By Blanca Izquierdo—
The 2018 Tennis US Open final will be remembered for the argument between Serena Williams and the chair umpire Carlos Ramos. Williams suffered a tough loss to the Japanese tennis player Naomi Osaka.
According to Williams, Ramos was a major factor during the game. The umpire charged her with three code violations and his decisions drastically influenced the course of the game and William’s mindset. Before the match was finished, Williams had smashed her racket and called Ramos a thief.
Williams vs Ramos is one example of how referees’ calls affect athlete’s concentration, end up shifting the momentum of a game and have adverse effects on athletes. Many calls are based off of personal judgment that may be questionable, though many referees avoid these calls.
As a setter on the TexAnn volleyball team, some referees’ calls have even negatively influenced my ability to play the game. During the current volleyball season, one referee called me for nine double faults, nine.
A double fault is when players of opposing teams simultaneously commit faults.
For those who aren’t familiar with volleyball, nine is far from usual, especially for a setter. Nine is close to the total of double faults I’ve had since I started my college career.
The problem goes beyond these faults giving points to the opposing team. The real issue is the athlete’s self-confidence. In my case, I felt like I didn’t know how to set a ball. Hundreds of thoughts cross your mind, the pressure of the game increases, and the joy of playing totally fades. Finding a way to believe in yourself and stay still during these moments is what makes you grow as a player.
Faustine Palatte, a freshman tennis player at Tarleton State University, said that some referees have had a negative impact in her game.
“Some refs are very strict with minor rules. This, added to the pressure of the game, can destroy your confidence,” Palatte said.
In these occasions, the necessity for ‘mental training’ in high-level competition gets exposed. “If you are mentally strong it is easier to overcome the obstacles,” she added.
Athletes all over the world are investing more time in training their minds than before. Hopefully, in a few years, mental conditioning will be as important as physical conditioning. The most important thing I learned is that I am responsible for protecting my inner confidence and holding myself accountable in every situation. External factors can’t make athletes question themselves. Bad calls will always happen. However, it’s athlete’s responsibility to can change the way they respond to it. Michael Jordan said once “I failed over and over and over during my life…and that is why I succeed.” As in life, faith, confidence and mental strength are the keys to success.