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Real winners kill them with kindness

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tennisballoutBy Kaitlyn Chao

I’ve been trying to figure out why some high school tennis players from an affluent community were so impolite on the court this year.  Even though they were winning, they sure didn’t act like winners.

As a member of the Lowell High School girl’s tennis team, I was surprised when we played against North Andover in May. Numerous times, North Andover lost a point and would throw their rackets on the ground even when they were already in the lead. In addition, they would be extremely rude when Lowell called the shots out, arguing otherwise. Even though North Andover had won the match, they lacked tennis etiquette and humbleness. Is this proper sportsman like behavior?

A study from the University of California at Berkeley shows that rich kids have a higher level of narcissism and are more self-absorbed than poor kids. Paul Piff, a psychologist at Berkeley says, “There’s this idea that the more you have, the less entitled and the more grateful you feel; and the less you have, the more you feel you deserve… This seems to be the opposite of noblesse oblige.” Piff’s research contradicts the common belief that the more people have, the more they appreciate the need to give back to the needy.

So maybe this is the reason for my recent experience with the unsportsmanlike conduct of the well-to-do North Andover tennis team during a Spring match. While the players clearly come from educated backgrounds, they did not demonstrate civility on the court.

Alize Cornet of France argues with the referee during the women's singles match against Elina Svitolina of Ukraine at the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, France, May 31, 2015. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol

Alize Cornet of France argues with the referee during the women’s singles match against Elina Svitolina of Ukraine at the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, France, May 31, 2015. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol

To me, sportsmanship is an aspiration that one plays a sport or does an activity for the simple enjoyment of it. Sportsmanship is treating your teammates as well as your opponents with fairness and respect just as you hope to be treated yourself. Not only this, sportsmanship is the act of following the rules of a game while playing fair and being polite despite how uncivilized a game itself can be. It is respecting the judgements and calls of referees and officials. Sportsmanship is a tradition in sports that involves playing clean and handling both victory and defeat with pride and dignity. Since North Andover lacked these qualities, they lacked sportsmanship.

For some people, playing games can be easy because if they have the right skills they’ll be able to succeed. However, engaging in the right character is the hardest skill to master. With all sports and anything you do, character is always important. In life, we don’t receive our title merely through medals and accomplishments, but rather our character. It is about the quality of the person we are becoming not just the end result. Playing a sport teaches you teamwork, leadership, honesty, patience, respect, persistence–the qualities which enable you to live a complete life, be a complete person and gain the respect of your community.220px-Tennis_shake_hands_after_match

Of all sports, sportsmanship is most evident in tennis. Tennis is a sport that consists of numerous rules and regulations that are critical in the sport but there are also a few that require common sense that every tennis player should know. Like a lot of sports, before and after a match, you shake your opponent’s hand as a sign of good sportsmanship. It conveys respect and equality with your opponent as a person. Before a tennis match, you shake your opponent’s hand to wish them good luck and a second time after your match to let them know that you appreciate the person’s play. Tennis is a polite and civilized sport.

On the contrary our experience with teams from affluent communities have been absent of civility.  This year one of my teammates, Paige Carey, complimented her opponent on how great  she played at the end of their match, her opponent completely ignored her without even a polite thanks in return. Peti Pheap, a junior who also plays tennis for Lowell High said, “it was my serve and one girl didn’t even hand me the ball, she dropped it and expected me to get it myself.” So why do wealthy towns like North Andover seem to have so many well-educated students who lack sportsmanship and character? According to the Berkeley research, maybe these impolite players grew up with this logic and their behavior isn’t by choice but the result of a different kind of conditioning.  Sadly, it’s simply what they are used to.

on Day Four of the 2014 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on August 28, 2014 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.

Even when North Andover won the match that day, did they really win? Maybe Lowell High did lose the match, but we won something greater than North Andover did. It’s about playing tennis for the love of the sport, not for the pleasure of constantly winning. Winning is great too, but it shouldn’t be the only reason why someone does something. It’s widely understood that there’s always room for improvement no matter what level one plays at.  Lowell High played with their hearts, tried their best and treated the opponent with dignity, and that’s what’s most important.  As Coach Carey says before playing each game, “kill them with kindness” because that’s what already makes us the better team.

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Lowell High School's Newspaper of Record
Real winners kill them with kindness