One Bite At A Time

Image courtesy of
Image courtesy of

This is Part 2 in a series by coach, radio host, & author Bill Patton. Click here to read Part 1.

“Never underestimate the power of a small group of committed people to change the world. In fact, it is the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead

We must first endeavor to make a commitment to fair play, and for our children to do the same, then engage with others who have that shared commitment. For those on the fence, we need to bring them into the fold.

As a community everyone can do the following things to help to assure more and more that the player who plays best on the day will win.

Here are some thumbnail solutions to consider. These are fleshed out much more in the book How to End Cheating in Junior Tennis: 21 Ways to Eat an Elephant:

1. Celebrate great sportsmanship. Make sportsmanship the real prize. When we show that we value the player who was the better sport over the player with a better game, this will take us quite far along the path. Find those who also celebrate sportsmanship and band together with them.

2. Pick Your Battles. Do Battle, but don’t do it constantly because then it’s much easier for someone to rationalize not listening. The Squeaky wheel gets the grease, but after a while, it gets replaced. Don’t allow anyone to label your group ‘the complainers’. Also, framing the battle as constructive criticism can be most helpful.

3. Take a step by step approach. Work in your area to either take on larger or smaller problems. If you have already taken on the biggest problem and won, then begin working on the next largest problem that can realistically be defeated. Even with the entire community working together, this problem will be solved by a matter of degrees over time.

4. Don’t Demonize; Empathize. Ultimately, do you wish for the player who cheats to stop cheating and go on to a career of playing well and fair? Of course you do. Take a moment to empathize with why they might be making bad calls. Do they face incredible pressure at home? Is the player’s vision 20/20? When we follow up in a spirit of empathy our chances of success go way up. We want to shed light and bring those players and that family into the light. Some may wish to escape from the dark place of being identified as a cheater.

Share the Love

If you listened to this week’s ParentingAces Radio Show, you may recall Sol Schwartz of Holabird Sports talking about one of his ideas for raising money to help the victims of Hurricane Sandy, especially those in the tennis community.  If you’re not aware of the damage done to our tennis compatriots in the Northeast, take a look at this video:



Sol’s fundraiser is a simple one to implement and goes something like this:

When your child registers to play a junior tennis tournament, have him or her contact the Tournament Director to ask if it would be okay to place a jar at the Tournament Check-In Desk.  That jar would be a collection point for whatever spare change players and their parents would like to contribute to the Junior Tennis Hurricane Sandy Relief Effort.  Your child could make a colorful sign to tape to the jar (or put in a plastic stand next to the jar) explaining the need for contributions.  The sign could be a variation on this one that I created using my computer’s Paint program:

Tennis Relief Sign

At the end of the tournament, your child would take the jar home, tally up the contributions, then you would send a check in care of Sol Schwartz to Tennis Pros of the Future, 411 Samantha’s Court, Reisterstown, MD 21136.  If you’d prefer to use your credit card or PayPal account, just go to the organization’s donation page at GoFundMe.

That’s it!  Simple, right?

It’s a great way for your child to do a great community service, one that benefits tennis directly.  If we all do our part, we’ll have the tennis facilities affected by Hurricane Sandy up and running in no time!  After all, we’d want others to do the same for us, right?



The tennis community is truly something special.  If you haven’t experienced it yet, just wait . . . you will.  Whether it’s a coach inviting your child to join his academy’s warmup at a tournament or a parent offering a protein bar to your child when he forgot to pack one or a child comforting your child after a tough loss, the community is there and it’s there en force.

And, when a challenge or a tragedy strikes our tennis community, we rally.  We speak out.  We show up.  We stand together in support.

Nothing illustrates this more clearly than the support coming out for one of our top junior players, Sean Karl.  I wrote about Sean‘s recent diagnosis of Ewings Sarcoma a couple of weeks ago.  Since then, the Facebook group created by a group of his tennis friends has grown to over 1500 members posting daily words of support.  A couple of tennis parents joined forces to create a logo, merchandise, and website to raise money to help offset Sean’s medical expenses. Roger Federer posted a video on YouTube encouraging Sean to keep fighting.  Babolat sent Sean a racquet autographed by Rafael Nadal.  The tennis teams at several universities have written Sean’s initials on the backs of their shoes, showing their support for his battle.

And, this is only one example of our amazing community.  If you think it ends when your child is done with junior tennis, you’d be wrong!  A new-found adult tennis friend of mine lost his father suddenly to leukemia last week.  His local – and global – tennis community showed its support by sending emails, cards, phone calls, Facebook posts, and, most importantly, by coming to his father’s funeral.  One attendee called the funeral a “virtual who’s who” of local tennis coming out to pay their last respects.  They were all people that my friend had met through his years of playing and coaching tennis.  He is now an adult.  His tennis community is still there for him and will be probably forever.

Now I’m seeing my son create his own tennis community.  Thanks to the Maccabi Games, ITF, USTA, and summer tennis camps, his community extends around the world.  And thanks to Facebook and Twitter and FaceTime, my son and his community can stay in touch anytime, anywhere.  And, they do!  These kids are learning incredibly valuable lessons about friendship and healthy competition and what it means to be part of something bigger than yourself.

The amazing thing to me about this community is that you may lose track of it for a while – even a long while, as I did – but it will still be there when you want or need it.  After 30+ years away from my tennis community, I reconnected thanks to my son.  I have re-established friendships with my former tennis buddies whose kids are also now playing and traveling to tournaments.  We ask each other for help with warm-up courts, or local restaurants, or a place to stay.  We check in with each other to see how the latest tournament went.  We keep up with each other’s non-tennis lives, too, also thanks to Facebook and Twitter, and support each other when needed.

If you think tennis is just about what happens between the lines, think again.  The relationships your child – and YOU – is forging now will be there for years to come.  The tennis community is truly something special.