Rewriting the rules of tennis … MS style

I can be a stubborn son-of-a-bitch when it comes to staying active. Tennis is a perfect example. In 2008, if you looked at my physical ability to play a racquet sport, you would probably say the closest I should’ve been to a tennis court was a Wii and wide-screen TV. I couldn’t run—or even jog for that matter, my legs were just too sloppy—and when my body warmed up from activity, my eyesight vanished like a hot dog in front of Kobayashi. Picture it. Within five minutes of getting on the court, there was an immobile blind guy holding what might as well be a flattened pasta strainer in his right hand. And yet I could still compete, even take the occasional set, from my wife, a capable tennis player. How? By rewriting the rules, MS style.

First, she had to make an honest attempt to hit the ball at or near me. Second, she had to play double lines. Third, I got as many bounces as I needed to give my eyes a chance to pick up the ball. Now you might wonder if this was fun. Absolutely! My solid forehand and respectable backhand kept her running from side to side. Even though I only picked up the ball in splotches, I rarely missed completely, watching Laura swing and using muscle memory to gauge when and where to swing the racquet. Although I served flat-footed—jumping was like running, it wasn’t happening—my first serve was better than my pre-MS second serve ever was. I even scored a couple aces a set.

Today, even though just walking with a cane is challenging, I still get out on the courts. How? Forearm crutch (more stability) in the left hand, tennis racquet in the right hand, a walker parked nearby (on court), a bunch of balls at the ready, and a very, very patient spouse. Laura hits the ball to my forehand and I fire it back. Rallies are short and a couple cans of balls last only a few minutes, which works out strangely well: I rest on the walker each time we run out of balls and she gets her exercise chasing after them.

Even though we may have mountains to climb to do our active passions, by using enough ropes, a little ingenuity, and, well, bending the rules, at least we’re on that mountain, dagnammit. It might not be pretty, but it’s darn beautiful.

Originally published in part October 22, 2008. Edited for clarity and expanded.


Anonymous said…
You are absolutely correct Dave. Some of the most inspirational people in everyday life are those who have taken extraordinary measures to overcome some condition in order to stay active. Even more inspirational is the common theme among them that they are much more eager to talk about their accomplishments than their disabilities. Just do it, however you can, whatever it takes, just do it.

AMF Adventures
Anonymous said…
I love Tennis! Love this post!

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