The Influences of a Coach

October 16, 2011
Twisting my tennis racquet anxiously in my hand, palms slick with fresh perspiration, I watched as a man strolled through the gate of the court. Fear swept over me, and anger swelled through my veins as the ball hopper squealed behind him in loud protest of being pulled; this simple action of rolling a cart of balls onto the court confirmed my fear. Countless men and women had agreed to the task of coaching this academy of tennis players, and the majority had only stuck around for a few months at most. Despising constant change and feeling somewhat terrified by the stranger's presence, I squeaked a "hello" and forced a smile as the man who would most heavily impact me introduced himself for the first time.

Billy Garrett stumbled into my life in 2008, just as a miserable winter was coming to an end with promises of a comfortable spring. He was a former Marine with several eccentric jobs underneath his belt which varied from a water ski instructor to a carpenter, and while it may seem odd for a Marine to retire as a tennis coach, I have never witnessed someone so at ease in their position as him. Despite my initial discomfort in becoming accustomed to a new person, I have learned to trust him and now possess complete confidence in him. Over the years, I have learned many lessons from him in regards to my game on the tennis court and in life.

Integrity and mental toughness are just a couple of the many things that Coach Billy teaches his athletes, but they are two salient themes I remember when reflecting on the influence this man has had on me. Integrity plays a major role on the tennis court just as it does in real life, and my coach has taught me that it takes a great deal of character to hold yourself to a high set of principles whether in front of a crowd or all alone. Mental toughness: the ability to persevere when the chips are down, staying positive when every forehand is sailing past the baseline, or every serve is caught at the bottom of the net with a soft "thud"; it is the ability to keep your head when you have every reason to lose your composure, and it is the ability to make the adjustments needed to better your game. The small lectures I hear from Coach Billy every practice weave their way into who I am, not only on the court, but in every day life.

Coach Billy's compassion towards his athletes never ceases to amaze me, and I hope to one day honor that by modeling the way I treat others after him. He is always very respectful to those who respect him, and courteous to all. His enduring patience is a trait to be admired, especially given the fact that he coaches a few dozen stubborn adolescents four nights a week. Coach Billy's dedication to his job is unbelievably impressive, and his dedication to his family should be admired even more; he is a wonderful husband and father to two young children. It is a very difficult task to balance such a time-consuming career and a family, and I can only hope that I will be able to perform both tasks as respectably as Coach Billy as I become an adult.

Despite our slight frustrations with each other - him with me as I become angered and annoyed on the court, and me with him as I push through consistent sprints, hurdles, and other forms of conditioning - there is still no one I respect more, and no one who I would wish to take Coach Billy's place as my tennis instructor. There has not been a more influential person in my life, and I hope to do his impact on me justice as I grow older. The lessons he has taught me will carry me through both on the court, and going forward in my life; I cannot fully express the immensity of my gratitude to him for being a fantastic role model for me.





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