Serena Williams lost it at the US Open last weekend. Her temper got the best of her and she reacted emotionally, inappropriately and unprofessionally.
What gets lost in the story is the calmness with which the line judge held herself.
Had the line judge yelled and threatened back to Williams, then we would have all jumped to Williams’ defense.
How people feel about footfaults being called during high-level matches would be irrelevant if the line judge had fought back. She didn’t, which was the perfect response. And that response put all the fault on Williams who, alone, will pay for her outburst. (Williams was fined $10,000, the maximum penalty allowed for unsportsmanlike conduct in tennis, not to mention the loss of an important match and the untold damage to her reputation.)
After being called on a footfault during her serve, Williams walked over to the line judge, making a threatening gesture with her racquet and reportedly told her, “If I could, I would take this **** ball and shove it down your **** throat.” It is also alleged she threatened to kill the line judge, although Williams vehemently denies it.
Read more and watch a six-minute video of the confrontation at http://tinyurl.com/m2p8ka
If you were the line judge, could you have kept your cool in that situation? Could you have received those comments without fighting back?
It is important to remember that when one person loses it, the other should do the complete opposite, and remain very calm.
Do not interrupt the other person. Imagine if the line judge had angrily responded, ‘Are you threatening me?’ Even though I know that type of retort would have been wrong, I can imagine myself responding that way.
An angry response would have escalated the argument to much higher levels and Williams could have charged that she had been provoked.
Let the other person have her tirade; let her finish. If appropriate, call a time-out by saying something along the lines of, ‘This is not a good time to finish this conversation. Let’s meet again this afternoon’ – then walk away. Do not continue the conversation when tempers are flaring.
The line judge didn’t respond to Williams, but instead quickly got the referee involved. The line judge kept her cool, even though she felt physically threatened, believing that Williams was threatening her life. That is the calm, cool exterior we want to achieve when we are in a confrontation.
A lot can be learned from this episode. Williams should have done things differently, and I’m certainly hoping she regrets her inability to control her temper.
Learn from the line judge, the referee and even Williams, so you can avoid being the front page news story at your office.