Monday, August 06, 2007

Tennis district drama

I just got back from USTA districts. It was my first districts experience and I have to say it was very interesting.
First of all, it was very suburban hetero. Most of the teams had matching outfits down to their pink Under Armour wristbands. I saw a lot of Coach purses and flowery tennis bags. Our team is about half lesbian and we were the only queer women there. Someone from another team asked one of our non-gay, divorced players where we were from and when she found out we weren't local and had stayed 2 nights in a hotel she said, "God bless your husbands!" Team member replied, "I don't have a husband." Only two players on our team have husbands actually. Non-husbanded women must be an anomaly in the world of these women.
So it was an interesting examination of middle-class white women (I saw maybe two women of color the whole weekend) and how they participate in recreational sport.
But the big drama of the weekend happened when the captains of my team attempted to stack our last regulation match (everyone plays 3 regulation matches; best results mean you get to play on Sunday). Stacking is when the line-up gets shifted so that weaker players play in the higher spots. We play 2 singles matches and 3 doubles and your best players are supposed to play in that order. But teams stack by putting better players down lower in the line-up so they have a better chance of a win.
It does constitute cheating. If other teams think you are stacking they can challenge the results. I didn't find out about this change to the line-up until I was on my way to the match. So when I got there I expressed my discomfort with this change noting that in addition to it being just wrong, it wasn't fair to the players who become the sacrificial lambs. They came, like everyone else on the team, to play competitive matches and stacking takes away that opportunity. Apparently others expressed displeasure with these changes as well. In the end we had a long team meeting and were able to change the line-up back the way it was supposed to be. But the captains were not pleased. They said they felt under appreciated. We said we appreciated them but that this was a matter that affected everyone on the team and would reflect poorly on us. One captain felt that the opponents would not have succeeded in a challenge, which, of course, is not the point. They would know (they had seen us playing all weekend) we were cheating and we would know we were cheating. Same captain also noted that everyone does this at districts. And again the point is that it is still wrong. If it wasn't, the USTA wouldn't have a rule about it.
I thought it reflected adherence to hegemonic sport in which winning is valued above all else. And I found this surprising given that my team, and these captains in particular, had made a concerted effort to get everyone to play in a certain number of matches throughout the season. Better players played more often but everyone played multiple times. We even went to districts guaranteeing that everyone who went would play 2 matches even though this meant weaker line-ups. And we made it to Sunday with this philosophy.
And by Sunday everyone seemed okay with what had happened, largely because the team had never made it to Sunday before. But I still left wondering what's going to happen next season.

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