Sunday, March 22, 2015

Four years, too many changes, and a crazy 47 year old friend.

It's been a long time since I wrote on this blog...nearly four years to be exact. I admit that I almost forgot that this existed, but I saw this when I was about to start a new blog. I remembered that I still have a good story here to tell, and it's time to get back to this one.

Four years ago, my last blog brought up a very embarrassing situation. I promised a video of one of my matches to a tennis message board, one whose members were already ready to lynch me(one of my biggest mistakes over the years was bringing people that only existed behind a keyboard into my real life, but this will be on another blog). Simply put, I faced a guy who sandbagged(that means a higher level player playing down so he can win a lot easier...I really hate people like that) and just put an absolute beating on me. Even worse, since I promised a video, and I wanted to keep to my promises, I threw that pile of crap up.

Yes, I took the obligatory pounding you would expect to get from keyboard warriors, but it actually helped change my life, which helps explain the "too many changes" part of this blog.

First off, on the physical side, I found out I wasn't really playing tennis. Yes, I was on a court, and yes, I had a stick in my hand, but I wasn't really PLAYING. All I was doing, without realizing it till later, was noticing how little patience the general population has overall. All my wins, and all my accomplishments came because most people do not have the patience to play the push and lob game that I was playing, and the ones that did would kick my ass like that. It's been said that winning brings momentum, but losing brings character. I gained a lot of character that day, and I started over from scratch by learning all of the strokes I should have learned at a younger age. I did lose a lot more, and lost to people I beat regularly in the past with my old style, but it was a change that was necessary.

Second, among other things, it helped me grow up quite a bit. My style of tennis was everything from the past, brought upon by hours and hours and hours of hitting against a garage door, but zero hours of training with a reputable teacher. That was my life in a nutshell...one with a ton of potential, but all the wrong training or ideas how to enhance that potential. That was my fault and I have been working the past four years to rectify that, not without the difficulties that come with having a lifetime of bad habits. Growing up helped me realize I actually had bad habits. So with all of that, you would think I have had my tens of thousands of hours that it takes to improve by now, right?

Nope. It is true that I am far better than I was four years ago, but something else happened along the way.

At 35 years old, my back gave out.

After eight years of martial arts, three years of hockey, and years and years of diving and flopping on tennis courts like Boris Becker(completely forgetting he dove on GRASS), my back was absolutely trashed. I had to back into my car every morning instead of stepping into my car, I lost feeling in my legs if I stood for too long, and I had to force myself out of bed every morning. It was a disaster and I was thinking I'd be having surgery at 40. LUCKILY, an old stretching routine I used to do in my martial arts days brought my back around(not without still having difficult days), but that brought about another issue.

I was in FAR worse shape than I anticipated, with no leg strength, and little core strength.

Through a mutual friend, I met a personal trainer, and would be friend, Sam Feldman. Once my back was starting to heal, I decided I wanted to have a trainer and become a true athlete for the first time in my life. The problem was that I had no clue of the obstacles that would get in my way, all of my own doing.

On my very first night, after having the absolute worst time doing a simple lunge, we literally had to take two hours learning to walk...yes, WALK. I spent twenty some odd years trying to be like my father, who was a 230 pound force of nature with large arms and a large personality. However, for a tall 150-160 pound beanpole to try to be like that, I had to stand up in a ridiculously rigid and stiff posture, hold my arms way too far out, and tighten every single muscle in my body. It didn't make me look any better, obviously, but it made things worse for Sam, who literally had to create a blueprint to reconstruct my body. The final straw was when he stretched me for the first time, let go of one of my legs, and it stayed there like I was a cadaver.

Long story short, I am a lot better now(with a lot more work to go), and I will go over every bit of the reconstruction in my next blog, but this is my first blog back, so there's other things to bring up.

Through all of the changes over the years, both physical and mental, I've had one constant...a friend named Christoph Vogt. He has the same personality that I do, which is making sure we live every single second of life to the fullest, and doing things that drive the closest around us absolutely crazy. Among those things is attempting a pro tennis career at 45 years old(47 now). It sounds positively ridiculous, no question, but that's what Christoph and I do...the things that no one else will try. Through all the back issues and other things, I've been playing coach and motivator through it all because I know I'm the one person that does know the game that believes in what he's doing(and it doesn't hurt that he's a physical freak). Since I study the game in an obsessive nature, I know who just about every player in the ATP and ITF are. I watch every major, every 1000, every 250 and 500, every challenger, and every future that I can. I study shot selection, playing styles, surfaces, and psychology of the game, and I give him the tips needed for most of his big matches. It's all working because he moves up a level every year, is now an open level player(five years ago, he was 3.5), and actually won a pro level qualifier match before winning an open level match. Yes, the odds are long, but what is living if you can't take a few chances?

So that's my story right now. It might be a crazier climb than it was four years ago considering I'll be 37 in August, but I can't wait for the next months. It feels good to know that I actually move with some fluidity now, and even better that I have more work to do. Even though I feel 21, the idea that I'll be 37 actually gives me a sense of urgency to keep working so hard to get that much better every day.

And it starts...again.

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