Tag Archives: tennis

So What If America Isn’t The Best At Everything?

Its Fourth of July weekend and we as Americans have so much to be thankful for in this great country of ours.  Despite our struggles and our differences, we still have our freedom and a way of life that is the envy of the rest of the world.  I for one firmly believe in the concept of American exceptionalism.

But just because we are exceptional as a country, does that mean all of our sports have to be exceptional as well?

Two weeks ago the media was gushing over Rory McIlroy’s performance at the US Open.  The so-called “experts” were heaping praise on McIlroy while simultaneously lamenting the demise of American golf.  “Where is the next great American golfer?” they wondered.  “Is America losing ground to the rest of the world?” was a question of much debate among golf writers and analysts.  Of course those conversations led to “is there an American kid out there who’s going to take over for Tiger?”It was one big pity party.  It couldn’t possibly be that the rest of the world is catching up, could it?  No, no something must be wrong with golf in this country.

If you’ve watched any tennis at Wimbledon over the last couple weeks, the conversation has been exactly the same.  Hosts, reporters, and commentators all emphasizing the downfall of American tennis and wondering if it will ever get back to the level it once was when names like McEnroe, Connors, Evert, Sampras, Agassi, and Williams carried the dialogue.

I’m as patriotic as the next guy, but this doesn’t bother me at all.

Continue reading So What If America Isn’t The Best At Everything?

Humbled Yet Again By The Game I Love

I have played a lot of tennis in my life.  I played in high school and college, even earned my certification as a teaching professional.

I have also watched a lot of tennis in my life.  Have you ever seen tennis on TV and thought to yourself, “I could rally with that guy.”?  Well, you’d be wrong.  You can’t.  I know this because I just played in the US Open National Playoff and it was simply one of the most humbling experiences of my adult life.

The tournament in Norman, Oklahoma was one of 16 sectional tournaments held across the country.  The 16 winners then play in a national tournament with the champion earning a berth into the qualifying draw of the US Open.  Yes, the actual US Open.  You know, New York City, tennis under the lights, Alec Baldwin sitting courtside?  That US Open.

Because it’s a truly open event, many spots in the draw are occupied by chuckleheads like me who tell themselves they can hold their own (even though they can’t) and may just be delusional enough to believe they can win a few matches (even though they won’t).

The other spots are filled by top ranked juniors, big time college players, and guys who have actually been in professional matches.  All of them possess something I do not: real, God-given ability.

When I looked at the draw a week before the tournament, I saw my name paired up against Jackson Withrow.  Jackson is a 19-year old from Omaha, Nebraska and he just happens to be a freak.  He was a top ten player in the Missouri Valley (a five state section), and a nationally ranked junior who was then recruited heavily by some of the biggest tennis powerhouses in the country before settling for a scholarship to Texas A&M.  This was going to be ugly.

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Coaching IS Worth It

My team and the people I'm most proud of.

A few months back, I wrote an article detailing all the reasons why people shouldn’t go into coaching.  You can read here about all the stresses and frustrations coaches have to put up with.  The pressure to win is overwhelming, rarely is anyone satisfied, and at almost every level of coaching you have someone telling you how to do your job.

Well, call me a flip-flopper if you want, but I have to disagree with my past self.  I think I was letting off some steam when I wrote that piece.  In fact, I know that was the case.  Truth is coaching has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my entire life.

Why the sudden change of heart? Our high school tennis team had its year end banquet the other night and I always give a little speech about each one of my players.  As I was writing my remarks, I found myself smiling at all the stories, the inside jokes, and the closeness of our team.  I’m not going to remember our record, or where we finished in the conference standings.   Laughing with those guys on the bus rides and poking fun at each other on the practice court, those are the irreplaceable memories that take the work right out of the job.

How can I forget one of my sophomores asking, “Coach, will you take us to eat at Hooters? I promise we won’t tell anyone.”  How can I possibly describe the satisfaction of talking to one of my volatile freshman about maturity and character, then having him be the one to ask if he can stay after practice and if he could organize off-season workouts?  Of course, parents complained and sometimes the effort level in our practices wasn’t what it should have been.  There were several difficult days.  The kind of days when I lost my cool and I wondered if I was really having any kind of impact at all. Then there was the day when my lone senior told me how he hated tennis his first two years, how he thought about quitting because the team had no chemistry.  He said, “I’m so glad I didn’t Coach Loeber.  In these last two seasons, I’ve had more fun than at any other time in school.  I love this team, and I’m gonna miss you guys.”

And that’s when it hit me.  This is all worth it. Who cares about backhand technique or doubles strategy? In the end what matters are the friendships, and that’s why being a coach is one of the most fulfilling things I’ve ever done.  I have a connection with a group of guys that will last forever, and they’ve made me a better man along the way.  The best part for me is watching them become young men with drive, passion, and integrity.

So I guess I get it now.  I understand why coaches go gray and lose their hair, Continue reading Coaching IS Worth It