From the Tennis Court to Caregiving

June 13, 2024

When anyone asks me about my tennis game, I often call myself a hack. I’m not being self-deprecating - well maybe I am - but I’m also speaking truth. I have taken a handful of lessons in my life. But I love a good racket sport and have decent hand-eye coordination so I’m always up for a game. I have a clear memory of hitting the ball back and forth with another freshman in college, he was clearly country club bred. 

“You could be good at this,” he said, slamming the ball over the net as if to say, just not as good as me. Probably true but I’m okay with that. Moving into my sixth decade, I’ve made peace with allowing certain activities to populate the margins of life.

Imagine my surprise then when I recently read an excerpt of Roger Federer’s speech to the graduating class of my alma mater and understood exactly the wisdom he was sharing. In fact, without the tennis lingo, it’s a lesson I teach all the time off the court,

" When you’re playing a point, it is the most important thing in the world.

But when it’s behind you, it’s behind you... This mindset is really crucial, because it frees you to fully commit to the next point… and the next one after that… “ -Roger Federer

From a course I taught at UCLA 20 years ago in stand up, to a book on how to have a happy marriage, to surviving caregiving for long-term illness, to corporate innovators, and apparently to tennis, the message to let go of the moment, which is how I present it, is consistent. If it were 1953 I’d say we need this message needlepointed on a pillow in every living room and then break out into a musical number about it. Since it’s 2024 and Alzheimer’s Awareness month, I’ll settle for making sure the people who need this tool most - those starting out on their own and those caring for those on their way out hear it the loudest. Each demands tremendous courage and patience.

In fact, in honor of the brave souls out there, if you’re a social media person, how about sharing your “letting it go” message out there using whatever analogy speaks to you - jokes that flop, tennis volleys you lose, cakes that don’t rise, something moment you’ve successfully let go of, and tag us. We’d love to hear all the many ways that letting go of moments has worked to allow you to “fully commit” to the next!