Why is it impossible for a man to play a sport with a women and not constantly feel the need to give advice? Do all men feel that if only the coach had put them in the game, they would have scored the game winning touch down, been carried off of the field by their teammates and placed into the arms of the head cheerleader? I've seen "Pros vs. Joes". It is one of my favorites. I guess I like this behavior as long as it isn't directed toward me. OK, maybe I really don't like this behavior, I am just amused by it. I do admit that it doesn't take much!
When I was in college, one of my girlfriends asked me to join her co-ed softball team. I played softball for many years as a youngester, but was never very good at it. Probably because I was afraid of the ball. I blame this on my father who, as the parent of two girls, prided himself on his method for teaching A GIRL to catch. It was no method, really, he just threw the ball at my head, figuring I would catch it to avoid being hit. I was a quick learner in school, but sports were another story. I never really mastered the skill of catching but instead ended up with several black eyes. This method worked for my sister and she went on to be the son my Dad never had. My Dad still feels that my sister should have joined the WNBA, rather than become an accountant. Ha! OK, back to college. I decided to join this co-ed softball team as a favor to my friend since they couldn't play unless they had four girls and I was girl four. I also figured that I could get some exercies and meet some new people. I knew from my first "at bat" that I had made a huge mistake. Several of my male teammates were standing behind home plate and shouting out instructions for how to hit the ball, when to swing, when not to swing, etc. I lost focus and struck out. In reality, I probably would have struck out anyway. That was the last time I ever played softball.
Now fast forward to 2007. This summer I joined a co-ed tennis league. There are 3 men and 3 women. Each week we play multiple games: men/women singles, mixed doubles and men/women doubles. I was excited to meet my team and was surprised to find that we were all at about the same skill level and all appeared to have joined for the same reasons: to practice our tennis game, have fun and hopefully pick up a new friend or two! Let me also tell you, before I get into the meat of this story, that I am truly one of the most competitive people in the world. It is my normal way, in sports and life, to beat myself up over every mistake, even the slightest one. Because of this, I cannot control what comes out of my mouth after missing a shot. My ability to combine cuss words in new and exciting ways is truly a gift. I have never been bothered by this...I think it is my release as I prefer swearing over violence. So, with that being said, the last few weeks, I have played mix doubles with a man I will call Dick. Dick and I usually win, and he is even more competitive than I am. When I miss a shot, after unrepeatable profanity leaves my lips, I'm faced with Dick's critique of what I did wrong.
"You need to stand closer to the net."
"You need to stand farther away from the net."
"If I were you, I would have let that one go as it would have been out."
"When hitting a volley shot, punch out, not down."
"Don't forget, the second serve is softer than the first. You should have moved in more."
The first week I ignored his criticism and continued to play. I was able to remain calm by invisioning various ways to inflict pain onto him with my raquet. Week after week, he continued to offer his pearls of wisdom. Interesting to note, that followed by a new pearl, he would usually return the ball, hitting it into the net or outside of the lines of the court. I don't want to give the impression that I am above advice. I have been taking tennis lessons every Sunday for the last year, and believe me, I need all of the coaching that I can get. But, why should I stand by and listen to someone's advice when they are clearly no better than I am?
So, last week, after this third comment, I went over to him and calmly said: "Dick, unless you are competing at Wimbledon, I don't want to hear your criticisms. I fell like I'm being picked on and find it distracting. I am fully aware of my mistakes. If you would like to discuss stragegy, please do. But otherwise, I'd appreciate it if you kept your criticisms to yourself. Thank you."
After these words left my lips, I felt better, lighter. I was able to continue with the game, which in fact we won. After all of our games were completed, my friend Monique came up to me and said that she had heard what I told him. I started feeling small. Monique was telling me "way to go you," but I couldn't help but feel a little bit bad for saying these words, within earshot of others.
When I got home that night, I told my husband what I had said and asked "was that bitchy?" His response was a very quick yes. Ouch. He was right. I started feeling worse, but wondering if perhaps, he was just saying this because he is a man. So I asked my sister who is one of the most brutally honest and upfront people that I know. She also responded that it was bitchy. Yikes. But, why should I feel bad for someone that has gotten through life by being a know-it-all? Was I the first person to tell him to shut his pie hole and stop critiquing? I'm guessing I probably was, since he has never been married.
So, to all the lound mouths out there who feel the need to spout off whenever they feel like it. Please don't. If I want your advice, I'll ask. And besides, isn't tennis all about the LOVE?
Has anyone else experienced this? How did you deal with it?