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.


  1. Just found out what happened in men's situation above. Error was unintentional. The captain placed two players at line 3 (e.g. to sandbag) that had previously played together at line 5, early in the season, even though each individual had played at line 4 (with different partners) subsequently. Again, you have to know the rules!

    1. Interesting. I had always wondered about that. So it's the last time the TEAM played together not the last time the individual has played. TennisPoint doesn't check this- I wonder if that may have played a hand?

    2. I could be wrong, but I think that TennisPoint does check this, which is the reason I think that a tool like TP is essential for captains.

    3. I've actually tried this specific scenario before, it doesn't check it. I put a team at 4 in week 2 of the season, they played separately at 5 and 2, then played them again together at line 2. No errors. I also did play that lineup with no red flag from the coordinator, but then again, we were second to last in the division so I guess it didn't really matter at the time. Now that I play on more competitive teams, this is helpful info.

  2. Good to know, thanks! I guess the tool could use some improvement and we have to be ever watchful as captains!