Winning & Losing

I’ve decided that winning and losing doesn’t matter, life is too short. But since it doesn’t matter and I obviously don’t care at all, I much prefer winning to losing 🙂 I’ve been doing some of both in both tennis and pickleball and wanted to share the story.

Two weeks ago I traveled to Ogden Utah to play in a professional pickleball tournament. Currently, it’s the only tournament in the world that gives out prize money, and my first tournament at the national level.

The first day, my dad and I played doubles together, drawing last year’s national champions in the first round. Not the greatest draw, but you have to beat everyone at some point if you’re going to win the tournament. We came out strong and beat them in straight sets, 11-6, 11-6, shocking the pickleball establishment. Everyone was watching us. We won the next match as well, beating the guys that would later get 1st and 5th in singles. In the semifinals, we played the guys who would eventually win the tournament. We made some stupid mistakes, didn’t convert when we really needed to, and got upset about (what I still think was) an unfair call. We lost in 3 sets, and lost the next match to the same guys we had beat in the 1st round (they had come up through the consolation bracket).

Singles was almost the same thing for me. I won my first three matches, getting to the semifinals where I played the guy who we lost to in doubles. I lost in 3 sets after having a match point, and lost my consolation match to the guy who would eventually get 2nd. My dad did better, getting 2nd place in the 50+ category (although he also let the final slip through his fingers).

The only thing I regret about the tournament was mental. I lost my tennis cool. I got upset about stupid things and when I did that, it took my focus off the point. Because in the end it really doesn’t matter, in competition you can’t let yourself get upset about little things.

Now to my tennis season. Now in my second year of coaching, I had gone a year and a half without a single team win. We had come agonizingly close. Like our 4-3 loss against Pueblo East last year when winning a single tiebreaker would have sealed the deal. Or last week when we were winning all our matches when buckets of rain came pouring down from a previously amicable sky. I was beginning to believe the tennis gods were thwarting me for partially converting to pickleball.

Then yesterday we played Harrison High School, a first year team that had not a single athlete, let along tennis player. We pulled out a few close matches and a couple of 10-point tie breakers, winning the match 7-0. Victory is sweet when it’s been long in the making! Morale was in critical need of a boost, and I’m buying the team bagels today, honoring my promise to buy them if anyone bageled another team (won 6-0).

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The Next Step

I’ve been back in the US for a week and a half now. It’s strange how quickly whatever circumstance you are in becomes the new normal. Writing this in the quiet, cool, green backyard in Denver where I’m house sitting, it’s hard to believe that I was in the midst of Kenya just two short weeks ago. They are worlds apart, let me tell you.

Last week I helped teach a tennis camp at the US Air Force Academy. It was fun, hanging out with kids and focusing on nothing more complicated than teaching a kid a forehand (which can be surprisingly complicated). I also met a new Japanese friend, Hiro, who stayed with me over the weekend and was game for playing tennis, golf and pickleball. I was glad to get my Japanese speaking fix and make a new friend.

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This week, I’m getting everything ready for my application to a scholarship program in Japan where I want to get an MBA. Sometimes I feel mixed emotions about the possibility of going back to Japan, but one thing is for sure, when I was there this Winter, I was reminded that it feels more like home than anywhere else.

Next week my trips begin. I’m excited to get more experience and see if this is something I really want to do. On the trips I have conducted, I loved the fact that I can work while having great conversations and seeing beautiful places in Colorado. Getting paid to do that is pretty awesome.

After July, I become a high school tennis coach again. I look forward to what the season holds and appreciate my athletic director’s reminder: “Even if we don’t win a match again this year, if the students have fun and learn to love a game that they can play for a lifetime, we have succeeded.” Truth.

And that’s my life. After September it is a huge gaping hole and I have no idea what will fill it. Something always come through though because God always provides. And I almost forgot, I have my work at The Food Source starting an organic farm in Nairobi. I am no longer physically there, but the work continues and as it becomes successful the big question is, “What Next”?