I am intrigued by license plates. Where did that car come from? Why is it here? Where is it going? On road trips, one of my favorite activities is to play the license plate game with my kids.
Every state’s plate is unique. And every plate tells a story.
Yesterday, I was walking through a parking lot and noticed a sports car whose license plate was “LOVE 40.” (I find vanity plates to be particularly interesting!)
I wondered if the driver was an athlete who wore number 40? Maybe it was his wife’s or girlfriend’s car? Maybe it was her husband’s or boyfriend’s car? Maybe it was a fan? Maybe it had nothing to do with sports and the car belonged to somebody who just celebrated a 40th birthday?
As I walked by, the driver happened to open the car’s door. She was clearly younger than 40, so that ruled out the birthday possibility. My curiosity got the best of me, so I pointed at her license plate asked, “Who’s number 40?”
She smiled and said, “No, it’s nothing like that. It’s a tennis thing.”
Of course! I didn’t consider that possibility. Before I could say anything else, the woman added, “But it’s not what you think.”
Now I was even more curious.
The woman went on to explain that she used to play competitive tennis. But a few years ago, she was in a serious car accident. The doctors weren’t sure if she would ever walk again, let alone play tennis. One day, while lying in her hospital bed, hurting and depressed, her tennis coach came to visit.
Her coach leaned down and whispered in her ear, “It’s love-40. That’s all, it’s just love-40. You got this.”
Her coach’s simple, yet cryptic, message changed her entire perspective. She stopped feeling sorry for herself and began her courageous journey to recovery.
As a player, she frequently allowed herself to be her own worst enemy. Whenever she got down in a match, the pressure would get the best of her. She would become tense and lose focus.
Scoring in tennis can be confusing to those unfamiliar with the sport. It was intended to be that way. Tennis was once the game of aristocrats, and to deter the common folk from playing, they deliberately devised a complex scoring system.
The game starts at “love-all.” When the first player scores, it becomes “15-love”. The server’s score is said first, the receiver’s second. If the other player scores next, they’re tied at “15-all.” The subsequent scoring is 30, then 40, and the following point wins that game.
Why love instead of zero? Nobody really knows. Although some historians theorize it’s related to the sport’s French origins. In French, the word “l’oeuf” means egg, an object shaped similarly to the numeral 0.
The worst situation for any tennis player is to be serving with a score of “love-40.” The player’s back is against the wall and there is no room for error. The pressure of being down by that amount caused the vanity plate’s owner to become undone.
Her coach eventually convinced her that being down “love-40” wasn’t insurmountable. Whenever she found herself in that situation, he told her to calm down, breathe, refocus, remember her purpose, and enjoy the journey. His encouraging advice—“It’s love-40. That’s all. It’s just love-40”—always seemed to do the trick.
“Love-40” became a theme in her life. It was a constant reminder that she could overcome any challenge when she relaxed, got refocused, and enjoyed the journey.
Being a good teammate isn’t easy. There are times when you question your ability to serve the needs of your team, when your teammates frustrate you, and when you wonder if your efforts will make a difference. In those moments, whisper to yourself: “It’s love-40. That’s all. It’s just love-40.”
As always…Good teammates care. Good teammates share. Good teammates listen. Go be a good teammate.