Out of Time

Reflecting on the lack of tennis I’ve played in recent months


Jai Uparkar

I haven’t played tennis in four weeks and I didn’t even realize it. I haven’t gone to the court or even picked up my racket.

For a player who would practice for three hours every day on the weekdays and even more on the weekends, the sudden lack of tennis in my life is strange. I never made the decision to stop playing tennis, it just sort of happened. I had other things to worry about: school, SATs and finals. It’s my junior year and although I expected myself to spend less time on sports, I didn’t expect myself to completely neglect the sport which was huge part of my life.

But I let it happen. I let MVHS take over my life. In a school where all I would hear in the hallways were conversations about tests, Schoolloop and grades, it became clear that I had new priorities now — and tennis wasn’t one of them.

I had dedicated most of my life to the sport, and it wasn’t right to give it all up for the satisfaction of seeing a column of A’s on my transcript. When I played tennis regularly, I gave up on going to other people’s birthdays so many times that I stopped getting invitations, because they knew I wouldn’t be able to go. I gave up hanging out with my friends just to get an extra hour of practice on the court. I would leave sleepovers early in the morning to go to my lesson. I gave up most of my summer to play eight hours a day and be a ballkid for some of the greatest tennis players in the world, in order to become better— to improve. And although I didn’t enjoy those sacrifices at the time, I miss them now.

When I stopped playing, it felt as if I was throwing all of those years of hard work out the window, like they meant nothing to me. The years I spent developing and structuring my game were gone. It’s as if I’ve disrespected every person who helped me become the player I am today: my dad, my coaches and my teammates.

I miss getting up early on the weekends just to grab the best tennis court before the dads came to play their weekly tennis matches. I miss traveling to tournaments and seeing my friends. I miss having to groan when the coaches would tell us to run liners. But most of all I miss the competitiveness of the sport and the perseverance I had when playing.

The funny thing was, when I was in middle school and elementary school I watched the presence of many older kids at my tennis clinic fade away because of school. I made a promise to myself never to become one of them. I would not let school take over my life and leave behind a passion that meant so much to me. But here I am now, a junior at Monta Vista with finals, the letter A and the number 1600 dominating my thoughts.

But I shouldn’t blame Monta Vista for taking tennis away from me. After all, I’m the one that allowed it to happen. I let them make tennis a lower priority than it should be. I feel this guilt most days, but even worse on Mondays, Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays — the days I used to spend at tennis clinic. However, even though I complain about these things, I’ve done nothing about it. I made no attempt to finish homework at the library during brunch to carve out more time for practice in my schedule. No attempt to at least maintain my fitness routine.

This is probably the most bittersweet lesson I’ve learned on the court so far. As I realize now how far school has taken me away from my passion, I plan to get back on the court soon. .But I advise all of you not to be consumed by MVHS — don’t let it take over your life. Pursue your passions you spent years cultivating. Giving it all up simply isn’t worth it.

I’ve realized that I shouldn’t care about the letter grades I see on SchoolLoop or a percentage on a test, because they’ll vanish by the time finals are over, but tennis is something that will always be there. Unlike school, my progress in tennis doesn’t reset after five months, it something I’m constantly improving and developing. The joy I get from playing tennis is not the same feelings as seeing an A on my transcript.