“Do you see that dancer over there?” Anita rather indiscreetly but proudly pointed out a tall, handsome older woman with a strong athletic build, “Did you know that she is a Canadian tennis champion and has played all over the world?” Together we watched the dancer with awe. During the evening I surreptitiously observed Joyce (as I heard she was called). She seemed to thoroughly enjoy herself on the dance floor and at the same time I gathered she was keeping her friends highly amused with her comments.
On the way home I decided I had to find out more about this Tennis Champion so I picked up the phone to have a chat with her. I found out that Joyce was born in Bootle, Liverpool in 1930. She was one of the first women police officers in the city and met her husband, also a police officer, on the beat. I’m not sure if she carried a tennis racket at that time rather than the baton that the Bobby traditionally had in hand!! They married in 1955 and a week later set sale on the Franconia across the Atlantic to North America following in the few steps of a few of their fellow local police officers who had emigrated to Canada. Joyce told me that she was sea sick 9 out of the 12 days it took to get to New York and she can still clearly remember that journey in her nightmares! They landed in New York and then traveled by train to London, Ontario, a lengthy trip at that time.
Once they arrived Joyce’s husband worked as a business machines technician and Joyce found employment as a secretary in a Toronto Police Detective Office. The Police Department tried to persuade both of them to return to police work but they were adamant against carrying arms. The couple started their family and two girls and a boy came along, Alan, Barbara and Claire. Joyce now has 5 grandchildren.
Joyce had always been keen on sports from a young girl. She played tennis initially in school and then was on the table tennis team for the Police Force, a perfect sport to keep their reflexes sharp! When she came to Canada she played for the Provincial and Canadian table tennis teams. However, working and bringing up a family didn’t allow Joyce a lot of time to allot to her love of sports. It was on her retirement that she started to play tennis more seriously and she did well in a number of local tournaments. Someone suggested she try for the Canadian Nationals and after some consideration she thought “Why not?”! Since that auspicious occasion she has had seven invitations to play for the National Team. Joyce has represented Canada at the International Tennis Federation Super Seniors World Championships in Cape Town, Austria, Turkey (2), Philadelphia and will be playing in New Zealand November 2007. There are approximately 14 countries represented at this tournament including Mexico, the US, Sweden, Australia, New Zealand, France, Germany, Spain, Argentina, Japan and the UK. It seems Canada was pipped at the post by the British team last year and are out for revenge!! Joyce told me that there are plenty of social activities that take place at these events and last year in Turkey they all did some line dancing.
As if she doesn’t have enough on her plate, Joyce has also played at the Masters’ Games which is held every 4 years. She has played in Toronto, Denmark, Australia, and Edmonton and won medals in all of them. In addition, she regularly plays the Canadian Nationals which alternate between Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia.
The tournaments have age categories for the players which presently range from 35 to 75. Right now the players are trying to include an 80’s team in Canada. Joyce told me that in the US there is a category for players in their 90s, men only at the moment. She commented on how remarkable the players in that age category are; they might not be as agile as they once were but their ball placement skills and abilities on the court are very impressive.
Joyce is a relatively recent convert to line dancing discovering it through her local Seniors Centre. She initially started with traditional line dancing. This is a slower form of line dancing and the instructor calls out the steps throughout the dance using specific traditional terminology. Joyce enjoyed this but felt ready to move along and now she is an avid fan of regular line dancing. She loves country and western music but likes other music as well. She was quite excited when they recently learnt a line dance to Irish music and with tongue in cheek she told me she envisages a new career on stage with Michael Flatterly!
I asked Joyce about comparisons between tennis and line dancing. She reckoned that the camaraderie in both is special; that people are friendly and welcoming to newcomers and that you soon feel part of the gang. Long lasting friendships are made. Line dancing helps her enormously with her foot work on the tennis court. She has noticed that the changes in direction in the flow of a dance have helped her work on her balance. Not one for regular exercise at the gym, she has found that line dancing has definitely enabled her to build up her stamina. “We just don’t stop for anything, five minutes for a drink of water and we’re back on the dance floor again” she laughed. The memory work involved in remembering dance steps helps in tennis court concentration. Earlier in the year Joyce broke her wrist and it is the line dancing that kept her fit so that when it was healed she was able to head straight out onto the tennis court again.
Joyce has even started to travel with her line dancing and was on the dance floor in Myrtle Beach in the US earlier this year and this Fall is going to a week long event in the Catskills, New York State.
Talking with Joyce, her enthusiasm for her two loves of tennis and line dancing was obvious. She is someone who has clearly demonstrated that new and exciting things can happen to us at any time in our lives if we are willing to be open and receptive, to take a few chances and most of all to be ready to follow our passions. “Tennis anyone? Now, where did that tennis ball go …. I thought it was supposed to go over the net not under it!”