Hard to explain the thrill of discovering how much I have improved at tennis. And that I am really good at some parts of the game. I can’t just accept this newly realized skill, and a friend says I am obsessed with my unexpected awareness. But I have jumped into a new zone of play that continues to delight and amaze me. I am watching myself from the outside, hearing my buddies compliment me, and somehow I can’t integrate those words with the performance of the me inside my body. I didn’t know I had this talent.

Don’t misunderstand. I am not saying that I am anything like a really strong player. I am simply realizing that I am much better suddenly, and the more I accept it, the more confidence I have, and then I play better, and the spiral increases upward. So much of this sport is psychology. I now know I can do things I didn’t think I could before (to such a fine degree), and it makes me eager to excel at what I do well.

I am referring to my net game in doubles. That’s what annoys my opponents to distraction. Not that I am such a fantastic poacher, but that I return so many balls hit in my general vicinity, whether high or just above the net. I seem to have the reflexes. No matter how fast and powerful they arrive. Whether it comes at me on the alley side or in the middle, either side of the court. I am not afraid of being hit and hurt. I rarely turn my back in defense. I seem to have the reflexes to stay put, move my racket rapidly, and return a sweet spot shot back over the net and often for a winner.

Then I get to a lot of shots that seemed like winners for the other players…especially short balls that looked like they were out of reach. In spite of my age and large lower body, I somehow can run in time and keep the ball in play.

Thirdly is my serve. Just a week ago, my friend and coach Frank Adams, rearranged my swing and balance at the base line. I started serving by leaning on the back foot instead of the front foot and have a whole extra motion. It’s made enormous difference in the power of the ball I deliver on serve. My accuracy has always been good. So returning my serve is now harder…though there are plenty of people I play with who have faster serves that are more difficult to return. But I get a high percentage of my first serves in.

I am also serving from many different spots on the baseline—I used to start from just three positions. Now there are six—three on each side. What a huge difference in keeping the other side frustrated. I have to thank Joe Marshall’s instruction for moving me around on the baseline this way. Joe showed me how he has 27 different serves on each side: three spots, three tosses, three grips. That’s 54 different serves!!! I am nowhere near that capability.

The world is in such trouble, it may seem insensitive to be so excited about a tennis game. These days I am cramming in as much fun and play as possible. There are lots of responsibilities still screaming for attention and time. I spent two weeks working on taxes, have business and family and friend activities that must be done for survival and support. But focusing on that ball coming at 100 mph is a brief vacation from the difficulties and pain of a normal life. I am blessed to have discovered this distraction and joy, a challenge and arena for accomplishment, a passion and amazement and enormous satisfaction that results from merely hitting a ball with a racket that makes it over a net.

I hope you have—or find—something that thrills you like this. It is a blessing that I have encountered way too late in life. But at least I have it, and I am grateful…