January 8th, 2011: this was the date, past weekend; my 9yr. old participated in his first 12 under ZAT tournament. Having played in the 10 under's all of last year he now has his sights set for qualifying points. It went well & he back with more fire in his belly. All's good so far.
Best parent: 1st round match son plays an 11 yr. old boy. Son takes the 1st set 6-4. 2nd set, he's up 3-0, the kid is starting to lose it, questioning calls etc., head down, throws his racquet few times etc. Son stands his ground continues & it's 4-0. Then all of a sudden the kid comes to the net says something to his mom & mom says "you have to tell him first". Kid walks off the court. Son looks at me & shrugs his shoulders. I tell him, maybe he's taking a bathroom break, so its ok I guess. Kid comes back with one of the tournament official & son's a little confused. He gives me a questioning signal; I give him back the signal to keep on going & stay calm & composed (something we've really worked on). It works. They play a few points then son calls a ball out. Kid disagrees.The official walks to the court on son's side places 2 balls, 2 inches outside the baseline & says "what you see as in, is in is actually out, it can be confusing from your far court, but he has been making the right calls". After 5 min. the official leaves.
The other kid's mom walks over to me & says "I'm sorry, this happens a lot. When my son starts losing, he will try everything in his power to try to turn the match around, I apologize, we are working on it & that's his coach & he is trying". I am pleasantly surprised but very grateful & appreciative. I tell her, not to worry, I understand.
I feel kind of bad for the other kid, I think over time he will learn to face loses with grace & to hang tough even when you're losing. But at the same time, I feel good for the kid as he has an amazing parent by his side who clearly notices what challenges he's facing. He is a good player & overtime I think with experience he will learn how to cope with tough situations & stay mentally strong & also how to be a good sport.
Son win's the match 6-4,6-0 & shakes hands.
Worst parent: As we leave the tournament area towards the parking lot my son grabs my attention & says "mom that man is cursing at his teenager". I look, & in front of me walking towards the parking lot a dad is yelling out loud, cursing at his teenager because he lost his match. Poor kid's got his head down. It continues for another 3 or 4 min. Flailing arms, the dad continues on "I told you to hit to his backhand that was his weak side, what the ___ is wrong with you..." on & on. My son says "Mom aren't you going to say something."
At this point, I can't bear it, I have to say something, and I start walking over towards the man as he is still yelling & about to get into his car. Another coach has been following the man ready to say something , our eyes meet & we both shake our heads in horror. He comes closer to me & he says, "I want to say something to him too, I've overheard everything & it's ridiculous, you think his teenager is going to want to play tennis ever again? what kind of a father is he?" We chat for a bit while we can still hear the man getting into his car, still yelling & screaming & cursing his kid. The worst father I have ever come across, get's into his car, as we walk up to him, rolls his windows up. The other coach & myself only have time to stare at him & shake our heads. He looks at us & speeds off the parking lot. We feel for the kid & finish off with our conversation about how much pressure some parents & maybe even coach's can put on their children. How can competing ever be fun then?
When you lose a match, you are already feeling your worst, replaying why? how? if only, I could have, should have, & only you know on the battle field what you could have done or should have done given the strength & weakness of your opponent, so what right is it a parent's to demean & degrade & mentally tear their own child in front of everyone?
Yes, we all as parents & coaches & human beings do make our own fair share of mistakes now & then but I am sure there is a sense of guilt, asking for forgiveness, trying to better ourselves in the process that makes it right. Sportsmanship, etiquette, fostering good habits is not just for the tennis courts, not just for the kids. We all have a responsibility to our children, to students, to the audience, officials, any sport or on & off the court or the field to use our better judgments & to hold a higher standard of ourselves by polishing our behavior's & habit's & to teach the same.
In conclusion, I do have to say that most of the tennis tournament experiences out there are very good. Well hosted, most parents & coaches & participants seem to follow the tennis code of conduct & our children are lucky there are all these opportunities to further their love for tennis. Unfortunately, there will always be some very very rotten apples we will come across.