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Joel Drucker: Seeking New Name for Recreational Players - The Quest Continues

New Name for Recreational Players: The People Have Spoken – and the Quest Continues

Three days ago, this column began a quest: to find a better term than “recreational player” to describe the thousands (millions?) of tennis zealots who passionately engage in their craft. As noted, the word “recreational” is in many ways a cousin of such concepts as carefree, cost-free, indulgent, purely pleasant, disconnected hedonism. Surely none of those words apply to those of us who wield a racquet and do things like study the pros, read articles, listen to analysts, take lessons, keep a tennis notebook, refine techniques, ponder tactics, discuss the game for hours on end – on and on it goes.

The recreational mindset goes back decades, to the days when tennis was largely a leisure activity of the very wealthy. At least was like that in Great Britain and the United States (not in Australia, where tennis has been as middle class as softball), tennis a community heavily occupied by patricians, ancestors of the shabby chic gestalt, a sensibility which is best described as: Don’t come off like you really care. So emerged the casual amateur ethos. I’m a duffer. I play at tennis. Oh no, I would never want to take lessons.

But the world has changed. Many who make not a nickel from tennis truly do care. We are more than recreational. But what are we? The question was asked Tuesday. Alas, several answers opted for the path of sarcasm and derision. Hack. Wannabe. Dreamers. Neterans. Stiffs.

Yikes. Ouch.

As a dear colleague, Matt Previdi, pointed out, “Most of these are backhandedly degrading by categorizing the players as "trying but not achieving" proficiency. The key factor here is passion.”

Several suitable candidates emerged. Serious amateur. Dedicated amateur. Competitive amateur.

But can we do better? The quest continues.

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