Valentin @valentinadjokicnyc Middle School Teacher & Tennis enthusiast / by daphne youree

My cousin Valentina is so amazing - by day she's a public middle school teacher and by night it's all Tennis💪Here is her story :

 " In Serbia, I was one of those girls who would always get in trouble for missing her ‘dusk curfew’ – I was all over town on my bike, on a playground inventing new ‘Olympic’ games, on a basketball court, pleading with older kids to let me play… in school, I was on a (European) handball team, a basketball team, in an afterschool dance program, signed up for ballet, but fell in love with modern dance… in college, I played volleyball, spent hours in a swimming pool, and a nearby gym… until Aikido… until a big move from Belgrade to New York… and Bootcamp – literally and figuratively… I had to be strong, mentally and physically… as for the latter, I had to accept the fact that, although I’d always been ‘athletic’, I’d never really confined myself to any one particular sport or activity and excelled at itL… I tried not to be too hard on myself – I felt strong, I stayed in shape, and that’s ok…… and then, I got my first tennis racquet… one might think, like I did, that hitting a ball with a racquet (as long as it goes over the net, I figured) is a piece of cake… I didn’t care for lobs or volleys or smashes or drop shots… Had I gotten that racquet earlier, maybe… but now – it’s too late… I could have, I should have… but then I tackled it like a pro! I took tennis lessons, I joined the tennis community, found tennis partners online and on the courts… I made friends … tennis became a part of my life, a sport I was getting good at, but had a long way to go, a challenge, an inspiration… tennis has given me more than strength and stamina… when my tennis balls end up on another court, I call my fellow tennis players – by their name – to toss them back to me, and I hear my name called, too… I am a part of the community, I belong… I see red-tailed hawks fly over the courts, and stop the game to admire their beauty, I smell the linden flowers on my way to the courts, and lose myself in NYC blue skies on the way back home… I am not a tennis pro (yet!:-)), but am a 4.0-5.0 on the NTPR player ranking scale, which is irrelevant, as the tennis journey has taught me that it will never end… I can and will get better - and better, every time I hit that tennis ball and it goes over the net… and, yes, it’s (almost) ok when it doesn’t..."