Tuesday, August 27, 2019

The Grind is Real: Why I Love the US Open

I love The United States Open Tennis Championship for many reasons—its rock 'n' roll style—loud colors and louder fans, I think it's crazy cool to watch a match at 10:00 p.m. my time, knowing it's 1:00 a.m. in New York. I swear I've been able to see the heat and humidity the athletes battle. It's a grind.
The Grind is real. And, I don't use that word lightly. In no way do I want to romanticize the feeling, the implications and the reality of the day to day task of getting up, going to work, work ing hard only to do it again the next day. As a teacher I would be dishonest if I told you my job was always a grind.....but at the beginning of the year it certainly is...and right now I'm in the middle of it. Believe it or not—watching the US Open helps. 

The US Open affords me a few hours each night, to see great athletes grinding it out in matches that take three, four even five hours to complete. I can't get enough of their athleticism. I envy their sweat. I love their mojo. At the end of a long day of teaching and coaching, I relish the opportunity to just sit on my couch and watch two other people working exponentially harder than I ever will. 

Tennis players will tell you, "In tennis, there is no team. The team is you." But, if you watch enough tennis at the Open, you'l start to see that might not be entirely true. In between points, the camera will focus on a group sitting together in support of one of the players. Sometimes it's just one or two people—parents, a coach, or a significant other. Other times it's a near box of seats (Serena) filled by family, friends, hitting partner, coach, physio, etc. 
S. Williams defeated Sharapova 6-1, 6-1. Did the match last but one hour?
Teaching isn't much different. Though we are solo in the classroom and are charged with the task to lead the way/meet the objective, behind the scenes, the support we get makes is vital. During my planning period or at lunch the conversations I have with my colleagues remind me that I am not alone. We share the grind....and they still find ways and moments to extend real kindness. So many have been generous with their desire to help. They sincerely want to know how I'm doing. Today, the President of the school where I teach, St Francis High School, asked me about my commute. Talk about a grind. He followed up our conversation with the question  "Do you need anything?" What a shot in the arm our brief exchange was for me. I didn't really have an answer, but I do know to be seen and heard makes a huge difference, most especially during grinding season.

The need to be seen and heard is why Noah Rubin, a professional tennis player decided to create "Behind the Racket." The USTA's website describes it well.
Rubin created the “Behind the Racquet” account on Instagram to give players an outlet to discuss their thoughts, insecurities and struggles, while simultaneously affording fans an opportunity to learn more about the person, not just the player.
The premise seems straightforward at its core: Have the players pose in exactly the same way, holding their racquets out in front of them, left hand on top of the right, so that their faces are centered behind the racquets. Then have the players discuss something meaningful to them and their journeys as tennis players.
I learned about his creation through the CBS Sunday Morning News Story entitled "The grind of a tennis player's life on tour." I strongly encourage you to watch it. Rubin speaks honestly about his struggle to make it on the tour; it is the profile of a professional athlete we don't always hear or see. But it concludes with emphasis on his project—one that aims to  build community through sharing oneself with others. Though it's not the only way to live, it might be the best way to do so.

Lastly I invite you to watch the 139th US Open. You'll see great athletes and outstanding competition—grinding it out—over Labor Day weekend where I hope you have earned a much deserved break.

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