Basketball has referees. Baseball has umpires. High school tennis has the honor system.
That honor system was tested Thursday as Hickman’s No. 1 player, Katie Glenn, took on Shelby Penno of Jefferson City. With each girl questioning the other’s line calls throughout the match, tension rose and tempers flared.
Unlike most sports, high school tennis players are on their own when it comes to making calls on whether the ball is in or out. Except in state championship matches, there are no line judges to rule on scoring discrepencies and questionable line calls.
“In girl’s tennis, it’s not uncommon where there are issues when it comes to calls,” said Hickman coach Jerry Price. “It’s a game of judgment.”
Price said that in his experience, questionable line calls are much more frequent in girl’s high school tennis than in boy’s high school play or college matches. He said this is because many of the girls are learning the game.
“They make mistakes,” Price said. “Sometimes they see the ball where they want to see it and not where it actually is.”
When the girls are faced with questionable calls, Price encourages them to voice their opinion and then let it go. However, if the trend continues, Price said it is necessary to voice opposition. Periodically, coaches will even be called upon to call the lines as a neutral party.
“It’s best not to focus on the bad calls that happen infrequently and much better to focus on the good calls that are far more frequent,” Price said.
For Glenn, it’s a steep mental challenge to be able to focus on the match in the midst of what she believes to be bad calls.
“It makes you think about the calls more than the match,” she said. “You usually lose the next two points after a call like that.”
But on Thursday, the rising tension between Glenn and Penno was more motivation than deterrant for Glenn. She won 6-4. 7-5, Hickman’s only win in a 8-1 loss.
“When there was (a bad call) today in a crucial game, I dug down” Glenn said. “I think it actually helped me.”
Althoughthere will always be controversial line calls in high school tennis, Glenn and Price agreed the current honor system is best.
“Usually one or two calls doesn’t decide a match,” Price said. “It’s most beneficial to let the girls play their own game.”