Thursday, February 17, 2011

"I love it when a plan comes together!"

Putting together tennis line-ups throughout a season is like assembling a puzzle:  the goal, in the end, is to have completed a ‘masterpiece’ (credit The A-Team’s “Hannibal” Smith for this post’s title quotation).

O.K., maybe not a masterpiece but, in the final accounting, a tennis captain wants to have adequately balanced his competing priorities – to have a fielded competitive line-up each week AND to have played everyone on the roster, if not an equal number of times each, as many weeks as their ability dictates – in any given season.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I assembled what I thought would be a “bag tag” capable team for this winter’s ALTA mixed doubles season.  And we competed well until the fifth week, that is, we were in contention for a playoff berth even though we’d split the first four “contests”.  One never wants to forfeit a line due to a lack of player availability, but a captain also never wants to have to field a line-up that has no chance of taking at least 3 points on any given weekend.  Unfortunately, for our fourth match, since three of our better players were unavailable, we had little chance of taking more than 2 points, which we did.  Yet we were still “in the running” going into week 5; we then lost two tight 3-set matches to put us “out of it” with 2 weeks to go.

Although my first objective for the team fell short, I feel fortunate that it was for only one week that I didn’t have the most competitive line-up possible given my roster.  It’s clear that I need to find/add at least one (and possibly two) top line pairing(s) to round out the team, especially given that player availability typically suffers during the summer season.  I am also very grateful to have fulfilled my secondary objective:  my teammates’ playing time was equitably distributed based upon their abilities.  In other words, the number of times a given team member played was directly related to their ability and contribution (e.g. wins) to the team.  If a captain fails to achieve ‘his’ first objective, the successful execution of the second can make all the difference to his team members’ satisfaction going forward; retention of the best players can be thought of as a third objective.

We still have one week to go, against the number one team in our division, but I know that I did the best that I could with what I had to work with this season.  The weather was great – there were no rain-outs! – and, with few exceptions, I was able to keep my pairings intact.  We were competitive and I think that everyone had fun, which is perhaps the goal that overrides all others.

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