I love the rain … but I also hate the rain. I hate the smell of rain, the distinct scent wafting from wet concrete. I hate the gloomy and gray aura that hangs in the air as raindrops fall from the sky. I hate that my socks get wet and that I don’t own a waterproof jacket. But one reason trumps all the annoyances I have with rain — no tennis.
Like many other outdoor sports, there are certain weather conditions that limit my ability to play tennis. The courts, when wet, transform into mini ice rinks where with enough momentum, one is able to glide across the court like Michelle Kwan. As a result, playing during or after the rain makes it impossible to run after balls without the fear of slipping, falling or twisting my ankle. The ball, when wet, transforms into a dense golf ball because of all the water it absorbs. Suffice to say, the rain or the possibility of it is enough for me to avoid a trip to the court.
However, I didn’t always despise rain. As my training in tennis became more intense and my coaching became more strict, I often feared coming to practice and the rain blessed me with an excuse. I was used to waking up, practicing before school started, going to school, practicing at clinic after school, coming home and finishing homework – not to mention the added pressures of performing well at tournaments every other week. Because of tennis, my life had become a routine, where it felt like all I did was play tennis.
This schedule only escalated when summer came, as I would then wake up at 9 a.m. to go to practice and return at 4 p.m. I couldn’t even go to a sleepover with one of my childhood best friends who lived two hours away because I had to train. I was only available to hang out with my friends a couple of days every two weeks either because I had practice or a tournament. The sport began to wear on me.
I was putting so much work into the sport that my coaches would expect results and great improvement in me, and when I made mistakes, I would be punished both verbally and with exercise. My coaches would constantly swear at me for not being aware enough on the court, making me run a loop (0.3 miles) in Cuesta Park if I didn’t meet their expectations and ostracizing me in front of my friends when I made a mistake. Because of these occurrences, I dreaded going to practice and a ball of growing anxiety formed in the pits of my stomach.
However, my parents didn’t care that I didn’t want to go to practice because I was scared. They said it would make me stronger, make me a better player. For a long time, when traveling in the car to lessons four days a week, my palms would produce enough sweat to form a puddle, my throat would be dry enough to empty the contents of my 21 ounce water bottle before practice and my eyes would be glued to the clock, the minutes ticking by as my dread increased.
But one day in December, my prayers were answered — it rained and I didn’t have to go to practice. I didn’t have to be sent three times to the park when I made a mistake or receive the threatening yells from coaches. This was my way out, my opportunity to get out of playing tennis. The rain didn’t come with any baggage, no remaining guilt in my stomach that often emerged when I skipped practice for no apparent purpose.
The rain became my savior, my escape and a reliant friend. Soon it became a regular habit to check Google weather. If it showed a 50 percent chance of rain, I could convince my parents that I didn’t need to go to practice, which worked. However, the rain didn’t last for long. Soon enough, March came around, and my reliant friend would only show up to save me a couple of times per month. Now I had no excuse – I needed to go to practice.
What I didn’t realize at the time is that the rain provided me a chance to step back. Relax. Have fun. By training around the clock, I barely had time for myself or my friends and although I used the rain as an excuse to avoid being punished at practice, I never realized that taking a break was good for me too. I was playing so much tennis for the past year, I never realized that all this commitment was hurting me more than helping me progress in the sport.
The constant repetition and the expectations from my coaches made me fear the sport and welcome the rain. The rain was an opportunity to get away, but what I didn’t realize that it also rained enough to make me come back. Not only that, but I also learned that being passionate about something doesn’t mean you aren’t allowed to take breaks. Just because you care a lot doesn’t mean you aren’t entitled to rest. Practicing hard and long sometimes may cause you to burn out. But find your own rain to reignite your passion.