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Why Does Etiquette Matter?


By Mike Robertson

I love the etiquette aspect of tennis. I love thinking about it. It’s my main passion in life … and I’m kidding. As a teaching professional, I can sometimes take for granted the most boring (yet most important) aspects of our sport. Proper etiquette simply increases the enjoyment of tennis for everyone. So, let’s arm ourselves with a few best practices.

The point of this is to increase the fun factor for you and your teams. Most of us aren’t starving for confrontation or drama, so if we are courteous, we can save everyone trouble and heartache. Here are some specific scenarios or “Did You Knows” that you may come across.

Did you know: We don’t need to return obvious out balls? According to The Code (USTA’s player guide to fair play and the unwritten rules of tennis), a player doesn’t need to put into play or hit over the net an obvious fault. To do so is rude and may even be a form of gamesmanship. It slows down the pace of the match. It’s also just safer as players who hit obvious out balls may not be expecting the ball to come back.

Did you know: The way we enter and exit courts matters? When you enter or exit a court, you should not disrupt the play of another court or match. Whether that court is being used for a lesson or match, one always should wait until current play is at a stopping point before asking to come through. And please close the gate when you’re coming and going.

Did you know: How we watch a match matters? It can be an emotional experience to watch a match. And when things get emotional, we sometimes forget the etiquette to spectating. Essentially, we can boil it down to a few safe protocols:

  • Applaud good tennis not unforced errors. Unforced errors don’t need to be celebrated. It can be tough to applaud an opponent, but we should when there’s good tennis. It’s good for us. And when I hear a cheer for a double fault, I want to cry for the breach in protocol.
  • Players are the only ones with any input on line calls. I don’t know about you, but as a spectator I’m always right, and it’s hard to be quiet when I know I’m right. But alas, silence is golden here. The last thing anyone wants is a spectator trying to influence a call. Leave the playing to the players.
  • Volume control is important. Good etiquette is being mindful of your distance to the court and players, and the volume of your conversation.

So, why does etiquette matter? It matters because it’s one of the aspects of tennis that makes it beautiful. Etiquette requires doing something inconvenient for yourself to be more considerate of someone else. Etiquette matters because it’s thinking of others in disguise. And we’re always grateful when others do it for us.


Submitted by USTA

Hometown (City/State): Indianapolis, IN

How did you get involved in teaching tennis? I started playing at a young age, and teaching was a natural evolution as I went through school. After college, I started coaching and transitioned to being an independent contractor before moving to a full-time position at a club.

Diehard fan of what sports team? Indianapolis Colts

Best part of your game? Probably crushing forehands, but I like to think it’s being an all-around player.

Dream doubles match would be me and… Katie Mays taking down Gael Monfils and Elena Svitolina.

When I’m not teaching tennis, I’m… Spending time outdoors or trying not to be so bad at golf.

My favorite tennis memory is: Zonals as a junior for Team Southern was some of the most fun I had ever had as a tennis player — spending time at the University of Texas and competing against other top players from across the country.

My favorite professional players are:  Sampras, Federer, and Alcaraz.

#1 reason why I enjoy teaching & coaching tennis: Contributing to the growth of a person’s athletic endeavors along with building their self-confidence is incredibly rewarding.

What important tennis message do you want to promote? Tennis puts a premium on integrity, problem solving, working with others, competing, the list goes on. The only limits tennis may have are the limits I put on it. Tennis makes me healthier and I’ll always give back for that!

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