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The Way the Ball Bounces

By Tanner Esplin
Manager of Student Financial Services

When I was 8 years old, my dad introduced me to the game of tennis. I loved it from the start. He taught me the fundamentals and rules of the game. I practiced a lot with my dad and three older brothers. We started keeping score, and I lost a lot. When there was nobody around to play with, I would hit a tennis ball against the brick wall of my house, to the dismay of my mom. After a couple of years of honing my skills, I started playing in tennis tournaments.

I enjoyed the mental aspect of playing tennis. It was one-on-one with nobody there to bail you out. You couldn’t turn to a coach for advice when you were in trouble. You had to figure it out on your own or you would lose. Playing in tournaments at a young age was fun. There was no umpire to make the calls on the court for us. It was up to each player to make the call if a ball landed in or out of bounds. Early on, my parents instilled in me the importance of sportsmanship and being fair on making line calls.

Even as a young tennis player, the matches were competitive and intense. I remember one particular match where I was in a tight contest with my opponent. I started to become frustrated as it seemed my shots that were landing in bounds, he kept calling out. This continued throughout the match, and I questioned him a couple of times on if the ball had really landed out. This had no impact on his shenanigans.

His poor line calling continued until his mother yelled across the court and told him to start calling the lines fair. I was mortified for him, and I could only imagine what my opponent felt at that moment. The call-out from his mother did the trick, he called the lines fair for the rest of the match. I don’t remember if I won or lost the match that day, but I do remember the car ride home with my mother. She gently reminded me, “Don’t make me call you out for not calling the lines fair.” Message received. I did not want to put my mother in that situation, and I did not want to be in the place of my opponent that day. In all my years of playing tennis, I never had an issue with calling the lines fair.

Sportsmanship, honesty and integrity go hand-in-hand. Lessons I learned on the tennis court have carried over to other areas of my life. Author H. Jackson Brown Jr. said, “Live so that when your children think of fairness, caring and integrity, they think of you.” This is a great mindset and goal to have. I am grateful that my parents set an example of integrity for me, and I hope I can offer that same example to my children.

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