My forehand has been off lately.

In fact, it’s been off for years at this point.

Those who know me well know that when I’m not chasing stories or editing pieces, I’m probably out on the court playing tennis. It’s something I’ve done since I was 11 years old and it’s one of my favorite things to do.

But lately, it’s been causing me stress. And that’s because, to an extent, I have the yips.

For those who don’t play sports or haven’t seen “Ted Lasso,” the yips are when you suddenly lose the ability to do a simple motion or action in a sport for seemingly no reason at all. It’s not due to an injury. It’s not based on the weather, court conditions, whether you’re playing on hard or clay or even what your opponent is doing. No, it’s much worse than that — it’s 100 percent mental.

And so, for the last few years, I’ve had to relearn how to hit my forehand, one of the most fundamental — and some may say, most important — shots in the sport. I’ve adapted, sure. I play my backhand side a lot and I’ve gotten decent at the forehand slice. But it’s not what I want.

And the frustrating thing is that I know that my body remembers how to hit it.

Because when I’m not playing a match, when there aren’t any stakes, I hit the shot beautifully. It arcs with just enough spin, power and placement so that it looks like I’ve been playing tennis for two decades. But as soon as the pressure of winning enters my silly brain, my arm tightens up, my shoulders don’t turn and I take my eyes off of the ball. The resulting shot is like night and day.

But that’s how it goes sometimes. Tennis for me has always been a constant back and forth (see what I did there?), with inches in progress for every step back. For each frustrating session, there are winning shots or slides across the court to just make it to a ball before it bounces. And that’s the thrill of it; that’s the drug.

So, I’m working to learn to trust my body again and let muscle memory take over. And as someone who is constantly in their head, calculating, thinking, planning, remembering, it’s counterintuitive. But that’s the best part of the sport. 

If I can just let go, it’s magic.

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