Don’t tell but show
I glared at my black shining watch, a baby-G I got after I accidentally destroyed my last one, which read 3:40 informing me that I still had enough time until the match. The sounds of laughing kids who had just turned to teenagers echoed from the back of the worn out mini sized vehicle carrying 10 people. They sounded like they didn’t even notice the round backed adult in a ragged exercising outfit sitting next to me but neither did the adult notice the teenagers as he stared into a piece of paper with more thought than you could ever imagine.
As I gazed out the tiny window of the small bus, I was shocked to see the plain blue sky, all nice and peaceful, slowly turn grayer and grayer. The darkening sky was enough to turn my apprehension into frustration as I thought of the terrible weather that was approaching. The laughs of the teenagers soon turned into grunts as the sounds of huge drops of water hitting the surface became audible. Although the sounds of despair faded in no time at all as the pouring rain stopped, the dark clouds remained like it was telling us that it was just the prologue.
As the bus came to a stop, and the adult next to me slowly and gently got off his seat and got off the bus, the speed comparable to a turtle. The teenagers also scrambled off the bus shouting energetically like they were little toddlers in a birthday party. I also got my butt of the seat, heaved my backpack and hurried off after the teenagers thinking that our instructor chose the wrong kind of people to represent the school.
We were amazed by an astonishing view of ten shining tennis courts painted dark blue and green. Our eyes were like those of five year-olds opening christmas presents in pure excitement. We all urgently grabbed the fluffy tennis balls colored in a mixture of lime green and yellow and dashed full speed to the beautiful courts even before we got any instructions. Our sparkling hopes were slightly crushed as we felt the puddles of water on the courts but solved the simple problem by pushing around the old rusted rollers which looked like they had never been used in the past century, reducing the amount of water dramatically.
The teenagers had already started warming up doing rallies, so I quickly grabbed a partner and did the same. The yellow fluffy ball bounced back and forth getting hit by polyester strings and occasionally plastic frames until it made an ear wrenching sound as it slapped the net. This drill continued for what seemed like forever until our opponents from another school arrived. I couldn’t believe my eyes. They all looked like pro wrestlers compared to us. I thought they’d be better off tackling people their own size on the rugby field instead. The muscular tough guys looked like they had already warmed up, judging from the sweat on their extra large uniforms. The sweat and the uniform size was pretty much all we had in common because all the small ones had been taken by kids in other sport teams. So the uniforms we had looked like dresses on us.
Our coach told us all to gather in and the opponent’s coach, a tanned two meter tall man with sharp eyes like a tiger’s, did the same. Silence filled the air around us as they started shouting out what the order for the matches were and which court to go to in deep loud voices that could’ve been heard from a mile away. My name didn’t get called even until the last in the order which was for second doubles. I fell in despair thinking that I wasn’t going to play because there was always 3 who would have to sit out. “Kengo, second doubles; court number 3” despite my thoughts, I was called. Me and my doubles partner, a boy with curly black hair and distinctive glasses, darted to our court with excitement and fear.
There were two boys waiting for us already on the court, one just skin and bones, the other muscle and meat. It was obvious which one to look out for. The only similarity that I could find between them was that they were both tanned like crazy. They shook our hands with great force as if the battle had already begun. They got to serve first. I was the receiver. My heart furiously pumped as I shifted my body in position, just behind the base line and got ready. The short boy tossed the ball up high into the air almost twice his height and slammed down with his tiny racquet. It wasn’t the best way to execute a serve but it still did the job, by getting the ball into the service box. I moved forward as I saw the yellow ball come at me and swung my racquet at the ball, slightly twisting my wrist. My feet lifted off the ground as I follow through. The ball landed on the left side of the court and bounced up with topspin. The short boy somehow got to the ball but swung his racquet with too much power causing the ball to fly over my head and to the out zone.
That was my first point that I got in a real match. Time flied as the match continued and it turned out to be a close match. The game count became 1-1 after ten minutes and the third game was the muscular boy’s service match. I was the receiver again. Not knowing what he had under his sleeve, I stayed in my regular position. The server got his stance ready and tossed the ball not too high, not too low, to the perfect space. He stretched back and put all his weight on his back foot, then released. His racquet whirred full speed and slammed the ball making a whacking sound. The tennis ball flew into the right side of the service box and bounced very low. I couldn’t react. The yellow object skimmed past me and by the time I noticed, it was too late. It was 15-0. My partner was the same. He couldn’t react to his serves. We easily lost that game making it 1-2 in total. The next game we somehow tied the score 2-2 but with the muscular boy starting to return balls which are his partner’s, they started going on a winning streak.
The sky had already turned into a hue of orange and all the clouds that had worried me a few hours ago had disappeared. A yellow object came flying at me at a terrifying speed. I reacted to it and swung my racquet. But I was unlucky. The ball hit the frame with a clanking sound and bashed into the net. As I saw the ball bounce up and down, I saw the shoes of my opponents who had walked up to the net. They put out a hand for a handshake. That was when I noticed that I had lost. After we tied 2-2, they won four games in a row with their speed serves and our misses as the game continued. It was a bitter experience that I would never forget and it is one of the things that keeps me playing tennis.
The peaceful plain blue sky slowly turned greyer as the gloomy clouds moved by. I sat hunch-backed in a thousand year-old seat staring blindly at the piece of paper which had the heading “Order- UWCSEA east tennis team”. I had already chosen 6 out of 7 players who were going to get their chance in a blink of an eye, but just couldn’t choose who to pick for the last 1. I felt guilty as I thought about how three athletes would not be allowed to play. I gazed 10 centimeters to my right where Kengo, a Japanese boy with small eyes which have the same colour as his dark black hair. He had not made a sound the whole bus ride and was glaring at his black shining baby-G.
I heard the sounds of laughing kids, echoing from the back of the worn out mini sized vehicle carrying only 10 people. I thought for a second comparing their attitude, then put down “Kengo” on the order sheet. I took another glimpse at him hoping that I had made the right decision. Just as I thought that my duty was finished and that I could finally rest, I heard tapping noises from the roof. At first I thought it was the teenagers in the back but the sound that they were making were grunts. I soon figured out that it was the sound of rain as I gazed over Kengo’s shoulder to see through the musty window. I started thinking of what to do if the rain continued and reached into my worn out bag, which I had been with me wherever I went for the past 5 years, to take out my iphone4 to call the facilitators and check if the squash courts were open.
However, just as I touched the call button, the rain stopped along with the grunts of despair though the dark clouds remained like it was telling us that it was just the prologue. The bus came to a stop 10 minutes later, 3 minutes over time but not critically late. I slowly and gently got off the bus like a turtle. The teenagers scrambled off the bus after me shouting energetically like they were little toddlers in a birthday party. Which made me doubt if I had chosen the wrong kind of students to represent the school. As I looked back to see if everyone had gotten off, Kengo made his late arrival off the bus as always.
After making a headcount knowing that there was no doubt that the 10 kids had gotten here safely, I turned around and gazed at the roughly painted tennis courts which looked like they had been stained by the rain. I felt annoyed about why I had to waste 40 minutes just to come to a run down facility with a bunch of kids who barely listen to what I say. I looked back at the kids and was surprised that their eyes were like those of five year-olds opening christmas presents in pure excitement. They reminded me of the time I had my first match. As I got a can of tennis balls, the kids rushed straight at me and grabbed furiously in a desperate attempt to be the first on the tennis courts.
“At least this wasn’t my property” I mumbled as the equipment got stolen from me in a matter of seconds. I followed them unexcited doubting if they had gotten the education that their school said that they gave, as I saw them using the rollers in the wrong way even though I already told them how to use one last week. I left them doing it their way as I just couldn’t be bothered. I was about to tell them to start doing rallies, but left them as I wanted to see what they would do without my directions. I trusted that they at least knew what to do for warm up. I got out of the courts, finally able to rest until our opponents came. Well, I didn’t get to rest much. Our opponents arrived in no time at all. The group that arrived had 7 students almost as big as adults and the coach, all of them tanned like they had been in the toaster. The athletes looked like they had already warmed up, judging from the sweat on their extra large uniforms. My hand got crushed as I shook hands with the opposition coach, a man 2 meters tall with eyes of a tiger. I called the wild kids to come in, knowing that they would take hours. Just like I had imagined, the boys wandered on like a turtle only finding their way after they saw my serious face. I started calling out the order, starting from first singles. I was surprised by how loud the opposition coach did the job, so I raised my voice too. As I finished my speech, all the excited athletes energetically ran to the tennis court that they were assigned to.
I heaved opened the iron rusted gate to leave the dangerous tennis courts, with yellow balls flying all around the place, and to watch from the safe benches only allowed for the authorised coaches. I wasn’t worried at all. I knew that the singles 3 were fine and that the only matches that we had to win were those. It was a best of 5 match after all. I didn’t have high hopes for the doubles players anyway. However my body started moving and pushed me closer to court number 3, as my mind sensed that I was a bit anxious for the doubles 2 pair. I gazed blindly to see who they were up against and was surprised to see such a contrast between the two. One just skin and bone, the other muscle and meat. The smaller one had a lime green tennis ball in his tiny hand and that indicated me that he was the server. I switched my view to the other side of the court and saw Kengo shifting his body just behind the baseline with his knee bending low and his shiny brick red racquet in front of him. The short boy tossed the ball up high into the air almost twice his height and slammed down with his tiny racquet. It wasn’t the best way to execute a serve but it still did the job, by getting the ball into the service box. The yellow object came at Kengo as he swung his racquet at the ball, slightly twisting his wrist. I had already told him about a thousand times to not twist his wrist but he still did, disappointing me. His feet lifted off the ground as he follow throughed, another trait of his I told him to get rid off. Although the way he hit wasn’t was what I instructed him to, the ball landed on the left side of the court and bounced up with topspin. The short boy somehow got to the ball but swung his racquet with too much power causing the ball to fly over Kengo’s head and to the out zone. It looked like the two were doing fine, so I move on to see how the others were doing. As I had imagined, the 3 singles players were busting their way through by having more than a 2 game lead in just a matter of 5 minutes. I felt relieved as I found out that the opponent’s players were not as strong as they looked, at least in tennis.
I gazed back to Kengo’s match after taking a breather. The game count had become 1-1 after ten minutes and the muscular boy had the tennis ball ready to toss up. Kengo was on the other side in his regular position. The server got his stance ready and tossed the ball not too high, not too low, to the perfect space. He stretched back and put all his weight on his back foot, then released. His racquet whirred full speed and slammed the ball making a whacking sound. The tennis ball flew into the right side of the service box and spring backed. The yellow object was already in the back of the court by the time my eyes had moved. I have only seen a few boys serve at such an astonishing speed at their age and I knew that neither Kengo or his partner was going to be able to return one of those. Like I predicted they lost that game making it 1-2 in total. The next game Kengo somehow tied the score 2-2 but with the muscular boy starting to return balls which are his partner’s, the opponents started to go on a winning streak.
The yellow object that got slammed by a racquet from the height of nearly 2 meters came flying at Kengo at a terrifying speed. He reacted to it and swung his racquet. However, he wasn’t lucky. The ball hit the frame with a clanking sound and bashed into the net. Game set. After Kengo and his partner tied 2-2, their opponents won four games in a row with their speed serves and misses from Kengo and his partner caused by their lack of concentration. I carefully got off my seat, dusted off my shorts and at a snail’s pace walked up to Kengo and his partner. I shook hands with them feeling no power in their hands and chose to say nothing, seeing the depression in their face. As I saw up, the sky had already turned into a hue of orange and all the clouds that there was a hour and a bit ago had disappeared.