I hope you guys won't think I'm mean spirited when I tell you that there is a girl on my tennis team who is a crazy ding dong. Bless her heart. She started out as merely annoying, but she has become so much more.
I mean, I'm going to spare you the details of the low-grade drama that is constitutive of ladies' doubles tennis, drama that's pervasive and constant, like microwave radiation in deep space. So, for example, when my bud T calls me after practice one day to tell me that Gravelly-Voiced pal asked her if she likes to play as my partner, because she heard maybe she didn't, and T was upset, nay, outraged, by this implication and wanted to air it all out and tell me all about it and how she loves to play with me and how Gravelly-Voiced girl is mistaken, I don't really give a crap. I mean, it didn't cause me a moment of, "Well, what if T doesn't want to play with me?" or "Where is this malicious chatter coming from?" Because while I am not laboring under the delusion that everyone thinks I am a great tennis player, I do assume that everyone likes me and wants to be my friend. This could also be a grand illusion, but it's how I move along in this world.
So there is some nitter-nattering of this kind all the time. But everyone is having a good time and improving her game, so it's a good team.
But this woman! You would recognize her as a basic Debbie Downer. Or that's how she struck me when I first met her: nothing is ever right and we're probably all walking straight into some hidden peril. She doesn't live in our neighborhood, and nobody really knows her very well. So okay, she's annoying, but this season, her behaviors and negative talk have gotten worse, and more to the point, they now take up more and more bandwidth in practice.
The way this plays out is that she is so down on herself and her playing, so loudly and constantly down on herself, that it is ABSOLUTELY CRAZY-MAKING. Reader, I don't even know how to tell you. Every shot she misses, she either wants to explain why, or she wants to berate herself, not with a quick, "Um, whoops?" but with an entire monologue that starts with how terrible she is and ends nowhere. It's like playing tennis with Eeyore.
At the beginning of this season, I thought her endless bellyaching was strategic: This is a group practice that we pay a coach to run, and the etiquette of the situation dictates that everyone is entitled to the same smallish amount of the coach's individual attention. But if you moan and bitch like you're actually dying instead of not swinging through on your backhand, the coach will pull you aside for a little private session at the end of practice. The squeaky wheel and all.
But as we've spent more time practicing together, I've come to think that, yes, in some ways she receives positive reinforcement for her behavior, but that there is something clinically wrong with her. A whole big bundle of things. I would say she has anxiety issues? But I know plenty of people dealing with anxiety and they do not bother the shit out of everyone around them.
Okay, so if we fast-forward through my venting, we get to how I was paired with her as partners for our match the week before last. When I saw the line-up, I was fine with it. The hilarious part is that the girl can actually play pretty good tennis. So I thought, okay, this isn't a cross-country road trip together, it's a morning tennis match. Let's play.
Then our team captain sidles up to me in practice and says, "I'm sorry that you're playing with Eeyore. Somebody has to play with her and this week it's you." And I was embarrassed that she even said that, I was embarrassed that she drew me into a situation where I was expected to speak ill of someone, which I would rather not do. (That's what blogging is for.) I don't know, it was awkward. So I just said, brightly, "It's fine! It's great!"
Then, THEN, the next day I was up at the courts before Laura's lesson, and our coach came over to me. She began, "Now Becky, when you play your match this week, you're gonna have to be sort of a psychologist."
Okay, you know you're crazy when the coach is trying to help other people deal with how crazy you are.
She went on to advise me to stay positive and not indulge the girl's constant self-downing, to remind her to focus on the point at hand, etc. The best part was when she said, "I'm sorry, because I know this puts more pressure on you," and Pretty Neighbor, who was standing nearby and who was glued to this exchange, piped up and said, "Oh, Becky doesn't care about that." I laughed because it was true! Honey Badger don't care!
Long story short, Eeyore and I went out to play our match and won the first set, 6-4. Then we lost the next set 4-6. Okay, it was close. We were in good shape and we should have won in the third. One of the girls we were playing against was somebody I beat last year. But my partner was just in a tailspin over the errors she had made. It was crazy. Like, if she were an actress, I would have been like, "Okay, you're hamming it up here. Not believable." At one point, during a changeover, she goes, "I feel like they've gotten in our heads!" And I said, "They're not in my head! Come on!"
I'm not good enough at tennis to overcome that kind of inertial typhoon of pain, and we lost the third set worse than the second.
Then, then, THEN, just last week, she was paired with Pretty Neighbor. Their match did not go well, and PN told me she knew they were doomed even before play started. Standing chatting before warm up, Downer Girl said, "I just hope I have a good match." And then she turned to PN and said, fearfully, "But what if I don't?" PN told me, "I knew right then we were screwed." I mean, "What if I don't?"
So y'all, I feel bad for this person! I also want to stay away from her. I am sorry this post is so long. I just need to process? Just hug me, we don't have to talk.
The other night, on a whim, I thought, "I wonder if there are any books about tennis psychology?" So I googled "tennis psychology." Um, yes, there are books about that. (I'm new to sport, I didn't know sports psychology was a thing, like, at all.) So I ordered a couple of them, not to help Eeyore, because I think her issues are deeper, but to work on my own focus and discipline in match situations.
On the bright side, I have been playing a lot of tennis. I'm kind of on two teams now, did I tell you that? Hilarious. Two practices and two matches a week, plus pick up games, shirts-and-skins style, with the girls in the 'hood. Some of it is sinking in, as I have been winning more. Tiger blood.