Yesterday was a special day because I played tennis with my older son Leo. Tennis is a strong bond between us, but at this point he clearly does me a favor by hitting with me. Leo is a good local tournament player, who at 38 is a little—but not much—past his prime. At 69 I do not come close to matching his pace, consistency or stamina.
Once upon a time …
But it seems like yesterday when he was very small, and he sat transfixed next to Vickie by the side of the court as I won a hard fought final to claim my third Columbia, MD, Memorial Day Singles title. The moment my opponent and I shook hands (that was his signal) he gleefully came running down to the courts with his racket ball racket for me to play with him. That became our ritual every time I played a match.
Who’s your coach?
We played a lot over the years. I loved it, and I taught him everything I knew. As he got older he also took clinics from pros. But when he started playing Junior Tournaments, the first question people asked him was, “Who’s your coach?”
Unlike the other players he didn’t really have coach, but I was the closest thing to it. So jokingly I suggested that when people asked he should say, “I go to O.M.P.T.A.” No one ever asked, but O.M.P.T.A. stands for, “Old Man Pops Tennis Academy.”
A Treasured Gift
Looking back, I am not precisely sure when the balance tipped and he became the better player. By the time he became Brandeis’ number one, though, he had long since snatched the baton. One Fathers’ Day, when he was in college, he presented me with a gift I still treasure. It was a warm up suit, with O.M.P.T.A. embroidered on the back of the jacket in big letters, and “Head Coach” stitched in small letters on the front. When I would play Sr. Tournaments, he gave me advice, and I listened very carefully. It always helped.
Coming Full Circle
Yesterday, we played again. Although it was certainly not a challenge for him, I am glad he enjoyed it. As for me, I took to the court filled with the same joy I saw on Leo’s face when he ran to play with me—after the handshake—when he was very small.