The Tennis Takeover

Lifestyle

About a year before the world knew of COVID-19, my wife and I enrolled our two young boys in a local community tennis program. They had briefly tried their hands (or feet, rather) at soccer before that; but their scrawny physiques could not handle the endurance needed to continuously run the length of the soccer field. As their enthusiasm in soccer seemed to wane a bit, we made the decision to give something else a try.

Introducing tennis to them during COVID-19 was quite a blessing. It was naturally socially-distanced, much less of a contact sport then soccer was, and it was just enough of an outdoor social activity in a time when home-schooling was mandated and kids really stopped seeing their friends regularly.

The city’s park and recreation tennis class we had them in was short lived. The teacher was an older gentleman that showed up late, used most of the class time to ask the kids what they ate for lunch, and spent a disproportionately little amount of time letting them hold a racquet, instructing them about the rules and scoring of the game, and teaching them proper form.

It did however, allow us to be out on tennis courts. And that was huge. Because just being outdoors gave us an opportunity to see other coaches on neighboring courts teaching young kids. Now, most of the tennis greats of the world were holding racquets and started playing the game by ages 3 or 4. My kids were about 10 and 6. Oops. Oh well, better late then never?

“Do not squander time, for that’s the stuff life is made of.”

Benjamin Franklin

As I saw coaches that I thought had impressive teaching styles, I would approach them and inquire about lessons for my own kids. At one point, my boys had lessons from three different instructors and were spending about 1 to 2 hours out on the courts every day of the week. One day, my oldest son told me that the way one coach wanted him to serve was a different technique then another coach; and asked me who he should listen to?

At first, I thought I was doing them a favor recruiting all these accomplished trainers. One coach had almost gone pro himself. Another taught university level men’s tennis. Still another had such infectious passion for the game; and not only taught form and technique but focused on and spoke to the mental acuity and emotional stability needed to really succeed at it.

As it turns out, the coach that once told me “it’s not good to have too many voices in their heads” is the last one standing. He hosts a clinic a couple times a week, and offers private lessons on weekends that we sometimes take advantage of. He’s the right amount of strict/stern, pushes the boys to advance their game, encourages them to always be ready, to strategize the placement of their shots, and has really done well to teach them the intricacies of the game.

My wife and I went on to the U.S. Tennis Associations (USTA.com) website late last year and inquired about tennis tournaments our boys could participate in. Since then, they’ve played in several and have faired better in some then others. Our oldest son, Ishaan (12 yo), is mentally confident going into matches and just has a tendency of making unforced errors. Our youngest, Krish (8 yo), has an impressive passion and skill, but struggles a bit with nerves and believing in his abilities.

Part of the reason we wanted them to enter tournaments is to desensitize them to being in competitions. It is one thing to leisurely play against your sibling, against kids in your class, etc.; but it is a totally different dynamic when you are in a match against a stranger, you are officially keeping score, and there are rankings and trophies on the line.

We want them to learn responsibility; to eat a good healthy breakfast, get a good night sleep, and to get their tennis bag ready the night before a competition. We want to have them figure out how to cope with losses, and learn from mistakes they make within their matches. We try to reward them, win or lose, by letting them decide what they want for dinner or picking the dessert of their choice.

Tennis has, in many ways, taken over our lives. I absolutely love that my kids ask if we can go play tennis at the park on the days when they do not have lessons with their coach (and even some days when they do). I love that they want to watch tennis highlights of Nadal and Djokovic and Federer playing. I love that they now coach and correct me on how to properly grip a backhand or toss my serve.

Honestly, it has been an expensive hobby. Tennis shoes and attire, racquets (not to mention restringing) and balls, lesson (both clinic and private) – it adds up very quickly. I can only hope this is a lifelong passion of theirs, and that they go on and teach their own children to love and be good at the game.

The truth is, I secretly want them to be champions of this sport. I want them to progress, work hard, and potentially turn this into something professional if they can. But if they lose interest, want to explore other passions, that is okay too. I do not ever want to be the parent that forces their child to fulfill my own desire for stardom and success.

Thank you for taking the time to read this post! And spending time on my blog. As with so many topics that I discuss (investing, dentistry, medical issues, etc.), this will likely be the first of many posts about this matter. If you have any questions, or suggestions, I would love to hear from you! Be well!

Leadership

Dentistry, Lifestyle

A few years ago, I received a call one evening while getting ready for dinner. Apparently someone had nominated me for president of our local professional chapter, the Nevada Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. Should I choose to accept, I would join the committee and spend a year as president-elect, and then assume the role of president for a year thereafter.

If you read my first post, about being introverted, you would have some inkling that I spent a good portion of my life avoiding being the focus of attention. Yes, I joined several clubs in high-school… mostly to have something to pad my college application with. Not once did I ever consider/desire/strive to be in a position of power or take on a leadership position. I have never liked the limelight.

When I was a kid, I saw my father do it once, as he became president of our local Friends of India (FOILV) association. That baffled me. He had a similarly shy and reserved demeanor about him; and yet here he was taking on a role that required quite a bit of socializing, event planning, and worst of all, public speaking. To this day, I am proud of him still, but now I certainly feel like I have a new appreciation for his selflessness and his social consciousness towards helping our community be better.

The president position of our NVAPD, traditionally, was not really a very time-consuming role. Some years were better than others. We always have to organize and host an annual meeting; invite speaker(s), book a venue, find sponsors, arrange meals, provide continuing education credits, etc. Sometimes, Medicaid and political issues arise throughout the year, and so then there are other matters that the president typically has to tend to as well.

My president-elect year was quiet and uneventful. Granted, the president that year likely did an excellent job at blinding us to the many tasks she was likely under-taking. Frankly, I was hoping mine would be a similarly easy year.

My term started January 2020, and (for the first couple of weeks) was off to a good start – made a name change on our business bank account, deposited some checks that slowly rolled in, no sweat.

Then COVID-19 hit.

Don’t get me wrong, I love being a dentist; but its a bit scary when your profession calls for you to be mere inches away from someones mouth and open airway while a novel, aerosol-transmitted infectious pandemic plagues the world. In the uncertainty and chaos, we followed local and national guidelines from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control), ADA (American Dental Association), AAPD (American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry), and our state dental board.

For a short while, it felt like the blind leading the blind. Every organization was just as clueless as the next, and fortunately, dental offices in town shut down for a bit while things were being figured out. In dentistry, we take personal protective equipment and infection control very seriously and keep those high standards for every patient we see. However, temperature checks, social distancing restrictions, questionnaires, all of those measures and precautions are new to our standards of care and slowly started to emerge with time.

I appreciated the offices closing because 1) it afforded me time with my kids I normally would not take and 2) I started to devote more time to my duties as NVAPD president. I started drafting regular email correspondence to our members to update them about new state and national guidelines and restrictions; I worked with other local dental associations to try and acquire PPE for our members; as COVID-19 related state budget cuts started to emerge, I tried to unite our members and organize efforts to protest the politicians and legislators that were proposing a bill that could have severely threatened dental benefits for our most vulnerable patients.

At the end of the day, that was the main reason I took the president position. Certainly not for the fame, notoriety, prestige, what have you. I genuinely love my job and the patients I serve; and I want to do my part in protecting their access to dental care. If that means swallowing the uncomfortableness of being an introvert for a year – so be it.

In all fairness, I could have made this year as easy or hard on myself as I wanted it to be. One thing you will come to learn about me, is I tend to over-analyze, over-prepare, over-worry about almost everything. Very much Type-A, obsessive-compulsive characteristic traits. And although, internally, a position like this is very stressful; I am happy I accepted the offer and am glad I decided to step up to the challenge.

I am currently attempting to figure out how to host our very first VIRTUAL Annual NVAPD Meeting! I will keep you posted on how that goes! Wish me luck. Thank you so much for reading, I’ll be writing again soon!