Since I was three years old, I have been a tennis player. As a child, I had a chance to try just about any sport I could imagine: soccer, basketball, softball, track, swimming, dance, field hockey, volleyball, lacrosse, etc. While I still play some of these others recreationally in my spare time, something about tennis just clicked with me from the get-go.
I loved the fast pace of the game. I loved the feeling of hitting the ball in the middle of the sweet spot on my racquet. And most of all, I loved that I had control over each point I played. If I hit the ball into the net, I would figure out how I could change my shots to be more successful in future points. And if I won, it felt great to take credit for the shots or strategy I had utilized. For years, my life has been filled with memories from clinics, lessons, team matches, and tournaments. After playing so often, one might think things would be a blur. Not the case. I can distinctly remember many of my opponents and the progression of those matches. Why? There are many reasons, but I will give you a few:
- I played well that day.
- I played terribly that day.
- The match was an important/clinching match.
- The match went on for HOURS. (Though not on par with the Isner vs Mahut match in 2010…then again, no one is.)
- My opponent was extremely nice and classy throughout the match.
- My opponent was rude and/or cheated.
To get to the point of this week’s blog, let’s focus on the last one—cheating specifically. I think there is definitely a such thing as “ethics” in sports. How someone can call a ball “out” that actually landed a foot inside the line is beyond me. One of the first things I learned as a kid was what qualifies as “out” and what qualifies as “in”. I learned where I had to hit a serve and where I had to place my shots during points. Lines were crucial. It’s as simple as this, if it’s inside the white line (on the line counts as in), you play it. If it goes past the line, it’s out and your point. It is hard to believe how many people try to bend this rule, and it boggled my mind because sportsmanship and honesty were drilled into me by every coach I have had. Overall, the majority of my matches and tournaments have gone smoothly with no issues of cheating. That said, I did face issues of cheating, but those experiences stuck with me and made me a stronger player.
Unlike you see on television, there are not multiple officials assigned to make calls on the courts during matches and tournaments. So it is just the players. If all goes well, everyone makes honest line calls and plays a nice match. If not, it gets more complicated. Technically, if the ball is on your side of the court, it is your call. If one player thinks the other is not calling the lines properly, he has a few options. 1) Not say anything but get increasingly frustrated (which often leads to loss of focus) 2) Question the opponent with something simple like, “Are you sure?” to let him know you are suspecting he is making poor calls (hopefully this will get him to be more honest in future points) 3) Call a line judge. (An official will come to your court and will support or overrule a call when asked by a player.) Over the years, I have learned to stand up for myself on the court and not let an opponent’s behavior get to me. If I think it’s a close call, I might not say anything. Shake it off…new point. But when I know my shots are in, it won’t take long for me to call a line judge. I just want to play the game, and play it the right way.
In my opinion, I believe that ethics in sports is extremely relevant to ethics in business. There are many qualities that both athletes and business leaders possess that make them roles models: honesty, talent, success, kindness, confidence, problem solving ability, accountability, and perseverance. Rather than cheating on a point, just plan a better strategy for the next point and win that one! One point, one game, or even one set is not the end of the world in tennis. The same goes for business. A product or project might fail, but that does not mean the company is going down the tubes. You have a chance to bounce back without resorting to unethical behavior. Learning to play by the rules, adjusting and improving your game, and being nice to others truly pays off—both in tennis and business terms.
Thought I’d leave you with a fun fact…did you know there is “Queue Code of Conduct” at Wimbledon?