Back on the Road!
By P.J. Simmons
Just over two years ago, I had a freak accident at a gym that sidelined me from training. I fell backwards on my wrist and tore the cartilage (my “TFCC”) pretty badly—ironically, while doing tennis-specific agility training when I was traveling. Surgery was an option but with serious long-term drawbacks. So I decided to take the slow route and try to rehab it through physical therapy and time. As I wrote in a long post about 18 months ago, the injury had its blessings. But it ended up taking much longer to come back than I expected when I wrote that post—not just because of the injury, but also because of some mental demons that cropped up in the meantime.
During my first 12 months off court, I stayed pretty upbeat and focused on rehabbing to get back on court. I kept up with my off-court physical training at CourtSense with my amazing trainer Trevor McPherson. But as my stubborn injury resisted full healing, fears and self-doubts started kicking in. Would it ever heal? Even if it does, would my wrist injury just get replaced by another age-related injury? Would my friends have improved so much by the time I got back that would still enjoy playing with me? Was I crazy at my age to be pushing my body to become the solid, athletic 4.5 player I always imagined I could be? Were my tennis goals destined to be elusive, only to distract me from other important things in life?
Suddenly, the tennis court that had always felt like a comforting “home”—a sacred place that always evoked feelings of calm, confidence, and peace regardless of the place—transformed back into the cold, intimidating place it seemed when I was that uncoordinated 15-year old kid desperately wanting to learn but fearful of embarrassing himself.
And so as I sometimes do when things get uncomfortable, I procrastinated. I gave myself multiple excuses to delay my return to training. I started telling myself I was really OK with taking the time off and didn’t really miss it that much. Weeks turned into months. Months turned into a year.
Then towards the end of last summer, after months of persistence, my former doubles partner John finally convinced me to get out and hit with him. Feeling badly for having said no so many times, and knowing I’d truly be in a non-judgmental space, I agreed.
My strokes started off choppy and tight, my movements were labored, and my heart was racing. But soon, the gorgeous sunny day reminded me of the most important advice I used to give myself when things weren’t going well: to focus on gratitude. I got out of my head and took stock of the fact that I was playing on red clay on the Hudson River (Riverside courts in NYC) on a spectacular summer day, hitting with a great friend I had met through tennis. I reminded myself how lucky I was that my body was healthy enough to allow me to play tennis at all. My breaths became deeper, my body moved more freely, and I began to find more effortless power in my strokes.
Finally, the court felt like home again.
I resolved that day to stop the excuses and get back on my road to 4.5. In August, I started hitting a couple times a week with my trainer Trevor McPherson after our gym sessions to get back in the swing of things. Then in late September, I started working twice a week with a brilliant new coach, Sinisa Markovic—one of the high performance coaches at CourtSense in Bogota NJ. And before I knew it, I started believing once again that my goal of becoming a solid 4.5 player was truly achievable.
Now I head to CourtSense twice a week for an hour of tennis-specific fitness training with Trevor, followed by a short break then 90 minutes of intense on-court work with Sinisa. I train on my own a third day, and have been laser focused on good nutrition. I’ve also made a habit of starting each morning with meditation and flexibility work. And, knock on wood, my wrist is cooperating.
I feel stronger, faster, and calmer on court than I’ve ever felt before. And each week, I feel myself shedding old habits that may have been blocking me from moving closer to my full potential, while picking up new insights and habits that are unlocking new possibilities.
There’s so much more I want to achieve as a player. But more than ever, the process of training and experiencing incremental improvements carries far more importance to me than the destination. Regardless of the results, every minute on court feels like a gift.
I am so, so, so happy and grateful to be back on the road to 4.5. A huge thanks to all of you who’ve continued to share your own experiences and dreams and to encourage me to keep going during my hiatus – really look forward to continuing to stay in touch and trade stories on our journeys in the years ahead!
Feel Free to reach out to me directly at email@example.com and be sure to follow me on social media!
Hey – I love the blog! Keep it up 🙂
Question – I am also a 4.5–live in Brooklyn and play at McCarren. Love it!
I am considering a 3-5 day Tennis camp. I saw your picture from Sanchez-Casal. How was your experience? I am leaning towards attending IMG—but also looking in Canas Academy.
Would love your POV.
Ed, I’m so sorry for the delay – just saw this! I’ll email you. P.J.
Congrats on your recovery! keep pushing and hope you continue to thrive.
Hey Gina, thank you very much! Hope you’re doing great as well. P.J.
Thanks for sharing your journey P.J. I admire your courage to be honest and vulnerable on such a public platform.
I did not know of your injury and struggles as my own injury sidelined me from last years Tennis Congress!
I am certain that I and many others can align with your experience and emotions and are grateful for your strength, insight and inspiration.
Mike! Awesome to hear from you buddy, and really appreciate your kind words very very much. I hope you’ve recovered from your injury?? P.J.
There is a way of writing, which allows the reader to enter your mind, your soul, to experience the world via your experience. It is the most accessible and honest writing. It means we can be with you on your journey, through all of the triumphs and tribulations. It means we can cheer you on and feel like our day has improved when you’ve made progress. It means we can feel the tightness of your arm diminishing and the joy of relaxing into gratitude. Congratulations on achieving this type of expression. Looking forward to reading of your progress and allowing… Read more »
Craig, you have been one of my rocks throughout this journey. Your constant commitment to excellence and self-improvement, your ability to be fully present and bring your whole self to your coaching, your infectious passion for helping players and the ease with which you instill confidence in our ability to reach our potential… You’re an inspiring example and I’m in awe of your talents as both a master coach and writer. Most importantly, I’m so grateful for your friendship. And can’t wait until the next opportunity to get coached by you on court. 🙂 Love, P.J.
P.J. The journey to the level we dream about is filled with many pieces but some of the most important ones are hidden behind the external of results. The journey to playing again when it seems that it will never happen reveals all the special pieces that were hidden behind the cloud of results: persistence, gratitude, focus, perspective, humility, acceptance, non-judgment, belief, wonder, joy, excitement, shoshin. The journey back to playing is the gift.
Bob, that rings so true right now and is so beautifully expressed. Thanks, as always, for helping us all hone in on what matters most. P.J.
Your website inspired me to start my own journey to 4.5, and I was sad that you’d seemed to have given up on the goal. Happy to see you back on the road. I got bumped up from 3.5 to 4.0 last year. I too play at Bogota (twice a week with some older folks). If you’re looking for some more non-judgemental tennis, feel free to reach out at my email address. You can see my level of play at https://youtu.be/Yx86tTrrbUo
Chet, I’m deeply honored to hear that and so psyched you play at Bogota! Really look forward to meeting and will email you. P.J.
Thanks for sharing your inspiring story, PJ! I’ve missed your posts, updates, and advice. Good luck and continued success in your recovery!
Gail, thank you SO much for the longstanding support – you’re the best! P.J.
PJ I constantly run out of accolades in my praise of you. You are humble yet confident, strong but vulnerable. You are truly an inspiration on and off the court. I have spent so little time directly with you but consider you a dear friend. Thank you.
Brian, your words mean so much. Thank you so much for encouraging me to be the best I can be on court and off, and for your friendship. Hope you and Paula are great and that I see you both one day again in person soon! P.J.
P.J. What a journey with many more life lessons learned! Isn’t life something??? It makes tennis even more precious!
Welcome back and thank you John for being his friend and coaxing him back on the court. P.J. is loved by so many!
Renee! Yes indeed, you’re absolutely right. I too am so grateful to John for kicking my butt and getting me back on track. Much love and hope to see you very soon, P.J.
Very nice to hear from you through e-mail again and believe tennis will make you more happy than ever !
Hey Peter, thanks a million! Wishing you great happiness as well on court and off. P.J.
Thank you for sharing your story PJ. It’s nice to hear about your struggles with injuries and how you’ve overcome them. I like that you have a goal you are working towards and I especially like you sharing your doubts and you overcame them with awareness and positive thinking.
Keep up the great work.
Tennis congress alumnist
Brian, thank you so much for the very kind words and support – really appreciate it! Look forward to seeing you again hopefully soon. P.J.
As always, you’re an inspiration, P.J.!!
I have the utmost confidence you will continue to thrive and succeed in whatever you dream to accomplish!
But, first and always. Thankfulness. ❤️
Thank you so much Becky!! So grateful to have met you through tennis! XO