Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Get ready for the next tennis season now

Whether you ended the spring ALTA (or USTA) season on a high note or not, this isn't the time to rest on your laurels celebrating or to put your tennis bag away in disgust. Now is the time to get that racquet restrung and/or probably to buy some new shoes. It's important to play a few times with a freshly strung racquet before the next season is underway and you find yourself having to play with 'slick' or 'too tight' strings in your first match of the season; the same goes for that new pair of shoes, especially if you're changing brands or types.

Additionally, if you've been wanting to work on a part of your game, perhaps that let you down last season, whether it was a stroke or your fitness, now is the best time to get some extra practice sessions in (with a coach?), unless you want to continue to struggle during the upcoming summer season. Even though this is a busy time of year for parents, with end of the school year activities (graduations, vacation planning etc.), attend as many of your team's practices as possible so that you can "hit the ground running" in June.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Tennis team captains should know the rules, not make inexcusable errors

When you agree to join a league tennis team, whether it's ALTA or USTA, you should be able to have confidence that your captain knows what he or she is doing ... especially if you're "in it to win it". After a seemingly successful match or season on the courts, the last thing you want to learn is that your captain messed up a lineup or a scorecard, or failed to plan properly for the playoffs.

During the course of these first 2012 ALTA seasons, I've learned of two critical captains' errors that have cost their teams dearly, and nearly made one myself. First, my own. A little more than midway through our City Championship mixed doubles season, one of my players pointed out that there was a lady on my team that had only played once; since she wasn't one of my strongest players, I hadn't planned on playing her again. But this player suggested that I might want to get 'her' a second match so that 'she' would be eligible for the playoffs. I couldn't imagine a situation in which I would need 'her' to play in the playoffs, but I took the advice (made easy by the fact that one of our opponents defaulted a line 5 to us). Sure enough, during the first weekend of playoffs, I was shorthanded and needed 'her' in the lineup; she even won by default that first Saturday! Had she not be eligible for the playoffs, who knows what would have happened?

During that same season, we were probably the beneficiary of another captain's error (since 'his' team was to have been in our draw). The captain of a division winning team had players that were to play in a USTA city final the same Saturday as the first ALTA playoff weekend. Unfortunately, the captain either didn't decide or wasn't able to get his players to make a decision regarding which match to play before talking with the coordinator, who published the draw including 'his' team. When the players opted for the city final (who wouldn't?), 'his' ALTA team had to withdraw from the playoffs meaning the captain (and perhaps his entire team!) will have to sit out for a year.

Late this season, my men's ALTA team was chugging along as the second place team, a point behind a team that had taken 4 lines from us, meaning we were two behind going into the last weekend ... which is very difficult to makeup, especially when we were to play the third place team. So, our captain decided to play for second place (instead of for first, and risk not making the playoffs). At the end of last Saturday, we'd taken 3 points and the team in front of us had done the same. Congrats, we now had the privilege of traveling to Towne Lake to play a team that had only lost 2 lines all season. However, the results were in blue (temporary) and by the time they were confirmed (to black) by the coordinator on Sunday AM, our fortunes had changed. Apparently, the first place team had a lineup malfeasance because they officially took only 1 line that Saturday. Congratulations! Now, we're actually the division champs, because of another captain's mistake; I have no idea whether it was inadvertent or intentional.

Bottom line - I'd hate to be on a team where the competence (or lack thereof) of my captain cost me eligibility, a bag tag or even a trip to the playoffs. I feel sorry for the players affected by the aforementioned errors, and fortunate that my own teammate saved me from something similar.