When I moved to San Diego from Northern Illinois, the great weather here almost compelled me to start doing things outside.
One of the things that I started doing was playing tennis. I had played a little when I was in high school and college, though during college and grad school I played a lot more racquetball. Still, I had a couple of friends that seemed willing to also start playing and so we got out and started hitting it around (and it seems that over the last decade, according to this data from the Physical Activity Council that we weren’t the only ones).
Over time, it became a regular activity but our group of playing friends also dwindled to just my friend (let’s call him Jeff, because you know, that’s his name) and me. Now, Jeff was a little better than me but we were still having fun playing Thursday evenings and Sunday mornings and were pretty competitive with one another. And then something awful happened. No, he didn’t move away. No, neither of us got injured. What happened was that Jeff started taking weekly lessons (a gift from his wife). And after a couple of months of those, we weren’t so close anymore.
I enjoyed playing, but getting my butt whupped in nearly every outing got to get a little old (though without a doubt I was running hard and getting exercise). I supposed that I could start an arms race and start taking lessons of my own, but between work, the already-scheduled tennis, piano and home I really wasn’t enthused about putting more commitments on the calendar.
This created somewhat of an existential dilemma for me. How important was winning? Was “playing for fun” enough? Moreover, was I giving Jeff enough of a challenge? Would he leave me for greener pastures that had a more consistent backhand? He and I’d been playing for years and contemplating the idea of not playing felt like some sort of potential on-court break-up.
In the end, we each joined USTA leagues for our respective levels (him 4.5; me 4.0) that play on Sunday mornings. This allowed each of us to play others of our own caliber – with the bonus feature that playing different people would help both of our games. The good part about that is that it still left our Thursday after-work slot open to continue our friendly game.
What do you guys think? A good solution? Are you competitive enough that you’d take the lessons to raise your game, or is it just enough to go out, play hard, get exercise and not worry about it?