Got Heart?

I love watching Mitchell, our 15 year old son, play tennis.

A few weeks back he might have had the match of his career.  Coaches generally say that if you just return the ball successfully 3 times, you’ll almost always win the point.  Yep – in most cases. Nope – not this time.  

It was sunny, 80ish degrees, and they were playing their nemesis team.  Mitchell was to play an 8 game set (first to 8 wins) in singles.  He was matched against a common foe, though they have developed a healthy respect for each other over the years.  Points were lasting far beyond the average 3 time return standard as the boys were committing very few unforced errors.  And they weren’t just returning; they were being aggressive, placing, spinning, charging the net – all of the above.  They were both scrapping! I’ve played in rallies like this with Mitch, and it’s very difficult to keep your form and footwork with that much energy being expended so quickly. And I’m a runner. These kids never gave in.

In fact, at one point, with Mitchell down in games 5-7 (his opponent needed one more game to win the match), a rally went for at least 40 or 50 shots – almost unheard of in tennis.  It was eternal for us, the spectators; I cannot imagine how these boys felt! But, again, neither gave in. So impressive.  Mitchell won the point and dropped on the court.  He had forced his opponent to his far right with a strong forehand shot, then charged the net and closed the point with a winner to the opponent’s far backhand. What none of us knew is that Mitchell had an asthma attack at the end of this rally. He told us later that he had 2 shots left, at best, and that’s what prompted his aggressive closing shots at the end.

They eventually were tied at 7-7, leading to a tennis tie breaker.  Mitchell high fived his opponent just prior to the tiebreaker, saying, “Are you ready for this, Noah?” and off they went.  Well, I’m glad to say that Mitchell won the tie breaker 8-6 and consequently the match. It was remarkable to watch. An opponent’s father came up to Mitchell after the match and said, “That was the best match I’ve seen in 3 years!”  Amy asked Mitch who he was and he said, “I don’t know, I don’t care, but I like him!”

I share this because I’m probably a little proud… and because there were so many lessons these boys taught us from the court.  The heart they displayed was the best I’ve seen all year, and maybe ever.  They just did not give in – physically or mentally.  They both showed great respect for each other – never disrespecting the game with poor attitudes, play call or effort.  They even encouraged each other, commenting on great play as they went. 

Heart. That’s what they showed.  They did their best, never gave in, managed their attitudes and emotions, showed mutual respect, and they were focused and poised, playing to the very end. They left it all on the court. 

What if everyone was like that?