I remember the crystal clear fall morning two years ago as if it were yesterday. When I woke up, I had an inexplicable feeling of ambition, as if I needed to do something that day. I had been playing tennis for three years and considered myself pretty good. The pro had asked me to help him instruct a class of younger kids.
I called the Roudenbush Community Center in town hesitantly, not knowing whether they would laugh at me or welcome me when I asked them if they would be interested in having me teach tennis for them. The activities director was elated and suggested that I teach the fourth and fifth graders at the children's center. I was taken aback by how easy it was to attain my goal.
I will never forget my first lesson. I had four fourth graders for an hour and a half and I had absolutely no idea how to fill the time. Three had never even played before, yet another challenge. I ended up using half of the time showing them how to hold the racquet and swing correctly. When the lesson was over, I walked away thinking I had failed miserably, but was determined not to quit. The next week when I walked into the classroom to pick up the kids, a verbal fight broke out over who would get to have a lesson. I was astonished, to say the least. I had thought that they hated me and weren't interested in tennis. With this new boost in confidence I began again, but in a whole new way.
I decided to abandon the traditional teaching methods and adopt a more creative and fun way of sharing what I knew about the sport. By creating an environment that the kids enjoyed, I was able to foster their skills at a surprisingly fast rate.
Words cannot describe how good it feels to see a simple smile when they finally get the ball over the net or to have a parent tell you that their child loves the tennis lessons. It is the looks of anticipation and excitement I get each week, it's the little comments here and there like "This is so fun," or "Do we have to stop?" that make teaching tennis so worthwhile.
The tennis program I started is in its second year now and going strong. Many of the kids came back with new racquets and stories about how they had "taken" their parents to the courts to play during the summer. I was amazed that I had such a strong impact in such a short period of time and that I had seemingly given them the tools to learn on their own and also have a great time. All too often we take, take, take, and in the process forget that we can also give back to others. fl
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.