Topic: The Tennis Team

Ivy & Quill - Topic: The Tennis Team

“Dear Dannie, 

Don’t worry too much about the match. 

You’re gonna do great!” 

The note then complimented my strong serve and reminded me to have fun, ending with a pretty rainbow at the corner. Attached to the note was a KitKat, my favorite treat. 

This must be from my Secret Sister! I took the note down from the school bulletin board. The chocolate gave me a sweet rush of euphoria that only sugar can give, and the butterflies in my stomach started to subside. 

I was about to compete in my first tennis match ever, having joined the school team at the beginning of my sophomore year. The training and practices were fun but intense. I was getting used to the coaches and teammates and wanted to make a good impression. So, the first match naturally meant a lot to me. Although I was nervous the days leading up to the match, the kind words in the note felt like a warm pat on the back, putting the wind in my sails. I felt so strong and ended up winning the match. 

Since then, I have found a note before every single tennis match. Sometimes it’s taped onto my locker, sometimes it’s hidden among my textbooks. Secret Sister is a tradition of our tennis team. Each semester, we draw a name and become a Secret Sister to that person. The note from my sister became something that I looked forward to the most. Likewise, being a Secret Sister to another teammate reminded me of how much I missed being the person people rely on. 

Growing up, I was always known as “the responsible girl.” In the first grade, the teacher elected me as the class monitor. I loved putting a smile on the faces of my friends who needed help. By the sixth grade, I became the class president. I organized many fun school activities and was well-known as the “problem solver” on campus. I didn’t realize how much I had evaluated my self-worth based on the positions I held and the things I did. 

When I first came to S— School in the ninth grade, I was thrown into a very tight community where everyone had known each other since a young age. Although I made lots of friends during my first year, I always felt like something was missing. I felt like a guest staying for a holiday instead of a trusted member of the student body.

In an attempt to engage more with the school community, in addition to joining the tennis team, I volunteered with the local after-school program and sought opportunities to engage with my peers. But without the given responsibility, I didn’t feel useful. However, my Secret Sister made me realize that I had been so focused on seeing the forest that I failed to notice the beautiful trees inside. It gradually dawned upon me that it wasn’t my position or title that helped others: it was forming meaningful connections that made the difference.

So, I sought new ways to show my love and care to those in my community. I borrow books for a girl who wants to build a rocket in my after-school program. I ask the elderly about their health and chat with them during church cookouts. We celebrate our small victories through the Yearbook Club. And of course, I write a post-it note for my Secret Sister before each match. “You have a killer back-hand!!” By taking interest and being invested in the success of others, the small school finally became my big family.