Life lessons from the tennis court
To the editor:
When I learned to play tennis about 55 years ago I had many advantages: country club lessons by top tennis pros, tennis camps and lots of [even unlimited] opportunities to work on my game.
I was given a lot of good advice about strategy and technique as well. What I was not given was a very frank discussion of how and in what ways some of my opponents would try to gain an advantage while we played. Most of what they did would be called “gamesmanship” but some of it would be properly defined as cheating. The various methods employed were usually to distract me: slowing down the pace of the game, pausing at critical moments to towel off, walking ever more slowly to pick up balls, etc.
This was done when I was winning. If I started to lose, this behavior would drop away. None of this is beyond the rules; it is allowed, but on some occasions my opponent would call in balls out and question the calls I made on my side of the court. This could also include questioning my understanding of the score at any given moment. All this can be very upsetting. My temperament being what it was, it usually did throw me.
I wonder now why my parents, who had given me all the advantages I mentioned, had never given me the low-down on this aspect of the game. Why had they not told me that some of my opponents would resort to these tactics when they were losing? I was a pretty good player, but then I really should have been with all the lessons I had had. But I was not very good at adjusting to the gambits employed by some of my opponents.
Should my parents have given me that talk? Or my coaches told me I would be subject to every kind of method to throw me off my game? That people would be unfair, dishonest, and even mean? All good questions.
But it is also true about life. Should my parents have warned me about New York City? The hustle that goes on there? The smiling faces that will take advantage of you the first chance they get? Or should they have let me learn on my own? Let me hold to my first assumption that most if not all the people I encounter will be “good” playing by the rules etc.
The truth is that most of the people I played were no less honest or fair than I was and some of them more so. I was sensitive and in a hot sun, even temperamental. I rarely felt calm and collected for a match. I was nervous and tense; ripe for the kind of strategies I mentioned. ”Live and learn” as my father used to say.
We all do need that talk some day but most of it we do learn on our own. The most important thing to teach young people is to not compromise their own values when they see others doing it. Not an easy thing to do in the society we live in today but still possible. My parents and teachers did teach me this lesson over and over again and I am eternally grateful that they did.
– Jim Turner, Fairfield