Tennis in My 40s

Monday Musings from Melinda #4

by LHS contributor Melinda M.

I recently wrote about the underground worlds of Hilo–communities of people seemingly hidden until you join them. (Click on the link to read the previous underground worlds post.) A little more than a year ago, I found Hilo’s tennis underground.

Ok, “underground” is kind of an overstatement because tennis in Hilo, like soccer, is an activity you pass by all over town and often the courts are packed.

Growing up, I was indoctrinated into the belief that we. are. a. tennis. family. My first cousin played professionally and his mom, my aunt, was a USTA line judge so I guess that meant we were ALL tennis players.

A tough but friendly match.  She schooled me.

I was “allowed” to pick up a racquet at 8 years old, was schooled by my dad on the public courts, and took lessons on and off during my adolescence. And yet, I never played on a team or even competed against friends.

Then came college, my first career job, and my family and before I knew it 20 years had passed since I’d even picked up a racquet. How does that happen?!

So when a friend told me about a tennis “open house” hosted by the Hilo tennis community, I grabbed my Sports Authority special, laced up my running shoes, and joined about 50 others at the Edith Kanakaole Multi-Purpose Stadium.

My practice buddies and me.

We began with some basic drills. WHAM! When the first ball was hit to me, it was like a bolt of electricity bringing Frankenstein to life (Wait. I think I just compared myself to Frankenstein) or like Prince Charming’s kiss awakening Sleeping Beauty (ah, better).

Inside EKS. When not being used for Merrie Monarch or graduations, these are the most popular tennis courts in Hilo.

My synapses snapped to attention and immediately I realized how good this was going to be for my brain! I could almost physically feel long-dormant areas reawaken. I mean, how often do we adults get to use our hand-eye coordination? In that moment, everything seemed to move in super slow motion and become exceptionally clear. Man, did it feel good. And hitting a ball?! Even better.

I was hooked.

Just a fraction of Hilo’s tennis community.

Now I’m on several teams, cycling through the different leagues – 40+ women, 18+ women, 18+ mixed doubles, etc. Most league players have known and played with each other for a long time but ALL of them have welcomed me to their “underground” community with aloha. In addition to being great and passionate tennis players, they are generous, understanding, funny, kind and are just delighted when new people join their ohana. So if you’re thinking about it, you should (hint! hint!!)!

Getting reacquainted with a sport you knew as a teen can be quite humbling – I definitely can’t get to shots that in my mind I can totally get – but I feel the mental patience I lacked back then. Plus I laugh a whole lot more now since no one is yelling “look at your feet!” when I mis-hit a ball! Haha! Love you, Dad!


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