I had the strangest experience this past week. A new one to me as a tennis coach. I was asked to say a few words to a team I work with on when and how to cheer for their teammates. As in, your team is being disrespectful and getting complaints. Wait… what? My team? No way… And the more I thought about it, the more I came to the conclusion that they just didn’t know how to cheer for the team.
Like any thinking tennis pro, I decided to turn to the Friend at Court (the Tennis book of rules) for help in addressing this issue. What did I find there?
Aside from a warning for spectators not to make out calls or abuse the players, there’s really nothing there about cheering for your team… when it’s appropriate and when it’s not.
Ok, so I guess that’s not really a subject for the rules, but all hope is not lost, surely The Code (the portion of the Friend at Court dealing with sportsmanship) will have something to say. Nope. Nada. Zilch. Aside from turn off your cell phone and don’t make out calls, there’s nothing there.
The ITA section (the college rules) has a small paragraph stating: Harassment of players prohibited: Team members and their spectators shall not harass opposing team players. Electronic sound devices shall not be used during play. But amazingly, college tennis is all but suspending the rules about cheering during tennis matches. As long as there’s no abusive action or speech, they’re going to let it fly.
This rubs me the wrong way. I grew up watching Wimbledon where spectators would hiss if other spectators did something slightly offensive… very slightly. I try to imagine if two of our 10 and Under kids were playing a match and the crowd cheered loudly when one of the kids made an error, missed a serve or whiffed a ball.
So, when is cheering appropriate? When is it not? Here’s a short list of what I expect from my players:
Errors are NEVER cheered. Unforced, forced, whatever – NEVER. Period.
Service Faults are NEVER cheered.
Winners can be cheered, but if it’s a shank lob that happens to clear the other players’ heads… let’s make it a respectful cheer. We all know it was luck, no need to rub it in.
Incredible points can be cheered if it’s clear you’re cheering for both sides.
Great effort should be cheered.
That’s really all I can come up with. If it doesn’t fit into these categories, it probably shouldn’t be cheered. And as far as speaking to the other spectators from the opposing team, if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say it at all. Imagine if you were watching to 8 year olds playing their first tennis match. What would you cheer for?
Positive reinforcement is good! Negative jeering is bad.
So, get out there and cheer on your teammates, but let’s do it right! Deal?