A Moment to Brag
My son won! This was his first-ever high school tennis match and he won. There I was, out in the 40-something degree deep freeze as he and his opponent volleyed a thousand times over. Teammates quickly finished off their competitors, but his match kept going and going.
The two young men were very well matched. They were playing the best two out of three and it lasted close to two-and-one-half hours. His rival appeared to be 20 years old, fairly impossible for a high school team player, looking for all the world like an escapee from the Three Musketeers: wavy, dark brown hair falling below his shoulders, a moustache, and a goatee. He wore patterned socks, wild tennis shoes, and for some reason, was not sporting the team uniform. He was from a nearby school where Petya knew a couple of the players.
This is something that he’s wanted forever. As a homeschooler, it was out of the question, though everyone in the community knew him. And then the law changed and he was recruited immediately. This has changed the already-hectic schedule for the two of us who needed to be apart from the rest of the family for a couple of days each week to accommodate the games. For two months out of the year, I figured we could do it.
The sun was still up when Petya began playing. A bright, clear day, we spectators were in the shade, but dressed warmly. The young men wore their team shorts and t-shirts, some, like my son, wearing a thin, longsleeved t-shirt underneath. We started freezing even in our heavy coats.
Benedetto was out of town with the kids and the dogs visiting his mother, or he would have definitely been there. Two brave friends of ours, with grown sons of their own who had played football and rowed on the crew team, came to cheer Petya on.
Petya had been focused on this season debut for the past three days, carefully monitoring his sleep, his food, his mind. He could barely speak of anything else, he was so over-the-top excited. The games were very, very close. The two of them went back and forth, winning this game, or the other game. Petya won the first match, and his opponent the second.
The third match was closer than close. I tried to breathe. My feet were blocks of ice. Just before it began, Petya had a huge blister on the palm of his playing hand, his racquet tape beginning to unravel. I followed him into the clubhouse, giving him a pep talk as he had a bandaid placed over the blister. Patting him on his back, I felt the sweat dripping off of him. The bandage quickly popped off, but the pep talk stuck.
The two of us were so nervous, that, somehow, in the crunch time, he would freeze. It had happened before. Petya was a very strong player… when it didn’t count. He could beat grown men handily, yet when a big tournament came along, lesser players could win. There was a psychological thing that we had to overcome. Now that he was part of a team, I prayed more than ever, that he would contribute just as much during the matches, as he did during the practices.
A more positive player you could not find. He always had an upbeat comment, and gave 110%. His coaches loved him. The team loved him. Now all we needed was for him to focus and play his own game, putting the nerves aside.
The team mascot was a pirate of sorts. It brought back fond memories of when he first arrived home from Russia, close to the age of 8, and we spent some time on a getaway at a fishing village, where all he wanted to do was be a pirate. With an eye patch, a hoop earring, and a hook which fit over his hand, he spoke in broken English with everyone he could possibly meet, trying for “Shiver me timbers!” and instead, coming up with “Shimmer me pinders!” Gold doubloons and treasure maps followed.
He could barely run, he was so unathletic from his days of semi-captivity in the orphanage. And here he was, running right onto the varsity team.
“C’mon, Petya, don’t let the other guy throw you off,” I mentally sent the message from far across the courts, thinking back to the many days we were out at the crack of dawn, practicing his serve, or cross-court-down-the-line hundreds of times over.
His stamina, if not his strategy, paid off. He played it safe, but wore the guy down until he made mistakes. Petya’s teammates cheered him on, the only player still out there. Each one of their singles and doubles players had creamed the opposition and this was the final, hotly-contested match.
The early mornings, and late nights, the practicing when no one else was out on the courts due to cold or heat, the prayers and focusing on his goals all worked. The crowd erupted with applause and whoops as Petya picked up speed and aced serve after serve in the final moments. His hand was hurting so much, he told me later, that all he considered was scoring three more points.
The two players came together to shake hands after the match and looking on, we all saw Petya embrace his opponent in a bear hug. Everyone erupted in cheers, yet again. What a perfect ending to a very long day.
We texted his father and close friends: “He won!” Petya put on his track suit to stay warm and we took him home for a hot shower and meatballs for dinner as friends and family called in their congrats.
He won! What a day.
(PS – Another good note: the Adoption Talk function seems up to fully functioning! You should be able to type and see your comment – woo-hoo! Thanks for giving it a whirl….)
—————Tags: adoptee growing in sports ability, becoming a tennis mom, homeschoolers playing for public school teams, homeschoolers playing varsity sports, our son finally won a match!, our son's tennis dreams come true, parenting blog and varsity sports, teens and sportsmanship