During the summer months following my seventh grade school year, I was involved in tennis camp activities with two of my closest friends, Suzanne and Erin. This was the first time that we were able to get to know each other better away from school since we did not have any classes together that year. Even though we were good friends, I had never felt a sense of camaraderie with either of them because they participated in sports, while I was involved in academics and other school activities. Not having had any paritcular interest in sports before the summer camp session, it was surprising that I became completely enthralled with the sport of tennis.
Tennis proved to be my initial experience with the bonding of my other two friends as this was an activity that each of us would be learning for the first time together. We were placed in the beginner group which introduced us to the sport and taught us the basic skills. My problem was that I didn't want to learn the introductory aspect of tennis, I wanted to start playing the actual game. While Suzanne and Erin were diligently practicing their forehand and backhand motions, I took private lessons focusing on my serve. Glancing their way, I would see them laughing and chatting as they walked to the clubhouse for a snack during a break. By expending all my energy on the game, I had hoped that my friends would respect my ability and that it would bring us closer together. Instead, I felt they were ostracizing me, which wasn't truly the case. Even so, Suzanne and Erin had developed a tight relationship of which I was envious. The closer they became, the worse I felt because I wanted to share equally in the friendship.
The bonding of our friendship did come about from another distinctive part of the tennis camp experience. Assuming that I had mastered the basics and proceeded to a more advanced level, Suzanne and Erin thought I wouldn't be interested in joining them in their practice sessions. I felt very hurt and left out as I ardently wanted to share practices and be a part of their team. As I sat alone watching them from the sidelines, I marveled at what good players they were and I wanted to learn a few of their techniques. But by adopting a bravado attitude towards the sport, I had led them to believe that I didn't need any help from them. It took some effot on my part to swallow my pride and ask if I could practice with them. Once we started to play on a regular basis, I realized how much time I had wasted being on my own. It was much more enjoyable developing our skills together.
The true bonding came not only from practicing, but from our persistent determination in succeeding at the sport. Being aggressive players, we even weighed the pros and cons of the various tennis equipment and were careful in selecting the proper athletic shoes. I can still recall the concern we had about how much tension the strings should have on our rackets. Throughout the summer, my friends and I played in various tournaments, sharing defeats as well as successes. Tennis continued to be the common ground of our friendship which developed even more into the following school year. We enjoyed extra-curricular activities as well, such as going to the movies, cotillion dances, and parties. And, of course, there was always tennis, sometimes after school or on weekends. It was a common ground in which we could release our innte tensions. Even though we all tried out, Erin was the one who made the tennis team at school, while Suzanne and I joined the dance team.
The personal bond that I created with my friends was initially formed by our mutual interest in the sport of tennis. In the group formation, our individualities created attachment reactions which inseparably linked us together. While each of us pursued other interests such as art, drama, and debate, tennis was the one activity in which we could all share.