Well, I have my new tennis bag all loaded up and ready to go. I have already gotten several compliments on it I think because it is so bright and colorful! But a tennis bag can't just be cute – it has to do its job. That means it has to have everything you might need to play well and win a match. So here is a list of what I carry in my bag. I admit it – it is a lot of stuff. But I don't want to lose because I didn't have a band-aid!
1. Two Tennis Rackets – I don't carry two because I think it makes me look intimidating. I'm pretty sure no one has ever been intimidated by me and my two rackets. I carry two because I have actually switched rackets during a match. While I have one I usually play with, sometimes it feels “funny,” especially after it has been restrung. And I want to be ready for that day when I hit a ball so hard that I break a string!
2. Tennis Balls – Seems obvious but I have been known to NOT have a can of balls with me. This can get old if your partner always has to come up with new balls. So I try to have one new can for match play as well as a can of used balls to warm up with.
3. Grip Overwrap – I use that regular old blue wrap that has Pete Sampras' picture on it (or maybe it is the Bryan brothers now). If you don't like that one, don't worry – there are tons of different wraps in tons of different colors and textures. Or maybe you use rosin or that sticky stuff in a tube. Just be sure you have whatever you need to make your racket feel comfortable in your hand and prevent it from slipping.
4. Cap or Visor – To keep your hair back and to keep the sun out of your eyes. Especially useful when you're playing a lobber.
5. Hair Stuff – This is a big one for me. I don't like to pull my hair back but I can't play seriously with it in my face. I have come to accept that to play well, I have to put my hair in a ponytail AND clip my bangs back. You will know I am playing a serious match if my hair is pulled back, my bangs are in a clip AND I'm wearing a cap.
6. Sunglasses – Like Number 4, you may need these when you're playing a lobber. But you may also need them when its just a bright day outside. Unless it is absolutely about to rain, I wear sunglasses.
7. Sunscreen – Here in Houston, we wear sunscreen most of the year. Even in winter, it is still sunny enough to be outside playing tennis and therefore to be wearing sunscreen. I have a lotion for my face (SPF 70!) and a spray for everything else (SPF 45).
8. Water – I always carry my own water bottle. Perhaps the other team is supposed to provide you with water, but you never know what you're going to find. It may be a gallon jug out on the court and you are supposed to keep refilling a small plastic cup. A plastic cup that looks just like everyone else's. It may be one of those cooler/dispensers on a stand that you don't know how often it is refilled or with what. It may be nothing – which happened to me at one match where the person who was supposed to bring water bottles forgot.
9. Towel – This is obvious.
10. Band-Aids, Tylenol, Advil, Safety Pins – Typical first aid, emergency type stuff. You need this for yourself and to share with your partner.
11. Phone Numbers – I carry cell phone numbers of almost everyone I have ever played tennis with. Sometimes you need to call your partner to say “Where are you? The match is about to start!” Sometimes you need to call a team mate to say “My partner didn't show up! Can you be here in 10 minutes to sub?” Sometimes you need to call a friend to say “We have an indoor court but only 3 to play. Do you want to come play tennis with us and then go out for lunch?”
12. Pens & Paper – To keep score, etc.
13. Rules of Tennis – I carry the ITF Rules of Tennis, whatever written rules are available for the various leagues I play in as well as a copy of “The Code – The Players' Guide for Unofficiated Matches.” I don't want to seem too geeky about this stuff but it really helps to know the rules. You are eventually going to get into some kind of conflict and the person who knows the rule often wins the point.
14. My Lucky Charm! – I almost forgot this one. I always carry my little Hello Kitty tennis player keychain with me for good luck. One of my kids gave it to me (OK – it's a Happy Meal toy) and so it is special. I don't know that it is necessary to have a lucky charm in your bag, but it can't hurt. And with all that other stuff in there, it's not like it's going to add much weight.