I Want To Serve Like She Does

Posted on August 3rd, 2019 by

Click the image to see the serve progression from the racket drop to full extension!

A girl showed up at station drills (our optional time for campers to work on their stroke of choice) who had an absolute bomb of a serve.  One of the most beautiful, fluid motions I’ve ever seen.  The racket drop on edge down the back and acceleration looked like a gift from above.  Seamless and effortless.  Relaxed and balanced.  Explosive.

The boy I was working with looked over and his jaw dropped.  As did all the other campers around.  He had been dubious about the need for his racket to drop down his back on edge in order to get power, control, and spin options.  We had been working on just that for a half hour and he was getting it but did not have the control or power or spin he wanted yet.  But I promised him he would if he stuck with it.  Because he had finally felt and demonstrated the correct throwing motion required to accomplish this.

After watching the girl for a bit, he turned to me in semi-wonder and frustration, pointed, and said, “I want to serve like she does.” I laughed and said, “You can. Watch the racket drop and tell me how far down the back it goes.”  Because he did not completely believe me when I told him how important it was.  He looked, saw it so relaxed it reached below her waist, and looked back at me with eyes that said, “Whoa.”

“You want to serve like her?  You’ll have to go a little backwards to go forward.  And create a new habit.  But I’ve already seen you do that motion.  Now you need to trust that motion.  And let go of where the ball is going for now.”

*Disclaimer* Not the actual male camper mentioned in the story above.

He turned, lifted a ball into the air, racket dropped all the way down the back without a hitch, and launched a serve that went in an unintended direction with unintended spin into the adjacent court.  It was, to the casual observer’s eye, a terrible serve.  But it was technically correct.  I said, “That’s it!”  He looked dubious and hopeful at the same time.  And he saw the potentially long road ahead to retrain and get a “serve like she does.”

Now he has a choice.  To continue down the old path and have a so-so serve for life, or backtrack a bit and go back to that fork in the road that will lead down a different path and end up at a “serve like hers.”

It is not easy doing this.  It is painful.  Our pride gets bruised.  We feel foolish unlearning a habit that no longer serves us and learning a new one that does.  Failing in front of others.  But if we are willing to bear these obstacles, we will come through it with a brand, new serve.

Will he ultimately choose this?  I don’t know.  But I do know he’s capable of it.  When I left, he was still on the fence.  He really, really wanted to “serve like she does”, but was weighing the price it would cost to get there.

It is no different in life.

We often look at someone with a giving heart and say, “I want to serve like she does.”  But it doesn’t happen automatically.  And it also is not magic.  It is simply a habit.  You want to serve others better?  Watch someone you admire and copy them.  You will have fits and starts, glitches and mistakes along the way.

*Disclaimer* Not the actual camper mentioned in the story above.

You will revert back to your old form often, pettiness or jealousy or short cuts or whatever your particular difficulty is, because that is what you are most familiar with, that is the habit you have honed over years.  I know.  I have plenty of paths I need to unlearn. But almost any habit we form can be replaced by a new one, if we are able to ask for help, make mistakes, ask for help, make mistakes, and ask for help again.

What I tell campers when they get a serve right for the first time (after screaming “Yes!  That’s it!” at the top of my lungs) is this:  “If you can do it once, you can do it again.  You have found what you are looking for.  You now know what it feels like.  At first, you might only get 1 in 100 correct.  But if you stick with it, it will become 1 in 50, then 1 in 25, 1 in 10, 1 in 5, 1 in 2, and eventually almost 1 in 1.”

It is no different in serving others.  Start with your 1 in 100, celebrate that you did it once, then practice it until it is almost 1 in 1.  It might take a lifetime.

But what a lifetime it can be if we do.

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4 Comments

  1. Jane Connell says:

    Indeed, what a lifetime it can be. Good reminder for personal journey. Always enjoy your messages Neal! The amount of internal reflection is always eye opening and appreciated.

  2. Bev Lesiuk says:

    So, I still have hope?
    Full disclosure-I had the most pathetic serve when I first started attending TLC. After 13 years!!!, it’s much better, not a booming serve, but I can place it pretty much where I want now. Better than praying “please go in”. I credit all of the fabulous instructors at TLC over the years for taking me to where I am now. I’m not sure I would have continued playing tennis without TLC’s positive impact.

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