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Fair or foul? It's your call

Published October 05. 2009 02:55PM

For the majority of the high school sports world, officials usually enforce the rules and regulations of the game.

But, for some varsity sports, it lies in the hands of the players to call the game.

Tennis is one of just two PIAA sports (golf is the other) in that unique situation.

According to Jim Thorpe tennis coach Norb Leinhard, it's a situation that has to happen during regular season tennis matches because of the amount of officials that are needed.

"There's so many matches going on," said Leinhard, who coaches both boys and girls tennis. "You would need four or five lines people on each court and then multiply that by all the individual matches that go on at the same time. You would need one on each base line. You would need two for each side line and one for the service line."

In a regular season match in which Jim Thorpe plays on five side-to-side courts, there would be a need for a total of 25 officials.

So the decisions of each match during the regular season are left up to the individual players. It's not until the district finals where an actual official becomes involved in varsity tennis.

Pleasant Valley boys' and girls' tennis coach Mark Allison said he takes action to alleviate any potential problems that may cause.

The Bears' mentor takes a few days in pre-season practice each year to prime his players for any unusual occurrences that may happen.

Allison, who would like to think that a lot of other coaches do the same thing, teaches his players the way to go about handling a pressurized situation the best they can.

"I always do this," Alison said. "As far as calls, I always tell my kids, 'This is how we do it.' We tell our kids that if it's out, call it out. If you're not sure, then you call it good. So, there's no question about it."

Obviously, calling a game is sometimes easier said then done.

A simple call can change the momentum of a match and Leinhard takes the next best step as a coach so this doesn't happen. He stresses the fact to his players that they shouldn't let a bad call get the best of them.

"I always tell them one call shouldn't affect a match. You've got to go out there and do it with your racket," Leinhard said. "You get a bad call made against you most of the time. So, I tell them it evens out because they're all human and they're not trying to cheat, they just missed a call. Sometimes the ball is hit that hard and that close that they just miss a call.

"And I always tell them, 'Don't get yourself worked up over it.' I mean one bad call can hurt you, but you shouldn't really let it come down to that one call to ruin a match for them."

It does happen where bad calls may get a bit out of hand. But, Allison gives his players a little bit of advice on handling it in a proper manner.

"I told the kids if they think a kid is making a bad call on purpose, and it's pretty consistent, then you make me aware of it," Allison said. "I said don't argue with the player. Just make me aware of it and let me take care of it."

Allison will take it upon himself to stand there and watch the match. If he sees it happen himself, Allison will call on the opposing coach and make him aware of the situation. Together, the two will take on the role as officials.

"The two of us will stand there and watch the kid play," Allison said. "And, I have had cases where coaches from other teams actually overrule his own player's call. So, there are things you can do to overcome that if you handle it the right way."

Whatever happens during the course of the match, it's good to see that the players are handling the responsibility of being an official, as well as a competitive player. Although a win is what the players want in the end, it's the simple fact that they can follow the "honesty code" to its fullest to make it a fair contest.

"You're out there and honesty is a big part of the game," Leinhard said. "It can be rough, but I feel most people are honest. It's just when you're getting into a tight match, and you want to win so bad, sometimes you see the ball out and it is in. But, it all equals out in the end I feel."

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