Every club has its share of tennis snobs. You know the type. They strut around with their nose in the air, adorned in expensive outfits. They carry a huge racket bag and an attitude that shouts, "Don't call me to play--I'll call you... if I deem you worthy."
The tennis snob refuses to be seen on the same court with a player they feel is below them on the club's pecking order. They view it as a waste of their time. The tennis snob loves to hold court (pun intended) and regale/bore anyone who will listen with tales of their latest win. They'll complain about their partner after doubles losses and assure you that the only reason they're not at Wimbledon is that they had more important things to do with their life.
We've all had our experiences with the dreaded tennis snob. You head over to the club looking forward to the social (supposedly friendly) round-robin you signed up for. After everyone warms up, the pro gathers the players together to announce the pairings for the first round.
"On court # 2, Jane (you) will play with (snob) Sally against Betty and Jean."
You immediately feel the heat of the snobs glare. A roll of her eyes and a slumping of her shoulders proclaims to you, and everyone else, that you clearly are not good enough to share the same side of the net with her highness.
From the moment you take the court you feel the avalanche of the snob's pressure and condescending attitude. You are immediately instructed where to play, how to play and to make sure that, above all you "stay out of my way when I call for a shot."
The snob responds to your errors with body language that looks as if you've punched them in the stomach. They moan when you double fault, groan when you miss a volley and are particularly adept at convincing you that their errors are (somehow) your fault.
Tennis snobs are everywhere and, quite frankly, they're idiots. They just don't get it. Our time on the tennis court should be viewed as an opportunity to get some exercise, socialize with old friends, meet new ones and enjoy the process of learning and improving at an activity that we can enjoy for the rest of our lives.
Snobbish behavior, on and off the tennis court, stems from insecurity. One of the main reasons the tennis snob refuses to play with someone they feel is "below" them is that deep down inside they are insecure about their game and, quite often, themselves.
You see this type of behavior quite often among junior players. Kids tend to tie much of their self-esteem into their results on the tennis court. A loss to someone they feel is below them, in their mind, makes them a loser not only on the court, but off it as well. For a child, snobbish behavior is normal, understandable and excusable. For an adult, it is not.
By the time we move into our adult years we should have matured both intellectually and emotionally. With this maturation comes an understanding of what's truly important in our lives and what isn't. Tennis, for the vast majority of us, is nothing more than a recreational activity: a healthy break from the day to day challenges and responsibilities that the truly important areas of our lives present. Ego and attitude should not walk into the tennis club with us.
But unfortunately it does so what do you do when you find yourself on the court with the dreaded tennis snob? Here are a few tips:
Stay cool: The snob tries to overpower you with their condescending attitude. If you remain calm and appear unaffected you'll take much of the wind out of their sails. When your anger starts to build, remind yourself that your partner is an idiot and you are a bigger person than to get sucked into their petty little game. You're out there for some exercise and fun. Resolve not to let their poor attitude ruin your good time.
Don't fight back: Don't bring yourself down to the snob's level. You'll only get angrier and create an ugly scene. When you're partner gives you the dirty look after you make an error simply say, "Sorry partner, let's get this one." If they insult you try to deflect their comments with humor.
If they criticize you, you'll shock them when you say, "You're absolutely right, I should have had that one." If you want to have some fun, ask them what you did wrong--they'll certainly tell you. Be the more mature member of the team. There are things in life worth arguing over and getting upset about--tennis is not one of them.
Feel sorry for the poor snob: Remind yourself that the snob is quite likely behaving that way because they are insecure and unhappy in other areas of their life. Don't take their actions and comments personally and always remember that anytime someone gets upset on the tennis court, it's usually not about the tennis.
Play tennis because it's fun. Play with people at, above and below your level because anytime you step onto a tennis court, regardless of the level of your opponent, you can work on your game and learn something. Next month I'll show you how.