, then hit a weak floater towards Maddie who closed in and – like all of us have done before – took that certain winner and plopped it into the net.

The smile on Maddie’s face was starting to waver.

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And this is where heroes are made. Isabel walked across the court, no hesitation, got Maddie to look at her and gave her a high five and word of encouragement. The smile returned. It is what we teach at TLC. After every single point, and especially when your teammate is down, that is when it is most important you show your partner they are more than a tennis player.

Maddie kept Isabel in the match with her self-deprecating humor and big picture perspective. Isabel kept Maddie in the match with her focus and remembering to support through thick or thin. Between the two of them, they both kept the focus on the Three Crowns until the bitter end.

And I stayed until that end.  I watched the tears of disappointment flow. And I know who won. Isabel and Maddie. No matter what the final score said.

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