New Adventures on the Road to 4.5 Tennis

by | Sep 4, 2022 | General, Psychology | 2 comments

“Everything changes when you focus more on aligning with what feels most true in each moment rather than playing out the ego’s stories about what your life could or should be.” — Cory Muscara

When I wrote my first entry in this blog a decade ago, I was expecting to reach my 4.5 goal within a few short years. I was captaining a great USTA men’s team, training around 5 days a week, and heading out to tennis camps every few weeks. But as I wrote in a 2016 post (Detours, Roadblocks, and Discoveries on the Road to 4.5 Tennis), my journey ended up taking several unexpected detours — most significantly, starting The Tennis Congress. In return, I was blessed with myriad unexpected life-enriching rewards. But my development as a player was significantly slowed.

By late 2019, I was training more regularly and making significant strides again. Coaches said my movement and groundstrokes had reached 4.5 level, even if I remained quite a ways away from that rating as an overall player. In early 2020, as for everyone else COVID threw up another roadblock in my training — but gratefully I remained healthy and eventually got back to training regularly again.

Then in May 2021, life threw another crazy curve ball.

It all started with my 9-year-old niece asking me to teach her how to roller skate for her birthday party. She had found out I was a nationally ranked competitive roller figure skater in high school so figured I could help, even though I literally hadn’t put on a pair of skates since I was 17 years old. (Yes, roller figure skating is actually a thing — basically the same thing as ice skating on 4 wheels: Exhibit A: freestyle skating, Exhibit B: dance skating like ice dancing).

It was like riding a bike. I quickly remembered why I loved it so much as a kid. And in one of my life’s most amazing coincidences, I found out one of my childhood skating heroes (a former world champion, Angie Famiano Lasher) was coaching at a rink literally two minutes from the Sportime Schnectedy where I play tennis (with coach Alejo Calvis in this post’s cover photo).

Curiosity got the best of me so I went to meet Coach Angie. She welcomed me with open arms and encouraged me to keep coming back. So just for fun, I started adding 1 day a week of skating practice alongside tennis and the gym. One practice day quickly turned into two. Then three. Then five. Soon I was driving three hours every few weeks to Massachusetts to practice with a partner.

With partner Nicole at the 2022 USA National Roller Sports Championships

A year later, I ended up qualifying for the July 2022 USA Roller Sports National Championships in Lincoln, Nebraska, where I was fortunate enough to win a gold medal and two silvers in solo and team events.

It was an intense, exhilarating, and incredibly rewarding year diving back into the childhood sport I loved. But needless to say, tennis ended up taking a back seat for most of it. So coming back from Nationals, I had to ask myself:

“What next? How do I find balance between skating and the rest of my life? How does tennis fit in? Do I have to choose between one or the other?”

The answers didn’t come easily. But they fortunately did arrive fairly quickly. And for now, at least, things seem very clear:

I refuse to choose between two things I love. I absolutely can and will continue to do both.

Does this mean I may not win as many medals — or that my progress in both sports will be slower? Almost certainly.

But does it mean my life will be even happier and more enriching? 100%.

This conclusion may like a no-brainer conclusion to some of you reading. But it was more challenging to figure out how to make it all work in practice given the full range of other things I’m trying to balance: investing quality time in relationships with dear family and friends, being an outstanding parent to my aging canine daughter Mila in her final years, being a solid colleague at work and making a difference on sustainability through the Corporate Eco Forum I co-founded, being a useful board member of the Net Gains Foundation I founded and helping drive new philanthropic initiatives I care about, maintaining functional fitness and preventing injuries while doing two high-intensity sports, and preserving enough space to breathe, reflect, learn and grow as a person.

It was also a challenging decision to reach in light of inevitable expectations following a successful skating season that I’ll reach even higher in the competitive year ahead. By making more room again for tennis, I’ll inevitably be at the rink less and probably skate fewer competitions. Some might see that as unwise, losing momentum and opportunities, and/or signal that I’m less serious.

With World Champion Bob Litwin at the 2019 US Tennis Congress

But I’ve learned over the years — both through my professional career experiences and through sports — to let go of concerns about what others think, and instead to forge a path based on what my heart tells me will make me happiest and most fulfilled. In that vein, I’ve been deeply influenced and grounded in that regard by the wise teachings of Dr. Jim Loehr (highlights in my post about “Putting Winning in Perspective”) and my extraordinary mentor in tennis and life, former world #1 adult player Bob Litwin.

So to that end, I’ve once again heeded Bob’s life-changing advice to rewrite my “story” (a process Bob talks about in his outstanding book, Live the Best Story of Your Life) in a way that makes room for both things I love and keeps my goals in proper perspective.

You can read my “New Story for the Road Ahead” here (which applies both to my tennis and skating). Would love to hear if any of the ideas resonate with you!



By P.J. SimmonsLast week my coach said, ”You’ve been on fire the past month... you’re making tremendous progress and executing on everything we’ve been working on.”I sense it too. In fact, I got a little emotional during yesterday’s practice after an hour of hitting...

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On a similar journey? Would love to hear from you in the comments below!

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