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Serving up recovery lessons on the tennis court

March 19, 2014
by Gary A. Enos, Editor
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For anyone who has found that one passion in life, an activity that at least temporarily can make all else melt away, the benefits never cease. For Glenn Hadley, tennis offered that escape. Having been a competitive player both in college and in professional leagues, Hadley later would find that tennis sustained him through challenges in his recovery from addiction.

“It was about getting out there and getting outside myself,” says Hadley, 35. “Once you're through those gates, you have one focus.”

Now Hadley, a teaching pro based in a suburb of Austin, Texas, is lobbing in the direction of addiction treatment centers his idea of teaching tennis to individuals in early recovery. Last November, he teamed with a golf professional and a business leader to establish Swing for Sobriety, which seeks to work with community centers and treatment facilities to offer tennis and golf workshops to persons in recovery.

“I would really like to see this take hold in treatment centers across the country, to offer a bridge between treatment and a normal life,” says Hadley.

Origins of idea

Hadley says he decided to pursue a venture such as this because of his exposure to experiential therapy, specifically equine therapy, during his own treatment. He reasoned that while it might be difficult for an individual in the fragile days and weeks immediately post-treatment to access equine therapy in the community, how difficult would it be to find a tennis court or backboard?

Besides, he reasoned that challenging sports such as tennis or golf can give participants the opportunity to laugh at themselves and have fun. “It had been months since I had genuinely smiled,” Hadley says in recalling his early recovery.

He articulates a number of similarities between the recovery journey and the sport he loves. He recites a three-R formula that he believes applies equally to each stage of recovery and each point in a tennis match. First you “review” to determine what you did wrong, then you ”redo” by evaluating what you could have done to achieve a better result, and finally you “release” and let things go, readying yourself for the next challenge.

In addition, the lessons of both recovery and tennis can prove a bit uncomfortable in the early stages. “I tell students, 'It is normal for you to be uncomfortable. If you weren't uncomfortable, you wouldn't be changing,'” says Hadley.

And individuals' egos need to be left at the door in order to succeed in either pursuit. Listen to what the coach—or the counselor, as the case may be—has to say, and try it—that's Hadley's simple message.

In both cases, success is ultimately found in the individual's own effort, no matter how much support he/she has received from others. “A major advantage in tennis and golf is they don't require a team,” Hadley says. “In tennis, you're responsible for what goes on, on your side of the net.”

Hadley says Swing for Sobriety is positioned to explore either coaching on-site at treatment centers or training center staff to offer their own in-house tennis workshops.

 

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