For sophomore Kara Delicata, playing tennis is more than merely winning and losing matches. It is a celebration of ability. The Canadian does not take running across the court or hitting a tennis ball for granted because her younger sister, Jordan, will never be able to do the same. Jordan, who is 15 years old, was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, a disorder that hinders muscle moving. Jordan is restricted to a wheelchair and has no mobile or verbal capabilities. Delicata takes her sister’s disadvantage and uses it as motivation while playing tennis. “If I am losing a match, I think about Jordan, and I know that she’d be proud just watching me play,” Delicata said. “I like to win for her. She really likes tennis and watching me play, and I always want to make her proud”.Even when Jordan is not at the matches watching her sister play, her positive attitude surrounds Kara and pushes her to do her best. She said Kara knows that, win or lose, she is fortunate to have the ability to play. “I know she’ll never get the chance to do any of the things I’ve been lucky enough to have some level of success with,” Delicata said. “I have never met a person that could be so incredibly happy with the small things in life. Like if I pick a flower out of a garden and give it to her, she’ll be extremely happy. Or she’s content watching me practice for hours. She appreciates little things like that, and she really keeps me going.”Inspired by her sister’s strength, Delicata said that she has now realized that tennis is not everything. Kara knows that her sister battles everyday to have the energy to make itthrough a day of school. Jordan can’t walk or do most of the things that normal people can do. For Kara, those things are a much bigger deal than playing tennis.Last year, Delicata lost her motivation as she adjusted to playing at Michigan. In Juniors, she often won matches easily. But at the collegiate level, it was difficult for her. Delicata finished her freshmen year with a record of 17-8 in singles and 26-14 in doubles. The intense competition and increased amount of losses took Delicata’s motivation away. She added to this stress by pressuring herself to win every match. Instead of going into matches with a clear mind, Delicata said she went into some matches thinking, “I can win this match. I have to beat this girl”.Delicata admits that while this kind of pressure may help other people, it does not help her. The pressure to win was actually destructive by making her overanalyze her technique, leading to more mistakes.“I was just negative toward myself,” Delicata said. “I was very pessimistic, and it did not help my game”.Toward the end of last season, Michigan’s team captain and Delicata’s doubles partner, senior Michelle DaCosta, saw a vast improvement in her game.“Last year, (Delicata) had a lot of close matches,” DaCosta said. “In the beginning, sometimes she won those close matches and sometimes she lost. But toward the end of the season, she won most of her close matches.”After freshman year, Delicata had a mission for her summer training: repair her destructive attitude and create a calmer playing environment for herself. Establishing this laid-back approach was not easy to do.Over the summer, Delicata went back home to Windsor to improve her topspin, her forehand, the accuracy of her serve and, most importantly, her attitude. Delicata said that she often had to work on the consistency of hitting the ball — hitting the same shot for upwards of an hour and a half. Repetition was a key to her resurgence.“The more you do something the more confident you become with it,” Delicata said.Delicata also taught at a local tennis club in Windsor. She feels that opportunity also helped in her change.“It was a great experience for me,” Delicata said. “Kids always bring out the good side of people I think.”Another key to her revival was reading. With an interest in sports psychology as a possible major, Delicata also began reading books about how to deal with the pressure of being an athlete. It was important for her to focus on her individual weakness over her summer break because, at school, practice usually includes drills and group workouts. Delicata stays abreast with her motivational reading. One book that her coach encouraged her to read over winter break was “Mind Gym: An Athlete’s Guide to Inner Excellence.”“After I read ‘Mind Gym,’ I realized that, with a more positive attitude, I could win more matches,” Delicata said. “I used the book’s contents to change my mentality in matches from really negative to more positive. Obviously it isn’t perfect yet, but I am working on it.”Delicata hopes to keep this mentality during her matches and feels that it is helping her approach her matches with a lighter tone. Assistant coach Katy Propstra is seeing a vast change in Delicata’s attitude.“Kara has a lot of potential both in singles and doubles.” Propstra said. “She plays with power. She just seems to have more confidence now when she’s out there on the court”. Coaches are not the only ones noticing Delicata’s development. Her mother, Gina Delicata, also sees an improvement in her daughter’s confidence.“When Kara went back to school in August, she seemed more prepared and more relaxed with her game,” Gina said.But, most importantly, Delicata feels a change in herself from being destructive to growing into a more constructive player. Delicata said that even something as little as how she responds to a missed shot has helped show her how she has improved.After a missed shot, she used to beat herself up mentally by saying to herself, “That was the easiest shot ever! How could I miss it?” But now she simply thinks to herself, “I’ll get it next time.”

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