Although it may seem like we have become a family that is consumed by tennis, I've realized that we are no where near as intense as some others. Yes, I re-grip racquets, drive to lessons, sign the boys up for tournaments, make sure that they're at their matches on time, and pack coolers. I also insist that they be good sports on and off the court, and as a result they always have fun at tournaments, whether they are winning or losing.
We have encountered families that have their kids on the court six days a week, promote cheating, racquet smashing, screaming, on-court crying, and the line calling strategy known as, "when in doubt, call it out." There is one family in particular (let's call their son "Ivan") that takes competitiveness and cheating to a whole new level. The father will stand near Ivan's court and coach him throughout the match, yelling at him in Russian. He has been told several times that coaching is not allowed during a tournament match, but refuses to abide by the rules. I suppose I could be super sneaky and try to coach my boys in Spanish, but I don't know how helpful it would be if I was lurking behind the baseline yelling: "Cerveza! Por favor! Margarita! Hola! Hola! Mucha cerveza! Chips and salsa! Adios!"
When Ivan's family is at tournaments, it adds stress to the whole event. They show up late for their matches, the mom will verbally berate the opponent's parents and accuse them of raising a cheater, the tournament director always has to keep an eye on the dad, and if Ivan is losing he will whine loudly and smash his racquet. I'd like to say the whole thing is funny to watch, but really it's embarrassing and sad.
Charlie beat Ivan at a tournament this past summer, and it was not a pretty sight. Charlie played great, and Ivan spent quite a bit of time flopping down on the court and yelling. A couple days later, the dad went to the club and decided to stoop to a new low by telling anyone who would listen that: "That Chinese kid, Charlie, the only reason he beat Ivan is because he's a cheater. He called every ball out even if it was in, and he's a cheater." Needless to say, Ivan's dad and I ended up having a little confrontation, and he now knows that not only is Charlie not Chinese, he's not a cheater.
Zoe is five-years old. She hates peas, but she loves tennis, and would probably play every day if I was willing to drive her there, and pay for it. But if she was on the court every day at the age of five, she will want to play zero days when she is 16. And I don't know of any college willing to recruit a kindergartner.