Perseverance – Life-long love of tennis not hindered by stroke

Staff Sgt. Brian Hill
Kaiserslautern American

***image1***There’s a good chance Jim Moss has been winning tennis tournaments since long before you were born – and he’s still winning.

In July, 61-year-old Moss won the U.S. Forces Europe Tennis Championships, Master’s (over 40) singles title for the second consecutive year in Heidelberg. In addition, Moss and first-time doubles partner, 55-year-old Roy Tannis, teamed up to win the open division doubles tournament.

But age is just a small obstacle when compared with the stroke Moss suffered in 2003. His experience in shunning death has brought a clarity to his life.
“It felt weird,” he said. “I had no balance and a numb head.”

He said his thoughts were clear though that night, and he realized he was having a stroke. He drove himself to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, and spent the next couple days in a hospital bed.

“They tried some new injections that dissolved the blockage in the brain,” he explained.

After his stay at LRMC, Moss says he felt OK physically, but he has some lingering effects in memory recall, which lead to some long pauses in his conversations.

“I’ve never smoked, my blood pressure is good; I just have a history of stroke on my father’s side,” he said.

In battling back, Moss says he drinks one glass of red wine in the evening and takes one full-strength aspirin in the morning. He also makes sure to get a full night’s sleep, and he has learned to prioritize things in his life to lower stress.

“I had a life-altering experience,” he said. “I came pretty close to death.”

Tennis from the beginning
Moss began playing tennis in Ankara, Turkey in 1956. His father was in the Army and a program at the base offered recreational activities such as horseback riding, archery and tennis.

“From the beginning, I really liked the tennis,” he said.
Moss grew up living the nomadic life of an Army brat. After playing in high school in San Antonio and The College of William and Mary in Virginia – where he attended ROTC – Moss was commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Army and stationed in Germany. His stint as a “sir” was short though, and upon separating in 1971, he began working in Europe as a tennis pro.
“Back then, there were troops everywhere, and tournaments every month,” he said.

Moss remembers the courts at Vogelweh were perfect back then.
“Armstrong’s was the officers’ club, and there were several [tennis] clinics there,” he said.

While living in Heidelberg, Moss was the number one player at the Blau Weiss tennis club in Leimen. He recalls a young Boris Becker there – Becker’s parents were members.

After a 10-year stretch teaching philosophy and literature and coaching tennis in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Moss moved to Arizona and broke a wrist and shoulder in a bicycle accident. He then decided it was time to return to Europe.

It took two years to recover from his cycling injuries, but Moss was back at his game again, winning tournaments in Italy, Belgium, Bahrain, Turkey and at Lakenheath – always teaching to pay the bills.

I wanna win!
In some ways, Moss feels the stroke has improved his tennis. He says he’s more determined to get out on the court, but his priorities have given him a different attitude toward winning.

“I have more focus,” he said. “I’m more single-minded. I always play with the idea that I wanna win, but I don’t want to win so bad that I get nervous.”
In between teaching classes for the University of Maryland campus here, Moss likes to get out to hit tennis balls as often as he can.

“I’ll hit anytime with anyone, no matter the level,” he said. “I just enjoy being on the court.

“I think the game is just as popular now as it’s ever been,” he added. “Within the military communities, we just need people to take charge and give it some focus and organization.”