I Can’t Control The Rain

Posted on July 27th, 2017 by

It is raining this morning as I write this.  We are indoors with drills.

For many years at TLC, we had a saying as a staff about weather.  “Only God and Steve can control the rain…”  Steve Wilkinson, co-founder of TLC, was like Moses parting the Red Sea.  He looked up at the sky and would say, “Not gonna happen.”  And then it wouldn’t.  And we would look at each other and say, “How does he do that?”  (Although, there was that time years ago when lightning was flashing, thunder was blasting, and we were all sitting on metal bleachers.  We finally convinced him there was just the tiniest possibility it would happen and then we sprinted for cover as the deluge hit.  But that was just once…).

Now, we have radar to warn us, and lightning alerts where we go inside whenever there is lightning within ten miles.

All this is to say, no one comes to camp saying, “I hope it rains while I’m here!”  But every time it does rain, I think of Dave Aasen.  He was one of TLC’s finest instructors in all my 36 years at Tennis & Life.  Two decades ago he and his brother Erik died in a car accident that left us grief stricken for years and, like any grief, is not something you ever get over.  The loss left an indelible imprint on our spirits.

But it is not just his loss that lives on, but the powerful way the essence of Dave’s spirit also lives on.  Dave could not control the rain.  But he had a saying that I use all the time in my life that is, in its way, better than controlling the rain.

“The grass is green, the sky is blue, it’s a great day to be alive.”

It didn’t matter if it was pouring, or the grass was parched with drought from 100 degree days.  To Dave, the grass was always green and the sky was always blue.  And when Dave said it, you believed it.  Not because he was a charlatan with a gift of  persuasion, but because it was true.  He made us see differently.  Rain pouring down?  The sky is blue, let’s have fun with the drills we have indoors!  Grass withering in summer’s heat and us wilting along with it?  Let’s have a water fight.  When you see differently, you respond to life differently.

So just this morning, knowing from the radar that we would all be inside Swanson Center, I texted my wife and daughter, “The grass is green, the sky is blue, it’s a great day to be alive, and I love you.”

And what do I see on the courts inside?  I see instructors battling each other to see who can be most enthusiastic.  I see instructors high-fiving every camper as they get back in line.  I see instructors doing hands on teaching to help correct stroke mechanics each time a camper gets their turn.  I see one of our instructors making himself the tallest “safety cone” in the world and getting the youngest kids to giggle.  I see campers hustling and smiling with the rain drills we have created for just this scenario.  And I see the smiles on their faces as they declare, “This is fun!”

I see – and I hear – Dave.  The grass is green, the sky is blue, it’s a great day to be alive.

I can’t control the rain.  But I can control how I respond to it.  And when I see others responding with such – no other way to put it but joy and acceptance – I join in.  It’s a great day to be alive.

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  1. Susie Lott says:

    I, too, repeat Dave’s words almost every day. I know he lives on in many of us; he was an inspiration that makes each of us better in an attempt to be, at least a little bit, ‘Dave-like.’

  2. Jeff Nelson says:

    Thanks Neal for your blog. David was my doubles partner at St. Olaf and also my good friend off the court. I miss him every day and I’m glad his spirit lives on at the camp. My son Henry will be attending camp next week and I hope Dave’s spirit passes through him during his time there!

    Thank you for all your do Neal!

    ’92 St. Olaf

  3. Paul and Nita Aasen says:

    Thank you, Neal, for your blog remembering David and for all the wonderful things you do as our leader at TLC. Thank you ALL, campers past and present, former coaches, families and friends….. for your love and support. Thank you Steve and Barb. You all bring light and love into our lives EVERY day.

    • Neal Hagberg says:

      it’s my honor to remember David. He still guides me in many ways. love to you both.

  4. Paul Miller says:

    David had the courage to go all-in on ‘joy!’
    It ran in the family; his brother, Erik had perhaps, the best soul I’ve known.

    • Neal Hagberg says:

      That is an amazing statement, and so telling about the whole Aasen family, because Dave and Erik’s third brother, Kevin, has an equally kind soul. Their parents, Paul and Nita, are remarkable people.

  5. Amy Braun Steinhauser says:

    “The grass was green, the sky was blue, to everybody like me and you…” I wish I had known the Aasen boys personally but they were quite a bit younger than me. They clearly touched so many, many lives, including my parents’. Their kind of legacy knows no bounds. What a beautiful thought to carry forward.

  6. Scott Nesbit (David's college coach for three years at St. Olaf) says:

    Thanks for the blog about Dave Aasen’s tennis and life philosophy. As his college coach for three years, I was privileged to see him live it.

    • Neal Hagberg says:

      We are fortunate people, aren’t we? And he learned so much from you, Scott.

  7. Karen Mann says:

    The sky is blue, the grass is green, and Geniveve and I had our toes done today in preparation for camp next week!! Can’t wait!

  8. Teri Heil says:

    Always green, always blue.

  9. Roger Betts says:

    That same enthusiasm and positivity I witnessed at camp this summer “lives on”, rain or shine! Thanks for this continuing “uplifting spirit “, Neal!

  10. Jennifer McLenighan says:

    Neal, Thanks for this great reminder. Just what I needed to hear today. Keep these messages coming!

  11. Neal says:

    Thanks, Jim!

  12. Jim Turner says:

    You just made my day. The sky is blue, the grass is green, and I am happy to be here!