Should you play league tennis? I get lots of questions and comments from Tennis Fixation followers on this issue. It can be a pretty divisive topic. In this episode, I'll talk about my own league experience and give you my pros and cons for playing league tennis and joining a tennis team. 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.
You might remember that at the end of 2014, I did a year-end survey. Many of you were nice enough to participate and it was a great chance for me to get some insight into what you all like to hear and what questions you'd like me to answer. One of the questions I asked in the survey was what question related to tennis you'd most like to ask me. I got tons of good responses but this comment in particularly interesting:
Why do league tennis? [What are the] advantages? Seems [like] too much drama and politics. Captains playing themselves and their friends on [the] team! Just wanted your opinions. I feel like I don't need league tennis to improve. Thanks!
Weirdly enough, this is an issue that a lot of Tennis Fixation followers ask about – whether or not to join a tennis team or a league. And the reason is, because as many of us know, league tennis often involves quite a bit of “drama and politics.”
My own tennis experience is that when I first started playing, I played because I had joined a tennis team. And this was despite the fact that I knew nothing about the game, definitely had no knowledge of strokes or strategy, and was not even vaguely familiar with the rules or etiquette of tennis. But I joined a tennis team, despite all of this, because all of my friends were on the team and they promised me I would have a good time. And I did! So I'm pretty much in favor of tennis teams and league tennis for the most part.
But even I have had some negative league tennis experiences. In fact, I have quit not one, but three different tennis teams, simply because I did not enjoy the drama and the politics that was going on.
So I do have some ideas about the value of playing league tennis. Because there are definitely pros and cons to league tennis and, while opinions may differ, here are my personal pros and cons.
Pros of League Tennis:
1. You meet lots of tennis players.
It is a given that once you become involved with league tennis, you find lots and lots of people to play with and against. While many people have a big circle of tennis friends that they can play with for fun, there are at least as many other people, myself included, who do not necessarily know people who just want to play socially. League tennis solves this problem.
2. You get better at tennis.
No doubt about it – the more you play, the better you get. And once you are on a tennis team, you will probably be playing on a pretty consistent basis.
3. You get real competition.
I'm sure many people play the same kind of tennis whether their match counts for points or not. Me personally, I play a lot better when it counts. I just don't take a match as seriously when I'm just playing for fun. And if I don't know my opponents, or at least if I'm not friendly with them, I play even better. So the best way for me to be competitive is to play league tennis.
4. You learn the rules, the Code and tennis etiquette.
Once you join a tennis team, you will definitely learn the rules, the Code and basic tennis etiquette. Because if you don't, people are going to take advantage of you.
Cons of League Tennis:
1. You might not play a lot of tennis.
When you're on a team, you usually have a lot of teammates. And those people need some playing time too. So just because you join a team doesn't mean you're going to get to play every week.
2. It can take up a lot of your time.
My philosophy is, if I join a Tuesday morning team, I block off my Tuesday mornings. So that means I don't make appointments or anything and that means I have some Tuesday mornings when I don't get scheduled to play for my team and I don't have anything else to do either. That's one way I lose time to being on a tennis team.
The other way is that tennis matches can just take a while to play. And if you're playing the late match on a weekday morning, that might not start until 11:00 or even later (depending on when the early match finishes). And if you play that late match and it goes long, well, next thing you know it's 2:00 and you've spent your whole day doing nothing but standing around waiting to play tennis and then playing tennis. While that's not a complete waste, in my opinion, it's something that you probably shouldn't do too often.
3. You have to deal with the politics and the drama.
The fact is, when you join a tennis team, you play at the mercy of your captain. If he or she wants you to play, he or she will put you in the line-up. But if he or she does not want you to play, then he or she won't play you and may not even tell you why. I try very hard to let the captain run the teams that I play on. But, when I have disagreed with what's happening, I've tried to nicely bring it up and if that doesn't work, well, as I said up front, I have quite three different tennis teams over team politics.
4. You have to deal with your rating.
If you play on a USTA league team, you will definitely have to have an NTRP rating and that will definitely become public knowledge. And this same thing may happen in other leagues depending on the rules of the leagues you play in. And this is important only because it will determine what teams you can and can't play on. Because in many leagues, you can't play or even sub for a team that is for players rated lower than your rating. Just something to think about and remember.
So those are my pros and cons of league tennis. My list is probably a lot different from your list. And how do I answer the question, “Should you play league tennis?” Well, it's not a clear-cut Yes or No. Instead, I think you have to decide what works best for you. There are many factors to take into consideration:
- What kind of leagues are in your area, are they fun and laid-back or serious and super-competitive?
- How do you feel about your (potential) tennis team captain? Can you follow his or her “plan” for the team, even if it means you don't get to play much?
- Do you like competition and playing when it counts? Or do you play better tennis when its all for fun and more social?
These are just a few things to think about. You might have other issues to consider. And while I do think there are a lot of benefits to league tennis, and while I personally enjoy it and think its helped my game immensely, I know its not for everyone.
Let me know what you think about league tennis and whether your experience has been good or bad. Just leave your comment below because I'd love to hear from you.
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