How did you go from being a competitive tennis player to a writer?

Q&A With Shay Each Sunday

There have been two things in my life that I have worked really hard at over many years, many hours a day. Most people who know me well know that they are tennis and writing. I played D1 tennis in college at Tulane, I lived at a tennis academy my senior year of high school, and after college tennis kind of faded away. I have barely played at all in the last six years and it feels incredibly strange when I stop to think about how I used to train up to five or six hours a day for something that is no longer a prominent part of my life.

Q: How did you go from being a competitive tennis player to a writer?

A: The short answer would be that I was always a writer, so I didn’t really go from one to the next.

But writing definitely didn’t enter as a thought of something I would do forever, or something I was really good at while I was training for tennis. It’s funny because sometimes I find old school assignments from when I was young and they have to do with writing and then I feel a little better that I didn’t just “decide” to be a writer in my twenties. You hear about all these writers who always knew it was what they wanted to do and I really didn’t have that experience. But I found a poem I wrote (about tennis) when I was eight. A couple short stories from ages of 10-15 or so. I also found an old book that was put together at the end of my first grade class where we had to fill in what we liked best about the first grade. My answer was writing workshop. So, these subtle writing passions didn’t just go away, but they certainly took a break from approximately age 15-22.

Tennis was always really big in my family and my parents had me start playing at the age of 2. Pretty much as soon as I could walk or hold a racket I was out there on the court. I didn’t start taking it that seriously until I was about 12, and even more so when I was about 15, because that was when I stopped playing all other sports. I was on the varsity tennis team in 7th grade, I went to live at Evert Tennis Academy in Florida my senior year of high school, and I was accepted at Tulane University to play tennis. My experience at Tulane on the tennis team wasn’t quite what I thought it would be, and by that I mean that it wasn’t very fun. I think pretty much as soon as I entered that atmosphere I started to lose interest in tennis, which wasn’t easy for me to accept since I had devoted pretty much my whole life to it. But in the end, I couldn’t deal with “the politics” anymore (to be as political as possible). So, after college I went on to Sarah Lawrence and started focusing on my writing. Although I sometimes miss tennis and the connection I used to have with it/will always have with it, it wasn’t the right path anymore. Writing feels much more in tune with who I am as a person. Although I can be competitive sometimes, it’s really not in my nature. And although I love fitness and health, I don’t like all the pressure surrounding it like if I don’t train a certain amount then I’ll lose the tennis match this weekend. No thanks.

Tennis is a great sport, and I’m sure I’ll enjoy playing for fun again one day soon, and of course I miss something that was such a big part of my life, but I have now learned: I’m a writer before a tennis player.

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