I have a feeling that today's episode is going to be very popular because today we're going to talk about how to deal with rude, obnoxious and annoying tennis players. This is a topic I know we all face because I hear about it from you, my Tennis Quick Tips listeners, all the time. I also hear about it from other tennis players that I chat with. And in fact, I myself deal with these players on, not a regular basis, but I certainly do come up against them on occasion. So today let's talk about how to deal with rude, obnoxious tennis players. Because there are some things we can do to help neutralize their impact on our game and what we're doing out on court.
Now before we get going too far into this, let me just say that I'm not talking about dealing with cheating tennis players. Those players are not just rude, obnoxious and annoying. But they are actually doing something that is wrong out on court and there are other ways you need to deal with them, depending on what type of match you're playing, whether it's for fun, whether it's part of a league that you're in, or whether you're involved in a tournament. But I'm not going to talk about cheating players here today. Instead, I'm talking about those players who are not cheating, they're acting within the rules, but they are engaging in behavior that is either gamesmanship or on the verge of gamesmanship just because it is so rude, obnoxious and annoying. So that's who we're talking about today.
The Problem with Rude, Obnoxious and Annoying Tennis Players
The reason we need to deal with these players is because it can negatively impact our own tennis play. When you face an opponent who is being rude, obnoxious or annoying, it can cause you to lose focus. It can distract you from what is happening on court.
It can decrease your level of performance. It can bring your game down.
And it can also cause you to, maybe, get in the mindset of using that poor behavior on your opponent's part as an excuse for you to play poorly. In other words, when someone is acting out on court, you may find yourself just throwing in the towel and saying, “You know what. I can't deal with this person. I don't even care anymore. I just want to get this over with and I don't care if I win or lose.”
Those are all responses we can have with these rude players and those are all negative responses that we don't want to have. So we do need to face the fact that we are going to come up against these people and we need to have a way to handle them.
What is Rude, Obnoxious or Annoying Behavior on the Tennis Court?
So just what is rude, obnoxious or annoying behavior on the tennis court? As I said, I'm not talking about cheating. But there are certainly a lot of other behaviors that we see. I'm sure each of us has a story to tell about someone who did something that we just could not believe. But I want to give you some examples of the types of things that I'm talking about because I want you to think about what truly constitutes this kind of behavior.
I received an email recently from a listener, Sal. You may remember Sal. He brought up an issue in another podcast about how to handle the return aimed at the net player. And you may be interested in that if you think that returns aimed at the net player are rude, obnoxious or annoying. But in my email exchanged with Sal, he raised another issue. Here's Sal's question:
Here's another question for you that's not in the rules or code but we deal with it out on the courts often. You've seen the opponent who's lost the game and very disrespectfully shot the balls to your side of the court very flippantly because it was your service game. You then end up having to go retrieve them from various parts of the court. This can happen in doubles or singles. It's that ill-mannered player we all know. How did you deal with someone like that? Thanks for your podcasts and keep them coming.
I think we can all agree that the player that Sal is describing is pretty rude. I've played against women who do something similar, leaving the balls scattered all over their side of the court on the changeover so that you have to run around and retrieve them before you can serve. I think that's obnoxious.
But how about this next player? I just received an email from Christine this week. Talk about synchronicity. In her email, Christine describes what I think may be absolutely the most rude, obnoxious AND annoying player I've ever heard of. Christine says this:
Our Community has a tennis group and we'd been playing 5 years together when a new resident joined us. His first comment to us: “I'm gonna show you how to play tennis.” His comments have gone downhill since. Examples: “you practice for a year and you might be half as good a player as I am”. “I didn't know you were good enough to hit that kind of shot”. On change overs instead of handing you the balls, he throws them over his shoulder. But last Wednesday was the best. I went to serve to him and he went and sat on a chair on the sideline and told me to serve he was ready. I know it wasn't cause my serve is slow, cause I have aced him twice. His comments and antics are meant to aggravate and put you off your game. So what do you do when your group is stuck with a player who instead of improving his game, is improving his gamesmanship and antagonizing our membership down. Believe me if we could tie him to the fence we would but Community rules doesn't allow us to maim him or exclude him from playing. Suggestions?
Oh my gosh Christine! I don't even know how you are able to put up with this kind of player but, as you yourself point out, you're stuck with him. And in fact, when we face these players out on court in a match and they're our opponents, we're completely stuck with them.
So let's talk about the type of players that Sal is referring to, that Christine is definitely referring to and that you and I are facing out on court.
The First Step is to Change Your Mindset
The first step in dealing with these players is changing your mindset. I hate to tell you this but the fact is, the way these players are acting is your problem, not their problem.
You know, if you think about it, you cannot change the behavior you see happening out on court. Why are people acting like this? It's hard to say. But wherever it's coming from, it doesn't really matter, because you're not going to change it. People adopt these rude, obnoxious, annoying behaviors for different reasons and, often, they keep at it because it works for them. It does get to us. So your initial way that you have to learn how to deal with these players is to realize that you're not going to change them. There are things you can do, but right out of the box, just know that you need to accept that their behavior is your problem because it's affecting you mentally. This is a mental toughness issue and you need to be able to deal with it yourself, not concentrate on changing what they're doing, but concentrate on changing how you deal with it so that it doesn't become a negative thing for you.
So accept that it's your problem, it's not their problem.
What You CAN Do to Deal with Rude Players
Now, having said that, there are some things you can do. So let's talk about that. First, I have two Do's for you, two things I think you should do to deal with these rude players.
Do Try to Ignore the Rude Player
Do try to ignore them. That's a hard one, especially if they're making audible comments the way that Christine pointed out. It's obnoxious for someone to say, “I didn't know you were good enough to hit that kind of shot.” That's like an invitation to get into a dispute.
But the best thing that you can do is remain focused on what you're trying to do on the court and ignore this rude behavior. I know it's easier said than done because I myself am not always able to pull that off. But I try really hard to look at it like, “Okay, that's their tactic. That's how they play to get themselves pumped up. But I'm not going to join in. I'm going to ignore it and keep trying to focus on playing my game, playing this match in a way that I can hopefully win it.”
So the number one action I would say to take is to try and ignore the rude player.
Do Try to Kill Them with Kindness
The number two action that I use because it works for me is to try and “kill them with kindness.” It's a very passive-aggressive thing to do in my opinion. But I often find that, the more obnoxious and rude someone is, the better I feel if I can be friendlier to them. Some people who are acting very rude, the last thing they want is to see you not only not being impacted by it, but actually along on your merry way, enjoying your tennis match. That's the way I view it and so if someone is being very rude and obnoxious toward me, I will often go way out of my way to be overly friendly, chatty and happy with them.
And I say that because, even though I get on this microphone and talk to ya'll every week about tennis, when I'm out on the court, I'm usually not a real chatty player except to my partner. I like to talk to my partner about what's happening but I don't necessarily reach out to be friendly with my opponents. I certainly not trying to be rude. But that's just not my thing. I don't want to talk to them about anything that has anything to do other than what's happening on the court. So usually I don't have a lot to say to my opponents. Unless I believe, based on what's happening, that they are being intentionally rude, obnoxious or annoying and I think that particular way of acting will bother them.
So if you think it will work, if it fits your personality, try to kill them with kindness.
What You Shouldn't Do to Deal with Rude Players
Those are my two Do's. And I also have a few Don'ts for you.
Don't Lose Your Focus
Don't let these players distract you. Don't let them take you away from doing what you need to do on court to win. Everything you do out there needs to be done towards winning the match. And if something doesn't help you win, don't do it. So don't let them distract you. Don't lose your focus. Keep playing and keep focusing on what's happening on court and how you can win that match.
Don't Become Rude Yourself
The second Don't I have is don't become rude yourself. Especially don't do it if it's not your usual style or attitude when playing tennis. Often, players who are rude don't care if you're rude. That doesn't bother them at all. So if it is not your normal way to play, I would avoid it. I would not suddenly become the player who fist pumps and cheers when his opponent makes an error. You're not going to feel comfortable doing that. You're going to start focusing on that versus what you're doing on court. It's a mistake and it probably won't have a big impact on your opponent. I just don't think that will work for you. So when someone is acting out like that, I recommend you do not do it yourself in retaliation, thinking somehow that's going to change the dynamics of what's going on on court.
Don't Point It Out
My final Don't is don't point it out to them. Again, that's sort of telling them, “Hey it's working. You're being rude, obnoxious and annoying and it's bothering me and getting to me. And I'm letting you know because now I'm pointing it out and telling you.” This is much different from someone cheating where you may need to point it out to them. But this gamesmanship type behavior, I don't think it helps you to point it out and say something to that player.
Now, I'll give you an example of where you might point it out, having just said don't do that. I think it's really annoying when people don't call the score loudly. And I will say something. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't. Some people just don't call the score loudly. But 9 times out of 10 it doesn't help to point it out so I would not do that. I would not give my opponent the satisfaction of knowing that their behavior is getting to me by pointing it out to them.
The bottom line for all of this is you need to be able to mentally rise above it, see it for what it is. Usually it's just a tactic or it's someone who that's just their personality. They're just rude, obnoxious and annoying off court too. So you need to mentally realize that you're not going to change them. You need to come up with ways that you can deal with it.
Christine and Sal, the players that you're talking about, it is hard to deal with these players. Especially in Christine's situation where you're stuck with that guy. You can't get rid of him. He's going to be around week after week. All you can do is, maybe not invite him to play quite as often. Ignore him as much as you can. But you're not going to change that behavior. Really all you can do is hopefully exclude him from some of the more friendly, voluntary matches you're playing. It's like having a teammate that you're stuck with that is really rude and obnoxious but you can't get rid of them. I know that isn't the instant answer you'd like to have but that's the reality of playing tennis.
And I hope this person isn't ruining it for you. All of you who have to deal with these people. I hope you don't let them ruin this great sport for you.
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