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Meet Leslie S., CFO at lucy Activewear. She’s been crunching numbers at lucy since 2010 and was a longtime customer at the Burlingame store in California before that. Leslie started playing tennis at the age of 10 and continued competing all the way through college. Her passion inspired more than just her wins, she even met her husband on the court. Read on as Leslie brings us along on her tennis journey and shares tips for everyone from those new to tennis, to the seasoned pro.
How did you first get involved in playing tennis?
When I was 10, I went on vacation with my parents to Silverado in Napa. There was a tennis program for adults and kids – my parents signed me up and I was the youngest one there. The instructors told everyone to hit their tennis balls against the wall for the first few minutes, then began to take people to go onto the courts. They forgot about me, so I was there hitting tennis balls against the wall for four hours because I was never told to go anywhere else. I was very patient and did a lot of practice against the wall.
Can you share more about your experience as a junior girl’s ranked tennis player?
I traveled a lot. My mom drove me to various cities throughout Northern California to play in tennis tournaments – that’s what I remember most from my childhood. I was ranked in the top 5 in Northern California for my age group and began playing in national tournaments throughout the United States where I was ranked in the top 50 nationally. I would often travel in the summer to play in tournaments. I played in some of the same junior tournaments as Jennifer Capriati!
Do you play singles, doubles, or both? Which do you prefer? How often do you play?
Now, I mostly play doubles with friends or singles with my husband. My natural skills are better suited for singles, but playing doubles is a lot easier when you’re not playing all the time. It’s also more fun to play with your friends.
After college until the time my daughter was born, I played in competitive leagues at the 5.0 level. In the league matches, I found the most success in doubles when I would have a partner with a complimentary style to my own. Specifically, I’m good at setting up shots from the baseline and leaving it to my partner to put away the winning volley.
Since my daughter was born a few years ago, I no longer play competitively – only socially. I try to play every weekend and like to play once in the evening during the week with my husband or group of friends.
What are some of your highlights or biggest accomplishments you’ve had as a tennis player?
One team I was on won nationals at the 5.0 level. We first won our local league, then won the NorCal section, and then played in Palm Springs against other teams from throughout the United States. While I played on teams that made it to nationals in the past, it was an accomplishment to be part of the team that actually won the whole thing. It’s a fun event win or lose, but made even better to bring home the trophy.
In college, I played at University of the Pacific and was ranked in the top 100 in Division 1. Getting a full scholarship was a nice thing for sure, and being on a team was a big part of my college experience. You take road trips to play at other schools – it was a great experience.
How has tennis played a part in your family life?
I actually met my husband through tennis and our first date was playing tennis at the club. I’m definitely better than him, but he’s very passionate about tennis, even much more than I am. He enjoys playing with me because I get all the balls back and give him a great workout! We play all the time, but I always win :)
My husband and I got married in 2010 and my tennis coach was the one who married us – that’s how important growing up with tennis was to me. Even though my husband only knew my tennis coach through me, it was very meaningful to both of us because tennis was such a big part of how we met.
Our daughter is now three so she’s not quite of the age for tennis, but we’re very anxious to get her into the peewee programs and see if she’d like it as much as we do.
What are your favorite things you enjoy about tennis?
Tennis is a great all-body exercise. It’s a game that I can play with others. To me, that’s more fun than going to the gym! It also allows me to spend time with my family.
Even though I’ve played tennis for as long as I have, I’m always learning and trying to improve my game. It’s the same way with my tennis friends. My partner wants me to help her with her overhead, and she gives me tips to improve my backhand volley. Even when you physically can’t be as good compared to when you were younger, you can still learn and develop your game.
Who’s a tennis player that you admire most? Did you have tennis role models growing up?
I can’t say that I have any one favorite role model. However, I really enjoy watching pro tennis – even at that level, everyone has strengths and weaknesses and it becomes very clear how each player tries to use their own strengths to take advantage of another player’s weaknesses. I find it very interesting to watch that dynamic.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given as a tennis player?
Make sure it’s fun. Both my coach and my parents always told me, “If this isn’t fun, let’s stop.” So many of the people I played with in junior tennis had parents who would push them. I was fortunate in that my parents didn’t play tennis or push me; my coach always said that was my best asset. In college, some players didn’t’ even enjoy tennis, but still pursued playing because of the scholarship. Many players hang up their rackets for good after college. However, those who end up playing for fun afterwards are the ones who truly enjoyed playing.
What are some tips you can share for tennis players (new and experienced alike?)
1. Strokes are important, but it’s actually the footwork that matters most.
2. Swing just as hard on your second serve as your first serve – just use more spin.
3. Play equally with players better than you, at the same level and weaker than you. You can learn from all of them.
4. Anticipating well where the ball is going can make anyone fast.
5. Find a doubles player that compliments your natural style.
6. Know both your own and your opponents strengths and weaknesses inside & out. Everyone has them.
7. Keep your grips simple. I have one grip for forehand and just one grip for everything else (serve, backhand, volleys, overhead).