Around her neck, Garrison is wearing a gold charm of a tennis racket. On one hand, her choice of jewelry strikes me as funny. Her fans already know who she is and what she does. But, on the other hand, it's not. We wear jewelry as a means of self-expression. Many Christians wear a cross and Jews wear a Star of David. Sure, a tennis player can and might wear a tennis racket—but most don't. So what gives? I would love to ask Ms. Garrison to hear her response. Until then, I can only answer from what I know about myself and what I saw in myself. I believe Zina Garrison wants people to know she is a tennis player who loves the game.
Tennis was my first love of in all of sports. I loved it so much that I too, wore tennis jewelry. Far beyond the tennis bracelet, I had the gold tennis racket charm. I carried a fuzzy tennis ball keychain. I wanted everyone to know that I was a tennis player, especially among my other students in my high school. Outside of school, I wanted the world to know that I played tennis at Carondelet. Tennis was an important part of my identity. The sport and its attributes—both good and bad—shaped me into who I am. My coaches, my teammates, and the pros taught me much more than how to compete. How they played, won and lost, trained and mentally prepared for the game shaped me in ways I appreciate even to this day.
As much as tennis shaped my emerging, adolescent self, so did another sport: running. My parents encouraged me to run in order to become a better tennis player, and they were right. They knew I was only interested doing whatever it took to get better at what I loved, but something unexpected happened along the way. I met success. I earned my varsity letter my freshman year as a 2-mile runner even though I didn't see myself as a runner (at this time). From my point of view, I didn't look like a runner. I knew that some of my teammates who ran cross country and track. They were the runners. I was the girl who ran. However, running also shaped me into who I am. My teammates, especially those seniors I ran beside mentored me; I looked up to them. In fact, I still remember a lot of what we shared...the stories we told...the races, the workouts, our coaches and so much more.
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When I first started running, I never could have anticipated how much I would love the sport. Though I ran varsity track for four years, I never could have predicted how running would become such a significant part of my identity in the years long after high school.
I don't know if it's funny, or if it's sad, but I no longer play tennis or run. However, what I learned from both sports has stayed with me, forging part of my identity that I appreciate...and cherish. So, I've been wearing the Bank of the West baseball cap with a little pride. I still want a good looking pair of running shoes to keep me light on my feet. And, I will look at athletes through a different lens and trust they are getting exactly what they need and hopefully even more of what I can give.