I used to roll out of bed at 9:30 for 10:00 for my matches on the Women’s team at the Bronxville Field Club. I was 19 years old. I didn’t stretch. I didn’t eat a good breakfast, in fact, I barely ate breakfast at all most days and I rarely wore the team shirt. I’d arrive at the courts, pull my hair into a ratty ponytail, search the backseat of my car for a clean towel, and play. Until Mrs. Turner took over…
Mrs. Turner was legendary at the Bronxville Field Club. She and another legend, George Pickwick held court on Court One all summer long. I learned how to play doubles by playing against them. Many a person suffered their wrath when they we referred to as a married couple, and would get loudly scolded with “He’s not my husband! He’s my doubles partner!”
My doubles partner, Scott Fuller, and I would handily get our butts kicked by their variety of spins, lobs, drop shots, and craftiness. So when Mrs. Turner agreed to be the Captain of the A-Team, I knew we were in for a change.
We all sat on the terrace under the ancient oak tree as she stood in front of us with an index card in her right hand a cigarette in her left. She wore white tennis shorts, a Lacoste tennis top with the collar pulled up, oversized Jackie-O sunglasses, and Minnetonka Moccasins before they were even cool. Her blonde hair was always stylishly cut and perfect and she was uber-tan. She informed us that she would only be the captain for a year and that she would make all the decisions regarding line-ups and playing time. We agreed. She told us that she wouldn’t tolerate any nonsense. We knew she wouldn’t.
After the first three matches, one member of the team had an enormous problem playing Line Four. She complained to anyone who would listen that her friends at another club would laugh at her if she continued to be demoted. She said she had a reputation to uphold and didn’t think she could play for us any longer. We told her to tell Mrs. Turner. She did. Mrs. Turner told her that if she felt so humiliated, she should leave and that was the end of that issue.
One day Mrs. Turner went to her locker after playing and when she went to put on her trademark moccasins, she discovered they were missing. You see, back in the day, no one locked their lockers. She knew immediately that some punk teenagers had stolen them. She posted signs in the locker room that said,
“To the girls who stole my moccasins: Please return them and there will be no repercussions. I am going down to the school every day and I will be looking for my moccasins on everyone’s feet. When I see them on your feet I will notify the school, your parents and the club’s board of directors.”
The moccasins were returned within a day.
Mrs. Turner didn’t suffer fools. She said exactly what she thought and had zero patience for people who played games. When I rolled into the matches with minutes to spare, she made it clear that that would stop. I’d arrive at least a half-hour before like everyone else and warm up with them. I got the message. I understood that when Mrs. Turner told you to do something, you did. She made me aware of the words “integrity,” “discipline,” “honesty,” “decency” and what they meant in day to day applications.
Mrs. Turner had zero tolerance for ego and she let that be known. Line One was equally as important as Line 4 and if you felt you deserved to play higher, her motto was “work harder.”
Ginny Turner was one of the few adults that I remember being afraid of and respecting at the same time. I wanted her to like me and think that I was a good kid. Once during a match, after my partner Linda and I had split sets, we walked over to her for advice. Linda had played on the tour and was the best player any of us had ever known. When we asked Mrs. Turner what we should do in the third set, she let out one of her trademark smoker’s cough/laughs and said, “Hell! Linda you’ve forgotten more about tennis than I’ll ever know and you Liz, just listen to Linda for crying out loud!” It was good advice.
I’ve become friendly with Mrs. Turner’s son, Jim on Facebook. We connected over the passing of my father, another member of the Ginny Turner Fan Club. I watched a Podcast Jim and a former student did a month ago and I was struck by how much Jim reminded me of his mom.
Unlike Mrs. Turner, Jim has a more soft-spoken demeanor, but much like his mom, he is one of the most decent human beings you’ll ever come across. He’s made an impact on the kids he’s taught, much like his mother made an impact on us. The apple doesn’t fall too far from the proverbial tree.
People will tell me all the time how much my father influenced them and I fully get that after having had the honor of playing for Mrs. Turner. It’s not often that a kid immediately realizes that the adult they’re connected to through some circumstance is and will be, a game-changer in their lives. It’s no lie that I think about Ginny Turner every day.
The bowl that she gave me for my first ill-fated marriage sits on my countertop with rotting fruit (I start the week out super ambitious that I’m going to eat more fruit and fewer donuts….). I remember her scowl when we got down a set, I remember her fist pumps when we pulled out the third, but mostly I remember her making all of us want to do better, to be better. It was her gift. She never had to tell us how to rise, her actions, and no-nonsense approach road it all.
It’s not the bowl that is a constant reminder of Ginny Turner, but her formidable personality that brings a smile to my face. I’m a lucky to girl to have known her and now her son Jim.
P.S. I know my great friend Faith, along with many other friends form the BFC will be reading this. Hello to you all, give a shout out and let me know how you all are doing. I think about you all so often and wonder how you are.
Double P.S. If you’re wondering why Mr.s Turner isn’t pictured in the above photo, in typical Ginny Turner fashion, she said she didn’t need to be in the picture….