Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Sheer and Savage Players: Edition 4

“There is a point in tennis, when I thrust aside as irrelevant all thoughts of point and games and sets, and am absorbed instead in the sheer and savage delight of swinging at a moving target.”
- Mark Rowlands, Tennis with Plato

1. unmixed with anything else
2. unqualified, utter
Synonyms: mere, simple, pure, unadulterated

1. fierce, ferocious, untamed
2. unpolished
3. wild and rugged
Synonyms: wild

1. a state of happiness
2. a foretaste of all things made right
Synonyms: rapture, bliss, delight

SHEER JOY: Hans Miller

SAVAGE JOY: Joel Gerig

RESULT: Led team in victories last season, setting a record for most #1D victories.

In my career coaching at Bethany, Joel Gerig leads the list in one category. Being able to let his emotions show. Or as we're defining it in this series, being unpolished, untamed and savage when it comes to showing his emotion.

Oh, he's top of the list in a lot of other things as well. Working hard at his tennis game, staying after practice to work on serves, and doubles winning percentage would all be categories he'd lead the team in too. But his heart on sleeve emotion was definitely something that has set him apart. And it is not a bad thing. In fact, I love it as a coach. Because it's honest.

A story. Joel's sophomore year he was in and out of competing for a varsity spot. Suddenly in the middle of a drill, Joel has thrown his racket onto the court and is screaming that he quits, he can't do it, and is kicking his racket from one side of the court to the other. I was livid. I walked right up to him and told him to get off the courts because we don't act like that. Savage emotion is one thing, but there's also a need to mature. But when I got up to Joel, Joel had tears in his eyes. I took a gentler tone, but still told him to go sit on the bleachers. After getting the team going into the next part of practice, Joel and I sat and talked about what was making this eruption happen. And unsurprisingly, it wasn't really about tennis. A little talking, a little prayer, and a lot of healing went on. Joel's honesty had allowed it to happen.

There were so many more times of Joel's raw and unpolished honesty. At team camp when discussing faith with his fellow seniors. When he and Parth came to me during junior year and basically said no offense to each other but they didn't like playing doubles together. But I'd like to recall one other specific time where Joel couldn't stop his emotion.

Last year, in the Individual Sectional, Joel and Hans drew NorthWood in the first round of the event. They had lost to NorthWood in the season, their worst and most lopsided loss. Now, playing in the Sectional I had asked them to play with confidence. After dropping their first set, Joel and Hans had turned it around in the second and were playing brilliant tennis. And at the break between the second and third set, Joel again stood before me with tears in his eyes. I was so pumped, because they were playing their best tennis of the season at exactly the right time. I looked at Joel and said, "Are those tears? What's up, why are you crying?"

He said, "Because I know we're going to win."

Emotion is powerful. And Joel was always able to be honest and raw about it. It's powerful for healing and it's powerful as a motivator. For it to be useful on the tennis court however, it has to be transformed into positive emotion. It was to pump us up and convince us we're going to win. How had Joel's raw emotional responses been crystallized into a force like this that would allow him to know with clarity and confidence that they were going to win?

Well, that positively delightful influence was Hans Miller.

Hans has been the epitome of sheer joy throughout his years in tennis. Freshman year he tried for one day to do soccer and tennis in the same season. It was hard (ask Jesse Amstutz about it), and Hans decided that he enjoyed tennis more, so he was just going to go for that. Because it brought him more joy.

And since, he's brought that joy to our team. His freshman year he quietly collected the most wins on the JV, all with a smile on his face. His sophomore year, we tried him all over the place. Wherever he played, he didn't complain. In his first four matches that year, he played #1DJV, #3S, #1D, and finally settled into #2D. It was that #2D position where his sheer joy got matched up with Joel's savage joy.

You see, when Joel would double fault or drop a volley in the net, he would get tense and tight. But Hans, when he would clip the tape with a volley, would turn around, smile and laugh. And watching these two play tennis soon got to be very fun. Joel's competitiveness seeped into Hans, and Hans carefree joy began to take hold in Joel.

Going into this year, it remains the picture to me of the balance the team needs. Joel's honest emotion and Hans' enjoyment. Joel's tears and Hans' laugh. Joel shouting "C'mon!" and Hans happy "Yes!"

Joel spinning around with a fist pump and Hans meeting it with a smile.

Everyone needs to find that balance. Everyone needs to have that unpolished honesty and unbridled joy. Maybe Hans will continue to lead us that way. But we can't count on just him. We need every one of you to bring your God-given talents and encouragements to this season. Bring them with all your joy. I can't wait to remember your stories of sheer and savage joy as well.

Sheer and Savage Series
1. Joel King and Michael Steury
2. Daniel Buschert and Mikey Kelly
3. Seth Krabill and Kyle Miller
4. Hans Miller and Joel Gerig

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