What Was Really Happening in Tucson at Tennis Congress 22

It doesn’t usually take me long to write about an experience. Somehow this was different. This one is hard to explain, I guess, because it was supposed to be about one thing that turned into something entirely different.

When we go somewhere we usually have an idea of why we are going and what we expect to find.

Then, when we least expect it, we find something so different that it is disorienting.

That is what happened in Tucson last week.

The extraordinary PJ Simmons, world citizen and a sometimes frustrated recreational tennis player, founded a concept three years ago when on his journey to becoming a better player.

Over 225 recreational players would show up to spend time with 80 top, very top, tennis coaches. The players come to learn strategy, shots, strokes, fitness and pieces of the mental side of the game.

And maybe something else…

This year was the third year and I am blessed to be a part of it. Each year it has become a better and better experience. Each year I learn new lessons.

But this year was different. Something strange happened.

The tennis became a side show to four days of community. Connection. Family. Love. Energy. Freedom from ego. Appreciation.

As the coaches, all of whom are the center of their tennis universe, started to arrive, there was a sense of anticipation and excitement around putting their crowns aside and being part of one big faculty. We were no longer 80 coaches who “know what is best.” We were in a state of cooperation.

The strong sense of self and healthy egos that each of us had packed in our racket bags never made it out of our rooms. What was left was heart. Each and every coach was enamored with the work and experience of the other coaches. Over and over again I heard one say to another, “you are amazing!” to be answered by, “no, you are amazing. I am learning so much from you.”

The coaches were opening their hearts up and pouring out everything they had, becoming fueled by giving. Giving to the players, who all were here to learn.

Many, at first, were worried about not being good enough, being judged. They were concerned that they might get stuck with a pro that was just average.

But no, that is not even close to what happened. As the players moved from class to class, experiencing many different coaches, they found a love from the teachers.

Everyone was connecting through their hearts.

No one was a favorite. Everyone was a favorite.

The coaches were wishing for more time with each athlete. The players didn’t want it to stop, no matter how tired they were.

The coaches thanked the players for their wide eyes and their resistance free learning. The players thanked the coaches, over and over again, for bringing such passion, caring and heart to the court.

The tennis brought us all together.

The shared passion was unforgettable.

All wanting to grow in some way and to be in the glow of connection.

To improve not prove.

Everyone melded into one big family of support, welcoming information, in states of shoshin, which means child’s mind, the wonder and the feeling of the very first time.

People hugged. No borders. Smiles were endless.

Students love when, in a large group, the well known coach knows them. And these coaches did.

Coaches love when the students share their compliments with others. And these players did.

No ego. People were all the same. All awash in the glow of community as the tennis brought them together.

We were in an orb of energy, feeding us, fueling us, growing us, turning us into family. Love, heart, joy, passion.

And PJ has somehow been the wizard. Our tennis and life muse. He leads, we follow. Where are we going? What will you have us do next? Take us on the journey where we will find what we were not looking for.

I found the realization of how much I have always wanted to feel a part of a family. I was a tennis pro and was supposed to be a lawyer, doctor or businessman. A professional. Not a pro. My family and friends wondered when I would wear long pants to work. And dark sox. Now after 40 years, I work on Wall Street as a professional.

But this weekend, I came home. Home to my family that shares a love. Teaching, learning. Tennis.

I went to Tennis Congress to share my knowledge with the athletes about telling new stories.

What I found was a new story for myself: I found my family, my home.

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22 thoughts on “What Was Really Happening in Tucson at Tennis Congress

  • Michael Smolens

    Bob – wonderful summary of 4 days in Tucson – a very magical time that is very difficult to put into words- you just nailed it

  • Kirk Dawson

    Bob, thanks so much for putting into words what i experienced as a first time attendee.

    I came to Tucson expecting an intense tennis camp, but came away with much, much more.

    New friendships made, possibilities opened, and a profound appreciation for the love and energy all put in to make this an experience i will return to…..

  • judy r. goldsmith

    This is such an emotional and touching post. It’s taken me a while, and I am more fully using the concept of writing the story I want. Thank you.

  • Ed Schroback

    From trying to read what the Tennis Congress was about, i get that PJ Simmons had a vision and saw it through..His vision and situation is similar to many beginner and intermediate tennis players..That is; they all want to get better but haven’t improved much for whatever reason..Getting great coaches together and giving personal instruction that fits their “style”..instead of other tennis camps that force their style on you and bog you down with unnecessary long winded speeches..In addition the coaches inspired and motivated the students to continue what they have been taught and possibly stay in touch with their coach..Since i wasn’t there..I could be wrong

  • Carol Catanese

    Bob, you have managed to capture in words, the overwhelmingly wonderful 2015 Tennis Congress experience. I continue to hold onto the bubble of well being and positive forces from my 4 days in Tucson. You, P.J. and my head coach, Ted Murray, and so many others made this one of the most meaningful experiences ever. I think we need to refer to the Tennis Congress weekend as a Tennis Retreat…(camp just doesn’t fit). So, each year has improved upon the previous year…can it actually get better than this year? If you believe in infinity, the answer is “yes!”

  • Birgitte Bradshaw

    There are no words for me to truly describe the experience I personally had. So thank you Bob for your description of what happened at the Tennis Congress. I too was still processing it, actually I still am! It’s really hard to describe the experience to others who were not there, even if they are tennis players and even harder to those that are in other areas of our lives outside of tennis. I am trying to stay in the bubble of the Tennis Congress as someone else said. Also, I want to personally thank you for touching my life and for helping me to realize that I can change my story. Still not sure exactly how to go about it, but I’m just going to start with one teeny, tiny part. I’m smiling at you!

  • Ted Murray

    Hi Bob. I love your summary of the T.C. You captured the true essence that went far beyond the tennis court. We know what an amazing leader P.J. is; however, I feel that you are a key factor in setting the vibration at a very high level through your comments the opening night and your consistently helping people elevate their story throughout the weekend. Your constantly sharing your heart made it so much easier for the rest of us to open up even more. It was truly the most open-hearted experience I have ever had in the tennis community. Here in Boulder we get kind of used to heart circles, hugs, and sharing on a deep level, but what a joy to feel it within the tennis industry as well. It was such a pleasure and an honor to be part of the T.C. this year. Can’t wait to feel the love that will be shared among us all at next year’s T.C.

  • Allen Musikantow


    You have captured what happened a month ago. I wish everyone could have been at the short meeting before the final dinner. It was electric.


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