I just saw my first 10-and-under tennis match today. Or as I call it: Monkeys with Rackets.
Or as I call it ten minutes in: Everybody line up so I can start clockin’ heads, ‘cause I can’t stand this. Or you.
Because the kick in the pants in all this is that you can watch from the sidelines. But you can’t coach. In other words, you can see everything in the world going wrong, but you can’t say boo about it.
What you WANNA say? Hey! Head’s up, Schmuck! Here’s another orange dotted ball fer ya because the two you already have seem to be in the wrong pocket and you can’t access them without taking up a full thirty minutes of the excruciating one hour we have together. And your partner isn’t any help because they’re peeking through the fence at the field behind the courts while they could be handing you one or two of the twenty balls THEY have shoved in THEIR shorts. So I’m happy to sit here in the ninety degree heat at 8:30 in the ante meridian just to feed you the balls so we can all walk away with our sanity intact.
What you ACTUALLY say?? Yoo-hoo. Hi, Server! Would you like another ball?
While the monkeys may have perfected the use of their opposable thumbs – despite the tennis coach’s best efforts, they haven’t perfected much else. As a result, the whole match is complete chaos. Tennis court-sized chaos. Chaos that is worse than any cubscout meeting or wrestling match I’ve ever been to. There’s so much milling around and facing the wrong direction and calling balls out that are actually in (and vice versa) that you become worried the screaming in your head might soon be heard by those on the court.
When you can’t take it anymore, to balance out the mental screaming with the no-coaching rule, you settle on a series of “gentle reminders.” Hey, Folks. One idea here would be to talk among yourselves and review the 10-and-under court lines with eachother.
Another gentle reminder might go something like this, “Yep. Sure is hot! Why don’t you get a drink as you’re switching sides. Speaking of which, should you actually be switching sides? Because what’s the score? Do we switch sides on odd or even scores? And since we’re talking sides now, which side of the court do you start serving from? Did it seem like some of you were serving from the incorrect side? Why don’t you all just plan to keep eachother on track with that. Now, who wants a drink? This nice lady wants a drink!! You better BELIEVE she wants a drink. Believe. It.”
Eventually the match dies its painful, monkey-pox death. And as you’re walking off the courts, you keep up your stream of gentle reminders, “Do you have your water bottle? How ‘bout your RACKET?! ‘Cause what were you just here doing?!? What were you doing it with?? That thing you were just doing it with would be pretty important to take. Right? And how ‘bout your heads?? Everyone got their heads on? Yeah? Locked down tight?!? YEAH???”
It goes without saying that the whole thing is eerily similar to conducting a work meeting with people over whom you have no direct supervisory authority. Yep. Very, very similar. INCLUDING that drinking part. Believe. It.