Five plus years ago my family and I moved to Midway to raise our then 5 and 7 year old girls. Wanting to meet new people and get involved in the community, my wife joined a local tennis league. Athough, she’d never played a match before she soon began to love the sport and the great friends she made along the way.
Of course my wife wanted to get better, so I began to coach her and her teammates. The women improved quickly and soon they were invited to play on a 3.0 USTA league team. It was apparent these women were talented, teachable, and competitive. The occasional lessons became a consistent weekly event. I discovered very few of these women had ever played any competitive sports. Even without athletic backgrounds they swiftly developed their skills; implementing and executing the techniques, philosophies and strategies they learned. With doubles as the emphasis, each lesson became competitive and these women gave their all. They learned the effectiveness of key words and phrases (which helps focus and nerves), consistency, placement, and when to use power and finesse. They were taught foundation strokes, specialty shots, playing percentages, I formation, moving as a team, positions, how to exploit weaknesses, and strategies. Through their commitment, sweat, tears, fears, sprains, sore muscles, frustrations, and sacrifices they acquired amazing skills, knowledge, and love for the game and each other.
Within a short period of time they moved up and began playing on a 3.5 USTA team. The women set a simple goal to play in nationals. To put this into perspective, the USTA 3.5 league has over 42,000 women and 3,500 teams playing nationwide. The winner of each state goes to sectionals (6 states) and the winner of sectionals goes on to nationals. I didn’t want them to be disappointed if they didn’t win their division; as a result, I encouraged and supported their goal knowing how competitive it would be and suggested they just enjoy the journey. Boy was I proved wrong!
They excelled, winning hard fought matches in state, sectionals, and to my amazement on to nationals. Nationals were held in Scottsdale, AZ. The temperatures were in the 90’s and these women played two matches each day. By the end of the first two days, they had only lost one singles match and one doubles match. The team was seeded [how teams are divided into groups for competition based on their performance] number one — making it to the semifinals. Wow! The next day, during semifinals, they played a team from Southern California, which was a team of seasoned warriors who had earlier won the most competitive section in the nation. The women tied with two wins and two losses. The winner with the most games won would move on to the next round. Unfortunately, SC won two close tie breakers in one match, giving them the win. Our team ended up playing one more match to determine third and fourth place. We won!!! Giving us third place in the nation.
The other amazing part of this story is they never forgot who they were. During victory and defeat they were fair, friendly, gracious, talented, and always complimented their opponents. I’ve never coached a team that were more unified. They won my heart and the heart of those they played against.
“The Tennis Wives of Heber Valley” grew together as sisters. These amazing women are all wives, mothers (46 children combined), and grandmothers (21 grandchildren), with one mind, one heart, one goal, and a deep love and respect for tennis and each other. They prove that with setting goals, hard work and determination anything is achievable.