“The first few days were just really wacky,” Ashley Lahey remembered.
Heading into her senior tennis season at Pepperdine University, Lahey was ranked the No. 1 player in all of women’s college tennis – and her team was poised to make a run at a national championship.
And then, the coronavirus pandemic cancelled everything.
“I was just kind of stuck in my room thinking about how much this [situation] sucks,” Lahey said.
The first few weeks were isolating and depressing, but eventually she made the decision to spend the summer at her parent’s home in Boulder.
“After a while I just said, ‘it’s not in my control there’s nothing I can do,’” says Lahey, “I’m going to train because I love training. I’m going to play tennis because I love playing tennis. I just want to go out there and enjoy it.”
Being back in Colorado lifted her spirits – and she found a new passion at a neighborhood tennis court.
“I love kids,” Lahey said. “Ever since I was five years old, I loved taking care of two-year-old kids. I love how excited they are about everything and [how excited they are] about life and how much joy they have.”
Three nights a week she gives tennis lessons to a group of kids from her community.
“I get to have an impact on the community, and they get to give me that love and joy back,” says Lahey. “it’s just been an incredible experience. That’s what we need in this time, something where we can safely be together. Being taken away from everybody is so unhealthy for humans.”
She even found something unexpected, a new life purpose.
“To love people, to inspire people, to bring the community together,” Lahey said. “I just feel like I’m doing what I’m meant to be doing.”
Professional tennis remains in her future – she even hopes to return to Pepperdine to finish up her senior season – but whenever she returns to the court competitively, it’ll be with newfound perspective.
“I want to treat [training] as something where I’m going out there and doing it because I love it, not because I have to win a tournament,” Lahey said. “I’m going to try and keep that joy and passion alive because I think it’s infection and I think that’s part of my purpose is to be a light to others.”