This fall has been beautiful in Moscow, unusually sunny and warm well into October. Seems like forever ago but back in August I began coaching middle school girls’ tennis team. Having coached high school for the past two years, middle proved a wonderful opportunity given they are my students and the season runs in the fall (meaning no indoor court time due to snow). Besides, a little chill in the air makes for perfect tennis weather.
We had nine girls come out for the team with a surprising amount of young talent, particularly among our 6th graders. Over the course of a month, my assistant and I worked to get the girls in shape for our tournament, running drills and explaining match play. None of our girls had ever played in a true tournament before so we didn’t know how they would do on a larger stage, especially with the excitement of traveling abroad. They barraged me with questions daily!
Our tourney was set for the first weekend of October in Warsaw, Poland. The girls were paired with host families and visas were procured for those who needed them (Americans do not).
A quick two hour flight from Moscow delivers you to Warsaw, the capital city. Arriving early in the day, we had the chance to wander around Old Town with members of the girls’ team from Prague. The Old Town was nearly decimated during WWII bombings. Today it’s been rebuilt and holds a lot of charm for its three square city blocks.
The girls met their hosts, wonderful families of Warsaw students who always show them an amazing time and take great care. I had a coaches’ dinner downtown – pirogies, salmon, and more local fare – and caught up. I knew many of the coaches from our high school competitions in years past – folks from Prague, Warsaw, Sofia (Bulgaria), and Bucharest (Romania). A few of the new coaches had even worked in Moscow before! It’s a very small international community in our region.
The tournament kicked off and we soon found ourselves challenging for the top position across all divisions (Singles 1 and 2, Doubles 1 and 2). With our young team, I was pleasantly surprised to see the girls step up and stay strong, despite some heavy competition.
After two hard-fought days, Moscow took first place in the overall completion! All of our girls medaled, many first in their divisions. We were all thrilled. I think the faces say it all.
With one more night left in Warsaw, and old colleague and her husband wanted to take us out to dinner. Exhausted but still riding high from the win, we headed out to a fancy spot downtown called Gigantami.
All dark wood and traditional Polish fare, the restaurant was the perfect spot to cap off our wonderful – albeit brief – time in Warsaw. Nothing like catching up with old friends and hearing about their lives in a new city.
All too soon it was time to head back to Moscow. The girls clutched the trophy close, eliciting smiles from airport security. Very proud of their efforts, we are excited for next year and the new opportunities it will bring.