Monday, July 9, 2012

Be a supportive/positive tennis doubles partner, and have some fun out there (or find another team)!

Most recreational tennis players play doubles, which makes it rather frustrating that it’s so difficult to find professional tennis – men’s, women’s or mixed – doubles to watch on television, but I’ve digressed. I’ve certainly played my fair share of doubles over the past 12 years, men’s & mixed, and I much prefer mixed because ladies make the game more fun, and bring better food to matches!

One of the most important things I’ve learned as a partner, and as someone playing with a partner, is how critical a positive attitude is to the team, its success or just the enjoyment of playing. Remember, all of us are amateurs and, since none of us are playing for prize money, winning is not as important as having a good time. Sure, we ALL want to win. I’ve never met anyone that didn’t, which means that, in a doubles match, all four players on the court want to win. However, two people will walk off the court without winning, and wouldn’t it be great if everyone could feel good about their match and effort in the end regardless of the outcome?

Unfortunately there are those among us – I used to be one, so I know – who are so competitive that winning is everything, even if it means "getting down" on one’s own partner, on the court or after the match. There are also those who believe that their opponents are enemies and foster an environment during the match that’s very tense. This can make everyone feel defeated at the end of a hard fought match, when instead everyone could be proud of being part of the experience in which they tried their best and accepted the result. Don’t let yourself become one of these people; if you are already, try to recognize your ways and change them.

Firstly, during a match, positive energy is essential. Tennis is not just a physical game; in fact, the mental side of it is easily just as important. Emotions can assist or hinder both of these aspects. For instance, an upbeat mental attitude can raise one’s game, while a downtrodden one can cause one’s performance to suffer significantly. During a rigorous match, especially on a hot day, it takes a lot of mental energy to will oneself physically. If you let yourself get upset over a line call, or your own partner “yells” at you for missing a shot, your game will likely deteriorate, and the odds of your pairing winning will decrease. So, it’s self defeating to get down on your partner.

When you play singles, you have only yourself to blame. But in doubles, suddenly there’s another suspect in “the crime (e.g. of losing)” and this is where trouble begins. Not only should you work diligently to tame your own attitude and keep it as positive as possible so as not to negatively “infect” your partner, but UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES should you criticize or offer unsolicited advice to your partner. Plus, even if your partner asks for a suggestion (“I’m having trouble returning his serve, what can I do?”), you should offer encouragement and constructive solutions only … no negative comments!

At the end of the day, I play this game because I enjoy the physical and mental challenges. But more and more, the longer I’ve played and as I’ve grown older, it’s about the social aspect inherent in our sport that keeps me coming back season after season. When that breaks down, life’s too short; time to find another team. I guess winning isn’t everything after all?

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