So you've joined a tennis team, you've been a really good tennis team member, and now they've asked you to captain the team! Should you take on that job? And if you do, how can you make sure you're a a great team captain. In this episode of Tennis Quick Tips, I'll give you my best tips for being a great tennis team captain. You can listen to this episode by clicking on the media player above or by listening in with your favorite podcast app. You can also subscribe in iTunes by clicking on this link: tennisfixation.com/itunes.
Once you join a tennis team, it doesn't take long before you're asked to be the captain. In fact, I've even had the experience of joining a tennis team AS the captain. Now, this was a team where I already knew most of the players and actually played with them on other teams. AND the captain was an older lady who was having some medical issues. So, at the time, that didn't seem weird or awkward. But my point is that the captain of a tennis team is not necessarily the best or most experienced player. A lot of times the captain is the team member who just happens to be willing to take on the captaining duties.
So when your day comes and you've agreed to be the captain, how can you make sure you do a good job for your team? Well, here are my tips for being a great tennis team captain:
1. Familiarize yourself with all tennis and league rules. If you haven't done this already, you will have to do it now. Part of being a captain is making sure the rules are followed and this may mean you have to resolve on-court disputes on behalf of your team. Most league matches are not officiated and if the players on the court cannot resolve a dispute, they may have to turn to the captains. So you need to learn the rules now, before those disputes arise, and then be prepared to back up your team members when necessary. As a corollary to this tip, be sure to keep a copy of the Rules of Tennis, the Code and your league rules in your tennis bag at all times so you can be sure of exactly what the rules say for your particular situation.
2. Let your team members know what your “goals” for the team are. If you just want to have fun and the team is laid back and relaxed, let everyone know. If you're hoping to win your division, move up in the rankings, or desperately need to make points just to stay where you are, tell your team members. It not only helps explain what your strategy is, it also lets people know whether or not this is the right team for them. When team members don't understand why they're being put in a particular spot in the line-up or why the lines are being played the way you're playing them, it can cause misunderstandings, hurt feelings, or a lot worse.
3. In doubles play, try to pair people up on a regular basis. No matter how compatible two players are, it can take a few games for them to figure each other out. And by that time, they may be down too far to come back. The more players partner up, the better their results should be. While it may not be possible for each member of your team to have a regular partner, try to form groups within the team and partner up within those groups. So you may have 4 players who usually play at Line 1 or 2 and those 4 can pretty much expect to play with each other each week.
4. Keep everyone informed. Let your team members know what's going on so they feel included and can contribute in every way possible. Be sure they have a roster and know everyone's name and phone number, especially cell phone number. And tell them to keep these numbers in their tennis bags for emergencies. Let each member know when and where the team is playing each week so they can make plans. Get the line-ups out ASAP to avoid last minute changes and possible forfeits. And definitely keep them all updated on how the team is doing each week and where you stand in the rankings so no one is surprised or disappointed at the end of the season.
5. Make it fun. Even when your team is at the bottom of its division, especially when it's at the bottom, make sure everyone is having fun and feeling appreciated. If team members don't enjoy themselves, even when they're losing, they'll find some other team where they do have a good time. So have a team name! Have a uniform! Have lunch together! Have an end-of-season party! Give out your own end-of-season awards! I know these suggestions are probably more likely to happen with ladies who play during the day, but as the captain, try to do whatever you can to develop some camaraderie among your team members. This will not only help make playing league tennis fun, but it will help ensure that you retain team members for future seasons.
6. Be there for your team. This seems like the easy step but it can often be the most difficult. As team captain, you should really try to be available at every match. Of course, you may not be able to be there on court each and every week. You may actually have to do something NOT pertaining to tennis every once in a while! But, most of the time, you should be there to support and help your team. Your team needs you not just to keep track of the score sheet. Team members may also need you to resolve disputes and to “handle” the opposing team's captain and members.
Well, those are my best captaining tips. Now, before I wrap up this episode, I wanted to talk about some of my own experiences with tennis captaining. In my recent year-end survey, several of you told me that you wanted to hear about my personal tennis experiences and I am more than happy to talk about them here because a lot of involve lessons I've learned the hard way or things I wish someone had told me about early on in my tennis career. So here's what I guess I would call my bonus tip for dealing with tennis team captains and that is – be nice to your captain.
Bonus Tip! Yes, please be nice to your tennis team captain because it is really hard to be a captain. I am not currently a tennis team captain because it is truly a lot of work. But I have captained numerous teams in the past and I promise you, sometimes there is a lot more to captaining then just setting up the line-up each week. Sometimes the captain has to figure out the line-up using players who don't get along or don't play well together. Sometimes the captain has to accommodate players who have weird schedules or make strange demands. Sometimes the captain has to pay all of the league fees out of his or her own pocket because the league will only accept one check per team and then the captain has to hope that he or she gets fully reimbursed from all of the team members. Sometimes half the team leaves town all at the same time to go to a tennis camp and the captain has to try to come up with a line-up that works and won't result in forfeiting a bunch of lines. All of these things have happened to me and I can tell you, they aren't easy to deal with. There is a lot of thinking and planning and strategizing involved in captaining that many team members will never even see the work required. So, while I'm not saying that you should never express an opinion to your captain or ask any questions about what the plan for the team is, be aware that captaining a tennis team can mean balancing many competing interests and what might be the best thing for you and your tennis game, might not be the best thing for the team as a whole. So – to conclude – be nice to your tennis team captain.
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© Kim Selzman 2014 All Rights Reserved