Tennis Serves

Context & Background:

Informant: High school friend and tennis partner. Collected via telephone. This conversation highlights one of the common beliefs in the game of tennis. As high school tennis players, this belief wasn’t taught like the rules of the game, but rather picked up on by practice and seeing senior players play. RK – informant, SD – collector

Performance: (via phone call)

RK: One thing I remember from tennis is the time I took too long to serve the ball. I couldn’t get the toss right for the serve, so I tried like five or more times to toss the ball. Take in mind that I was a beginner, an absolute freshman, so I didn’t know the unspoken rules. But yea, basically, you’re not supposed to take more than 2 or 3 tosses to serve. I found out when some guy who was watching yelled at me, “you don’t have all day!” (laughs)

SD: Oh my god, I’ve had the same thing happen to me, and you’re right, you aren’t really aware of this until you actually start playing. 

RK: To be fair, I still do that to mess with people sometimes. Just kidding! (laughs again). 


When I first started playing tennis, I felt exactly like RK. I too didn’t know about the toss limit for serving, although it is very common knowledge in the sport. There are unspoken rules in many games and it is a type of folklore to know them, spread it to younger players, and keep the knowledge going. Another unspoken rule might be that, at least in girls tennis in the high school level, before the conference or match, the team captain would pat on the butt for good luck and a sort of ‘you got this’ moment. Sports folklore is there, it’s just hard to know if you aren’t part of the sports community, just like all other folklore.