Five random teams gather in a single ballroom. They sit at their tables, loudly rattling off inside jokes from the season. Nearby, parents make small talk. A tennis coach is at the front of the room. She is holding a microphone but not really speaking into it:
I don’t want to take too long, but I just want to say a little bit about each participant. This first player really developed a lot throughout the season. When she first came to tryouts, she literally didn’t know how to swing the racket. I had to teach her all the rules of tennis. She thought she was at the soccer tryouts. Look, it’s not easy moving from a farm village in Spain to Scarsdale when you have little to no English experience. But, with hard work and perseverance, this player went all the way from not even knowing what tennis is to knowing what tennis is. As you all know, I have a very open-door policy, but this student really took it to the next level. Whenever she forgot what tennis was, she was never afraid to pop in my office and ask, “What is tennis?” and I would remind her all over again.
Nobody is listening. The coach persists:
One of the proudest moments of the season came when Todd Sliss from the Scarsdale Inquirer asked to interview a player on the team. After a month of training, this student was ready—I was certain. Sliss peppered her with questions:
“Please describe tennis to me.”
“What is the scoring system in tennis?”
“How many people are on the court at once?”
Even though she described tennis as “soccer in the air but different,” I couldn’t have been more proud of her effort.
There is a nationwide alert. North Korea has launched a nuclear missile towards the greater New York area. Panic ensues. Oblivious, the coach persists:
Of course, the language barrier was a bit of a hurdle, but the beauty of tennis is that it speaks all languages. I knew I had to act as a role model and show the student how to play and not tell. For example, she would always try to kick the ball with her foot, so instead of merely saying “imagine your racket is your foot,” I showed her by amputating my legs and replacing them with tennis rackets.
The missile hits the building and decimates the ballroom. Students, coaches, and parents are immediately reduced to ash—except for the tennis coach. Nothing can stop the tennis coach. Nothing can stop that speech. Her eyes are glowing red. She stands in the middle of the nuclear wasteland, speaking into the abyss (but not the microphone).
It really is my pride and joy to teach these students lessons about tennis and about life. Anyways, this next student was really a great leader…