As I look back on the last few years living in Santa Barbara, it seems like there’s an almost annual winter calamity that disrupts the peace in this beautiful place. Years of drought, then the fires, then the mudslide, and now we are being tested again.
I won’t get into how I feel about COVID-19, other than to say these four things: 1) I believe it will spread much more widely, 2) I don’t think it’s as mortally dangerous as the media churn is making us feel, 3) I do feel it’s important to take precautions to protect those with serious pre-existing medical conditions and the elderly, 4) I think the global economic impact, particularly in places like Venezuela where oil is food and things are already desperate, will likely kill more people than the virus itself.
What I want to talk about is not Coronavirus specifically, but a broader philosophy that gives me comfort in these times of chaos. It’s my hope that sharing some of my deeply held personal beliefs might help others and that’s something to which I have dedicated myself.
Many of you know I’m into doing things like 200-mile, single-day bike rides and multi-day treks through the Andes and all sorts of other madness. When some poor, unsuspecting soul asks me what I did over the weekend, they often find themselves in pain just thinking about what I tell them.
What you might not all know is the reason I pursue these sorts of activities. While it’s clear that you need physical strength to complete those sorts of tasks and I enjoy that kind of proficiency, what I’m chasing is mostly mental/spiritual.
I believe we as humans are better when we are tested. There is a clarity that comes with confronting uncertainty, a fog that lifts when you face a challenge where the outcome isn’t a given. In all phases of life (school, work, relationships), we progress through grappling with difficulties and persevering against obstacles. A life without challenge is a recipe for mediocrity and that’s part of what makes learning and competing in tennis such a beneficial tool for life.
Once you accept that each obstacle is actually an opportunity to progress, you have a distinct advantage that nothing and no one can take from you. You can be positive when others despair and you can be ready to lead when others are fearful.
Those who have spent time on-court with me should be familiar with the concept of reframing; you cannot lose when you set the conditions for success. You cannot be negative when you know that every thoughtful interaction, whether painful or joyous, yields a knowledge that will serve you in the future. My message to you all is to embrace the uncertainty and let it galvanize your inner strength.
Now, here is what I intend to do during this time of chaos: once this rain passes, I will continue to teach. I know many of my young students will be anxious and probably more than a little stir-crazy after the first few days away from school (even the most dedicated teenager cannot play video games or pursue social media perfection forever!). I know that many of my adult students will be looking for an outlet as well. I know that in this time of social distancing, we do still need to interact. I know that in this unusual time, we need some normalcy and tennis is just the thing!
I intend to do my private lessons as usual, as well as Sunday Sessions and the Mini-Camp that is scheduled for the first week of April. Despite there being no cases of Coronavirus in Santa Barbara County at this time, I will be keeping an eye on group sizes and will ask that anyone feeling sick please sit out until COVID-19 can be ruled out. We’re also going to be washing our hands a lot!
So join me in taking proper precautions, but continuing to live this life in a productive and positive way. We’ll get through this, Thorpe Tennis Community! Keep calm, carry on.