TLC Blog – Vision

Posted on January 21st, 2019 by

Four years ago today, Steve Wilkinson passed away.

Steve “saw” the court better than any person I ever played.  He always was thinking three shots ahead of his opponent.  He set points up methodically, surgically.  If I had a dollar for every time he short-angled me to my backhand, forced me out of my comfort zone, then drove a flat forehand crosscourt that was unreachable, I would be living on a yacht in the Mediterranean.  I could “see” his mind working, and I still could not stop him.  If I adjusted for his strategy, he had also thought that out – in advance – and would drive me deep into the corner, then gently place an unreachable drop shot that died impossibly close to the net and watch me sprint legs and arms akimbo just to reach it.  It must have looked funny. It certainly felt funny. If I managed to reach the ball, which was rare, he was standing in front of me at the net to effortlessly take my barely-reached shot and volley it into the open court for a winner.  As I write this, the question occurs to me:  Why did I submit myself to such punishment?

The answer is I loved playing against someone with such vision.  It helped me to see what I needed to do, or try to do, to counteract his maddening precision and court vision.

I have been at TLC in some capacity for 38 years.  The question occurs to me:  Why?

The answer is I loved working with someone who had a larger vision, and now am working beside the staff and campers who share that vision.  Not just on court, but in the world.

One of Steve’s heroes and role models for what he tried to accomplish at TLC was Martin Luther King Jr.  Steve invoked King often. And today we celebrate the vision King “saw”.

In MLK’s Drum Major Instinct speech, King spoke a portion that I have committed to memory and recite to myself whenever I lose track of who I am and do things for recognition instead of for the greater good.

“Everybody can be great

Because everybody can serve.

You don’t have to have a college degree to serve

You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve

You don’t have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve

You don’t have to know Einstein’s Theory of Relativity to serve

You don’t have to know the Second Theory of Thermodynamics in physics to serve

You only need a heart full of grace

A soul generated by love

You can be that servant”

Steve’s memoir is titled, not coincidentally, Let Love Serve. Everything Steve did in setting up TLC was around serving others.

He saw McEnroe and Conners in the 1970s hurting those around them – and themselves – and believed there was a better way. A path of non-violence on court and off where one chose a different road.  He hammered home the things he identified we can control on and off the court, the Three Crowns • Positive Attitude • Full Effort • Good Sportsmanship ℠ (which is simply the Golden Rule) and the means to get there, which was the Serenity Prayer (which can be practiced in any religion or used in a practical manner just as effectively for those who are areligious).

“Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change

The courage to change the things I can

And the wisdom to know the difference.”

The things we can change?  The Three Crowns ℠.  We can choose them each instance if we pause and consider.

The things we cannot change?  Winning, illness, injury, playing well, death and, first and foremost, other people’s behavior and choices.

Steve could “see” a new way of acting in sports.  And now his mantra of focusing on the things you can control is used throughout the world.  It was not always that way.  Steve was way ahead of his time. He did not set out to get into Halls of Fame. He set out to serve.  He could “see” what others could not, that what MLK stood for he, too, could incorporate into a sport.

The MLK birthday holiday and Steve’s death do not often coincide.  But the two of them were, in so many ways, kindred spirits.

All of us have a vision for a better world, not just MLK and Steve.

My question for you today is: What do you “see” in your own life and world that you want to do to create a better world? Because you do “see” something, I am convinced of that. Identify it.

Then, like MLK and Steve did, go do it.

How Can I Contribute?

 


12 Comments

  1. Ellie Peden says:

    Miss seeing Steve and Barbara in Kauai. Always fun to watch his team play and explore the Island.

    • Barbara Wilkinson says:

      Ellie, I was looking for you when our family and I were on Kauai over Christmas. We even stayed at Poipu Kai. You are on my mind when it comes to Hawaii. Have a good new year,
      Aloha,
      Barb

  2. Ken Gerke says:

    RIP Steve. The world needs more like him. Well said, Neal.

  3. John Whitmer says:

    Fine comments to post on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Also a wonderful photo of Steve. They surely were kindred spirits. Steve as I recall had a number of heroes, Arthur Ashe comes to mind and for much more than his tennis ability.

    (If you had a dollar for every time Steve nudged you out of your comfort zone you might be filthy rich but I doubt you’d be on a yacht in the Mediterranean.)

  4. Marcia Gilmer says:

    You have set before us a worthwhile challenge. Thank you for this excellent reflection♥️

  5. Diane says:

    I think of Steve and his wife Barb so often. They visited me here in my home in Florida shortly before his death, and I cherish that time. We celebrated his last birthday at my tennis club. Steve and I were classmates our senior year of high school. I cannot admire a person more. I would like to have his wisdom and compassionate ways.

  6. Pat Lonneman says:

    Well done good & faithful servant—Let Love serve 👍

  7. Peter Whitis says:

    Many thanks, Neal. I hadn’t realized the two dates connection with similar philosophies. It was good to be reminded. Time to reread Steve. Best wishes for the coming season.

    Peter Whitis

Leave a Reply