Some Thoughts On Persistence From Douglas W. Stephenson

I love to tell stories and I believe I have an inspirational and personal story on persistence. I was a tennis professional in Alexandria, Louisiana at Holy Savior Menard Central High School in the 1980’s and we fortunately, had a very good team, both boys and girls returning this particular year.

We had never had tryouts due to most kids realizing that if they did not have previous experience at the elementary and middle school levels that they would most likely not be good enough to play. But we had a young man named Lance Clement, who was determined to make the team and really had no previous experience. Lance, when he came to our first practice, had an old Prince Junior tennis racquet that we used for beginners, primarily at the age of around seven or eight years old. As we fed him balls, he proceeded to spray balls everywhere. His forehand was more of a slap like hitting a hockey puck rather than a stroke and he hit his two-handed backhand cross-handed, which was highly unusual and not very effective. My assessment at this point, was that Lance, in no possible way, would be an asset to our team.

In order to make improvements in our fitness, I wanted each member of our boy’s team to run a mile in under seven minutes and thirty seconds, which I felt was reasonable. If Lance did not run the mile under this time, he would not make the team. You may have guessed what happened next. Lance, with no problem, ran the mile in under the required time, but also came in first with a time of six minutes and fifteen seconds!!! I may be off on the time a smidgen. Lance lived with his grandparents, who had no tennis background, but were very supportive in his endeavors.

Lance did not play much his freshmen and sophomore years except to participate in junior varsity matches and playing doubles for the varsity. He continued to practice and work extremely hard as he knew he was facing an uphill battle in ever getting to play varsity. His senior year, he played number six on the varsity and helped lead us to a state championship. I know this may not be that exceptional, but one of the players that played right above him, Alan Marks, played at the University of Alabama. This was a lesson for me in observing persistence towards a goal and having a hand in Lance’s development not only as a tennis player but as a person also. Lance and our teams at Menard, thank you so much for the blessings!!!


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