Monday, January 31, 2011

Being a tennis team captain – part II

As I articulated in Being a tennis captain – part I, there are many challenges associated with performing this thankless ‘job’.  In this second installment, I’d like to complete my summary of the issues associated with managing one’s own team before delving into some of the external issues that tennis captain’s may encounter in part III.

Once the captain has compiled a team, ‘he’ has to resolve whether or not he’s going to play the best players available every week or try to balance the lineups such that everyone gets to play a relatively equal number of times.  I believe that the captain needs to be clear about his intentions as he’s putting together the team and reinforce them in his messages (e.g. e-mails) – “let’s have fun” vs. “let’s take 5 (i.e. lines)!” – throughout the season.  Still, there will be some who are dissatisfied because they believe themselves to be among the best players and had hoped to “play more”; these are typically the same players that get upset when their opportunity to “play more” results in their getting pummeled every time they player higher than line 4 or 5.

The last key internal team issue that a captain has to deal with involves finding pairings that work well together.  Since every tennis player has ‘his’ own unique game and, more importantly, ‘his’ own unique personality, sometimes a captain’s biggest challenge is putting together the right combinations to “have the most fun” and/or “win the most matches”.  In mixed doubles, there are wives that do, and wives that (absolutely) do not, want to play with their husbands, or vice versa.  In men’s, there are guys that have issues with other guys (i.e. won’t play with each other) and friends that insist on being paired together whether their games matchup (e.g. neither has a good backhand) with one another or not.  Ideally, the captain should have the freedom to construct pairings in which each player’s game complements the other’s:  one’s strengths covers for the other’s weaknesses or they have similar styles, and so forth.  For example, I like to pair guys that are risk-takers with a steadier player (that would typically play the ad-side), or two serve-and-volley guys together etc.  It’s funny how former captains are your best teammates because they’ll typically say “I don’t care who you play me with or at what line, you’re the captain” (and mean it) whereas a lot of others have “an opinion”.  Unfortunately, many who freely share their opinion aren’t willing to step-up to the responsibility of being captain next season.

In my next installment, I’ll share some of my experiences in dealing with ALTA and other tennis captains.

1 comment:

  1. One other thing to consider is reliability. We've had to "prune" our team and find the players who are most dependable; the ones who really want to play tennis and- besides vacation- would show up every single week if asked to play.

    I definitely agree on team attitude. I've removed players because I want our team to take on more of a competitive tune, and needed to leave players behind that were lazy on the court or indifferent about the outcome of matches. I think this sometimes happens since we don't do well from match to match, so I've added some better players to bring some encouragement.

    It's a tough task - great post!