Tennis keeps me YOUNG!

First of all, let me introduce myself. I'm Jean aka JeaneBee, a 74 year old retiree who loves tennis and plays 3 times a week at the 3.5 (used to be 4.0) level. I live in Omaha, Nebraska, smack dab in the middle of the great Midwest where we spend half our tennis life playing in the heat and/or wind, and the other half playing on indoor courts to get out of the snow….indoors is a great place to play, no wind, no sun and no low flying birds!
Years ago, when I was young and foolish, I used to snicker at senior players, watching them put on their knee braces, elastic arm bands, sun visors and after having a swig of water went ditzing around on the court, talking, laughing and having a good ole time, then going out for coffee afterwards. Then, somehow, much to my dismay, I turned into one!

I realize that although we’re not as fast on the court and our ground strokes aren’t as hard as they used to be, we’re out there hitting the ball with the same love for the game that we always had. And yes, we do a little giggling and talking between games (SOME of us even like to sit down---bringing our own chairs if seating isn't available on the court!!)

 I took up tennis as physical therapy after having a stroke at age 29…. it was termed a self-induced stroke but a stroke nevertheless. My husband I were “finishing” our basement and my job for the day was putting plaster on the ceiling and making swirls in it with a sponge. It looked pretty good and I was at it for most of the afternoon. My husband found me unconscious, blood streaming down my chin from a bitten lip and limp as a dish rag. He called the rescue squad and I spent two weeks in a stupor, getting punctured from stem to stern. The final diagnosis was stroke, but cerebral hemorrhage and epilepsy were running a close second and third.

I was a healthy 29 year old, preparing for my 10 year high school class reunion. I rode horseback, took gymnastics for years, played softball and was an all-around tomboy growing up and kept at it after marriage. I wasn’t a couch potato, overweight or a smoker, and neither my doctors nor myself could understand why I had a stoke…shouldn’t have happened. Years later, while reading the health section of Better Homes and Gardens magazine, I found out why it did.

Having my head tilted backward and looking up for hours while putting plaster on the ceiling had caused pressure on the back of my neck…reducing the blood flow to my brain….wham, bam, thank you ma’m.... and.....hello stroke.

Physical therapy after my stroke was practically non-existant. This was 1968 and physical therapy wasn't as common as it is now. A friend suggested that I take tennis lessons to improve my eye-hand my physical therapy consisted of learning to hit the ball against the YWCA wall and playing on a hardwood floor. Gradually I got better and better. I had good reflexes thanks to years of gymnastics (helps a lot when you take a fall while running after a tennis ball…you learn to “tuck and roll” gracefully and not sprawl all over the court) and my tennis improved.

Fortunately the stroke caused very little residual damage to my body and general health. I occasionally have trouble with speech, sometimes the words just aren't there and I need to "search" for the word I want......I almost have to visualize it and can then say it (many people think that my sometimes halting conversation is because I want to emphasize a point.....WRONG) Also, my short term memory comes and goes….my doubles partners know that when I ask “what’s the score?” I'm serious, its gone, I’ve forgotten it. Even if I’m serving, the memory is gone and I have to rely on my partners. Guess that tells you why I seldom play really competitive singles!

Now onto our senior tennis. My teammates are great! We are all over 65, actually most of us are in our 70's, grandmothers many times over and play in a Super Seniors league…its not a “hit and giggle” league.. we are as intense and play as hard as we ever did.. We all play on other leagues with players who are younger than our own children. And we do our share of winning, I might add.
Its been said that you are only as old as you feel – and we are a pretty frisky bunch. Most of us have played with and against each other in tournaments for years. We're familiar with each other's families, children and grandchildren. We care when one of us is hurt, sick or has a family member who is hurt or sick. We keep them in our prayers.

In April, 2007, our team, the SOMOS SOMOS represented Missouri Valley at the Senior Nationals Championships in Charleston, South Carolina. WOW, is the Family Circle stadium a beautiful sports facility. We met some great ladies and hope to see
them next year.

We didn't win, but fought a good fight. And, we looked great in our bright pink and black tennis clothes. Did I mention that when our group travels, the first place we look for is the nearest grocery for snacks and various drinks (soda, bottled water and WINE....we have a couple of players who really "whine" if they don't have wine with their snacks!) and the second place is shopping malls or any place where the best bargains in tennis clothes will be. We left a LOT of money at the Family Circle pro shop!

Our Super Senior team played in Oklahoma City in September again we didn’t win our Division of the tournament , (hmmmmm, I'm really getting tired of saying that! ) but did win the talent contest! I wrote the song, and the team sang….we were lucky that the judges liked the words since our singing was awful!