Christianity… world class tennis training… and Sunny Florida!
I know a place that truly lives up to the picture that statement brings to mind.
A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to share some time with two very dedicated Christian tennis missionaries, Rachel Snelen and Melody Snelen, and the International Christian Tennis Association academy students in sunny Florida.
My son had the opportunity to train with coach Scott Paschal at the academy for several years, and is now playing tennis on a Christian college tennis team.
(My son was a complete beginner when he met Scott Paschal and began training at the Int’l Christian Tennis Academy when it was in Arlington, Texas back in 1999!)
I had a few days off of work coming up, and having spent many a great time with my Christian tennis missionary friends before, I knew exactly where I wanted to spend this little break.
When I arrived at the Daytona Airport, they greeted me with their usual huge smiles and warm hugs, with Bear, the best dog in the whole world, right in the middle making sure she got her share.
Most of the Christian Tennis Academy students I have gotten to know well over my years of visiting. I always enjoy developing a relationship with each of these unique and talented kids.
My flight gets in late, but early enough that we have time for making a little pasta for dinner, time to catch up a little on each other’s news, a few bedtime scriptures, and then we all turn in for a great night’s sleep.
The household wakes up early, with everyone hustling to make sure all
their tennis gear is ready for the day, and to ensure they are putting down enough protein and carbs to last them through what is always a very vigorous workout.
This morning I am fortunate enough to sit in on a bible study led by coach/minister Scott Paschal, where the kids, even the most shy, all
seem genuinely eager to hear God’s word and plan for them, and to share
their own thoughts on the day’s topic.
I enjoy the sweet spirit I feel as I watch them become anxious to go share the Good News with others.
With everyone refocused on glorifying God and a renewed spirit, we head
to the tennis courts to train and grow physically.
With Scott Paschal, no one stands in line waiting off and on to hit a shot or two. Everybody hits all the time. That is why my son went from a complete beginner at 15 years of age to a top 100 player in Texas within 3 years!
The drills are set up one on one, or two on one, carefully planned to make sure that each person gets to hit a lot of balls practicing the strokes they are working on, and to build consistency with the strokes they have already developed.
Occasionally, someone rotates out to take a little rest, since the practice can go for several hours.
Coach Scott, along with Rachel and Melody Snelen, and parent volunteers, keep a close watch to make sure the students are learning to take sports supplements and fluids regularly, and to not wait until they feel like they need it, since that means they are already getting dehydrated or lacking the carbs and fluids needed to sustain the energy levels required of a high performance athlete.
My workout doesn’t take anywhere near as long as these dedicated Christian tennis athletes.
But it feels great to be getting into shape!
I take the extra time to read a little, walk around the beautiful park, and watch the kids play tennis.
You wouldn’t think that a little tennis practice somewhere in
Sunny Florida could be a fierce competition, but none of the kids I
have seen go through the academy over the years ever seems to be the type to give up a point easily.
At the end of a long, sweaty, productive practice, I often have heard one of them say “No, let’s hit just one more!” because the last one they hit was out, or the other person won that point, and they are too competitive to ever let it end on that note.
Curiously, even though the person who won that point knows they could end it on that winning note, they usually eagerly agree, because they want to hit one more too!
Sometimes they get to finish up with a little fast and fun doubles play, which feels like a reward for all the hard work.
I truly love watching the kids go all out in dubs! Then it is back to the tennis academy house for showers, a healthy lunch, rest, homework, reading, or free time, with each student learning time management skills as well.
For the Snelen twins, they then go to work in their office to fit some ChristianTennis.net business into the afternoon as they busily plan mission trips for the ICTA Women’s Pro Tennis Team of missionaries.
(Which, as a matter of fact, are in Juarez, Mexico right now and are leaving Friday to San Louis Potisi, Mexico for another mission trip!)
Then, around 4pm, the kids often head out to an afternoon practice again!
Sometimes it is a student’s day or afternoon off, to give the body a rest when needed.
Then is when I have witnessed the most charming mixed emotions in both the guys and the girls. They like having the time off… however, they really want to hit too!!
These Christian Tennis Academy kids are always so dedicated.
Have I ever seen one of them get grumpy? Sure, these are teenagers! Here though, these teenagers for the most part seem to gradually learn how to get a quicker handle on it.
I think it is because they have things to focus on and goals to work
toward, and not a lot of empty time to fill up with griping about what they don’t like about themselves or others, or don’t have that everyone else seems to have.
Dinner is always something to look forward to around Scotty’s table,
with Melody and Rachel Snelen pitching in to help cook, and often one of the
There is great food, laughter and conversation over pasta dishes,
grilled chicken or hamburgers, or another great pasta dish.
Hearty Italian food is a favorite in Scotty Paschal’s kitchen!!
And of course, once in a while hot, gooey, brownies are served up as well.
The evening winds down with very competitive card games, board games, laughter and caring.
Then it is time to get ready for bed, prayers and scriptures, a little reading, journal entries, and for the girls, at least this night, a little manicuring and pedicures!
I got my first French manicure, ala Rachel Snelen, who did a beautiful job – Thanks Rach!
Melody Snelen tried a new design, but decided to take it off her nails and start over. However, it is getting late, and another productive day was on the horizon, so we will have to finish Melody’s nails another night.
But we all have beautiful pedicures!!
So we wind down the giggles and sharing and head off to the very comfortable beds that always seem to wait for those who know what a hard days work is…and I can’t wait for tomorrow!
Did I mention I love to visit my friends at the Christian Tennis
I look forward to my next wonderful, relaxing visit, even though along
with the sweet memories I also take home a few new sore muscles!
I always leave with a renewed excitement for life, and I think I even feel a little younger, as I spend time with these enthusiastic and dedicated young Christian tennis missionaries.
A few days in Sunny, Heavenly, Florida…
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