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The Only Male in His Life

Page 3

As their standard progressed, the boys started coming down to the courts to try and hit a few balls themselves. They only ever had to join the club once they started the Saturday competition, and I didn’t mind them having some free practice. I began to realize too that the more kids I could get to junior competition level, the more junior memberships, and therefore, some much needed revenue for the club would ensue.

The mothers seemed pleased. They had found a relatively cheap activity where the boys were getting lots of exercise, new friendships had formed and they had found something that they could do themselves for their entire life. Tennis is a sport that has that special quality that can span generations. I had students as young as five, but also one keen gentleman of ninety. His daughter would drive him to the courts and he would have a half hour private lesson. We would play for ten or so minutes, have a little rest, then chat, before continuing the hit. If it rained he was disappointed. It was apparent this was one regular routine he looked forward to.

One hot afternoon with a devilish north wind spraying the en-tout-cas into our faces and no amount of water being able to keep the courts moist, one of the lone mothers came up to me before walking away from the courts.

You’re the only male in his life, she announced candidly. I let her continue. It’s a problem you see. There are no male primary school teachers at any of the schools around here. He doesn’t have a father close by taking any notice of him, no older brothers either, and I can only afford to pay for one sport. He wants to play cricket and join the footy club but I had to tell him, or try to explain to him, that only one activity is possible. He loves the tennis and because you’re a male teacher I thought it was good for him. You’re kind but also disciplined with them. They enjoy learning and it’s a safe environment.

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