My story of joining the tennis team: losing weight and gaining self-confidence

Growing up, I was always the very chubby kid. This led to poor body image, feelings of ostracism, and emotional eating. It wasn’t until I joined my high school tennis team that I felt that good about myself for the first time. Being on the tennis team changed my life and would later me through a very difficult situation.

I was able to shine as an athlete. I was completely surprised that, even though I was overweight, I could help my team to win division championships. By the end of the year, I even won some individual competitions for myself. I was feeling extremely confident in ways I did not think were possible before I joined the team.

(Author: Anna Schlupp)

Not only did being a part of my tennis team give me a boost of self-confidence, being a part of a team who accepted and supported me became crucial for more than winning matches. During the later portion of my high school career, I ended my relationship with my abusive girlfriend of three years.  Although my ex-girlfriend was a member of our tennis team, we kept our relationship a secret so that the other teammates did not know about our relationship.

This was a very difficult period in my life: my emotions were flowing at an accelerated rate as I was sorting out shame for having a same-sex relationship. Looking back, I now know that shame about my sexual orientation is what prevented me from telling the others about the abusive nature of this relationship. Even though my other teammates did not know the whole truth of my situation, they expressed their concern for me when I seemed upset at practice. Their support for me as a member of the team sustained me during this tough period in my life. They were able to do exactly what a winning team does best for its teammates: be a scaffold of encouragement and a source of pride.

High school is only a distant memory now. Since then I’ve lost 100 pounds through diet and exercise, worked hard to keep that weight off through college, and lately have been fortunate enough to become a volunteer for a fitness program for homeless youth.  Each week, we take the kids to a local Philadelphia park where we all work out together and talk about how to promote healthy lifestyle activities.

It is my hope that I can help spread the feelings of support my team gave me when I was in high school through my volunteer work with young people. Seeing the kids from the homeless shelter releasing their frustration and aggression through athletic activities with their peers reminds me how uplifting it feels to be a part of a team. Although my situation is not the same as what these kids are going through, I know firsthand how athletics and fitness can be crucial during the most difficult times in a young person’s life.

Being an athlete helped me to feel both physically and mentally healthy in times when I needed it the most. It allowed me to overcome feelings of low self-esteem, a bad relationship, and has made me into a more confident person who wants to share my story with others. If that isn’t winning, then I don’t know what is!

–by Anna Schlupp

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