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Monday, May 15, 2017


Regrets, I have a few...

Have you ever regretted a decision even before the event? Maybe you accepted a blind date and only then learned that the date was recently released from prison. Or maybe you promised to take your spouse on vacation and only then learned that you would be unable to attend the Super Bowl with comped tickets.

I was experiencing similar feelings at about noon last Friday. But the story starts on Thursday (or before) with a series of mistakes.

The Henderson County senior games were scheduled for Friday and I was signed up to play both Mixed and Men's Doubles. The problem was that I had been traveling since the Hilton Head tournament nearly 3 weeks prior...and I not even so much as touched a paddle in that time. It simply would not be fair to my partners to show up being so unprepared. That was Mistake # 1.

I decided to trundle off to the county gym to hit some balls and play some games to focus on my mechanics. After a couple of hours, I felt pretty good about my game and packed it in. Instead of going o my car, I walked over to the gym manager's office to check out Friday's line-ups. That was Mistake # 2.

As I was talking with the manager, I saw that only 1 player had signed up for singles in my age bracket. I decided to sign up. I didn't even think about it. I just signed the form. That was Mistake # 3.

Friday morning came and mixed doubles was first. Our bracket had 7 teams and we played a double-elimination format with games to 11 and win by 1. In our first game, we fought back from 3-8 to take a 10-8 lead only to lose 11-10 and send us to the losers bracket. Tournament players know that the losers bracket has more games to battle back to the gold medal game. But we did it, winning 4 straight games. 

So we entered the finals having played 5 games nearly without a break. Our opponents had played only 2 games since they had a first-round bye. We won the first game pretty easily but lost the second game and settled for silver.

The men's doubles ensued shortly thereafter. It was a 4-team round robin. We won the first game and played a marathon second game only to lose 11-9. The next game was when the magnitude of my mistakes started hitting home. I was out of gas. Done. Exhausted. We lost 11-0.

So I took a seat...and sat...and sat. I watched the rest of mixed brackets finish and all of the women's doubles. The whole time I was thinking:

 "What do I know about singles? I've never played singles. I've barely watched singles. I've certainly never studied strategies. What the heck was I thinking when I signed that form yesterday? Oh yeah, I wasn't thinking!"
As these thoughts rattled through my empty head, the rest of my body was confirming my stupidity. Rigor mortis started setting in after the 1-hour point. By hour 4, I was close to full-on body distress. Now survival became my only goal. 

I didn't completely waste the 4 hours waiting. I spoke with others about singles strategies and everyone said to stay back near the end-line. Since hardly any had played singles, this new knowledge didn't exactly bring the surge of confidence I desperately needed.

I thought I caught a lucky break when I learned that a third player had joined the bracket and that the 2 opponents agreed to play first. I figured I could watch and learn something. 

It didn't work out.

I tried staying back. It didn't work. I found myself hitting ball after ball while on the run. That technique violated every fiber of my being that says "Stop, hit, and move."

I tried coming in. It didn't work.  I was beat by passing shots on my left and passing shots on my right.

In short, I was soundly beat by better singles players. I probably could have done a little better had I been less tired and sore. But it was obvious that I might as well have been playing badminton. I hadn't a clue what to do. The strategy of waiting for the other player to make errors cannot be appropriate for singles, can it?

I did reach an important decision though.

Of course, the state senior games loom in the future 😉.

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