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Leslie Goldman Headshot

Unnh! Grrah! Sigh

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Don't you just hate it when little girls are loud while playing sports? So annoying!

The Mt. Carmel Tennis Club in Sunbury, Australia agrees. According to widespread reports, the club has banned nine-year-old Lauryn Edwards from playing the sport she loves because she grunts too loudly while competing.

Apparently, they subscribe to the Scientology-childbirth philosophy of employing silence during an incredibly intense, physically demanding and often painful experience.

The story allegedly went down like this (I say "allegedly" because Paul Hackett, VP of Mt. Carmel Tennis Club, told Melbourne's Herald Sun, "No one is not allowing her to play. Sorry, I can't say anymore than that."
  • Lauryn grunts too loudly, too often.
  • Opposing player (I can only assume another little girl) complains about the noise.
  • The club asks Lauryn's dad to guarantee his daughter will remain quiet while hitting the ball. Easy task, right?
  • Lauryn makes the grunt that breaks the camel's back.
  • The club tells her she is no longer allowed to play.
  • Cut to little girl crying on the court.

Lauryn, who has been playing since the age of four, insists the grunting is just a normal part of her game. "It feels natural to do my noise. I'm not faking it. It makes me play better. When I don't do it, I don't play my best tennis," she has said. (Listen to her make noise here)

This may remind tennis fans of Monica Seles, a world-famous grunter, whose moans and growls - clocking in at over 90 decibels, prompted her 1992 quarter-final Wimbledon opponent to insist that she not be allowed to make noise. Seles complied. And she lost the tournament to Steffi Graf.

May I just ask, why is the world trying to stifle this budding athlete's voice? The Venus sisters grunt. Andre Agassi grunts. According to danger_grrl, a personal trainer and blogger for FOX Sports, grunting can improve strength and cardiovascular performance, not to mention foster a sense of confidence. "Whether implemented for tactical reasons or not, sports psychologists argue that among world-class players, any advantage gained by distracting an opponent is probably minimal." I highly doubt Lauryn is coughing up these barks to throw off her opponent, eight-year-old Sally Smith.

Here in the U.S., grunting has caused trouble, too -- though not among small children. In 2006, a bodybuilder from Wappinger Falls, N.Y., was ejected (via police) from Planet Fitness gym for, you guessed it, grunting while weightlifting. The club cited its strict "No-grunting" policy as just cause.

Little Lauryn's favorite tennis player is, not surprisingly, Maria Sharapova. Not only do the two share long blonde locks tied back into a swingy ponytail, but Sharapova is famous for her grunting (hear it here) The 6'2", 3-time Grand Slam champ from Russia has had auditory hits recorded at decibels ranging from 75 to over 100 decibels (British newspapers' "Unofficial Grunt-O-Meter" clocked her at 101.2). An average motorcycle registers at about 90 db. A chain saw or rock concert? 110.

While recently playing in the Fed Cup in Israel, the crowd actually began taunting Sharapova by imitating her noises every time she returned a serve or hit. But rather than let it rattle her, she simply used their energy to fuel her competitive streak. She gazed out at the mocking crowd, held a finger up to her lips, and smiled. Then she beat her opponent, Israel's Number 1 ranked Shahar Peer, 6-1 6-1.