You really don't know someone until you've played them in tennis. In my experience, all of the nice ladies I volunteer with and have lunch with and carpool with undergo an incredible transformation out on the court. Turns out a lot of them are not so nice after all. They LIKE to win and will do whatever it takes – call my ace serve out (this has actually happened), hit me in the face with their volley (this has actually happened), make inappropriate hand gestures on court (this just happened yesterday and was done by my partner) – to make sure they win.
So I was somewhat puzzled when I read the article “Play to Win” in the October 2010 issue of Marie Claire magazine. The author believes that women avoid competition in sports. And since she was talking specifically about tennis, I had to read on. She says:
I avoid losing, which also means that I avoid winning . . . . [W]hen I play tennis, I don't keep score. My hitting partner and I stick to ground strokes, standing at the center of the baseline, thwacking the ball like a well-balanced metronome. Once in a while, the heat rises and I thread a backhand down the line or she rips a forehand crosscourt. But we'd sooner hurl our rackets at each other than actually than actually beat each other. In our games, social niceties seem more important than winning–I would hate it if someone didn't have fun.
Where, oh where, are these mythical women who don't want me to lose at tennis and when can I play a match against them?
She goes on to explain how she signed up for a weekend-long tennis camp “not to pretty my strokes, but to practice competing.” And, ultimately, she gets it – “I was having fun: moving into the ball, being more aggressive, and perfecting a better balance on my shots. Suddenly I had a sanctioned outlet for blowing off steam and winning . . . .” Of course, her new-found assertiveness carries over into her everyday life and she ends up getting a refund from Amtrak for a delayed train trip.
It's a pretty short article.
Anyway, it just made me think how I have really never encountered anyone who didn't want to win at tennis. I've even played with women who were determined they were going to win our warm-up. And, guess what? I am one of those women too! I want to win and, while I have not yet made any inappropriate hand gestures on court, I have aimed a forehand line drive right at the net person to get her to back off.
I personally think one of the great things about tennis is that you can be competitive and not be seen as some kind of bitch out on the court. Maybe all of us competitive tennis ladies are here in Middle America, not playing in the literary circles of New York like this writer.
For me, I intend to go right on being competitive. And if inappropriate hand gestures get me a few points, maybe I'll throw a few of those in too.
© Kim Selzman 2010 All Rights Reserved