Slowly, ever so slowly, it's coming back to me . . . why I am not a tennis team captain anymore. I agreed to be the substitute captain for one of my teams, just for two weeks, while the real captains take well-deserved summer vacations. But, as I sit here writing this post on the night before our league matches, and as I patiently wait for people to return my calls and confirm whether or not they're playing tomorrow morning, and as I actually start feeling that little knot of desperation start to tighten in my stomach over this (“what if they don't return my calls? who can I sub in at the last minute?”), I'm remembering just how hard it is to be a tennis team captain.
And I'm also remembering this Tennis Fixation post I wrote a while ago, a Retro Tennis Fixation post as I like to call it, about what it takes to be a great tennis team member – something that all of us should strive for. Just so our tennis team captains aren't developing stomach ulcers as they sit and wait for us to return their calls. So here it is from December 2008: How To Be A Great Tennis Team Member!
After you've captained a tennis team, you realize that your best team member is not necessarily your most highly skilled player. If you want to be the team member that your captain plays again and again, follow these tips:
1. Be available. Nothing is worse for a captain than forfeiting a line because she can't find anyone to play that day. So make sure that you are always available to play. Captains love the team member who is ready and willing to play at the last minute. This means if you are on a Wednesday team, don't schedule your manicure for Wednesday morning. Keep your Wednesdays open for tennis.
2. Play at whatever line you're needed. You may think you are a Line 1 player – and maybe you are. But sometimes your captain needs a player at Line 4 so she won't have to forfeit Line 4 that day. Sometimes she needs someone to play with that team member that others find “difficult” to partner with. Sometimes she has a strategy that includes playing stronger players at lower lines. If you are always willing to play any line, your captain will not only appreciate your attitude but will play you more often.
3. Play at whatever location you're needed. Depending on where you live, this may not be an issue. But where I liveand the leagues in which I play, getting to a match can often involve a 30 minute drive. If you exclude yourself from playing those “far away” matches, you will definitely cut down on the number of times your captain can use you.
4. Be a willing partner. Nothing is harder on a captain than having one team member who no one else wants to play with. I have had team members come to me and actually say, “Don't ever play me with her . . . ever!” While you may feel that way about certain players, the reality is that a captain has some obligation to play everyone on the team at least some of the time. And eventually someone has to play with that player that no one likes. And it should not be the captain over and over. So be willing to “take one for the team” occasionally and partner up with that unwanted team member.
5. Be a good partner. If you want to avoid being the “unwanted team member” referred to in No. 4 above, be a good partner to your fellow team mates. Be positive. Make good, honest calls. Don't throw in the towel in a match even when you feel like you can't come back. Don't blame your partner for her mistakes. Don't ever say to your partner “You have to get those.” Be the partner that everyone enjoys playing with and your captain will be happy to play you often.
6. Appreciate your captain. Being a tennis team captain is not easy. A captain may have to set new lines each week. She is often strategizing ways to win points just to keep your team from being moved to a lower level. She has to deal with league directors, other captains and, of course, a whole team full of players, each with their own personal agendas. If the team is losing, players may blame the captain for making bad pairings and following the wrong strategies. If the team is winning, players may feel its only due to their superior tennis skills. So, appreciate your team captain. Tell her what a great job she's doing every once in a while. Your support will not only make her happy, but may result in you playing as often as you'd like!