A Tosa resident for almost 20 years, Karen is a mom and freelance writer, addicted to playing tennis. When not on the tennis court, she spends the fall and winter in the stands at Green Bay Packer and Marquette basketball games.
Karen is the author of “Grab a Bite,” a dining out column and the former community columnist for the Wauwatosa NOW newspaper.
I have never been mistaken for an athlete. I rode the bench on my 8th grade basketball team and barely played on my college intramural team. (Great team sponsor, name and slogan, though: “Marquette Donuts – Take it to the Hole!”) I’ve dabbled in sports from time to time, but mostly have cheered for others from the comfort of the bleachers - which is why my last two weekends were nothing short of amazing.
As I’ve explained in the past , I’ve fallen head over heels in love with tennis. It’s the only exercise that I absolutely adore. I’ve spent the past six years trying to learn what many 8 year old players can do in their sleep. I’m ranked 3.5 which means I should know what to do, but often don’t do it. Some of my tennis friends and I formed a USTA State League Team. We had a very successful summer and advanced to the playoffs.
How do I explain the experience of a tennis team of mostly middle-aged suburban mothers competing in a playoff atmosphere? Well, first of all, we did what we know best – we mothered each other. We brought coolers full of water and sports drinks, we created team towels, we named our team (Team Pink!) we brought snacks and band-aids and we set up a comfy and quaint camp at the site of the competition. We shared tips on hydration and liberally passed the ibuprofen. Some teams were stocked with college-aged ringers or former high school players. Our team was made up of stay-at-home moms, accountants, executives, nurses, freelance writers and grandmothers. It seemed like the world was upside down when our kids and husbands were cheering for us instead of the other way around.
Then we started collecting stories – opposing players who were prickly, poor sports, unfriendly, bad line judges – and we shared them with a passion and enthusiasm we hadn’t expressed since our kids tried out for their sports teams. We cheered our victories and congratulated each other on our outstanding effort, knowing all the while that our families were watching to see if we practiced what we preached. We iced our achy joints and sometimes limped on and off the courts. And then something even more startling happened – WE ADVANCED TO THE STATE CHAMPIONSHIPS!
Suddenly, we were begging each other to cancel dinner reservations, book baby sitters, end vacations early and put our lives on hold so that we could play tennis at the Nielsen Tennis Stadium at the University of Wisconsin in Madison against other teams from around the state. Just fielding enough players for those three matches was nothing short of miraculous. Somehow we rounded up enough players, woke up pre-dawn and headed to Madison. That is when the fun began.
You see, for me, the amazing part of our ride through the playoffs was the friendship and camaraderie on the way to and from the matches. We shared our lives with each other and then we did what girls do best – we laughed hysterically and had wildly inappropriate conversations. (Sorry, I’m not spilling.) It was more cathartic than anything I’ve done in a long time. I felt revived and enriched, thanks to the fellowship of my teammates.
Another surprising aspect of our playoff experience was forging friendships with opposing players. In a sweet touch of irony, our first match was against The Western Racquet Club of Green Bay. (We play for Western Racquet Club of Elm Grove.) Despite the fact that we lost that match 2-3, we found the Green Bay girls to be nice, charming and funny which is why I cheered loudly when I heard that they won the State Championships and are on their way to Indianapolis for the Midwest Championships.
That’s right, we didn’t win it all. We lost every match at the State Championships, although several of our players won their individual matches. Nevertheless, I’m not looking back on this experience as a losing one. In fact, it almost feels like we won…at least off the court.
Besides, we took notes and already started making plans for next summer. Look out, Madison, we just might be back!
*The photo above is only part of Team Pink. There are 13 of us in all.