Why Tennis? Interview with Glenna Gee Taylor
NV: Hi, what is your name, say something about you, what do you do currently?
A: My name is Glenna Gee-Taylor, I am twenty years old, and I am currently a student at Lewis and Clark College, and the captain of the Women’s Tennis Team.
NV: Initially, when and why did you begin playing tennis?
Glenna: I started late. Though I had hit occasionally with my father, I only started playing regularly (about once a week) when I was thirteen. I started playing seriously when I was fourteen.
NV: Why did you start tennis?
Glenna: I decided to play tennis because my older brother had started to play tennis, and anything he did, I wanted to do, and I wanted to do it better. Tennis was fun, and I liked how much it made me think.
NV: Did you do other sports?
Glenna: I played soccer from the age of four until I was fourteen. There were a lot of things I loved about soccer, but I still remember when I decided to quit for tennis. It was during a soccer game, and I was the goalkeeper, a position that I very rarely played. A girl on the other team broke through the defense and was coming to shoot. I started doing a split step, which is innately a tennis move. I saved the goal and decided that I should focus on tennis.
NV: What is your best tennis memory?
Glenna: When I was fourteen, I had played a few tournaments, but I had really just started. I didn’t have very strong strokes, but I was extremely competitive (I still am), and had done well in tournaments. At one of my first higher-level tournaments, I was not seeded, but I beat four girls who were seeded to get to the final. I played a girl who was the top seed, and who I had played (and lost to) in a tournament a few weeks before. I couldn’t do much, really. My game was to get the ball cross-court with as much net clearance and top spin as possible. But that day I refused to miss. I beat this girl soundly, and I will always remember how it felt to win that tournament. This girl had been playing since she could walk, but on that day, it didn’t matter.
NV: What is your worst tennis memory?
Glenna: My first match in college did not go the way that I wanted it to. We were playing a D-I school, University of Portland, and I was a little bit nervous. I was very tight. I played well in doubles, and even though we lost, I felt good about the way I was playing. When it came to singles, I was getting killed. I was down a set and 3-0, and I told my coach my back was feeling really tight. I went to serve the next point, and something in my back went. I couldn’t move. I was standing completely still, crying. I didn’t know how to get off the court because every time I moved even a little, the pain would multiply. I don’t remember how I got off court. I don’t remember if I shook my opponent’s hand. But I do remember hating that I couldn’t play, hating that I looked weak in front of my new coaches and my new team. I thought they would blame me for my injury, that they would think I was dumb and worthless. Even at that low-point, my only priority was finding out when I could play again.
NV: What do you love most in tennis?
Glenna: What I love most about tennis is the feeling I get when I do something right. Whether it is hitting a serve with just the right amount of spin, or getting a defensive shot back deep, or hitting an aggressive backhand up the line, there is a certain feeling you get when you know it was right. It used to be that simple, hitting a shot right, but now I am playing a more sophisticated game, and I get that feeling more often. It is not only when I hit a shot right, but also when I make the right tactical decision. There is so little time in tennis to make decisions, you have seconds, if that, to decide what to do. So when you do the right thing, and you hit it just right, whether you win or lose, you feel like a champion.
NV: Has tennis taught you anything about yourself – and others?
Glenna: Before I played tennis, when I made a mistake, there was always someone to blame. In soccer, I could blame my teammates. In class, I could blame my teachers or my classmates. In tennis, though, it was just me out on the court. There was no one else to blame, and I was really hard on myself. I spoke to a coach last year about how I sometimes find myself rejecting advice from coaches and others, and I didn’t know why. This coach said that often people who are less coachable are this way because they are hypercritical of themselves, and so coaching and advice sometimes seems like an attack. Being able to see that about myself has made me more open to help in all parts of my life, not just tennis.
NV: Do you recommend that parents encourage their kids to play tennis?
Glenna: Yes. I would recommend tennis to anyone, regardless of age and regardless of athletic ability.
NV: What reasons would you give to children and their parents to participate in tennis?
Glenna: I used to be a little shy and a lot more insecure before I played tennis. Tennis gave me confidence. I learned how to make decisions quickly, how to take responsibility for my actions, and how to compete in a constructive way. Because of the individual nature of tennis, I learned to rely on myself. If I wasn’t improving, I had no one to blame but myself. I learned how hard I could work, and the value of hard work. I made lifelong friends, and I continue to make lifelong friends through tennis. I have a people that I consider family from tennis, and even though I was alone on the court, and I was independent, I never felt like I was not supported.
NV: What do you know about USTA kids’ tennis program if any?
Glenna: I don’t really know anything about USTA kids’ programs. It was never something that was even on my radar. I am sure that the USTA has kids’ programs, but none that I have really heard of.
NV: If it would be up to you, going back in time would you start to play tennis again?
Glenna: Yes. Tennis made my life better, and I think it made me a better person.
Even though I started late and sometimes I am frustrated by that often, my frustration is never greater than the joy and the benefits that I gain from playing tennis.
Thank you Glenna, have a successful season at Lewis and Clark College!