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The Only Male in His Life

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In those days, I did think of myself as a coach who could instill enthusiasm in a child, and someone who could technically get them to a proficient level, yet I wasn’t a careerist in any sense. I didn’t have ambitions to coach juniors aiming for the circuit, I wasn’t wanting to chase an all-consuming larger club with many committee meetings and various other pressures. I wasn’t greedy, but I wasn’t good with money either. I did often lament my lack of it, yet something pulled me back from ever becoming a ruthless, impersonal operator, where you collect the term fees but can’t name one kid from another. I liked coaching but I was no businessman.

On that uncomfortable November afternoon, with a bay swim on my mind followed by a beer and some fish’n’chips, my little job took on an aspect of social importance I had not contemplated strongly until it was pointed out. Being a tennis coach at a small suburban club with manageable numbers allowed me to work alone, gave me the opportunity to give each pupil personal attention. That attention had now turned into something more than merely teaching someone the strokes of the game.

That afternoon will always stay with me, even though it happened twenty years ago. I eventually left the club after a decade’s service and moved interstate in the hope of a better paying job (which did eventuate). In the last three years of being at St. Stephens, I lived in a flat next to the courts. Occasionally, I would get a knock on the door from an eager kid asking, Can we get in? Ya got the key? or My foot hurts. I can’t play Saturday. One puffy five year old would come down my driveway every Wednesday, rattle the wire door at 3.45pm and ask, Where are ya, coachie? Coachie! 

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