College Tennis Indian Hill High School '87 Northern Kentucky University '92

My Story

College tennis was fun and unexpected as I never played for my high school team and only as an extracurricular activity for years, but it wasn’t until out of college that I learned a few things about myself while playing this sport. During my 20’s 30’s and 40’s, I have been very active with tennis leagues such as USTA, and competed for years. During this time period, I got introduced to Platform tennis, or paddle tennis as we called it. I played with both the men’s league and women’s. It wasn’t until I reached a level where I could not excel anymore in competing that I stopped playing. My moment of “truth” as I would call it, was when I was attending a paddle tennis camp with one of my teammates in Jackson Hole Wyoming. We were being coached and playing eight hour days on the courts outside in beautiful Jackson Hole, with snow capped mountains surrounding us. Hank Irvine was teaching us, a South African World-renowned doubles tennis player and coach. Our group consisted of both genders gathered from all over the nation. To this day I am proud friends with Hank and his wife, Karen. ❤️ During the camp sessions, Hank would have us break out in groups and teach us how to play as doubles partners in ways that I had never learned before. I was feeling pretty confident about my playing skills, and in how I could have endless energy and strength to cover all corners of the court. As we were out having a fabulous Jackson Hole dinner at a local restaurant, I was sitting next to Hank and Karen, laughing and enjoying the evening. I can’t quite remember what Hank had said, but I asked him how he thought I played on the court? Honestly, I was expecting some sort of praise or something. He then asked me if I would be prepared if he answered me with his response. I still was thinking positive results, so I replied absolutely! He then looked at me, and told me that he thought I was the most selfish player he had ever seen on the courts. Needless to say, I was first hurt/shocked/and injured my ego. After that initial shock, I then wanted to know why, so I asked through some hidden tears. He went on to explain how I was all over the place…jumping, taking my partners balls, and overall sending a message to my partner that only I could get returns, and that I didn’t need anyone else on the court. OUCH…and in all these years playing, I had ALWAYS felt that I was SUCH a great partner!!! I then started asking myself in ALL aspects of my life what kind of a partner I was to others…Once I returned back to my homeland, and city where I competed, others around me started noticing the change/particularly other pros from clubs.
A few years later, Hank and Karen called to invite me back out to Jackson Hole to join their selected guests for a reunion. I made the invite, but had banged up my achilles playing another sport and had a boot cast on my foot, unable to play. As I was introduced to everyone on the playing courts while visiting. I was well known to all the players, except not in the way that you would necessarily want to be. Hank had made me the example Child of how NOT to play/be a partner on the courts. He had made a story about how my actions as a partner to others provided little room for teamwork, let alone being an ideal partner in playing the game. I took it all as a compliment, only because I had made the change, and removed my ego with the constructive criticism. It was a life changer!

My Advice

To ask others around you how they experience and see your performance at an appropriate time. In growth, we need to be outside of ourselves, and hold ourselves with accountability, which only comes when we are involving and including others.
Take care of your body, as it is the temple and machine being used to help perform and execute the sport you are participating in. You are what you eat, and you are what you drink. Get rest, and balance yourself. Meditate, and try things that you are not necessarily comfortable or skilled with. It humbles you.?? Lastly, just believe in yourself, as there is only one of you. Be the best that you can be.??

I like Don Miguel’s Four Agreements, which now I wear as a bracelet to remind myself daily:
Always do your best.
Be impeccable with your word.
Don’t make assumptions.
Don’t take things personally.


Thanks Allison for your humility and willingness to open yourself up in this forum. I think a lot of times, athlete's think about ourselves more than our team but it's rare when an athlete like yourself is willing to accept feedback like you did from your coach and want to change. Great job listening to your coach and I bet you would say it was well worth being humbled only to get to a much better place. Thanks for sharing. That is truly what Check Your Game is about! -Gary Rogers

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Sara+Im says:

Thank you for being transparent and humble to share your story. I appreciate your sharing to give us a vivid example that if we want to grow personally or professionally, we weed to be open minded to hear an honest, constructive evaluation from a trusted source. Blessings.