Photo: Evil Erin, Flickr Creative CommonsI have a busy weekend ahead of me. I'm playing a tennis tournament and I have two assignments due for my masters classes all on the same weekend. This doesn't sound so bad until I point out that this also involves six hours of driving for the tournament and another hour and a half of driving to the coast to get stuff ready at the beach house where my family will be staying next week in preparation for my sister's wedding. All of this will be done without my ever spending a night away from home. This is unfortunate as I will be the only one in my family staying at home. While they're off partying at the beach, I'll still be at home coaching until the rehearsal dinner.
None of that bothers me or upsets me. My ability to navigate complicated webs of deadlines with little or no prep work or (to my mom, anyway) organization has always freaked out my mom. She is one of those who likes to be done well before the deadline. That's just not how I work. I'll get the reading for tomorrow's assignment done today. I'll finish that assignment tomorrow in between and after my tennis matches. I've already checked. It's a short assignment. It'll be easy. The one due Sunday is something we've had to turn in parts of all semester long, so it's mostly done. I've just got to tweak some elements and add two things. I'll have all morning Sunday to work on it. Unless my computer dies unexpectedly, I won't experience the slightest bit of stress about any of this. Things will work out.
The irony here is that I'll tighten up as soon as I step on the clay Saturday morning, especially if I miss a few shots in a row or get into a tight match. I'm a choke artist. The difference between this and the school work is that I've had years of success in academics. I'm an expert student. It's just not that hard for me. I know how long it'll take me to finish things. I'm confident I know how to get them done. I'll finish on time. I don't have that same success with tennis and I can't for the life of me keep from taking it too seriously at tournaments. I don't know what the deal is. I know it's not important. I have no future as a player in the sport. I can't get a college scholarship and I'm already too old to go pro. If I lose it's not like I actually lose anything real. I just can't help but feel the need to win, and I suck under self-imposed pressure.
Despite this weakness of my own, the bulk of my job as a coach on match days is to keep high-strung teenagers from doing the same things I do and hurting their own chances at winning. I don't like that saying about those who can't, teach, but the truth of the matter is that you don't have to be able to do something well yourself to be able to teach someone else how to do it.