Wheelchair Tennis-Part 2

Wheelchair participants socializing during the tennis tournament.

Wheelchair participants socializing during the tennis tournament.

Wheelchair Tennis-Part 2

The aspect of wheelchair tennis at the PNW Sectional Tournament, held at the Salem Swim and Tennis Club, you don’t see, is how the players travel.

Wheelchair Travel

These wheelchair players are not just local. They come from all over. Of course local players from Keizer, Sandy, West Linn, Redmond, Portland, Bend, and Salem, are represented. Then there are players from Washington, Colorado, New Mexico, California, Kansas, Idaho, Utah, and Florida. There are international players from British Columbia, Canada (go Canada); Chile, Chile; Mexico City, Alamos.

I get lost in thought, sometimes, just imagining what these players go through to travel to tournaments: transportation to the airport, go through customs(if out of country), get to their seat on the plane, what about getting to the bathroom on the plane (if needed), deplane, go to baggage claim, be picked up at the airport and get a ride to their lodgings. All this accommodating their two wheelchairs and luggage. Remarkable.

Wheelchair Rules

Lets get to the on court part, where the participants are playing tennis. What is the difference between regular tennis and wheelchair rules. Well, for one thing, the ball, when in play, can either be taken out of the air, or played on one or two bounces. Once it bounces three times it is out of play. The other main rule has to do with the service motion. The player, from a stationary position,  can make one (or none) slight roll of their wheelchair before they serve the ball. With the addition of a few other rules regarding propelling and ‘keeping you butt’ in the chair, the rules of ITF or USTA apply.

Social Behavior

While the players are competing for rankings in the division they are playing in, it is awesome to observe the players interacting with each other off the court – many times waiting to play – other times having lost – just socializing. There are groups of two or three on the side of the walkway, between the two sets of courts. There are others, on the end looking down the courts. They are conversing and enjoying each others company. Very different from the tennis we observe in the professional ranks or USTA Junior, Senior, or League play where the players come and go without taking time to socialize.

Conclusion

I had not officiated at a Wheelchair Tournament for a couple of years. It was nice to be invited back. I remembered many of the players and met the newer players such as Casey Ratzaff , a 19 year old from Wichita,Kansas – Wichita, Kansas. I did a double take when I heard where Casey was from. How could anyone from Wichita, Kansas learn wheelchair tennis? In researching Casey, I learned he did indeed have a great teacher and inspiration to learn tennis. He is fast becoming an inspiration to those who learn of his background and to those he meets, me included.

My time officiating at the wheelchair tournament went by too fast. Each player has a story of how they ended up in a wheelchair. If only those of us who have a tendency to complain could spend a little time with these players, our own ‘grousing’ would end and we would walk away, inspired by those whose desire and courage put mine to shame.

 

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Wheelchair Tennis

Wheelchair Tennis

Picture of wheelchair participants on the tennis courts at Salem Swim and Tennis Club

Picture of wheelchair participants on the tennis courts at Salem Swim and Tennis Club

Have you ever considered what it would be like to play tennis from a wheelchair?

PNW Sectional Wheelchair Tournament

The PNW Sectional Wheelchair Tournament was recently held at the Salem Swim and Tennis Club in Salem, Oregon. I was privileged to be one of the officials.

One of the first impressions is the number of wheelchair parking slots marked. Over half the parking lot is reserved. That is when it hits you again – the difference in arrival of the players. Some have their own custom fitted vans, others have a spouse as the driver, and others are driven in by tournament provided vehicles – with a driver, of course.

Each player has their own method of departing their vehicle. Those with a van open the driver’s door, slide the side door of the van open, reach around and pull their wheelchair out and around to a position beside the driver’s seat. They then leverage themselves out of the driver’s seat into their wheelchair. The process is not finished there. They then proceed to lift another wheelchair out of the van, set it on the ground beside them, open it up, reach in, pull out their racket bag with all their equipment in it, set it on the second wheelchair , lock up the vehicle, then proceed up the walkway to the club, pushing the second wheelchair with their racket bag on top in front of them, while using their other arm to push the wheelchair they are sitting in, up the walkway. This is a skill they all have learned.

Others have their driver, maybe their spouse, friend, or provided driver from the tournament bring their wheelchair to the side of the car they are sitting on and they then set themselves up leveraging themselves from the vehicle to their wheelchair. Their second wheelchair is then set up with their equipment sitting on top and, if the ‘helper’ doesn’t come with them, will push their second wheelchair up the walkway while using their other arm to propel the chair they are sitting in. All this before they have even set ‘wheel’ on the tennis court. I’m tired already.

Why the Second Wheelchair?

Para sports all have different requirements. Each sport has specifications in movement and leverage that require different constructive elements in the wheelchair used. Tennis is no different. The cant that is required on the wheels, the body type of the individual, the type of injury sustained, all enter into the para athletes decision on the type of chair used. All this to say the chair the player uses in daily living cannot be used in the competitive environment of tennis.

Conclusion

When starting this blog I didn’t realize how much was entailed in writing about it. There is so much more I will include on my next blog: the rules of wheelchair tennis, bathroom breaks, the socialization that takes place during the play, etc. I have enormous respect for wheelchair participants and only hope these articles will give you just a little insight of what is their ‘world’.

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Margaret Court-John McEnroe-Inner Peace

Margaret Court-John McEnroe-Inner Peace

Margaret Court and John McEnroe have a similar goal as most of us do – to find inner peace.

Margaret Court

In 1969 I was at the New South Wales Open tennis tournament held at the White City grass courts. Walking through the grounds I passed by a striking athletic woman tennis player. Eye contact was made – I felt a connection – but we each went our own way. That was my personal experience with Margaret Court.  It was the same tournament when Pancho Gonzalez was quoted in the papers as saying instead of people just looking at him he would rather they introduce themselves and initiate a conversation.I often wonder what would have transpired if I had just initiated communication. Court won the tournament.

Margaret Court is possibly the best female tennis player who ever played the game. She won 24 grand slam titles. Her closest competitor in today’s world is Serena Williams who has won 23 grand slam titles.

After her tennis career Margaret Court went on to become a christian minister and established Margaret Court Ministries Inc.. In 1995 she established and founded Victory Life Centre, where she is the senior minister. Victory Life Centre has an outreach not only to the community of Perth, but to the nation as a whole.

Recently Court has come under fire for her beliefs and stance on marriage. She hold a biblical view which holds marriage is between a man and a woman. Responding to questions when interviewed, she does not support gay, lesbian, transgender marriages. This view has caused public celebrities to berate her and take action to take her name off the world class stadium where the Australian Open is held.

John McEnroe

My personal experience with John McEnroe was at the Orange Lawn Tennis Club where I was the tennis director. That was the year McEnroe reached the semi-finals of Wimbledon as an 18 year old. Following Wimbledon that same year he was a surprise competitor at our club where Gene Scott was director of the tournament. McEnroe was truly an artist on the court. He created. His personality was always one of flare-ups on court and questioning officials decisions. Off court he loved the music scene and enjoyed a party.

Recently John McEnroe has added his influence to the controversy of Margaret Court. His personality has always one of a volatile nature. Now he is looking for ‘inner peace’. Martina Navratilova and Billie Jean King have also used their influence to try to rename Margaret Court Arena.

Conclusion

Both Margaret Court and John McEnroe are searching for ‘inner peace’. It would appear that Court has found hers, while Johnny Mac is still searching and using his volatile personality to continue to stir things up. Hopefully he will find the inner peace he is searching for.

Should Margaret Court be made to ‘pay’ for her inner peace by renaming the arena? Does she have the right to express her beliefs without renaming the arena?

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Motor Neurone Disease(MND) and Peter Doohan

Motor Neurone Disease(MND) and Peter Doohan

Peter Doohan, a former professional tennis player, with a career high singles ranking of 43 and 15 in doubles, was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease(ALS). Peter suddenly passed away July 21st in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He was 56 years old.

What is Motor Neurone Disease?

Motor neurone disease has another name – ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis). It is more familiarly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

The ALS Association definition is as follows: “Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Motor neurons reach from the brain to the spinal cord and from the spinal cord to the muscles throughout the body. The progressive degeneration of the motor neurons in ALS eventually leads to their death. When the motor neurons  die, the ability of the brain to initiate and control muscle movement is lost. With voluntary muscle action progressively affected, patients in the later stages of the disease may become totally paralyzed.

Famous People Who Have Contracted MND(ALS)

Some names you may recognize as having MND (ALS) are: Lou Gehrig, Steven Hawking,Paul Cellucci, Jon Stone, Mao Zedong, Lead Billy, Lane Smith, and Don Revie.

Does MND(ALS) Affect You?

Most people reading this blog won’t have contracted ALS. However, reading about others who have, especially if they are well know figures, will affect us in some way.

Imagine, if you will, that you have attained a high level of proficiency in either your occupation, or hobby in life. You have a passion for what you do and identify with it. One day you notice your physical proficiency is not quite what you have come to expect. It progresses over a very short time to not being able to physically manage what you have taken for granted. Small alarms set off.

The next step is to see your doctor – perhaps you have a virus that has to run through your system. The doctor prescribes a series of tests that are administered in the lab. You make an appointment for a week or two later, to have him give you a diagnosis. When you walk in and sit down, the doctor, in his professional, but emotionally removed voice says, “You have amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. You have 6 months to 3 years to live. Any questions?” You sit there for a minute trying to compute what the doctor has just said.You are numb and no questions come to mind. The doctor dismisses you. He has other patients.

Conclusion

Peter Doohan was a professional tennis player. After his playing career was over he became a well known and respected teaching professional. One day he noticed some changes in his physical ability to do his job. He was diagnosed with MND. The disease took him within months of being diagnosed. My brother died of ALS. This has caused me to examine my life with regard to questions about ‘end of life’. Have you been confronted with questions regarding what would you do in similar circumstances?

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Tennis Players Eclipse Experience

tennis players eclipse experience

A total solar eclipse

A Tennis Players Eclipse Experience

All tennis players have an eclipse experience every time they play a match. They either experience the umbra (the fully shaded inner region of a shadow cast by an opaque object, especially the area on the earth or moon experiencing the total phase of an eclipse), the penumbra (the shadow cast by the earth or moon over an area experiencing a partial eclipse), or don’t experience the eclipse at all.

Umbra

A unique experience is coming to residents of Oregon August 21st, 2017. A total solar eclipse will be visible across a specified swath that falls across Oregon. From  Lincoln City to Newport the umbra will be experienced by residents and visitors from all over. A million plus visitors are expected in Oregon alone to view this awe inspiring two minute blackout.

How does this relate to tennis players? I was watching the Western and Southern 1000 ATP Masters held in Mason, Ohio (close to Cincinnati). The match up of the day was Nadal and Kyrgios. Nadal, seeded number one and due to take over the number one position in the world rankings, was the favorite going into the quarter final match. Both players had played previously in the day. This was their second match, which was testing in itself. Kyrgios had called the trainer on a previous match due to a hip/muscle acting up. It looked to favor Nadal.

Looks can be deceiving. Kyrgios came out playing in the ‘umbra’. He totally eclipsed Nadal to a point where, early in the second set, he played a ball with a trick shot(between the legs) that was insulting to a player of Nadal’s calibre. That is how good Kyrgios was playing. He didn’t take into account the crowd’s adverse reaction to his ‘trick’ shot. In his mind, he was playing in the zone(umbra), was in total control, and having fun. He must have thought the crowd would be understanding of the ‘fun’ he was having. He underestimated the crowd’s reaction of his seeming lack of respect for a player of Nadal’s calibre. The crowd turned against him. It didn’t disturb his awesome level of play for long, and he won the match.

Penumbra

There are many matches a tennis player has where they are in the penumbra of an eclipse. In a penumbra there is a percentage involved. For example you can be in the 96 percentile of the eclipse, which means you experience only 96 percent of the total eclipse. It could also be 50 percent, or 25 percent.

Applying that same percentage to your ability playing in a tennis match, you could be playing at a high level with small gaps of unforced errors. You could also be at a 50 percent level where half your shots are well thought out and half are not, or at 25 percent, which would not be a winning percentage.

Outside of the Umbra and Penumbra

This is definitely not the place to be in when you want to win. There are days when, no matter how hard you try, you cannot find the right combination to win. Thing just don’t go right for you.  

While none of us wants to be in that position, there is an up side to those days. Based on 55 years of playing and coaching experience, when approached with the right attitude, those outside the penumbra days, can provide a positive outcome. If a player works harder on those days at raising the level of their game; maybe a day, maybe two days, maybe a week later, they take a jump up in their level of play. It is as if they forced their way to a higher level by working harder when faced with adversity.

Conclusion

With the advent of the solar eclipse to be seen August 21, 2017, in parts of the US, new terminology can be used by tennis players to categorize their level of play. While all of us would like to play in the umbra, you will be fortunate to have that happen twice a year. For those of us who play outside the penumbra of the eclipse that, too, will fortunately happen approximately twice a year. For the rest of the time we all have to play in varying percentages of the penumbra. Welcome to the human race. Has that been your experience?

 

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Ilie Nastase-Ion Tiriac

Ilie Nastase-Ion Tiriac

Romanians are known as passionate people. None seem to show more passion than Ilie Nastasie and Ion Tiriac. Both are more than willing to speak their mind, with no regard for the repercussions.

Ion Tiriac was born May 5th, 1939. Growing up playing ice hockey and tennis, tennis became his outlet to the world. It gave him freedom. In 1970 he won the French Open doubles title with Ilie Nastase. Watching Tiriac, I always thought of him as a player that used 100% of his ability. He was not nearly as physically talented as Nastasie, but mentally, there were few players that were as wile. Ilie Nastaste was born July 19th,1946. He was one of the most physically talented players on the tour. Nastase turned pro in 1969 and won 58 career titles. I always thought if he had had Tiriac’s mental ability, he would have been at the top for a long time.

Recently Nastase has come under suspension by the ITF for untoward remarks that were outside the lines of sportsmanship. Because of this he has been denied a seat at the French Open and Wimbledon and seems on the edge of  having his name withdrawn from the Hall of Fame. In spite of this he did show up at the Madrid Open and even presented the trophy to the winner, Simona Halep, also Rumanian. Halep did not seem to have any problem with Nastasie presenting her the trophy, but the head of the WTA, Steve Simon did. Nastase came under fire for being allowed to attend the Madrid event. However, his long time friend, Ion Tiriac, came to his aid and called for the WTA to apologize for their criticism of Nastase.

Conclusion

If you were in a position of authority in this matter how would you deal with it. Would you criticize Nastase attending and presenting the winner’s trophy, as did the WTA,  or would you take the other side – he should not have been allowed to attend, and Ion Tiriac should certainly not have demanded the WTA apologize.

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Tennis-Fed Cup-Ilie Nastase

Tennis – Federation Cup – Ilie Nastase

Ilie Nastase, captain of the Rumanian Fed Cup tennis team, held true to his status as tennis’s ‘bad boy’. The Fed Cup is the premier international team competition in women’s tennis, launched in 1963 to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the International Tennis Federation (ITF). The competition was known as the Federation Cup until 1995. The Fed Cup is the world’s largest annual women’s international team sports competition, in terms of the number of nations that compete.[2][3]  Ilie Nastase, captaining the Romanian team against Great Britain in their 2017 Fed Cup face-off , got himself thrown out and suspended by the the ITF for his behavior.

Tennis – Ilie Nastase

Ilie Nastasie developed a negative image and reputation, in spite of his obvious talent.

When I was tennis director in Hampton, Virginia, back in the early 70’s, a series of tennis exhibitions were arranged by Bill Reardon between Illie Nastase and Jimmy Connors, primarily on the East coast. The unofficial word at that time was that these exhibitions were guaranteed money, even though they were promoted as ‘head to head’, winner take all matches. It turns out the money was guaranteed for both players, which, if promoted as such, would not have drawn the crowds. Granted the onus was on Bill Reardon as the promoter, but it also left a tainted image of the two professional players that they were part of a false promotion.

Subsequently moving to New Jersey I became tennis director at the East Orange Tennis Club. I was invited to the professional $10,000 tournament held at Orange Lawn Tennis Club, where Ilie Nastase was playing. The president of my club invited me out with himself and Ilie Nastase after Ilie’s evening match. As we were walking out of the club, three young ladies joined us. Not understanding the situation I asked about them. Ilie and Michael told me they were ‘company’ for the evening. Ilie had recently been married. I excused myself and went home to my wife and family, quite disappointed.

1979 US OPEN

In 1979 I was at the US Open when Ilie Nastase played John McEnroe in the second round of the evening match. Ilie always had the reputation as a player who was athletically gifted above the other players. In his mind though Ilie loved playing ‘cat and mouse’. If he was the better player he would literally play mental and strategical games on court to make fun of his opponent.  For example, instead of winning a point outright, he would hit a drop shot, or another shot, to give the player another chance at keeping the ball in play, just to play with him. Watching him athletically, he was so talented. He just could not focus 100% on being true to his talent. He opted for gamesmanship. He ruined Frank Hammond’s (a stellar official respected by all the other professional players) career in that US Open match. Ilie opted for a pathway in life that was outrageous at times, yet so gifted and talented at others.

Conclusion

Hopefully you have read the account of Ilie’s behavior at the Fed Cup? If you haven’t, please do so. If you were on the committee who suspended him what would your input be? Would you give him the benefit of the doubt and not suspend him for life, or, would you vote the game would be better served without him?

 

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Easter Challenge

 glowing sun among sparse clouds

A new day awaits.

Easter/Passion Challenge

Every year it seems the challenge of ‘celebrating’ the true meaning of Easter/Passion gets harder and harder.

How?

I remember Easter as a time when Friday was a solemn day – the day Christ was crucified. As I grew older and understood the deeper implications of what crucifixion meant,and the agony that went with it, my faith deepened.

Following Saturday came Sunday, a day of celebration. The wonder of Jesus being raised from the dead by God, our Father. The fulfilling of 600 year old prophecies. A deep sense of peace and joy growing within me, as I read the biblical/historical accounts growing in my belief in the future Jesus has waiting for believers.

Today, each year at this time, the easter bunny appears in malls all over the country. Kids have easter egg hunts and eat chocolate eggs and bunnies. Egg rolling contests are held – even at the White House. This year (2017) it is even being streamed live for whoever wants to follow it.

The challenge at Easter is to separate the true meaning of Easter from the attention getting easter bunny, coloring eggs, candy, and egg rolling contests as well as easter egg hunts,etc. I don’t hear the greeting, ‘He is risen’, on Sunday’s any more. It seems hidden away.

True Meaning of Easter

The true meaning of Easter: the most important and oldest festival of the Christian Church, celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ and held (in the Western Church) between March 21 and April 25, on the first Sunday after the first full moon following the northern spring equinox.

In today’s fast paced communication based technology, there doesn’t seem to be much time given to reflection on the true meaning of Easter. It is rather more about getting the kids picture with the easter bunny in the mall, or planning an easter egg hunt for all the kids in the neighborhood, or just having a chocolate egg/bunny/jelly beans hunt in the house or yard.

I’m not against any of these activities. My wife and I bought the kits and dyes that go along with hard boiled eggs, crafting many a mind boggling work of art with our kids (tongue in cheek). We also had chocolate egg and bunny hunts Easter morning. We never did participate in the mall picture with the easter bunny. Why? I guess it seemed to betray the inner faith we both in the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.

I know the traditions. Egg rolling contests are symbolic of rolling the stone from Jesus tomb. The easter bunny can be symbolic of new life as they have huge litters. Eggs are symbolic of new life and breaking them open can symbolize new birth as a believer in Jesus.

Conclusion

I don’t have a problem, personally, with the easter bunny, eggs, chocolate bunnies, coloring eggs, or egg rolling contests and egg hunts. It doesn’t affect my faith. It can add a positive flavor to the central meaning of Easter. I do think it is a challenge to those growing up in today’s world. The true meaning of Easter seems to have taken a back seat to these other activities. What do you think?

 

 

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Winning and Responsibility

Winning and Responsibility

Winning and responsibility go hand-in-hand to those willing to improve their playing level or ranking.

Winning

Everyone (well, almost everyone) wants either to be a winner or be associated with a winner. What is a winner in tennis? Well, it is the player who enters a tournament knowing it is a competition where only one player (two if doubles) can end up with the winning trophy or prize money.

We all see it on TV or experience it at a spectator competition. It is like two gladiators in an arena where only one will survive. Which one will you identify with, the winner, or the loser. In most cases it will be the winner.

How does responsibility enter into the equation of winning?

Responsibility

Entering into the beginning stages of competitive tournament play begins a process of growth. That growth is dependent on the competitor’s ability to access and learn from those experiences.

Let’s look at the definition of responsibility to see how it applies to winning:

  1. the state or fact of having a duty to deal with something or of having control over someone.
  2. the state or fact of being accountable or to blame for something.
  3. the opportunity or ability to act independently and make decisions without authorization.

A player has to take responsibility for winning or losing. In the beginning of learning how to compete that means learning how to lose (take responsibility). In the process of accepting that loss, the player grows in knowledge and control of their knowledge and emotions. As they grow in accepting their accountability, they apply that to future matches. As they continue to grow in these two areas, there comes a time when they have enough experience and control over their emotions to win more than they lose.

With winning comes acceptance, or rejection. Yes, some players actually reject within themselves the aspect of becoming a winner. With winning comes “pressure”  to win some more. If a player is not willing to accept that and embrace it, then the alternative is to lose and find a way to excuse the lose, over and over again. The comment made by Jimmy Connors is appropriate here: “I started to win when I got tired of losing.”

Conclusion

What is your assessment of winning and responsibility? If you don’t enjoy the arena of competition perhaps you won’t relate to this. Maybe it is in the arena of business – you will find the same application. Are you willing to work for someone else who assumes the responsibility of the business, or are you willing to step out and start your own? Neither is right or wrong.

 

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Withdraw or Play With Injury?

Withdraw or Play With Injury?

Retire with injury

In any professional tournaments there is prize money. The amount of the prize money is divided up depending on which round the player gets to, the final having the most money for winning.

There are a thousand players on the circuit who ‘need’ the first round money in a Grand Slam tournament to pay living expenses. When they make it through the qualifying rounds into the first round of the main draw, many times there is a price to pay physically. Even players who have qualified, through their ranking to be in the main draw, are playing with pain and injuries. Their bodies have had to stand up to the physical trauma of playing match after match under stress.

If they are injured and aren’t able to compete what should they do? Ironically, the right thing to do would be to withdraw and give their position to a lucky loser. That would mean they wouldn’t collect the first round prize money (around $40,000USD at the US OPEN).

However, if they should opt to play injured they risk that injury getting worse, which would take them out of competing subsequent events which would reflect on their world ranking. The answer, would be to retire after a few games, get the prize money for first round and have time to recover for the next tournament.

Withdraw with injury

Andy Murray has come up with a solution, which may, or may not work. If a player withdraws, instead of retiring, before the first round begins, he still gets paid the first round money. This would allow a lucky loser to take his place and have a shot at second round prize money if he won.

Conclusion

Playing injured, then retiring, is getting more and more attention from the tournament directors and spectators. It especially affects the spectators who do not get a refund of their ticket when a player retires due to injury. Perhaps Andy Murray’s suggestion should be put into effect as a test case in one or two tournaments. Feedback from both players and spectators would be beneficial in going forward.

What would you do if you had a choice between withdrawing and NOT getting the first round money, or playing 4 or 5 games, then retiring, so you are insured to receive your money?

 

 

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