Tennis is a brutal sport. Contrary to popular belief, our sport is not just for rich preppy kids — and a loser on the court cannot be a winner at the same time. Sure, a loser walks away having “learned what to spend time improving”, but they share that with the winner, who evaluates his or her own performance and spends time working to beat you even more decisively next time. By definition, at the end of the day, the true winner is the guy or girl holding the trophy and the gigantic check with their name scribbled upon it in flagrant cursive. Winning on-court is one thing — trust me, we certainly didn’t do enough of that this weekend, but despite our humbling results, I feel like the biggest loser to walk away a winner.
Any of you who have played team sports can understand the philosophy of the word “camaraderie”. I had been told that such a concept existed, but never fully felt immersed in its rapture or charm, despite having participated in intermediate, junior-varsity, varsity, Zone, JTT and adult league teams over a span of nine years. How quickly things can change. The moment I sat my tush in the trunk-heavy Colgate van en route to Providence, Rhode Island, a void in my social development was set to be filled by a motley crew of nine guys and one of the most fun, amiable coaches you could ever hope to play for.
There is no possible way to outline four days of events in a newspaper article, but we had our fair share of high and low times as well as character-testing moments on court throughout the extended weekend. Off court, each butt slap, widget failure, uniform malfunction, strategically placed fart and bed barrier violation culminated in an explosive three hour marathon of unified singing, or shall I say, wailing of ancient, just-gone and present hit songs on the car ride back to Colgate. Somewhere in between the sweet serenading of “Tiny Dancer” and the guts-and-glory rendition of “Don’t Stop Believing”, “camaraderie” became a term synonymous with “team”. It was apparent that none of my teammates were trained singers with distinct voice parts, but somehow their unique offerings fused together, and what once would have sounded like a garbled medley became a chorus of strength, power and epic proportions — the car was definitely jumping.
Apart from making me realize that I had to start memorizing lyrics for the next trip, the Brown Invitational brought to light the value of a team. Once you join a varsity team, you are guaranteed to spend more time with a singular group of people, than any other combination of friends outside of the sport. Teammates are your homies — the people whose backs you should be most willing to have in any crisis. This recent road trip left me feeling like I’d do anything to stay on the team, do anything to earn another season with such a crazy, vocally-challenged group of superiorly intelligent jocks. We brought the Raider Nation to Rhode Island, filled the atrium of Pizzitola SportsCenter with “Go ‘Gate” and consumed many, many, many a cookie from our hotel front desk. Could our pre-season opener have been any more successful? On-court, yes, but off court, these four days could well have been the perfect way to kick off a year of many, many, many wins.
We went, we conquered, we lived, we learned and we bonded, rewriting the definition of success and demonstrating that we had the most fun while taking a beating. The memory of the moments that transpired this past weekend will stay with me forever, and the camaraderie that flowed in the laughs we shared, blood we shed and lyrics we sang showed me that tennis is not about brutal realities, success is not just about the wins and there is no place for an “I” in “team”.