• julianwatkins

Roll with it: when rules are wrong

Sometimes I’m useless and fall into all the traps I should know about by now. Here’s how this one played out. Last month, my wife suggested we could play tennis as a family.

After the knee jerk “that’s for middle-class tossers in white shorts” reaction subsided I agreed to give it a go. As an aside, this shorts thing stems from my dad. He has a pathological dislike of men in shorts. Unless they’re playing football. Or rugby. Parents: like it or not the crap you spout will affect your kids. I’m affected. I’ve now moderated his shorts’ mantra to my own: no man should show his knees away from sport. That’s pretty balanced, don’t you think? And I love long shorts, so I’m sorted.

Back to the tennis. I agreed to get some rackets. But I can’t just buy stuff. I’m a budding minimalist; it’s not a cult, it just means I try to own the optimum amount of stuff. Us minimalists wait before we buy - to see if we really need it. A week works for me but normally it’s about two years. I’m only partly joking.

Bring on the wait, and while waiting, lots of research. There’s a lot of information out there. And kids’ rackets are super confusing: size, weight, price. The right size now or something they’ll grow into? What if they don’t like tennis? Best not spend too much. But what if they love it? Then we’ll regret not getting decent equipment. It’s tricky. Maybe we need more days to figure this out?

While walking the dog and pondering all this, we happened to pass the tennis courts and spotted some kids playing with their mum. Nice, I’ll watch and see what gear they’re using. Get some tips. But hang on a minute. Don’t I recognise them? That’s my kids! And my wife. Playing tennis. How are they playing? They don’t have the gear yet. I’m still researching. And what about the wait rule?

Luckily my wife doesn’t have rules. She just went into town and bought two cheap, mid-sized rackets and some light balls and got on with it. Maybe they’re not perfect? Maybe they are? But she got things moving.

I admit I was wrong on this one. Sometimes it’s best to just go for it. Pick something and get it. With my system we’d have lost the impetus and maybe not even bothered.

We’re four weeks in and playing most evenings until the disappearing ball in the dark pushes us home. The kids are dead keen. They’re loving it and certainly not dwelling on whether or not the equipment is optimal.

Lessons: tennis is great, equipment is not the issue (but you do need some), and shorts should definitely still be long.

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