The first tennis match of the season is always a mixture of anxiety and excitement. I’ve experienced those feelings since seventh grade, and it was no different when my first match at Pratt came around. What I love about tennis is that nobody tries to one-up anybody else or be the star. It’s nice to think strategically and rely solely on myself.
My entire freshman year at Pratt was monotonous. The first year for a writing major consists of critical thinking classes, with only one class that focuses on creative work. I started feeling like I didn't belong because I didn’t think or write the same way everybody else did. I missed having tennis to distract me from stress and help release my built-up anger from the isolation and negative experiences in the classroom.
Sophomore year ended up being different. At the end of the first semester, I received an email stating that there were two open spots to join Pratt’s women’s tennis team. I was nervous during tryouts. When balls went out of bounds, I would silently curse myself as punishment, repeatedly chanting that I needed to do better. I had never wanted anything so badly. I spent the following weeks anxiously waiting to hear if I made the team.
Before the second semester started, I got an email congratulating me on joining the team. When I returned to campus, I hadn’t felt that thrilled to be back at school in years. School actually felt like school again.
I didn’t get to play in the first match of the season, but I didn’t mind. I enjoyed sitting on the sidelines and looked forward to playing in the second match. By the time it came, everything was shut down due to COVID-19. School was moved online for the remainder of the semester and the rest of the winter sports season was canceled. I couldn’t wrap my head around it. I had finally felt that things at Pratt were going to get better. Then the entire 2020-2021 athletic season was canceled too.
As the school year wears on, I constantly worry about whether or not I’ll be able to play tennis again. I’ve also been thinking about whether or not I should come back to campus at all. It’s not worth it for me, as a writing major, if sports aren’t brought back too. All my classes can be done online; there’s no reason to return.
Tennis was the only reason that I dealt with going to school. To some, putting so much emphasis on a sport might sound ridiculous, but not to me. I associate good academic experiences with playing a sport, and now that has disappeared again. I hope I get the chance to play again before the end of my senior year.
Art by Alex Moon