How to stop people interfering at tennis
January 26, 2017 2:38 PM   Subscribe

Although I'm not very good at it, I like to play social tennis. My aim is just to keep fit and have fun. Last time I played with a club I dropped out because people kept interfering- telling me how to play, what I could do better etc. This is a dealbreaker for me - I just want peace to play at my very low level. If I never improve that's ok. (Basically I know the theory already, just need some practice) How do I stop people from interfering?
posted by EatMyHat to Human Relations (22 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Tennis Australia has some great programs that might appeal to you. I am a big proponent of non-competitive group clinics--they're the sort of environment where you'll get to hit lots of balls and run around, but won't have people relying on you to play well (and in turn, trying to coach you).

Cardio tennis is an excellent place to start. TA apparently also offers a free session to get people interested.
posted by yellowcandy at 2:44 PM on January 26, 2017

Can you put up a paper sign when you're on the court: "Please don't give me instructions! I'm happy playing like this."
posted by Clotilde at 2:54 PM on January 26, 2017 [3 favorites]

Tell them point blank that if you had wanted their help you would have asked for it.
posted by brujita at 2:58 PM on January 26, 2017 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Ugh. (Are you by any chance an attractive young woman?)

Anyway, I think feigning deafness is fine. If it gets so invasive you can't ignore it, a pained smile/frown and a "no help needed, thanks!" is in order.
posted by fingersandtoes at 3:21 PM on January 26, 2017 [13 favorites]

Are you talking about people you play with or people who are watching the court?
posted by raccoon409 at 3:31 PM on January 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

"Wow, rude."

"Pretty sure I'd remember if I'd hired you to coach me."

[cold, level stare] "Thank you for sharing that." [return to what you were doing when they interrupted]

"Do I follow you around telling you what you're doing wrong?"
posted by Lexica at 3:33 PM on January 26, 2017

Best answer: It's up to you but I don't see any reason to be mean or cold to people who are just trying to be friendly, however misguided they are. "Thanks, I took some lessons awhile back and now I'm just practicing what I learned, just for fun" "Thanks but I'm just playing for fun, not looking to improve really" or something like that. Then ignore.
posted by bleep at 3:43 PM on January 26, 2017 [22 favorites]

Best answer: I think you can just say what you said in this question, and assume people are well-intentioned. (I don't really assume people are being rude when they give me well-intentioned advice.) Just "I just like to keep fit and have fun, but thanks" would probably work for most people.
posted by EtTuHealy at 3:43 PM on January 26, 2017 [3 favorites]

Best answer: This is a thing in many sports. Correction: this is is thing in all aspects of life. Everybody who learns something wants to share it. I run an archery club, and I see these conversations going on around me every time we meet. The advice isn't coming from a 'bossy' place, or a desire to criticise - these people just want to share the tips that have improved their own enjoyment of the activity.

I think it's always going to be a case of having to politely deflect the advice, on a person-by-person basis. Taking offence is just going to make you 'that rude person' in an activity which, as you say, is social. Ultimately the people around you will adjust to the fact that you want to learn things for yourself at your own pace. I have a few people in my club who are terrible archers, but don't want my advice as a coach. I've learned, as most coaches do, to leave them alone. And while I and the other coaches have an agreement not to coach unless asked (or at least to ask before coaching someone), that doesn't apply to non-coaches coaching other non-coaches. The social norm for these sorts of things is that people tend to give each other unsolicited advice. I don't think there's much more than to just say "It's OK - I enjoy muddling through this on my own" and hoping they'll get the hint after a couple of times.
posted by pipeski at 4:00 PM on January 26, 2017 [10 favorites]

It might help to assume they are just trying to talk to you and that giving you pointers is the most obvious way to do that. Be friendly and be chatty and let people know in a not ugly way that you know the theory, you just need practice. After people get to know you and know it is okay to talk to you just because you are a human being in the same general area, maybe they will talk to you about things other than what you can do better on the court.

People are social creatures. Lots of people have shitloads of baggage about people being horrible to them for no apparent reason. But they still have social needs and you can only get those met by somehow connecting with other people. So, they muddle through as best they can, hoping you won't bite their head off for some damn reason if they try THIS approach.
posted by Michele in California at 4:11 PM on January 26, 2017 [4 favorites]

Was the average skill level in the club noticeably higher than yours? Playing with/against someone of significantly higher or lower skill level can be frustrating, so you can't blame them for wanting you to improve. If this is the case, maybe try finding a more appropriate group next time.
posted by acidic at 4:29 PM on January 26, 2017 [5 favorites]

Oh that would infuriate me. Why can't people just let people LIVE?

I'd get a T-shirt made that clearly says something across the back like
and make sure anyone who's watching you play gets a good look at the back as soon as they even have the ghost of an idea to mosey over.
posted by spraypaint at 4:51 PM on January 26, 2017 [2 favorites]

Tennis bully, they have one in Venice Florida USA google it
posted by patnok at 4:54 PM on January 26, 2017

Best answer: Would raquetball be an acceptable alternative? It keeps spectators locked out of the room, and you can even practice solo.
posted by metasarah at 4:57 PM on January 26, 2017 [4 favorites]

If you hang a sign or wear a shirt, people will just ask you about the sign or the shirt.

Are you playing at a club? Your city's recreation department may have courts that aren't as busy.
posted by girlmightlive at 5:42 PM on January 26, 2017

I would just say, "oh, no thank you", and keep on going.
posted by Vaike at 6:05 PM on January 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Just to clarify a few things - yes I am young and female, not sure about attractive....
When I played before we played mixed doubles so the people giving advice was usually the doubles partner, even though we were meant to be paired according to ability
Personally I would prefer to play singles but it doesn't seem to be a thing where I live. I am investigating other clubs and meetup groups but I have to be realistic- most people at my level do not play sport at all!
posted by EatMyHat at 6:24 PM on January 26, 2017

Do you have a wall you can hit against? The outdoor courts near me have a practice wall, and I generally find it more enjoyable to spend an hour or so hitting against that than playing live opponents. I'm at the level where I'm good enough to be competitive if I wanted to, but I just don't want to. But it's really hard to find opponents at that level who just want to have fun and smack some balls around without keeping score.

I suspect playing at a club is part of the problem. If you found a partner to play singles with at a public court, I don't think you'd have as much trouble. Even if there are others playing at the public courts, you're strangers, and it would be weird to approach you. At the club, though, since you're both members, there's more of a perceived relationship, so they feel like they can speak more freely.
posted by kevinbelt at 7:00 PM on January 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

Just to clarify a few things - yes I am young and female, not sure about attractive....

When I played before we played mixed doubles so the people giving advice was usually the doubles partner

If only this weren't a thing, but of course it is. Having said that, I think doubles is always going to be more competitive just because there are more people involved and people will instinctively want their partner to do better.
posted by heyjude at 7:12 PM on January 26, 2017 [7 favorites]

Playing mixed doubles does paint a different picture - teammates have a reasonable interest in each others' performance. (I thought you were just A Chick Receiving Unsolicited Attention in the Form of Advice at the Gym, which you may also be, but if it's coming from your doubles partner, it's not necessarily inappropriate.) Raquetball or singles seems like a better bet in your situation. Good luck!
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:27 PM on January 26, 2017 [6 favorites]

Oh, if it's your doubles partner then you have the perfect opening: "Hey, before we get started, I should warn you I'm...kind of okay with being bad at this. I'm just here to run around and have fun, you know? I'd totally understand if you were looking for a more serious partner."

And if they say they're not taking it seriously either but then try to give you advice anyway, you can repeat your offer to let them find a partner that more on their wavelength.
posted by d. z. wang at 8:45 PM on January 26, 2017 [10 favorites]

In addition to trying to play singles, perhaps it would help to relax the rules? I usually just play Casual Tennis with friends - just hit the ball over instead of properly serving it, just count points from 1 to 20 instead of the usual scoring system, etc. We'll also see how long we can get a rally going and let the ball bounce multiple times, bounce outside the lines, etc. We're skilled enough to play Real Tennis, but the casual approach is (for us) less fraught and more fun.
posted by cdefgfeadgagfe at 1:19 AM on January 27, 2017 [4 favorites]

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