Deciding what’s good for the game

Published on June 22nd, 2022

by Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt Sailing News
No one would confuse professional tennis with recreational sailing, yet success follows a similar playbook. Be well-equipped, train smart, and surround yourself with assistance. The difference is a tennis player’s support team contributes to their income. For Sailing, it just raises the cost to compete.

While Sailing may have rules to limit the interaction of coaches and competitors during regattas, the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP), which is the organization responsible for all of the major men’s tennis tournaments except the Grand Slams, had very strict guidelines:

“Players shall not receive coaching during a tournament match. Communications of any kind, audible or visible, between a player and a coach may be construed as coaching.”

The only problem is that the ATP didn’t enforce its rules, which led to various forms of communication during a match between player and coach. And now, rather than protect the game from outside influence, particularly for the less-funded players who lack support, the ATP is trialing more lenient restrictions.

“Sad day for tennis in my view,” notes Christopher Clarey, tennis and sailing correspondent for NY Times. “Tennis does not need in-match coaching. It just thinks it does.”

Pam Shriver, former professional tennis player and current tennis broadcaster adds, “This rule change is in response to terrible enforcement of the no coaching rule and no movement to make enforcement occur. It’s a natural consequence…”

It is a lesson for all sports to recognize, Sailing included. Do you uphold rules, and limit competition to only those who are competing, or do you allow the influence of support to impact the results? Such a decision should be based on what’s good for the game, and not by those who are influencing it.

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