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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

REFLECTIONS: Etiquette still an important part of the sport called tennis

Sign that obviously
needs to be posted at the
tennis courts
Wow! Mid 50's weather at 7PM in the evening on the east coast. Wow! Lighted tennis courts available with no waiting. Wow! Some guy bringing a hockey net, sticks, a ball, and two kids onto the court next to me (and my partner) in order to play under those same lights. I looked at him in disbelief, especially since there is a hockey rink next to the courts. While it is true that the rink is not lighted, and the lights from the court provide poor illumination for the rink, that is where hockey is played! I couldn't help but wonder if this man understood the difference or even cared. 
     After a few unpleasant words, and discussion of all the scuffs on the court from hockey sticks, we tried to ignore their play and focus on ours. Then came the red hockey ball that rolled across our court. One of the youth ran around behind me and then proceeded to slap-shot his ball right across our court. After asking politely for him to NOT hit a ball across where we were playing, hockey-man went ballistic with profanity spewing from his sewer-inspired mouth. F-bomb after F-bomb exploded from this guy. My partner and I were called every name his limited vocabulary could produce, and we were accused of being somehow less-than-men for playing what he called a sissy game. We came very close to fisticuffs after he continually referred to me as a pedophile simply because I am a school teacher, and after he stood at the service line of my court baiting me to hit him with a ball. Oh how I was tempted. But he just wanted an excuse to fight so I held my ground and temper.
     Why do I bring up this incident? Etiquette is the customary code of polite behavior in society or among members of a particular profession or group. This aspect of tennis is interwoven into the very fabric of the sport of tennis. Those who know little to nothing of tennis may not be aware of the standard courtesies we have come to accept. But I don't think this is what we were dealing with. This man associated hockey with machismo and brutality, and he displayed bullying with pride. He was unknowingly teaching this lesson to these impressionable 11 or 12 year old kids on the tennis court–the very same kids teachers then get in school. His lesson plan was one of disrespect, discourtesy, rudeness and uncontrollable rage. Is this the kind of behavior tolerated in sports we thrust our kids into under the guise of learning "teamwork?" How different is this from referring to "killing the other team" or ripping them apart in effigy at a pep rally?
     If you are someone who works with or watches our youth in any sporting event, please be on guard for this kind of display so that it is not what gets associated with your activity or team. There are lots of great youth coaches and parent volunteers out there and I applaud their efforts to teach our kids self-discipline, pride, humility, and honor. The sports skills are almost secondary. I feel sorry that the very positive thing hockey-man was trying to accomplish, that of teaching these kids some basic hockey skills, got blurred by the antics of a small mind and big mouth. 

Etiquette and courtesy is still important regardless of the sport. Let's work diligently to keep it that way. 

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