When I was ten years old I started playing in tennis tournaments around Delaware. After the first year I finished the strenuous season, which consisted of three tournaments, ranked number 1 for the ages 12 and under level. Now, before you think I was the next Venus Williams, I should clarify how I reached the top. For the first year, there were only about four girls my age who played in the tournaments and the most of them were either severely uncoordinated or lacked basic motor skills. (I know those things sound the same, but I didn't know how to say they were "special.") Anyway, needless to say it was quite easy to claim my tennis throne when playing against these girls.
Then during my next year two new girls joined the circuit. One was a wild black girl, who played with a florescent pink racket and had long dreads to her shoulders. I endured countless rallies and sets with her loopy forehands and arguments over my calls. Games with her are times I'm still trying to forget. However, as bad as my Bob Marley look alike was, nothing compared to my Korean arch enemy. She weighed about twice as much as I did, and never said a word. Her parents would sit as close to the fence as possible and just stare at her as she dragged her body from corner to corner. Inevitably, the two of us would meet in the finals and it was rare that the match didn't go into three sets.
I remember one tournament in particular we found ourselves in another three set death match. Things were getting pretty tense and I wasn't sure if I could pull it out. As we changed sides my dad called me over to the fence and asked me what was going on. At eleven, I didn't have any real insight to share with my dad other than, "she is so freaking annoying." My dad then offered some advice that I have never forgotten during my athletic career. He said, "Katherine" (my dad is the only one who is allowed to call me that) "will you just go and kick this girl's fat ass?" I had never really heard my dad swear before and I for a moment I thought I heard him wrong. He then repeated those golden words, "Go kick that fat girl's ass." To which, I did.
My Dad has always been the greatest one to have along the fence. He has always encouraged me to just have fun and play hard. Throughout my athletic career, and even now, whenever I find myself feeling tired or beaten down I'll think of those choice words my father gave me almost 19 years ago.