My sister: making 60 look pretty good.
“there’s not much point now”
A neighbour of mine used to work with a bank, and recently, I confessed to her my lack of knowledge when it came to investments. I have only a vague understanding of terms like “securities”, “stocks”, “bonds”, “mutual funds” . . . and I feel badly about it. “I’d like to learn more,” I told her, “but there’s not much point now.” I have a pension to count on, but my husband, who is self-employed, has little in the way of retirement savings – and we’re in our 50s. What difference could an increased understanding of these things make for us now? “Exactly,” she said in agreement.
I remember thinking in a similar way when my sister Elly started to get serious about tennis – at age 40. Why was she devoting so much energy to it? Wasn’t it a bit late for her to be taking such a keen interest in a sport? Well, my thoughts at the time were proven wrong this past summer when Elly, now aged 60, went to Montreal to play in the National Senior Masters Tennis Championships. She placed 6th in Canada for her age group.
When I asked her if she would allow me to feature her in this post, she graciously agreed, though she was uncertain about how her tennis could possibly be linked to my personal finances.
Describe your early experience with tennis?
When I was young, I was aware of tennis through Dad’s enthusiasm for the game, but I only picked up a racquet a couple of times in the summer – just enough to learn that tennis was a frustrating sport, much harder than it looked, not my thing.
At 40, a friend and I decided to take it up together. We were both into fitness and could run down just about every ball, but we were lacking in the sport-specific skills required to keep the ball in play. Instead of a frustration, somehow it became a challenge to tackle. We both felt the same way. Working on something new as a team brought an element of fun to the process.
I’ll never forget the day I was first asked to play with the “club members” in my community. To me, these were the serious players. I held them up on a pedestal. They knew the game. I felt unworthy and scared. I knew nothing about playing games, using strategy, winning points.
I jumped in. I learned. People were encouraging and friendly. Tennis became a positive physical and mental focus for me as well as a means of connection to new friends and community.
I’m 60 now and I’m still enjoying the process of learning this game, challenging myself and expanding my tennis community. I win, I lose, sometimes the outcome feels like it matters a lot, sometimes not so much. I’m a competitive creature, always have been, but at this stage of the game I can honestly say it’s much more about the process than the result.
Describe your progression to more competitive tennis.
I never really had the goal of taking tennis up seriously. Things just snowballed. I started playing tournaments when someone told me that the best way to improve as a player was to enter tournaments. I was amazed at how tight and nervous I would get at these events, and I was determined to beat this debilitating feeling. The best way to get over the nervousness of playing competitively was to play in as many tournaments as possible.
At local tournaments, I would talk to people who played at the provincial level. With their encouragement and my own curiosity, I found myself giving it a try. A few months later, my doubles partner, her husband and I set a goal to work together to prepare for senior national competition. I don’t think I ever would have travelled to Montreal for Nationals this summer without the camaraderie and encouragement of these friends. It was a team effort. There was a sense of commitment to the sport and to the group.
Every time I stepped into something new; league play, local tournaments, provincial tournaments, even national tournaments, I felt the same sense of fear and unworthiness that I felt that first day I played with club members in my local community, but there was always a sense of excitement and daring that went with it as well.
What have been some highlights of your tennis experience?
In general, a highlight would be the sense of connection and belonging in a tennis community that continues to grow for me. It was obviously a real highlight to go to Nationals this summer. Almost everyone at the Nationals had been playing competitively for a long time. Most had competed as Juniors when they were in their teens and twenties. Then there’s the fact that I simply love the game, and I get such satisfaction out of mastering higher levels of skill. Specifically, I think of a match that I played against a woman who is much better and much more experienced than I am. She’s been a life-long player. I went into the match with a great attitude. I decided to have fun, go for it, and try to get a game or two off her. I played the best tennis I’ve ever played. I learned the importance of mindset. Too much expectation and pressure can really wreak havoc on your ability to play your best tennis.
Did you ever encounter the attitude I had about why you were playing so seriously at your age?
I haven’t had the “why?” question. Once you are in a community of people who are passionate about the same thing, the focus is “normal”. Everybody’s doing it. I’m no different. We’re all getting older. We know our limitations physically but we still want to be the best we can be. And we’re so much smarter than we were when we were 20!
My attitude towards competing now is different from the attitude I had about competitive sports in my youth. I’m pretty grounded in the reality that I’m 60 years old, and there’s a limit to the energy and strength I have at my disposal on any given day. All I have to do is watch the 20 and 30 year olds play to know that that ship has sailed. It’s about fun first and foremost, then fitness, learning and positive challenge. If I win some matches along the way or if I notice improvement in my play, I’m grateful and it spurs me on to put myself out there again and again.
Have you ever had the attitude that “It’s too late” when it comes to your personal finances? Do you know anyone who has made remarkable achievements despite starting “late”? Your comments are welcome.