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  • Writer's pictureNeal Hagberg

A Name to Make You Smile

Staff members and campers smiling during a cloudy day!


Let’s face it.  Sometimes there’s not much to smile about these days.  And I don’t even have to explain to you why, so I won’t.

So, try this.

Bring to mind someone whose name makes you smile.

Sit there with it for a few moments.  And let yourself smile.

They do not need to be in your presence to have a positive effect on your life.  They do not need to be in the same house, or state, or country, or even be alive.

There is power in a name.  Which is why we learn every camper’s name, the very first thing we do at Tennis & Life Camps.  It is more important than strokes, it is more important than mental strategy, it is more important than wins and losses.  Because if you are not “known”, none of the other stuff matters.

When we had to cancel camps last summer, we decided to reach out to every registered camper or family unit by name, because campers are more than just a number.  We sent out 1, 100 personal videos.  Most campers had been at TLC before.  And to call you by name again in these videos made us smile.  It made us remember the things that are important, even in a pandemic, even when we cannot be together.  It gave us strength.  Did it make us sad, too?  Yes, sometimes it did, because being separated from campers and staff we have come to know and love is sad.  BUT, every time we said your names, we smiled.  How beautiful is that?

So, sit there for a second, and say out loud someone whose name makes you smile.  And then enjoy that moment.  For 5-10 seconds.

Your troubles will not disappear at the end of it.  The pandemic will not magically go away.  You may still not have classes in person or a sports season (my daughter’s senior swim season in college is already cancelled).  But you will have brought yourself back to what is important after all is said and done.

And, if you really want to go for it, string a bunch of them together in one sitting.

Here’s how it goes for me:

Tom…

Tom…

Tom…. (I know a lot of Tom’s).

Dave…

Dave…

Dave…  (I know a lot of Dave’s).

Barb…

Barb…

Barb… (Yes, I know a lot of Barb’s, too).

Mike…

Mike…

Michael (Ha, fooled you).


Staff member, Jordon Anker-Stevens, going around and saying camper’s names in the “Name Game”


Leandra…

Leandra…

Leandra… (Ok, I only know one Leandra.  But, as my wife, she gets three mentions).

Madeline…

Mary…

Betty…

Boy…

Jeff…

Lucy…

Scott…

Ann….

George…

John…

Ringo…

Paul…. (Whoops, slipped into the Beatles there for a moment, focus, Neal, focus…)

Brian…

Ok, you get the idea.  Now you try it and let me know what happens.

Staff member, Morgan Steffen, going around and saying camper’s names in the “Name Game”


When I say Tennis & Life Camps, I smile. I don’t have to “be” there for it to make an impact in my life and cause me to be a better person.  Just as I don’t have to “be” with the people whose names I say out loud who make me smile, each one who has made me a better person and kept me on track to live what is important: a life of love in the midst of trouble and division and fear and uncertainty.

We will be back together, TLCers. It won’t be forever.  In the meantime, when you need strength and courage, bring to mind the names of people who make you smile, and say them. And we will meet on the other side of this, where we can say each other’s names in person.

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