My fourteen year old daughter plays competitive tennis. She’s pretty serious about it and hopes one day to play at the college level. Right now this means training several days a week after school and playing tournaments on the weekends.
It also means coming up against some really intense kiddos who’ve been coached in the art of mind games. They intimidate by questioning line calls and stalling the opponent’s serve between points to throw her off rhythm, etc. But the worst we’ve encountered is young girls taunting opponents by shouting out when they WIN a point.
This weekend, my daughter played a highly ranked player whose skill level was far above hers. Fine. Playing someone better always is a learning experience and improves your game. But kicking my girl’s butt and taunting her at the same time really is too much for this momma.
Every time this player won a point, she yelled, “Mine!” When the USTA (United States Tennis Association) official came around, the girl quieted down. Her parents were sitting nearby and said nothing. My husband and I stared at one another in shocked awe. Then, he said out loud, “Did she really just say, ‘mine?’” The parents didn’t bat an eyelid. My daughter called a few of her balls out (because they were) and she came unglued. She rushed the net and screamed, “That wasn’t out! “
My daughter calmly said, “It was out.”
The child yelled, “Show me where it landed. Show me!” They were playing on hard courts and of course there were no ball marks, so my daughter pointed to a non-spot on the court. The parents again didn’t say a word.
The child’s been taught or enabled to behave this way on the court. To take what’s hers and taunt her opponent while doing so. No humility or sportsmanship. It’s the opposite lesson from what we’ve always taught our kids. I suppose it’s how elite athletes are getting their edge these days. Thank goodness our girl has two older brothers and has the gumption to stand up to bullies like these.
As we continued to watch the rest of the match, we could hear another, even younger girl on a court behind us yelling over and over, “Come on!” This was when she won points. There are pros who behave this way on a national stage, and maybe they should take a look at how our youth coming up are emulating them.
When our daughter came off the court, she laughed and said, “I’m not even upset; that girl was insane.” At least she could see it and realized how bizarre the behavior was and understood that you can’t understand crazy, especially if crazy has been nurtured and taught both by parents and coaches as a tool to help win at the expense of fair play and good sportsmanship.
Second Place wasn’t bad.
Have a great week, and try not to taunt your opponents. :-)