And I take responsibility for the loss.
Earlier this week, Mayhem had a tennis match that brought a whole new level of nervousness. Every time we mentioned the match, she would groan and say she didn’t want to play.
All because she was scheduled to play a singles match against a boy. Just her and a boy she doesn’t know.
This idea of playing against a boy had her nerves working over time, and I couldn’t figure out why. She plays against boys all the time during practices and she has no problem hanging out with them in our neighborhood. But for some reason, this match was causing her mind to play tricks on her.
Keith and I tried to play down the nerves and told her that it’s just a match. Like every other match she’s played. Reminding her that it doesn’t matter who’s on the other side of the net.
It wasn’t working.
On the day of the match, she couldn’t really eat her lunch. We pretty much begged her to eat and reminded her that her body needed fuel, but her stomach was flip flopping and she just couldn’t do it. Sitting across the table from her, I asked one last time, if she could tell me why she thought she was SO nervous. And she replied, “Well, because, you know, boys are better at sports than girls.”
Wait. What?! NOPE.
She barely finished her response before I felt the heat rising through my body, and I know there were at least a couple of seconds of unrestrained crazy mama rage on my face. I tried to reign it in though (thanks new meditation habit!), as I knew that was a notion she hadn’t gotten from Keith or I. But just to be sure, I asked, “Have Dad or I ever told you that or made you think that?”
But I knew she had heard it somewhere. From someone. And it only took me about two seconds to (mentally) guess who it was. But just to be sure, I asked, “Who told you boys are better at sports than girls?”
“It was [name redacted for boy’s personal safety].”
I knew it!
And then I let it fly, making sure to let her know that the boy who told her that was absolutely wrong. I finished up my
rage talk pep talk with, “And today you go out there and CRUSH the boy you’re playing! In the nicest way possible, of course.”
In hindsight, it’s probably not my most proud parenting moment.
She was still a bundle of nerves when we arrived at the courts, but we got there a bit early so Keith could help her warm up. Soon after, Mayhem’s opponent and his family arrived. He was a super sweet kid, with an equally cordial family. Keith exited the court so the kids could warm up together, and we made small talk with the boy’s parents.
Once the kids got started, we quickly noticed they were VERY evenly matched. They were playing super long points (the parents eventually started counting because the rallies were SO long) but Mayhem went up four games to none, early. Which is when her opponent decided to play a strategy game instead of simply trying to out-hit her.
He took the next game, and that’s when Mayhem’s attitude changed. She came off the court for a water break, shaking her head, with a disgusted look on her face. We reminded her to stay in her own head, and to NOT be discouraged about one game. We also reminded her that her attitude has a direct effect on how she plays.
She didn’t listen.
And over the course of the next several games, her opponent battled back. They took turns winning games, but each time they switched sides or took a break, I witnessed Mayhem’s attitude diminishing right along with her game. Or maybe it was the other way around.
She never threw a fit, swung her racquet in rage, or said anything rude or disrespectful. She wasn’t mean, and she didn’t treat the boy badly. But each time he called a ball out, she shot a pretty angry side-eye our way, and would occasionally shake her head. She had every right to question his calls, and several times, she really should have. But instead of saying “Are you sure that was out?” or “Can you show me where it hit?” she silently seethed, and it took a toll on her game.
We’ve done this now for a couple of seasons, and we learned quickly that kids calling balls in or out, tends to even itself out through a match. Unless you’re just playing an awful person with no morals. Which Mayhem was not. I was super proud that I didn’t see Mayhem call a single ball out that I (from where I sat) didn’t see the same way. And, she’s learned to just play the ball it if it’s close. But her opponent was slightly more critical, and I saw a handful of times when he called her serves or various points out, when they were definitely in. Neither of the kids ever challenged the other’s calls, not even once, during the match.
Match point ended after a brief rally, and Mayhem called the ball out on her side of the court. The kids looked at the score and then headed to the net, and politely shook hands. Mayhem won the match, eight games to five.
She beat a boy – a new confidence building accomplishment. And for that, we were super proud. But her attitude had slipped into an awfulness that didn’t display good sportsmanship. She wasn’t boastful in any way, she just wasn’t a gracious winner, and she didn’t compliment the boy on his game play.
After a lengthy conversation on the way home, I realized that maybe my “CRUSH HIM” pep talk earlier in the day, played a part in the problem with her attitude. We talked about how the athletes she admires behave, whether they win or lose, and how they compose themselves on and off the court.
At the end of the day, I couldn’t get a line from the movie Remember the Titans, out of my head. It’s when one of the players says, “Attitude reflects leadership.”
There are better things for me to say, in the name of motivation and confidence building, and I’m going to work on that.
We can both do better next time. And we will.
PS – Images from a practice – I didn’t actually go on the court during a match 😉
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