Generalizations from competitive tennis


I played competitive tennis growing up and was fairly decent. I had a racquet in my hand at around 5, played tournaments since 10, and had my relative singles ability peak around 14. I still play often, and most recently was a hitting partner for the UCLA’s women’s tennis team.

The upshot is that I’ve been in/around the game for a while. When I was younger, tennis was my only model about risk/reward/accomplishment/the world, so it heavily influenced my thinking. Over time I made some generalizations from tennis to the world, both good and bad. Here they are.

9/15 addition

Someone pointed out we can probably learn something about rule-enforcement from tennis. In all but the highest-level junior tournaments, only 5% of the match will be supervised by an umpire/official. This means there are ample opportunities cheat.

What’s notable from my experience (tournaments in PNW - no national tournaments) is how the cheating was distributed. Everyone was pretty honest except for 2-3 kids. They were notorious, and you could expect many bad calls throughout the match.

Perhaps the generalization to make here is about norms and reputation? The probability of getting caught cheating was small, but very few people did it consistently (even the most honest people will make bad line calls occasionally). Are expectations and reputation effects powerful enough to make very little formal enforcement work?