This past Saturday, we introduced off-court talks to the students at Marcy, where we focused on the subject of manners and etiquette. The discussions, which convened in a shaded corner of the blacktop courts with plenty of water bottles in reach, were a relaxing time-out from forehand drills and games. So, it wasn’t surprising that the kids arrived to the water break/discussion station ready to put their racquets aside, take a seat, and–most importantly--talk!

I got to join a few of the conversations and was pleased by how much some of the kids had to say about this week’s topic. Others had to be encouraged a bit, but every kid eventually felt comfortable and confident enough to share his or her individual perceptions. Our site coordinator, Gary, started the conversation, asking, “What do good manners mean to you?”

The kids at Marcy know that saying “please,” “thank you” and “excuse me” is critical, but they quickly acknowledged that actions speak louder than words--offering supporting examples. For instance, one student cited helping her little sister with homework as a courteous action. Another student offered that if a school classmate had taken her assigned desk without permission, she would remain calm, politely explain that the desk is hers, and forgive the classmate for the mistake.

We wrapped up the talks by connecting good manners and etiquette to tennis. Saying “Good game,” shaking hands, and complimenting an opponent on a skillful shot--instead of using profanity or throwing your racquet--are the best ways to speak and act while on the court.

Needless to say, our first week of off-court discussions at Marcy went well! We’re looking forward to picking up where we left off next week.