Jeff and I are tennis fanatics and love to play, but we do not have the funds to join a private tennis club, especially now that I am unemployed. So we play on park district tennis courts or sometimes at the nearby high school. The behaviors that we have encountered on these courts could fill a novel, but I will highlight some of the most memorable ones in this blog.
The major problem is that the park district tennis courts seem to have been built as afterthoughts – erected after the playgrounds and baseball fields which are in very close proximity. Our favorite court is a single one amid a lovely pastoral field with very beautiful houses on the perimeter. Alas, the brainiacs did not build this lovely tennis court with a fence – it is open and quite close to the playground with a path leading to the court. Just today we had the pleasure of a very odd man riding his bicycle in circles on the concrete abutting the court. Then he suddenly stopped riding and sat on his bike for 15 minutes watching us play.
After he rode off to a nearby bench and continued to watch us from afar, a 2-year-old boy toddled over to the court followed by his slightly older brother and dad. He started to scream and the dad decided to play catch with both boys way too close to the court. After a few minutes of this, they went back to the playground, only to return two more times. The last time, Jeff tried to tell him that this was distracting, and he replied, “That’s OK, keep playing, you aren’t bothering us!”
This particular distraction happens way too frequently. The parents appear totally oblivious that we are actually trying to play tennis and have let their kids ride their Big Wheels and bikes all the way onto the court and once all the way across. Two days ago, a jogger picked the open tennis court to run around in such close proximity that a ball could have easily hit him – he must have circled 12 times! We have experienced a man kicking a soccer ball to his son so close to the court that we had to cease play. We encountered two little unhelmeted barefoot girls riding skateboards and scooters in close proximity – I worried that they would fall and suffer a serious head injury and that became more of a distraction than their activity. The worst behavior was several years ago – two teenage thugs wanted to play and we had just started and were not going to be bullied off the court. They decided to play right next to us on the concrete. And this is just one park district tennis court!
The high school courts are OK, but one incident in particular stands out. A rather nasty man brought his young son to hit baseballs off a tee on one of the courts. Berating a child in such a manner is NOT a way to encourage love of the game. His behavior towards his poor kid came close to child abuse, not to mention that the courts are not intended for baseball.
Facilities with multiple courts present different problems. One in particular that has a great surface and night lights is problematic because many people who play there lack tennis etiquette. We were always taught to wait until play ceases to fetch your errant ball from an adjoining court. The other night we were playing and these two guys were hitting wildly onto our court all too often. Instead of waiting until our rallys were over, the one fellow continuously ran into our court – how rude.
Ah, the trials and tribulations of playing on public courts. When put into perspective, Jeff and I are in better shape now than when we were in our twenties and playing better tennis. Now that is a blessing that cannot be taken for granted – when, after all, we are old enough to be AARP members. Putting up with a few distractions is indeed well worth our love of the game.