Thursday, September 5, 2013

Teaching Zen On The Tennis Court

For most of us, no matter how much we enjoy our job we look forward to leaving our work at the office and forgetting about all the ins and outs of our weekly tasks as soon as we get home (or as soon as you walk into the next room for those of you who work at home). Of course, there are some people who are lucky enough to have found a job that really isn’t work. They are driven people who enjoy every day and live their passion.

This is the life of Carlos Girola who developed his passion growing up in Argentina and now serves as the Tennis Director at the Llanerch Country Club in Havertown, Pennsylvania. Carlos doesn’t work; he lives his passion and gets paid for it. At yesterday’s Rotary meeting we had the pleasure of hearing him speak with such admiration, respect, and passion for how he makes a living that I couldn’t help but be impressed with his lifelong pursuit of the sport and desire to impart the love of the game in others.

Carlos enjoys every day on the court with his students. No matter what the age, ability, background, or build he believes that everyone can experience the almost transcendental state that all tennis players experience whether they are professionals, amateurs, or novices. All it takes is some basic abilities and techniques, all of which can be taught, in order for someone to experience the Zen of a long rally.

It is this perspective and appreciation of the sport and how it applies to everyone, not just the enthusiasts, which differentiates Carlos from many other teachers that I have come across in various sports. Not everyone has the talent, drive, and unwillingness to lose that the greats of the game have (he mentioned Bjorn Borg, Roger Federer, and Pete Sampras as prime examples of this) and you don’t need them. All it takes is an interest and a basic understanding of the game in order to develop a lifelong enthusiasm for the court.

Unlike many athletic endeavors, tennis is one that is adaptable to the time in someone’s life. Whether age, injury, or simply a lack of time, these can all be taken into account so that the sport remains ever present in life. Carlos is able to break down the basics of the game and the needs of the player (contrary to the wants that we all have) in order to maintain a level that will satisfy the need to play and keep the enthusiasm for the sport in their heart.

Professionals like Carlos are the reason why the US Open is the highest drawing annual sporting event in the country. As is the case with many sports there are many knowledgeable professional with which you can speak and learn about the game. However, there aren’t nearly as many great teachers who can impart that knowledge and enthusiasm in others in a way that can be applied to the court. It is teachers like Carlos Girola who are truly advancing the sport and serving as the catalyst for the passion that tennis needs to thrive in this county.