Changeover Chit-Chat

One thing I’ve noticed in my years of league play is the different levels of tolerance for chit-chat.

In principle, we probably all agree on three match-day goals: We’re here to have fun. We want the visiting team to feel welcome. We want to be able to focus on our game.

Yet how these principles play out in practice can vary tremendously.

At one extreme, I’ve played against people who don’t introduce themselves and who stare stonily at me if I say “good shot.” These people often turn out to be perfectly sociable when the match is over.

At the other extreme, I’ve been on courts where opponents want to shoot the breeze during each changeover, yakking about the impending snowstorm or the stomach virus that just made the rounds at their house. (Mental note: Hit the Purell dispenser after the match.)

On the Chatty Cathy scale, I’m somewhere in between. I like friendliness and a little chatting at the outset–and some renewed camaraderie at particularly good points or funny moments.

But anything more than that is too much for me. I need to stay somewhat walled off emotionally or I lose focus. While some people use the chatter to defuse their tension, I need to hold onto that edge. If it’s my own partner who’s mingling on the changeover, I’ll back away and bounce the ball on my racquet. It may seem a bit rude to the other players, but…I do what I gotta do. Besides, I’m very nice when the match is over.

I’m not sure how it works in singles. I’m guessing it’s awkward to ignore your opponent if you’re the only ones on the court. And how would you walk away if your opponent starts conversing? Now that would REALLY be rude!

It used to bother me when other players refused the pre-match social niceties or never complimented any of our shots. But I’ve come to understand that everyone’s just trying to find her ideal playing zone. Just as I hope opponents give me the benefit of the doubt when I walk away from the chatter, I have to allow them to have their game face, in whatever form that takes.

Does chatting on changeovers disrupt your game or help it? And singles players: Is changeover chatting simply a given?

6 thoughts on “Changeover Chit-Chat

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  1. I think it really depends on the competitiveness of the league. If I’m there to win, it makes sense to stay in the zone. If I’m there to enjoy some tennis on a sunny day, then you might as well bring out the lemonade!

    Even in my lesson group, we don’t chat a lot on changeovers. We want to get the most out of our time. Perhaps that’s different since there’s a pro and a time limit. But still, I prefer to be friendly off the court and keep my head in the game when I’m on.

    Or that could just be me. 🙂

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  2. Re the competitiveness, I am more chatty if I’m mismatched with my opponent. If my partner and I are crushing the opponent, I’ll be chatty–I don’t need so much focus and I want to lighten the mood for the other team. And if I’m the one being crushed, I can relax a bit, knowing there’s no way I’m winning this match!

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  3. You will rarely see men chat or talk at all during change overs. It’s generally all business. But there is always room for complimentary comments when deserved.

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  4. True–the men do seem to be all business. And no one seems uncomfortable with that. Maybe most women were raised to take care of other people’s feelings and make social interactions pleasant, whereas for men it’s okay to just compete? Maybe the younger generation(s) of women will be less chatty, more business?

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  5. I don’t want to chat on the changeovers (I don’t think?) but I do like to compliment opponents on good shots. I think that adds to a sense of good sportsmanship and overall enjoyment of the game.

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    1. Totally agree. I’d find it hard NOT to say “good shot.” It feels stingy.

      Also, after an opponent’s ball goes whizzing by me, I like when my partner says “good shot.” Lets me know that she doesn’t blame me for not getting that ball back in play!

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