| By Ricky Becker
Photo courtesy of iStock


It has been widely circulated that during this life-changing pandemic people have started evaluating what is important to them. While family is certainly number one, the circumstances of COVID has gotten me to appreciate something that I knew all along: Tennis is that friend who is always there for me.

Sometimes in the past, not proudly, I feel like the relationship between tennis and me is like the relationship between the boy and the tree in The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein, but not anymore. What I write is all within context. Some people have had their lives affected forever by COVID and while I have been fortunate, I don’t lose sight of that fact.

Tennis, though, has been something that through its’ layout has enabled many people to achieve fitness, fun and normalcy throughout the past year, whereas many other activities do not achieve that. On my block alone, about ten people have either started tennis or increased the amount they have been playing. And I want to thank Tennis for that. Tennis has provided me a way to continue having social interactions in person while continuing “working.” I want to thank Tennis for that. Tennis has allowed me to see others interact, have fun and compete with one another. I want to thank Tennis for that, too.

Throughout the years, there are other ways Tennis has been my most loyal friend. The best tennis I ever played was immediately after I felt snubbed socially in high school. I felt rejected but Tennis was there for me as it always is, and it helped me channel my emotions in the best way possible. Two years ago, a student of mine who I care deeply about got into a fight with one of her best friends, and the following weekend she had her best tournament ever. Just like a good friend, Tennis can’t make problems go away but can help you feel better and maybe help you find perspective. I want to thank Tennis for that.

As someone in my 40s, I feel younger than I am. I want to thank Tennis for that. During the summer, I’m fortunate to have a staff of young adults in their late teens and 20’s. Besides working together, we constantly enjoy poking fun at each other about random things. Besides possibly being a mentor, I am friends with these younger people which gives me vibrancy. I thank Tennis for that. I made the decision before the pandemic to start playing tournaments again which has motivated me to get in better shape which of course is good for my health.

Tennis is not just my friend but my motivational trainer. Thank you Tennis. As a junior player, I felt like I paid my dues. I trained when others were having fun. In addition to great highs from winning, I felt deep painful disappointments when I lost. Tennis helped me get into a college situation I would not have gotten into. Job doors were opened, social doors were opened and I didn’t always appreciate it was because of Tennis. I felt like it was because of me. My friend Tennis wasn’t looking for credit but I would not have many of these opportunities without my loyal friend. I didn’t have perspective then but I have perspective now. And Tennis forgave me. Thank you Tennis.

In my early 20s I was not enjoying Tennis. Trying to make it professionally, I was tired of going to random town after random town around the world trying to make it. Like a kid who has a sleepover and the friend stays too long the next day, it all became too much. I was tired of my friend. For five years, I’d check in occasionally but didn’t want to hang out with my friend much. My good friend Tennis didn’t hold a grudge and extended its’ arms out to me when I wanted to be friends again. Thanks for your loyalty Tennis!

I have tried to see the positives out of the negative situations and COVID has been a very negative situation. Oh yeah, my buddy Tennis taught me that as well.


Ricky Becker is The Director of Tennis at Glen Oaks Club.  Ricky also coaches high-performance juniors throughout the year and has been the Director of Tennis at three of Long Island’s biggest junior programs.  As a player, Becker was the Most Valuable Player for the 1996 NCAA Championship Stanford Tennis team and ranked in the top-five nationally as a junior.  He can be reached at rbecker06@yahoo.com, 516-359-4843 or via juniortennisconsulting.com.