Tag Archives: step on the line

Main Piece: Tennis Court Lines

Background: The informant grew up playing tennis every single day after school. She and her family members were professional players, and there was an expectation that everyone becomes an expert at the game through endless hours of training and tournaments. She played tennis in college and once she graduated, she coached players on the tour. She is very well respected in the tennis world. The rituals she performed as she was playing competitively never faltered. One of which was the belief that she could never step on the lines of the tennis course. This is a custom that is practiced by many players today because stepping on the lines is a sign of disrespect and bad luck. Player’s go out of their way to ensure that they never touch the white tape in between points.

Context: “As a tennis player, all of my life, I never stepped on the lines of a tennis court. If you watch tennis on TV today, I am in the majority. It was always something- it was something superstitious for many tennis players. It started with John McEnroe and I know that Roger Federer also does not step on the lines. Certainly, Rafael Nadal- I mean would pull a hamstring to step over the alley so he didn’t have to step on the lines… he’s psycho. Do you know what it was…it was more that it made the moments when you weren’t in the point and when you weren’t in the mindset of competition-it made when you didn’t have a lot of control in the point more bearable because the time in between points seemed like they were controllable, right.”

Thoughts: I think that this folk ritual and superstition signals that you respect the game and know the sport intimately enough to practice this custom. Moreover, as the informant explained, became a strategic, calming tactic as well. Having the power to deliberately step over the line and make a decision on the outcome of your movements gives the player a sense of control and is grounding when in such a high-intensity state. The folk tradition has many beneficial implications and has become more popular as more and more players step over the lines. It is interesting to watch how careful some players are never to touch the white lines, and now that I understand this ritual, it is so obvious when watching a game.