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The Only Male in His Life

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As the year progressed, a group of primary school boys fell together into one timeslot and one socio-economic level. They were all beginner players but I saw quickly they were enthusiastic to learn, had some hand-eye co-ordination, and that if they continued with the lessons, combined with some extra practice, would be able eventually to move towards beginner grade junior competition. It was on these Saturday mornings playing other clubs that students then got a true sense of the game, and suddenly, the lessons increased in logic for them. Once students could serve, score and play on their own, their joy was manifest. Many of the more extroverted variety also loved reporting back as to how the match had gone, with optimistic predictions of how the following week would go.  

This particular group of boys went to different primary schools but as the weeks passed I began to twig they were a group slightly removed from the other pupils. Through the weekday afternoons, I only ever saw their mothers bring them to the courts, or perhaps one would turn up alone on a bike. I also became aware that it was a struggle for all of them to pay the fees .

My sense of social justice prevented me from making myself too expensive, but all of them asked if they could pay week by week, instead of the usual once a school term. A five dollar note and a two dollar coin would therefore be handed over at the end of each lesson, or there would be a delay of a week or two. Each mother always paid but I could see that all of them had to watch every dollar. In all honesty, I didn’t mind the cash in hand or how they paid, as long as payments didn’t go too far into arrears. Psychologically, no matter how much a family is struggling, and how much you might like a particular pupil, it becomes awkward to continually coach them with the bill rising and no sign of payment on the horizon. These women were always honest and the money would be kept up to date.

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