From Left to Right: Myself, Josh Aberly, Patrick Tagny-Diesse in 2009 en route to winning the Spike for Kids Tournament in Des Plaines, 4 years after I got crushed playing my first grass tournament of my career.
Facebook reminded me yesterday that 8 years ago on that day I won my first open grass tournament. That day will always be special to me, but the thing is, I don't remember much about that tournament when I think about it.
I remember just 4 years earlier playing the Luau, taking 3rd in BB. I watched my first Open final and was just blown away by a level of play I had never seen before, and I remember saying out loud "I don't even know why I bother playing".
A friend overheard me, and his statement made all the difference in the world: "I remember these guys when they were 20 - they weren't always this good. Keep working hard, you can get there." One simple statement, but it was as powerful as anything anyone had ever said to me.
I remember how much I cringed the first time I saw video of myself playing. I also remember breaking down film of all the guys I wanted to play like, as well as comparing my own to it to see what I could do differently mechanical to close the gap between us. I remember going to open gyms almost every day, arriving about 30 minutes early so I can hop on the court and work on whatever I was struggling with.
I remember all the sacrifices made socially. I played about 4-6 days a week while at home, and during my college career I can't tell you how many social events I missed to either work out/train/break down film/etc.
I remember how each year, I would beat a team that absolutely thrashed me the previous year, only to meet a new tier of teams ready to welcome me to higher divisions with a thrashing of their own.
I remember the outcomes of all the previous years at the tournament we won:
2005: We walked up to our first match, quietly talking about how we were going to beat the other team as they warmed up in hitting lines. Turns out they had won this tournament before and were just goofing around. They absolutely throttled us, and after somehow squeaking into playoffs we lost in the first round.
2006: Didn't make it out of pool play.
2007: Won the intermediate division.
2008: Took 3rd in Open. Lost in the semi after starting the game down 15-1.
I don't remember a lot about the victories, but I remember the work that had to be put in to achieve them. I also will be the first to tell you that while that story had a happy ending and that goal was achieved, there are plenty that never came to fruition. The truth is, everyone wants to get to the top, and the demand for athletic success far exceeds the supply.
Even if we hadn't won that tournament that day, the reality is I had come SO far from where I started 4 years ago. Regardless of the results, I look back and feel I became the best player I could be during that time frame. All too often I feel we validate ourselves from our accolades, instead of simply looking in the mirror and asking ourselves "We were the best we could be that day?" - and knowing that if the answer is 'yes', we should have peace of mind with whatever results that yields.
I'm happy for where the destination wound up that day 8 years ago. However, it was the journey that preceded it that will always stay with me.
Where do you want to go, and how do you plan on getting there?