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Tennis brings me back ?into the game of life

Turning 50 was an eye-opening experience for me. I truly understand why it is euphemistically called "the change" or a "midlife crisis." Although 50 is only a number, physical, emotional and mental challenges occur. The Serenity Prayer became my mantra, and I needed to make some changes in my life to help me with this transition. Even small changes can give you a better attitude – changing your thinking and your life.

I was experiencing so many situations spiraling in new directions – my sons Aaron and Peter were moving on, I was concerned about my mother and my aunt's care, and I had job commitments.

My husband kept insisting that all we needed was to move to a warmer climate. Always looking for win-win situations, I knew I desperately needed a constant in my life. As a person who found exercise boring – and eating tasty delights enjoyable – weight gain became a problem. Physically, the extra pounds caused back problems and arthritis. I realized it was time to take charge.

Tennis was the game that changed my perspective and put a new "spin" on my midlife crisis. Yes, tennis. The game with the little yellow ball offered me everything. Tennis is mentally and physically stimulating and a terrific social outlet.

I am not a competitive person, but my husband and Miller Tennis Club gave me the support and confidence that I needed to pursue my endeavor. Mort, a veteran tennis player at 88 years young, has an enthusiasm and zest for life. I realized tennis contributed to his positive "can do" attitude. Mort's encouragement and sense of humor made me think of my father, who passed away eight years ago. Ironically, from across the court, he even resembled my father in his later years.

Tennis has had such an impact on my life. I could not wait to share my knowledge with 7-year-old Hailey. I have the good fortune of being her nanny. Hailey is adorable, and gifted with athletic agility, speed and energy. As I gaze across the net, with her large blue eyes and round cherub face, she has an uncanny likeness of my sons at that age.

Looking back, I must admit I was the worst player. I realized I needed serious help, because I am not gifted with hand-eye coordination. Morning tennis drills and practicing with the ball machine helped tremendously. I especially liked the ball machine because it doesn't talk back.

The game of life is not about winning or losing, but the journey. But in tennis, I must admit, I do enjoy winning a game or two. The scoring can be somewhat confusing at first. But you have plenty of opportunities to tap into your competitive streak and turn the game around when you fall behind.

I have made many new friends and even reconnected with some old ones because of tennis. My four sisters, all in their 50s, look forward to getting together for our summer tennis reunions. At 60, my husband decided to discover the joy of tennis, so our relationship will be enhanced in our twilight years.

Hopefully, we learn to handle the curve balls of life and become wiser for it. Exercise, whatever kind you choose, has a way of putting things in perspective by jump-starting neurotransmitters in the brain. I was losing my zing, so I decided to practice my swing, and I became a much happier person for it.

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Lisa Barone, who lives in Williamsville, took up tennis when she turned 50 and is now reaping the benefits.