I’m in Atlanta for the MindLab 48+ Conference and went to visit the tennis center where one of my high school tennis teammates and college tennis opponents was a coach and pro. I went to see one of her legacies that she left too early at age 35 in 2006 when a car crossed the center line and took her life away.
The banner on Center Court at the beautiful Peachtree City Tennis Center reads:
“Beth, our beloved coach, will be remembered for her nurturing spirit, unwavering loyalty, and passion for living life to the fullest. She will remain in our hearts forever.”
Beautiful words for a beautiful person.
As I walked around the tennis center, reminiscing on the times in high school and college when I got to experience Beth’s spirit, loyalty, and passion, I was taken by the impact that we make on others. Even when we’re not “close” in our relationships. I wasn’t one of Beth’s core friends. I was her teammate through most of high school. The teammate who had a car when she didn’t so often provided rides. I was the teammate cheering for Beth rocking singles as I specialized in doubles a few courts over. I was the teammate who shared her intense passion for the game despite our efforts looking different. Beth’s passion moved her across the country from North Carolina to California to continue playing at a renowned academy bringing her to my home-town San Pasqual High School. My passion manifested in the resilience to endure 3 wrist surgeries on my playing arm and one knee surgery during my high school career, where I even earned a spot on the team one year with my non-dominant arm because I wanted to play so badly. Beth and I always shared that fire in our hearts for tennis.
When I had to play against Beth in college, I was seriously outmatched and nearly gave up a golden set in doubles. Yet, being beat by Beth was an honor. I knew I was in the presence of someone special. I remember her asking me after one of my surgeries what I’d do if I couldn’t play tennis, always a real possibility, because she couldn’t fathom it. I don’t remember my answer, I do remember the impact of the proposition. I signed my national letter of intent to play in college left handed as my playing wrist was casted at the time, facing a 50% chancy by the surgeons that I’d never play again.
I lingered at the tennis center looking out over the courts, watching the pros teach, and the up and coming youth crush forehands and gracefully slice approach shots. I rubbed my hand on the clay court, still a novelty for a west coast girl who grew up never seeing clay courts until I taught on the east coast.
I remembered the day I was sitting on my couch in Colorado reading when another teammate called to tell me the news of Beth’s passing.
I read the banner on Center Court and absorbed the words Beth’s community shared about her. And, I was taken back to that moment of her question of what would I do if I couldn’t play tennis. There I stood living life to the fullest despite not playing tennis 3 years past. I got hit twice in car accidents resulting in shoulder surgeries leading to the recent acceptance of my permanent retirement of a game I loved, played, and taught for 30 years of my life. There I stood grateful that despite losing a game I loved, I had my life. I have my life, I love my life, and I am grateful for each day I get to choose to leave a legacy. For me, the answer is that the fire, passion, and resilience I connected to through tennis didn’t retire with the game, they live on in every aspect of my life from being a leadership coach to being an auntie, to being a wife, to being a friend.
I am grateful that for the years Beth was living her life, she was living wholeheartedly in the way she wanted. In the way she loved. And, I wish like me, she was still here, able to answer that question if she had to.
Even for those of us on the fringe of Beth’s life, or those who never met her directly, her legacy matters.
You are still here. What legacy are you living to leavev?