By Sandra Zaniewska – WTA tour coach of Petra Martic

Maybe you are one, maybe you are affected by one. Either way, I suggest you read on.

Yesterday a player I coach lost a match at a tennis tournament in Toronto. More specifically – Petra Martic, ranked 21 in the world lost to Francesca Di Lorenzo, ranked 152 in the world. What happened afterward was so disappointing, that it’s almost impossible not to speak up. Petra received numerous messages on her social media accounts, people calling her all sorts of words, threatening to hurt her and her family, even asking for the money that they bet on her back. Some of you might think that’s crazy. It’s just a tennis match, right? Others know that it’s normal. Tennis players and I am guessing all the other athletes are struggling with the same thing. Is it possible to stop that entirely? Sure, you can turn off the option of leaving comments under pictures or sending direct messages. But that’s not a solution to the fact that such acts of bullying are there and are definitely not going to stop.

It’s so astonishing to me that people that engage in sports betting have guts to do such things. Let me assure you, the messages that players receive can get really heavy. Wishing death, cancer to the player and his or her family or even threatening to come to where the player lives or plays for a pay back. I assume that such threats are criminal offences, but when a player receives hundreds of such messages after every loss, it’s pretty hard to keep up with reporting all of them.

You know what’s even more surprising to me? That these bullies, they bet on human beings. On their performance. And as it goes with human beings, they are just that – human beings. They are allowed to have better and worse days. They are allowed to feel nerves, pressure, not feel the ball as well as they did the day before. And angry betters are literally trying to take that away from them. The possibility of being a human being, the right to be one.

I’m not sure how many of you realise how hard life of a tennis player can be. By hard I don’t mean bad, most of the players love it. But it’s freaking tough and it really gets to them sometimes. Losses every week are a normality, there is only one person that lifts the trophy and for that you need to win all your matches. Every week there are more losers, than there are winners. But that’s just results. To me, honestly, seeing them compete and trying to be better than they were last week or last year, makes every single one of them a winner. Simply because they go out there. Simply because they show up and try their best.

And yes, there are days on which a player ranked 150 is going to beat the player that is ranked 21. And? Does that really make such a big difference? Or is it just the beauty of the sport, that allows every single player to believe that one day that can be at the top?

I like to choose the latter. And I sincerely invite you to make that choice too. To see players not for a number next to their name (that changes every week anyway), but for human beings, made of flesh, bones and incredible hearts – just like yours. They really do deserve it, because there is nothing more beautiful and inspiring in this world that having the courage to chase your dreams, and they do it so well every day they decide to step out there.

My goal here isn’t to find revenge, I don’t believe in that. I am a firm believer that we should be looking at the world as it should and could be, rather than what it is, so if you’ve ever sent such message, or just thought about it, because you lost some amount of money while betting, I just hope that after reading this you can get a different perspective and next time you’ll make a different, better choice.

 

Originally published on linkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/small-piece-bullies-sandra-zaniewska

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