In 1988, I taught myself how to jump serve.
I was thirteen years old about 5’4 and about 100 pounds. I may have tipped the scale at 101 or 102 on any given day depending on the amount of hairspray on my 80’s bangs, but that’s beside the point. The point is, I saw Eric Sato do this at the 1988 Olympics and said to my thirteen year old self:
“Self, we are going to do that. Because that is super cool. No one will ever believe you can do that because you are one of the smallest players on the bench (yes, you are a bench warmer, Self) and also you play on your freshman White team. In case you don’t know this, the really good freshman made JV, the good freshman made the Orange team and the rest of the people who tried out made the White team. They only cut two people out of all the people who tried out, so at least you made a team. I mean you’ve been playing club for four years now, so if you got cut then there are bigger problems than whether or not you can teach yourself to jump serve.”
Well, it was something like that.
Because it was summer, I didn’t have much access to a gym or a coach to facilitate this process; but I trusted myself enough after watching it on t.v. several times so there’s that. Now, some might think that learning to jump serve requires a ball, a gym, a court and a net, but to someone who has never jump served I figured all I needed was a ball and a lot of space. After all, I was probably going to spend more time chasing the ball than actually jumping and hitting the ball.
We had lots of space in our back yard and also my parents had put up a net, so that’s where I started.
Back in the 80’s, there was no jump float. There was just a big ol’, full-on, three-step approach starting way behind the service line, in between the hash marks (you guys don’t even know what that is!) on the right side of the court. More internal dialogue to myself:
“Okay, Self. Toss the ball out in front. Time a three-step approach to the ball. Hit with enough force to get it over the net. In the court. Oh, you can land in front of the service line, but you have to take off behind it and not step on it, because that is called a ‘foot fault.’ (Do you even say foot fault in 2015?) Also, Self, do this all quickly because Texas summers are hot and humid.”
If you are starting to calculate all the pieces here, you have probably guessed that I didn’t make the first few attempts at jump serving. I didn’t make the first fifty attempts at jump serving. What I am trying to say is: this didn’t happen over night.
But I wanted to do this so badly, that I just did it every chance I got.
Toss. Approach. Hit. Run and get ball. Repeat.
I finally learned how to jump serve. It took me one summer.
I ended up growing a ton that summer and worked my skinny buns off so that when high school tryouts came around in August, I went from the Freshman White team to a spot on Varsity. I wasn’t a starter, but I got decent playing time. My coach let me work on my jump serve as much as I wanted during practice, but she never let me do it in a game. In a memorable match against our biggest rival (our school had not beaten them for many years), my coach put me in to serve. I ran onto the court and steadied myself to send a killer floater over the net, like I had done many times in the past.
I hear my name from the bench and when I look over, I see my coach give me the “thumbs up sign.”
I think. No way. Does she mean? Does she want me to…?
We lock eyes and she moves her “thumbs up” in an upward motion towards the ceiling.
That could only mean one thing. She wanted me to jump serve.
I jump served about four balls, the first three as aces, the last one a mistake on their side. I finished off the final game and match for the first win in years against our rivals.
The. Crowd. Went. Crazy.
So, who cares what I did way back when? What purpose does it serve and why does this matter today?
Because in order to get good at something, you just have to start doing it.
You don’t need all the right gear or the right shoes or even the right coach. You have everything you need to accomplish your goal inside you – right now. You just need to get moving, get writing, get studying, get lifting, get running, get going and begin.
Did you hear me?
You have everything you need, you just have to begin. The rest will come with practice.
I’ve never gotten good at anything overnight, but that hasn’t stopped me yet.
What will you start today?