Playing with All Kinds of Partners
I think I've mentioned many, many times how I play on a lot of tennis teams with a lot of different doubles partners. I'm currently on three tennis teams and so frequently get partnered up with people with whom I've never played. Or, on occasion, never even met before we step on court.
I can therefore say with some confidence that I've played with all types of partners. And I count in there some partners who, for whatever reason, were bad partners for me to play with. Either they were bad for me because our playing styles didn't match up or they were bad for me because our personalities just didn't click.
Now, that doesn't mean these partners were bad tennis players per se. In fact, some of them were really very good. But, for whatever reason, these are partners I had a really miserable experience with. And, when that's happening, a lot of times I feel like just mentally withdrawing from that match and getting out of there as quickly as possible. But we can't do that, right? Whatever you or I might think of our doubles partner, when we're playing a doubles match, even with someone we're really not clicking with, we have to try very hard to do whatever we can to make the best of that match and that partnership. Because that's the kind of players we are, right?
How to Deal with “Problematic” Partners
So, over the years, I've come up with some tactics and mental strategies I use to play with these problematic partners. And, in this episode, I'm going to give you the tools I use to help me play my best tennis no matter who my partner is. And, bonus!, I'm going to identify these problematic partners with some very clever names I spent quite a bit a time coming up with, names that may help you to recognize these doubles partners when you have to play with them. So, here is my best advice on what you can do when you're partnered up with the “worst tennis partner ever.”
1. Are you partnered with “Bossy Betty”?
Bossy Betty tells you where to stand, where to hit the ball, what you're doing wrong and what you need to do to correct all of your mistakes. She usually starts all of this before you even get on the court and will continue throughout the match. Partnering with Bossy Betty will require you to be patient and very in control of your emotions. Bossing Betty is trying to be helpful and doesn't really see the problem in taking over and running your team. You can't change her so, again, be patient and try to work with her.
2. Are you partnered with “Coaching Cathy”?
Coaching Cathy spends most of her time between points and on changeovers telling you how to improve your game. She doesn't claim to be a tennis pro but because she has taken many, many lessons over the years, playing with her is, in her opinion, the next best thing to playing with a pro by your side. She will instruct you throughout the match but will pay almost no attention to what exactly the problem on the court is. Again, you can't change her. Pointing out to her that you really don't need her coaching may actually produce negative results. The best thing you can do is take a deep breath, take her coaching in stride and just play your game as best you can.
3. Are you partnered with “Blaming Betsy”?
Blaming Betsy is sure that your team is losing because you are not doing your job. Unlike Bossy Betty and Coaching Cathy, Betsy doesn't have any real insight into what is going wrong and doesn't have any good ideas about how to turn things around. She just knows that it's all your fault and wants to make sure you know it too. You will need A LOT of patience and a positive attitude to make it through the match with Blaming Betsy. Realize that her complaining may be a defense mechanism to distract you from her bad play. Try to keep your partner communications positive and upbeat and find the bright side to whatever is happening in your match, no matter what.
4. Are you partnered with “Hooking Hannah”?
“Hooking” is what we call cheating in tennis and Hannah will be hooking right from the start of your match. You may not be 100% sure on your calls but Hannah is always positive on her's. And her calls always seem to work in her favor. You will often find yourself in the uncomfortable position of seeing a ball “in” that Hannah called “out” in which case, you are supposed to correct your partner. But correcting Hannah all the time is no fun and can certainly lead to a rift in your partnership during the match. Just remember to call them as you see them, point out any “errors” in Hannah's calls when necessary, be willing to accept that Hannah might never want to play with you again, and leave the match feeling good about your own calls and your standards of fair play.
5. Are you partnered with “Talkative Teresa”?
Talkative Teresa is pleasant enough to be around. She just won't stop talking. She talks between points. She talks on the changeovers. Between sets, she wants to sit down and have a good, long conversation. The problem with all of her friendly chat is that it can be very distracting. For her, for you and even for your opponents. You will need to be sure YOU are not hanging out, participating in these talks if you want them to end. And you may need to tell Talkative Teresa how hard it is for you to focus with all of the chatting. Just let her know in a firm but friendly way that you are easily distracted and really can't talk because you need to focus on the match to play your best.
6. Are you partnered with “Negative Nora”?
Negative Nora is having a bad day today. She is having a bad day every time she steps on the court. And her list of excuses is endless. The other team is stacking the lines. Your opponents are playing “down” when they clearly should be at a higher level. The other team is cheating. She wasn't supposed to play today anyway. And her knee is hurting. If she gets down too far in a match score-wise, she is just throwing in the towel because she knows she is going to lose. And guess what? You are going to lose right along with her! When playing with Negative Nora, your job will be to keep things positive. No matter what. You can always make a big comeback in tennis, even when you're very far down so keep right on playing and try to bring Nora around. Help her to see the fun in your match no matter how bad things get.
7. Are you partnered with “Gloaty Gladys”?
If Negative Nora is a sore loser, then Gloaty Gladys is the opposite – a gloaty winner! She fist pumps on her good shots! She fist pumps on her lucky mis-hits! She fist pumps on the points she wins when her shot somehow dribbles over the net cord onto the other side! And, most embarrasingly, she fist pumps on points she wins on the other team's errors! Gloaty Gladys sees herself as just another aggressive player. Is it a breach of tennis etiquette to celebrate her opponents' errors? She just doesn't see it. You probably will have to put up with this throughout the match. Perhaps complimenting your opponents on their great shots will bring some level of civility to the match.
So those are my tactics for dealing with problematic tennis partner. The best tool in these situations is to be patient, understanding and to realize that tennis is not always about winning. A lot of times it is about having fun and enjoying being out on court.
Let me know who your problem partners are and how you deal with them. Just leave a comment below as I would love to hear how you handle playing with the worst partner ever.
Happy Holidays and (as always) –
© Kim Selzman 2015 All Rights Reserved