Happiness Unfurled

Have you ever wondered what helps a Peace Lily bloom?

I’ve been pondering this for the last four years. Several months ago, my forever friend, Terrie, gave me some clues. I’ve had this Lily as a token of the love I had for my brother James, born on 5/19/58 and passed away 6/3/2016. 

This Lily came home with me after we laid his body to rest. I made a promise to myself that this plant was going to live! No house plant has ever been important enough to me to devote the energy needed to keep it alive.

I’m thankful for it’s forgiving nature. So many times I found its beautiful leaves drooping to the floor. But by day’s end, it perked back up, with a gentle, “Thank you!“ But year after year, it never bloomed. 

That day when Terrie and I were chatting, she mentioned how happy she was that her Peace Lily was blooming. Immediately my ears perked up!  “What!?! How do you get your Peace Lily to bloom? I’ve had mine for 4 years and it’s never bloomed.”

“Well, Florene, it has to be happy to bloom!”  That didn’t make any sense to me. As she explained it though, I decided since she was the one with blooming plants and I was not, it was going to be my mission to put her ideas to the test.  She said it needs 3 things; Light, Regular Watering & you need to talk to it.

Poised for play that didn’t happen!

On March 19, 2020 our world changed, when the Covid 19 Shut Down happened. My tennis work came to a screeching halt!  Our traveling ministers, Suzanne & Mary, hung their hats in our home for the next couple months. As we all settled into our new “normal,“ my Peace Lily came more into focus. Every day I opened the blinds. When it drooped, I watered. I sent it happy thoughts. Then two weeks ago,  “Look, a bloom!” 

During these days of “social distancing“ I have learned many lessons from nature, from conversations, from the death of my dear Daddy, etc.  But my best lessons have come from Above!  The extra time spent reading His word, in meditation and prayer has helped me answer this question: From whence cometh true happiness?

1. Taking time to look to God’s son, Jesus, who is light for my soul.

2. Spending time reading His word, which is water for my soul.

3.  Talking to Him, listening for direction, which brings rest for my soul.  When my soul is at rest, then comes true joy and happiness!

Today, on James’s birthday, the one Lily bloom is completely unfurled, waving gently in the breeze. 

As I wait and wonder where this tennis journey is going to take me next, I’m sitting here with complete confidence today, that in due time, my Heavenly Father will let me know! By Coach Flo Miller 5/19/2020

The Ugly House

A few weeks ago while jogging on a familiar street in our neighborhood, my head turned suddenly to catch sight of an ugly Double-wide mobile home, plopped caddy-corner on the lot. There was no siding on the house, and a flapping blue tarp was on the roof. Where, just days before there was a wooded lot, the trees were now pushed up into a heap behind the house. Since we had been getting rain here in North Carolina for months, the front yard was a big red muddy mess. “What an eyesore for the neighborhood”, went through my mind as I kept on running.

We’re all a Work in Progress! On or off the tennis courts.

Several days later I noticed the blue tarp was gone and a freshly shingled roof was in place. It was then I realized that somewhere, someone was looking at this lot and home very differently than I was the first time I traipsed by. No doubt they envision a plush green lawn, with flowers set in place; maybe some cedar shake siding and a sprawling wrap around porch. Another thought occurred to me later — perhaps inside this currently unattractive structure, is set up an immaculate home decorated with the latest and the greatest!

As tennis coaches we sometimes have players show up for lessons or join our school teams and we find ourselves viewing them as “an ugly house”. Perhaps they have very little athletic ability and struggle just to make contact with the ball. So often their focus is definitely not on the tennis court.

What does it take to flip the switch in our own mind’s eye to envision this player at a match, serving, placing balls where they want them to go and totally enjoying the sport? At what point do we disconnect our focus from perfecting their strokes, to helping them get the glimpse of what “the beautiful home” is going to look like and feel like?

“Mon, I’m ready for tennis!” Kate, Age 2

Our tennis players may show up to practice or lessons, and compare themselves to better players on the team or in the clinic, viewing themselves as the “ugly house”. I’ll never forget a doubles match I was playing in with some ladies that were much more experienced than I was myself. I came onto the court with this apprehension all bundled up inside me, comparing my shots to their’s, worrying about what they were going to think or say about my level of play. After we lost the first game, due to my errors, I just asked myself the question, “Why am I comparing myself to them? They get up and put their panties on just like I do. Just hit your shots, Flo.” No more games were lost in the match, due to my errors, and we won!

All it takes is a snap-shot view, with a little imagination. Each time I run by the Ugly House now, I can see this home, no longer on wheels, but with a solid brick foundation, an award winning yard and kids romping in the grass. Coaches, let’s take time to get a glimpse and share the vision!

Quote

Nolan, can you say “Tennis Etiquette?”

Nolan, six years old, is standing at the net facing Elle, also six years old. They look across the net at each other almost to eye to eye. With the ball in his left hand, lightly holding it on the center net strap, he confidently looks Elle in the eye and says “ zero, zero. Are you ready?” after she replies “yes,” and the ball is dropped, Elle gently returns the ball back into Nolan’s side of the court. He attempts to return it but misses. And here it comes…… The pause, the glance over at me, and instead of smacking the ball to the fence, he bends over, picks it up and hands it back to Elle. Under his breath I hear him say, “tennis etiquette.”

Several months ago, when Nolan started playing this game at the net we call Finger Roll, almost every time he missed a shot, he’d whack the ball to the fence or onto the next court, along with some such comment as “Awe, nuts!” One day I looked at him and said, “Nolan, can you say etiquette?” After one or two attempts he had it down pat. He said, “what does etiquette mean?” I explained to him that another way of saying tennis etiquette, would be kind of like tennis manners. I said “You know what table manners are, right?” Of course! This is the kid that walks over to open the gate when a new player is coming on, and greets them with a warm, “so how’s it going? I’m Nolan. What’s your name?” A gentleman, at six years old!

But here we are on the tennis courts. He has missed a shot and he is totally disgusted with himself, not with Elle! His first instinct is to take out his frustration on the tennis ball. It’s usually not a big deal when this happens, because he’s not hitting the ball towards anyone. The ball just goes sailing some other direction. However, this is Tennis Etiquette! We don’t smack balls around on the court! Ever!!

This is a story I tell every time now to bring this point home.  It’s the story from February 2017 when the 17 year old, Canadian player, Denis Shapovalov, playing in the Davis Cup, smashed a tennis ball in frustration as hard as he could. Unfortunately, it hit the chair umpire in the eye causing bruising and swelling! This little outburst cost him and his country a Default, in addition to a Personal fine of $7000! This 2016 Wimbledon Junior Champion obviously didn’t spend enough time learning proper Tennis Etiquette with this Super Fun game of Finger Roll!

Kids and adults love to play this game. Once a player has had a few tennis lessons with the basic forehand and backhand strokes this game can be played even between a parent and a child.  Many subtle aspects to tennis etiquette can be learned from Finger Roll.

For example, in a regular tennis match, tennis etiquette expects the server to be sure their opponent is ready before the ball is served and to call the score. (Unless it’s at the professional level where scores are kept by the chair umpire.). Thus, in the game of Finger Roll, each time before a ball is rolled the score is called out with your own score first. and the question is asked, “Are you ready?” The ball should not be dropped until eye contact has happened & “yes” has been heard in an audible voice.

Let’s consider for a moment the seemingly simple act of making eye contact!  In today’s society where we text our daughter in the next room to see if she can come to the dinner table, eye contact is difficult for many young children as well as teenagers and adults.  Hours in our day are spent on Tweets, Instagram and Facebook posts to impress the masses. But sitting at a booth in the restaurant across from a friend causes uncomfortable jitters when it comes to looking eyeball to eyeball.  On the tennis court before a match, tennis etiquette expects players to meet at the net, make eye contact and determine who serves first by the spin of the racquet.  At the conclusion of a match, the players again meet at the net, make eye contact, shake hands, and say something such as “nice match.” We expect the same in the Finger Roll game.

Let’s also analyze the simple answer of “yes.”  So often I observe, that especially when the player is losing, it’s very difficult for him/her to look their opponent in the eye and say “yes.” Not some mumble of “mmmhmmm” or “yeah.” To actually have the ability to step outside the inner turmoil when the score is called 6–0 and the question is asked, “are you ready?” to answer YES, takes guts! Undoubtedly, this is a critical point. The game could be over after this next ball is rolled, after all. In the game of finger roll, the first player to get seven points wins. In a regular tennis match it would be similar to your opponent coming up to serve and calling out the score 40 – LOVE. In the game of tennis, LOVE means Nothing or zero… so this is game point! The pressure is on. It’s not expected in a regular tennis match to ask your opponent if they’re ready. However, tennis etiquette expects the server to observe if their opponent is in position to receive serve before the ball is tossed up. Just imagine yourself standing there with the realization “if I lose this point, the game is over. But yes, I’m ready to meet this challenge!” This is a life lesson I love to help kids learn using this game of Finger Roll.

As Nolan gently handed the ball back to Elle, he again glanced at me for confirmation and recognition of his accomplishment. It’s so amazing to watch Nolan, who’s grooving his shots every time he comes on the court, and as a Coach, this is so exciting to experience. But more importantly, he’s fine tuning his Tennis Etiquette, and as his friend and mentor, this makes my heart happy!

 

What helps you connect? Tennis shoes helped me!

From where you’re sitting right now, if you look to your right and to your left, what do you see? And then, pause for a moment to listen. What can you hear? Are there fresh smelling scents to lighten your air? Now pause to think… When was the last time you stopped to  smell the honeysuckle, so to speak?  It’s out there, you just have to go searching for it.

For some of you it’s in your backyard where you enjoy gardening, digging around in the  fresh black dirt, watching worms slither in and around the clods.  Many of you find your connection at the beach, where just the sand under your feet takes you to your happy place!  Wherever it is, I encourage you to find it as often as possible.

Last week in my blog post titled Together we can learn to fly – I mentioned I couldn’t seem to get back on the trail. Running in the woods is what really keeps the clock ticking right for me.  Hearing all the birds chirping, watching squirrels start to run in front of me on the trail but then decide “no, better let Flo have it right now.” Sometimes I pause and give it up for a long black snake to finish his journey in front of me. But then to my right – the wonderful smell of honeysuckle in bloom. And now that the run is done, as I sit here on the park bench in front of me I see a pretty red cardinal flirting around, a green lizard making her way up her tree while I sit here writing.  Meanwhile swatting mosquitoes!

My love of running in the woods began in the forest when I worked at Duke University in the library. What an amazing break from slapping OCLC Numbers on the back of books!  After moving to Pilot Mountain, I found the trails behind our house an enormous refuge. From there, living in downtown Frankfort, Kentucky in a second-story apartment I struggled with the concrete and pavement until one day I decided to venture up on Fort Hill!  Amazing trails with daily deer sightings and a wonderful view of downtown Frankfort! For 2 1/2 years I frequented The Hill whenever weather permitted. Since moving to The Big C, (Charlotte, NC in case you didn’t know) it’s challenging to find safe trails! But today this one has allowed me to again realize how important it is to get out and be close to nature.

Working as a tennis coach in the great outdoors is a privilege in itself!  However, there are elements to contend with just like any JOB you have. Perhaps the AC doesn’t quite get enough cool air into your cubicle, or maybe your kids have been told daily to get their clothes up off the floor and you again see the big heap today , or maybe your boss came in to work in a really bad mood and you’d like to tell her to take a flying leap!  Farmers contend with natural elements like snow,  rain and wind, wondering if there will be a harvest this year?   With outdoor tennis courts  being our work-space, we compare ourselves to farmers in the sense that STUFF HAPPENS!

Regardless of where you find yourself today, I encourage you to take time to connect. Get out somewhere you can enjoy this great earth God has given us to live for a few short years.  It’s amazing how those annoyances diminish in our minds!

Together We Can Learn To Fly

I realize more and more each day that we can learn so much from God’s little creations, whether it be a small child or one of our small feathered friends. Take Nicole, for example. Her mom reached out to me last year. She said Nicole really wanted to be on the Queens Grant Middle School Team this year. She would be in the 6th grade. That was great news to me! As the Middle School Coach, it’s wonderful to have kids start in the 6th grade. It helps strengthen the team in a few years! Nicole started taking lessons from Coach Tim, Coach Debbie and myself in September, 2016. She’s a wee bit of a girl with lots of spunk. But let’s face it, she really struggled and struggled just to make contact with the ball.

When tryouts came in February, 2017, Nicole was all gung-ho, but a bit nervous. On the day before the official team roster announcement was made, I privately told her to chill. ” I have a No-Cut Policy. Everyone makes the team!” She stopped in her tracks and her face lit up. Then came the day her cute uniform was issued. She was proud as a peacock!

After several days of tough practice though, she and I hit a brick wall. I asked her to do something and she said she couldn’t do it. I basically told her that as her coach, I saw some changes she needed to make. If she wasn’t going to try, I couldn’t coach her.  “Nicole, you can just keep doing it your way if you want.  But when you’re ready to accept my coaching, I believe you’ll be able to start flying around the court  like your team mates, and start hitting balls across the net,” I told her.  I didn’t literally set her on the bench, only figuratively.

Last week a small bird helped me understand not only what was going on with Nicole, but what happens to me a lot! I was sitting in my big chair, Bible in my lap, teapot under it’s cozy and my grandma china tea cup was in my hand, when I heard a loud thud. “Oh no!” I thought. “Not again! Let me ease up out of my chair and go check out the damage.”

I opened the sliding glass door and there it was, under the back porch table. Little birds and big birds have misjudged their flight patterns, abruptly knocking themselves out when they run into our sliding glass door.  Sometimes they make it and sometimes they don’t. This one sat there on his feet, stunned, with his mouth open widely and didn’t move when I touched him gently. I really thought this may be his only flight but I decided to leave him alone for awhile.

Here’s where Nicole was – On the bench. Couldn’t move forward. Wouldn’t listen. Wasn’t willing to believe that she could do what was being asked of her. And I can totally relate with many situations I find myself in whether it’s improving my backhand shots, learning how to take good pictures and videos, or maintaining my running routine.  The main question is: Why Do We Find Ourselves Paralyzed? Could it be unwillingness, lack of self-esteem, lack of energy or perhaps complacency?  It could be any one, all or some other reason. Regardless, there we sit. Stunned, and not able to move forward!

Until we recognize that’s where we are, that’s where we stay!

About a week after Nicole & I came to our agreement, she humbly came to me and said “Coach Flo, I changed my mind. I want you to help me.” I asked her what made her change her mind. She said, “I’ve been watching the other players that just started on the team and they’re all getting better.  And I want to get better too!

Just like my little birdie friend, who sat for awhile, collected his composure and flew away, Nicole paused, analyzed her options and is now learning to fly!  In the last match she played, she returned multiple shots and made some points.  And I myself have signed up for some Adult Tennis Clinics to improve my backhand shots and I’m working with a Coach to improve my photography and marketing skills.  As far as the running program; check in with me later.  I can’t seem to get off the bench to get that going again!

I believe we all come to places throughout our lives that seem like roadblocks. It takes patience with ourselves as we discover the reasons why we’re at a standstill. As coaches, with kindness and compassion, we seek to help each player as they progress with their tennis game. Whether it’s your child who is 3 years old or you, who are 65 years young, together we can learn to fly!

Connecting the Dots With Phoebe

Phoebe, who is 8 years old, walked onto the court last Saturday for the first time and her body language said to me, “I do not want to be here today. But they made me come. I don’t plan to participate or have fun. I’m only here because they signed me up.” Her twin sister, Faith, who is a bubbly, energetic little girl, came last week for the first time by herself and left with the tennis fever! She walked on the courts today with confidence and a big smile.

Faith helped Phoebe through the warmup session, kindly showing her how to do the Weave first, then the Hop, the Shuffle and lastly the 5 Step Drop with a Split Stop. Her gentle helpfulness carried on into the introduction of the forehand shot. I soon realized that all week long, Faith had been practicing at home. I wasn’t sure how much she had tried to share with Phoebe, but I heard enough to know that some work had been done to get Phoebe on the courts today.

Phoebe’s head continued to hang as she attempted to make connection with the ball, but with little success. When it was Faith’s turn, she stepped up with a readiness to learn. She was having remarkable success, considering this was only her second time on the courts! It was a rather hot afternoon, and Faith asked to take a water break. Phoebe stepped up for her turn again to attempt her forehand shot. Before she swung, she looked at me and said, “Do you know who’s the number one tennis player in the world?” I hesitated to answer, wondering if I should ask did she mean, male or female. I decided just to go for it, and we both said at the same time, “Serena Williams!”

This really sat me down in my chair!  This girl, who I thought didn’t have one bit of interest in tennis, knows who Serena Williams is!  Amazing!  My next question to her is, “Do you watch Serena play?” Her eyes have lit up and there’s a big smile on her face. She commences to tell me that she is her favorite player and she loves to watch her play.  She tells me quite a few things about Serena, one being that she was born in Michigan, but she got hung up on what city it was. “I actually wrote a book about Serena” she said. Well, Blow Me Down, I thought!  Let’s just use some imagination here and see what happens.

“That’s really awesome, Phoebe. Let’s pretend we’re Serena. Watch this shot really closely. Look at how I do this,” I said to her. In slow motion, I showed her a forehand shot, smoothly sending the ball over the net with about 6 inches clearance, landing in the singles, cross-court. Up to this point, if any of Phoebe’s shots went over the net, they were definitely moon balls and most didn’t land in the green court on the other side.

I reminded her again how to hold her racquet with a 20 degree angle, to step with her left foot, draw the C, and follow through over her shoulder. And then I said, “remember what that shot looked like I just showed you and try to make it look like that.” The first 3 shots were not successful. But the 4th shot she hit smoothly, sailing it over the net with 6-8 inches clearance, and into the singles, cross-court!  I turned and looked back at her. She had amazement written all over her face. Something had just happened in this little girl. Through the use of imagination and concentration she did what she didn’t believe she had the ability to do!

During this entire event, Faith was getting a drink of water and socializing with what was happening on the other court. When she returned, I sensed that Phoebe wanted so badly to share with Faith what had just happened.  I wished I could push the replay button for her on a video. However, I saw a marked change in her confidence and self-esteem from that point on. When asked at the end of the lesson, “Did you like it?” I saw a big smile and heard a hearty, “YES!” The next question was, “Do you want to come back next week?” Another big, “YES!” She too has caught the Tennis Fever.  And I have discovered it’s all about CONNECTING THE DOTS with kids.  This makes my heart happy today!