The Split Step Disadvantage

August 31, 2018

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Today at tennis practice, our coach had us all practice a serve and volley routine. Interestingly, I’d just decided, on my own, to take the serve and volley strategy out of my repertoire. It used to be my thing back in the day when singles was more my game. And when I picked up tennis again in my early 40’s, I realized that it had actually become somewhat of a habit. That forward motion toward the net on my serve follow-through was still intact. 

 

But these days, I can't really depend on it. Most often, my first volley will plunge into the net. I'm convinced that it is because I am not able to advance further toward the net after my serve. And the reason for that, I'm also convinced, is because I am not the spry tennis player I once was. 

 

But the real honest to goodness truth is that I can not convince myself to engage in a fully athletic-inspired split step. 

 

A proper split step is essential to winning tennis. It is that micro fraction of a second that you pause just as your opponent is about to strike the ball. It gives you that ever-so-fine advantage to adjust your motion in any direction once the ball clears your opponent's racquet. 

 

It’s all about timing, bending your knees, keeping your heels off of the ground and creating a wide stance to give you the best opportunity to position yourself accurately to the oncoming ball. The wider the better. Ideally, your feet are set out wider than your shoulders. 

 

“Wider, wider!” our coach encouraged us. But I just couldn’t get myself to do it. “Why?” you ask. I have a few theories:

  1. The first is basically a given. Bladder control. I know, I know...I need to do my Kegel exercises. I can’t seem to remember how important they are until it’s mission critical.

  2. It just isn’t how I was brought up. I was always taught to cross my legs at the ankles and keep my knees together. Ok, so my parents may have had more than just maintaining the appearance of being ladylike when they gave me that advise. But the idea of keeping my legs together in most situations in life, seems to have stuck with me whatever the reason. 

  3. Then there is the very real fact that at my age, and after delivering 2 healthy babies, I know that there are female things inside me just hanging on for dear life!

 

At one point in this journey of mine, I thought that I might be a runner. I trained for the St. Jude’s Half Marathon and realized only weeks into my training that I was more like a “walker/runner”. And I was ok with that! My training and tennis partner at the time, however, was a runner. She was just a flat out athlete. 

 

As we made our way to mile 5 through downtown Memphis, she felt something. She felt something “down there”. We took a quick restroom break, she assured me that she was fine and we rejoined the pack. I think we only stopped once more for her to visit the port-a-potty again but that was it. At 100 yards shy of the 13.1 miles we set out to cover, I was spent. My legs were cramping and I was seriously thinking about quitting. My partner set aside whatever she had going on “down there” and encouraged me successfully over the finish line.  

 

After a couple of beers to replenish our lost carbohydrates, we retreated to the hotel and she jumped in the shower. A few minutes later, she came out of the bathroom. Her hair was still soapy and she was wrapped in a towel. Her eyes were huge. “There’s something not right ‘down there’.” she whispered. 

 

I gasped. And now MY eyes were huge. I slapped my hand around my mouth in disbelief and through tight fingers pushed out, “Holy crap! What’s going on?” 

 

“Well, there’s no blood and I don’t feel any pain but I do feel pressure.” she explained. 

 

Fortunately, she was able to reach her doctor on the phone. I shuffled nervously around the room as they talked and decided to pack my bags for our ride back home even though we weren’t going to be getting on the road until the next afternoon. I saw in the corner of my eye, my friend lying on her back on the floor talking to the doctor and still wrapped in her towel. She put each foot on either side of the full-length mirror which was hanging on the closet door and tried to get a view of what was going on “down there”.

 

“ I can’t see. I can’t get a close enough view.” she told the doctor.

 

Then I experienced the most immediate and intense hot flash (and I wasn’t even in menopause at the time) fearing the worst was about to happen. And then it did.

 

“Can you come and look and tell me what you see?” she requested of me.

 

Oh no! Was I really going to have to do this? Don’t hotels have doctors on staff anymore? Can’t we just go to the emergency room?! Where is the exit?! WHY ME?!!

 

“Please! You gotta do it!” she pleaded.

 

And she was right. I did. I did “gotta do it”. So, like any good friend would/should, I agreed to help her in her time of need.

 

I readied myself, blinking my eyes several times in an effort to clear any obstruction which might impair my vision. I was determined to get a clear view of her state of affairs because if I was going to do this, I was going to do it right the first time. She handed me her phone, spread her legs and I reported to the doctor a full assessment of her whoo-ha. 

 

"Is the obstruction flesh colored?" he asked.

 

"Oh, good God! Does he have to be so graphic?" I thought to myself.  "Yes! Yes, it's flesh colored! I answered emphatically.

 

The doctor said that it seemed her whole reproductive system had prolapsed.

 

Done with the examination and relieved that the doctor deemed it a "non-emergency" telling her that she could wait to see him until the next day when she got back into town, we collapsed and had the biggest laugh over the events which had just transpired. 

 

“Oh!” she said as if having a revelation. "I guess I could have just taken a picture and sent it to him. Oh well, sorry.”

 

NOW, she tells me?!

 

So when my coach insists on “wider, wider”, this is the information I have tucked away in the back of my brain which comes rushing forward. It’s not the fact that I don’t believe or understand the benefits of a good, strong, wide split step, it's the fact that:

A. I may pee a little 

B. My mom told me to keep my legs together 

C. I feel I may end up tripping over some of my own equipment.

 

God help me, the day I surrender to her "wider, wider" and my uterus falls out. I just hope she is ready to catch it or is at least willing to help me collect it.

 

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