Friday, May 4, 2012

Tennis and Community

Tennis is not baseball, but its a lot of fun.

Its the only sport that the whole family likes. The kids have all, until recently, been small. Since we're not one of those power families intent on producing tennis pros, it means that we just play on the courts in the public park, or even in the driveway.

And of course we watch the great ones do their thing on television. Everyone will watch a good tennis match, and marvel at Federer and Nadal and Djokovic and Serena, etc., etc. There is nothing like the drama of a high intensity singles match between two amazing athletes. Really. Try watching the singles finals at the French Open and Wimbledon this summer.

The Chelsea tennis team is more laid back. But its still fun.

Its more than fun. John Paul has done sports camps before, but this is the first time he has ever participated in a dedicated and ongoing sports program. Like in so many things, Chelsea Academy has found the right balance in the education of mind and body. Every student has to participate in at least one sport during the year, and this entails a significant commitment. Since March, John Paul has been practicing 4-5 days a week, as well as playing matches. There are also many in-school sporting events and outdoor activities all through the year.

He's getting in shape. He's getting instructed in the finer points of the game. He is learning the values of striving for excellence, healthy competition, and fair play.

I think its good for John Paul to be on a team. When I was a kid, I played my heart out in every kind of sport. But I never played for a team. We had pickup games in the neighborhood, and of course the daily "gym class" of my public school youth. If anything could be done by pure hustle, I did it. But I had very little skill, and no supervision or confidence building from adults. Then I went to a large high school where the sports program just seemed out of reach.

The good thing about a small school is that its large enough to have access to resources that parents can't provide on their own, and still small enough to ensure that every kid gets attention, and that parents and family can participate in their activities (in fact, parent participation is essential for a lot of the good things that happen at Chelsea).

We are very blessed. Here too, we have another experience of a real community. A real community is not a narrow and stifled place. Its a place where a child can grow into a mature human being, and open up to reality without fear, because he or she lives within an environment of trust.

The aim of community is not a negative; its not a place to avoid "the evils of the world." Community is a human thing; it happens when people gather together to seek what is true and good, and to build constructive environments for themselves and their children.

It happens, because we are social beings. We depend on one another. Sadly, too much of our culture is designed to lead us into a dependence on anonymous forces, generating artificial "needs" that make us forget the essential needs and aspirations of our humanity. We forget about our destiny, and so its not surprising that we forget our need for each other.

Wherever human beings really seek life, they discover that they need to do it together.