Yo, Privileged Guy At The Tennis Courts

This is for you.

The other day I was sitting at the tennis courts where my kids were attending a group clinic.

I was sitting in the chairs that border the courts. You know, seating for human beings.

There were two other mothers there. We were – like – just sitting. Chatting, really quietly. (And I mean really quietly, because I know how dickwads like you give the coaches everywhere around town such a hard time.)

We were pretty much minding our business.

Then you told us to shut the fuck up. Like animals.

To be clear, you interrupted the mother I was speaking to, mid-sentence, and yelled: “hey ladies, could you take your conversation over to the parent’s area?”

Um.

The other mother said “Oh, sorry, are we being too loud?” And you yelled “just go on down to the parent’s viewing area over there.”

Parent’s area? I didn’t know such a thing existed. I didn’t realize that parents were being segregated from the rest of the more civilized folk. Maybe we are and I just don’t know, but what you were referring to, which you then clarified: the parents area was a group of chairs five courts down, in the dirt.

Hey ladies, could you shut the fuck up and go sit in the dirt?

You very obviously had a hard on for misogynistic undertones, because I also heard you refer to my 15 year old daughter as “blondie.” If I were less classy of a person, I would have told you to shut the fuck up too. But being polite and not wanting to embarrass my kids or the coaches (who deal with enough shit from assbags like you on a daily basis), I returned to my book, and listened to you.

You bitched about children in tennis.

You bitched about not having courts when you want them because of children.

You bitched about children’s sports on the whole. You said children shouldn’t be allowed to play sports until they are in college.

You said the coaches shouldn’t be allowed to support children’s sports.

You griped about how a “council” should be formed to eliminate youth sports altogether from the community, because it bothers you every time you are there playing tennis, or even at the park walking your dog.

Every time a child at the group clinic even uttered the slightest noise – and I mean slightest – you stopped what you were doing (serving, playing out a point, whatever), looked over, and said “REALLY?!”

But I digress. You know what you did.

After you finished your friendly match with a guy who seemed much more decent of a human being than you (though not – clearly – decent enough to call out that “blondie” comment), you guys went in to the clubhouse and ordered beers. Sitting outside, still on the chairs for humans versus the spots in the dirt for the parents, I heard you loudly yelling at the guy serving you that you couldn’t believe he did not know your account number. That of all the people that frequent the place, he couldn’t remember yours.

Yeah, so.

What is so disturbing about this is your sense of privilege. It isn’t that you are more privileged than others – with more wealth or better health, greater opportunities, or whatever. It’s that you believe – like actually believe – that the world is all for you.

That it is actually OK to refer to a child as “blondie.” Ever, in any situation.

That people should be segregated based on their “status” or usefulness? I don’t know, what exactly is it segregating by to separate parents from non-parents?

I read a meme the other day that said “privilege is thinking something is not a problem because it has never personally affected you.”

That’s true. But I think in your case, I would take that a little further.

Privilege is thinking that the whole world is set up specifically for you, and that in your case the rules do not apply. That you can actually say and behave in the way you did that day and get away with it.

Why? I guess because for now you do.

For myself, I’m going to start putting my kids in situations where people like that don’t rule the world. It may be hard to find. Or maybe I will just start speaking up, and speaking out. How else will I teach my kids to stand up to that shit and make a change, instead of quietly turning back to their books and do what the privileged motherfuckers like you demand, just to avoid conflict?

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The Intolerable Sports Parent

Today, like many Saturdays, was consumed by my kids and their sports.

I am among the millions of American parents whose children chose sports activity over something far cooler. Like a Saturday book club or a weekend Thespian Society. My kids are not in band. They are similarly not into something like D&D or other gaming types of clubs.

They are into fitness.

When I was their age, I spent my weekends reading Teen magazine, organizing my Caboodle, trying to tape my favorite songs off the radio without getting all the commercials, and crying into my pillow because my dad wouldn’t buy me a new pair of Rollerblades.

Not my kids, though. They can’t do cool stuff like lounge around all weekend eating Cheetos and watching reruns of Saved By the Bell.

Nope.

It’s only after you are knee deep in strings, racquets, and the mounting costs that come with it all, that you realize just how much single sports specialization becomes a way of life. The question every morning when we are getting ready for the day is: are we playing tennis today? Today, in 2019, the kids that pick one sport essentially devote all their free time to doing that sport. And if your kids get really into it, entire weekends, holidays, and vacations are reserved for – you guessed it – tournaments.

All complaining aside: I do love that my kids have found something that they have a passion for. There are a lot of kids (and I mean a lot) that sort of flounder around from thing to thing, until they eventually succumb to complacent boredom. Nothing good can come of a kid (especially an older one) that is bored. Tennis, for my kids, has not only curbed boredom; it’s kept them healthy, taught them about caring for their bodies, helped reduced school-related stress, and brought them into a social setting with other kids that have similar interests.

But by God if the parents don’t suck the fucking life out of it sometimes.

Honestly. These parents that put their kids in sports are the most intolerable of the bunch. And I recognize the irony in the sense that I – too – am a parent that has put my kids into sports.

But I definitely see myself apart from the pack.

1. I don’t coach my kid.

You can always tell you are dealing with the intolerable sports parent when you roll up to the tennis court and see that they are coaching their own kid. Even parents that played in college probably shouldn’t be coaching their kid (unless, of course, we are talking about a sport like baseball where the dad volunteers to be the coach for the team – an entirely different circumstance altogether).

I know parents that know absolutely nothing about tennis whatsoever and insist that they are their kid’s coach.

I know parents that bust out Youtube videos to show their kids a new stance for serving or hitting a backhand.

I know parents that will stand there and argue with their kid about what is right and wrong in the game. That will do this not only on the public court on a Saturday afternoon, but in front of a large group of other people at a tournament. The kid just lost, usually badly, and the dad is standing there lecturing about the racket head being closed instead of open.

We get it: a lot of professional tennis players have parents for coaches. But your kid isn’t Serena Williams, nor are you Serena and Venus’s dad.

2. I also don’t push my kid into positions they are ill-prepared ready for.

My kids play team tennis. Team tennis parents are the worst.

Granted, we have made friends with a lot of team tennis families over the years; but there are always those few that seem to have made it their mission in life to ruin the team experience for everyone.

Usually they are mothers, and typically they think they are auditioning for Dance Moms, at least when it comes to the high key drama and the nonstop shit talking.

Typically their names are something like Tammy, Tiffany, Brenda, Debra, Linda, Tobi, or Jenipher – spelled, emphatically, with a “ph.”

Speak to the manager haircuts are not required, but almost always a part of the get up.

This intolerable sports parent makes the situation unbearable for everyone else by trying to push her kid into a place the kid isn’t really ready for.

Why isn’t my kid playing #1 singles?

Why isn’t my kid playing singles AND doubles?

Why did we even come if my kid isn’t going to play the top position?

I’ll admit, there have been times that I have gotten annoyed when my kids are put at the bottom place week after week after week after week. But my annoyance usually isn’t because I expect them to play at the top, rather I am just tired that they are shit on by way of these overbearing, intolerable sports parents stepping on them to make their under qualified kid the star.

3. I don’t act crazy or loud at the matches.

It really doesn’t matter what sport your kid plays: there is no reason in the fucking universe why you should be acting crazy or loud in the stands.

One time, my oldest daughter was on a tennis team and there was a mother that would bang her fist on the table and scream at plays she didn’t like (either from her daughter or her daughter’s opponent – she was not discretionary at whom she screamed).

That same lady, one time, went totally ballistic because her kid was placed in doubles, and literally fell on the floor crying. Fell. On. The. Floor.

It was fodder for a bad reality TV show, at best; and to this day, I have not since seen anything so extreme.

We used to live in a townhome complex across from a soccer field, and every Saturday would wake up to the sounds of parents getting into outright brawls over something that had happened during the game. A yellow card or red card was pulled and parents would start screaming at each other, then two mildly obese men in Raiders t-shirts and Levi jeans would be rolling around, fists flying.

Once, at a tennis match, my younger daughter’s coach walked in late (having come from another match) and stepped right into a huge circle of parents and coaches that were screaming at each other about who was actually allowed to call balls out. At one point I heard someone yell “is this a racial thing,” to which another person said “no I’m Mexican but apparently my skin isn’t brown enough” and several people walked (no, ran) away.

Even the parents that cheer too loudly seem to be intolerable at a point. It’s one thing to clap or be happy for your kid; it’s another to stand up and scream like it’s the Super Bowl.

On one hand, I get it: sports, like everything else, costs a lot of money. Like more than a lot. For my two, oldest kids, our cost runs about $280 a week, and that does not include the strings, rackets, clothing, bags, grips, shoes, etc. that are replaced at least every other month, some every week.

So when you are putting out this fuckton of money, I can see how some parents could want some sort of a return for the money.

In truth, I think it’s really about the fact that some parents are living out their wildest fantasies through their children.

Because let’s face it: a lot of us didn’t grow up in a time where kids and their activities are so at the center of a parent’s universe. We were sent outside with our bikes and a stick; and, sure, some of us played a sport, but it wasn’t a daily thing like it is now. What we did daily was homework and Nintendo and hanging out with our friends.

And, if I’m being honest, our parents didn’t expect so much from us.

Or maybe I have a skewed memory of it all and my parents were intolerable sports parents when I was in t-ball or, later, tennis as well. I’m sure they existed in some way or another. Maybe there was a fight or two in the stands I was just completely oblivious to.

Or maybe me being so against living through my children and berating them after a bad match; or choosing to give my kid some space while they play, and keep quiet when I do watch, is the actual enemy. My lax approach to this whole thing really unsupportive; my insistence that my kids just enjoy themselves and have fun being just another example in a series of times I’ve missed the point. Maybe I’ve misunderstood the right and the wrong of this whole thing, and the only intolerable sports parent is me.


My Kids’ Sports Are Starting To Drive Me Insane

This month – May – is National Tennis Mom’s Month. At least that’s what the USTA says, and since May is Mother’s Day, it makes sense.

I am a tennis mom. I drive my kids hundreds of miles a week, spend close to $2000 a month, and live my life on the sidelines as my kids do what they love with their free time.

I even have the ‘Tennis Mom’ decal on the rear window of my SUV.

To be clear: they love it, and it’s the only reason I am doing it. That doesn’t change the ever-increasing fact that their sport-of-choice is starting to drive me a little insane. Last night, while picking up the house and finishing the day’s chores, I decluttered a drawer in the kitchen and took Marie Kondo’s advice so literally to heart that I was – out loud – saying thank you to the things I threw in the trash, the things in the junk drawer which no longer brought me joy.

That was the moment when I started to see the cracks forming in my mental health. I blame it on the kids and their sports.

 

A Lot Of Parents Are Living Through Their Kids

…so much so that it’s the de facto assumption of all parents.

So many people at this point assume that I am forcing my kids to play tennis, and it makes me really mad. Like REALLY mad. Like ANGRY mad. Because along with it comes comments like “you need to stop forcing them to play every day.”

Or straight up asking my kids if they like tennis. The other day, my daughter was working with a coach and when she got in the car after the lesson was over, she said “he asked me if I liked tennis.” That’s an odd question to ask of someone he’s been working with for close to a year now. Why the fuck else would she be out there practicing, attending clinics, playing tournaments, and taking lessons?

My kids are not easy to force into any situation. Putting their shoes away involves a twenty minute argument in which I have to reason with them over and over again about all the reasons why their shoes need to be put away. If my kids didn’t like tennis, if I were truly forcing them, cattle prods and massive bribes would be involved. I would have to threaten my kids with no dinner for an entire week to get them out of the car at the court, and even then they would probably consider the merits of one less meal a day if it meant not having to do something they didn’t want to.

What I’m saying is that it isn’t easy to force my kids into anything. And, moreover, that I’m therefore obviously not having to force them to play tennis.

It’s Starting To Feel Like Everyone Is Trying to Rip Me Off

Last summer, I paid for a week long tennis training camp that was only fulfilled for one day. After that, the coach had to “go out of town” and promised he would reschedule the remaining four days.

He has yet to reschedule it.

Routinely, I take my kids to local clubs for clinics, and they always have these deals. Like buy X number of clinics for X number of dollars, which is discounted from the one-at-a-time price. That, I have quickly learned, though, requires an enormous amount of bookkeeping and arguing. One club has been so bad about it that I’ve paid hundreds of dollars for a month’s worth of clinics, only for my kids to show up a week later being told we owe them money.

I probably have twenty stories like these of me shelling out dough, only for it to come up with no, or less-than-promised, services rendered. Is it because tennis is traditionally a sport of the wealthy, so people just assume the payees won’t even notice they’re being ripped off? Or is this just how things are now?

There Are a Lot Of Terrible Coaches

Playing a sport in college does not implicitly qualify a person to go on to call themselves a coach of said sport.

I think this is the primary reason why, in any sport – and especially tennis – there are a lot of really bad coaches. Coaching is another word for teaching, so unless you have some subsequent training in teaching, psychology, sociology, or whatever, it seems wrong to be able to just say “yeah I’m a coach.” Because you aren’t.

In tennis, anyone can *technically* declare themselves a pro, but there are also designated exams for certification as such. I don’t take my kids to anyone that lacks one of those certifications. Beyond the fact that if I’m paying good money for them to play, I should at least be able to get someone actually qualified on paper; there’s also just the simple idea that putting my kids in the hands of someone under-qualified seems – well – dumb. Right?

The real thing is that you sometimes don’t know. I’ve heard a lot of people lie about their qualifications in an effort to justify their coaching. There’s a woman who plays in local leagues, that – it is rumored – played in college; and now I’m hearing her tell people she’s a pro. Uh…really? Because the registry of pros is actually public and, well, you aren’t. That doesn’t stop other people from going to her, though; and – I’m sure eventually – a lot of kids will quit playing the sport altogether, simply because this unqualified lady that happens to play in a local league decided one day she needed some extra cash and could give lessons to innocent people that don’t know any better.

So Much Money, and So Much Driving

As I said, between the two kids, it’s close to $2000 a month, when all is said and done. Playing a sport isn’t just showing up and doing it. You have equipment, travel, clothing; then all the add ons. In tennis, you can’t just do the lessons, you have to do the clinics too. And you get to a point when the standard issue clinics aren’t that good anymore, so you have to upgrade to more elite clinics (elite = a lot more expensive). And then you’ve got to do a certain number of tournaments, join teams, play in leagues – all with hefty fees; have a back up racket for the tournament; new strings every couple weeks. Your shoes wear out in a couple months. Then everyone tells you the only way to get better is to play matches against players better than you; but the players better than you don’t want to do that shit for free.

All of that for two kids.

And because they are so far apart in age (four years), a lot of times they are on different sides of the county, with only one Mom to handle their transport.

I read an article recently that the nature of youth competitive sports in America is essentially pricing your average kid out of having the opportunity to do it. Either the cost or the ability to travel around, or both, make it near impossible for most kids to play. Knowing the ramifications of kids that need sports to stay out of trouble doesn’t lower the prices, either. In fact, the knowledge that everyone price gouges youth competitive sports now seems to only justify it.

TennisMom

The silver lining in all of this is that my kids really love to play tennis. Sometimes I have to force them – against their little wills – to take a day off. Next to their schoolwork and the various household pets (two dogs, one guinea pig, and two fish), tennis is everything to them.

Which is why, as crazy making as it is, I do it all. May is Tennis Moms Month, you say?