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Player to Player: Team Philosophies

October 12, 2012 08:41 AM
Have a question? Receive advice from your fellow players!
Real Tennis Players - Like You! - Asking For and Offering Advice on the Sport They Love  
Player to Player is USTA.com’s regular feature in which everyday tennis players are given a forum to ask advice on the sport they love – and their fellow players will dish out advice. We’ll post a number of the best responses we receive to our question of the week.
Player to Player:
This week's question from Adrian:
Hi. I'm 15 years old, and my dream is to play college tennis, even for a Division 3 school. I guess I'm a 3.5-4.0 player right now. I use a lot of spin on my forehand and have a very consistent, hard backhand. I am quite accomplished at things like volleys, lobs, drop shots and slicing. I have dependable strokes but tend to make unforced errors when I try to be aggressive. I'm working on directional control and am able to use this with some success during match play. I have a strong, flat serve (but I do not use this a lot) and a consistent slice serve but am working to learn a topspin kick serve. I have a western grip, which causes me to frame my shots from time to time, but I am slowly working on this, and my mis-hits have decreased. I am a very good student in school and maintain a 4.0 GPA and am in the top five in my class. I am looking to play tennis at the University of Chicago for the academic and tennis opportunities. I know how hard it will be to get into this school academically and am trying very hard to accomplish this. Again, my dream has been to play college tennis, and I just love the game so much. Could you tell me if I have what it takes and maybe what I need to do to achieve my goal? Thank you for your time.
Please share your thoughts by e-mailing Player@usta.com, and include your name and hometown.
Got a question of your own? Send that along, too!
Last week's question from Jane:
(Please note: There is no need to send additional responses to this question.)
Should players on a team get to play because they try hard, come to practices and are good sports or because they are stronger players and can win? In other words, is it about being fair and equitable, or is it all about winning?
Player Responses:
Cheryl C.  Wilmington, N.C.

Each team will have a philosophy of either "equal play" or "go for the win," and it is up to you to decide which team you are most comfortable with and play for them. If you are looking for fair and equal play, then join a round-robin at your club. If you are speaking of USTA League tennis, then it is about winning, as USTA Leagues determines a national championship team at each level of play. Therefore, in order for your team to excel and possibly move on to the next level of championships, the captain must put out the best players the team has to offer, and the rest of the players, as teammates, must support the captain's decision and cheer from the sidelines. It is fun and exciting for a team to win, and if it does so without you playing, then it is still a win for you and makes you part of the championship team!

Nancy C., Highland, Calif.

I've lost count of how many teams I have captained in the last six years. Many of the teams have gotten to sectionals. My strategy is always about the same. Everyone plays as many matches as they can. If we are close to getting to sectionals, I make sure every player on the team qualifies to play, and if we win sectionals, everyone has qualified to play at nationals. As captain, at least in my experience, I pretty much decide who I want on the team, and that is who I ask to join. We do have stronger and weaker players, so I try to pair the strongest teams for each match based on who is playing. I also play my line-up straight up.  I never stack, as some captains do. This has worked for me, and I haven't heard any complaints from people who have played on my teams.

Good luck. It's not always easy being the captain, but it is fun and rewarding.

Rick M., PTR

The answer is that it depends on the culture of the team. If the goal is to win a gold ball at Nationals, it's play the best players and make sure they've made a committment to be at every match. If it's to have fun, then everybody gets an equal amount of playing time. Members of a club present a different situation. The question of  "we all pay dues" is best answered by the organization fielding two teams in the same NTRP league, with different end goals.

Coach Leonard, Walnut Creek, Calif.

Determining the direction of a team can be tough for a captain. The simplest solution is to decide before you recruit. I really like the captain's note feature that USTA NorCal added for the roster page on the website. These are notes posted above the roster. Here are some of the notes that I've seen:

1) Contact the captain prior to registering.

2) Roster is closed.

3) Will only take actual 3.5s, no 3.0s.

4) Still need singles players.

A captain can let players know before registering if it is a team for fun or for winning. If you build a roster without a predetermined direction, conflicts often come into play. The better players want to go for it, and the weaker want to have fun. If you have a five-line format, you might be able to satisfy both types. If you're in a situation with talented players not practicing, my choice is to play the ones who come out. I have no tolerance for ignorance. No one is too talented to not practice. A true team player will hit with the team to help give them a more challenging practice.

One of my most fondest tennis memories was being at my high school sports banquet. I sat between the No. 1 and 2 singles players on the tennis team. They were arguing why they each deserved the MVP trophy since they were both undefeated. I played first doubles that season. They asked me who should get it, and I said it was a toss up. When our coached announced who had won, everyone was surprised. It was me. Mr. D said that I was the most valuable player because in practices I would not only be the last one to leave but also work out the junior varsity team. It was then that I decided to coach and teach tennis.

As I coached my Vintage High girls to a 200-3 record, I said, "If you don't show, then you got to go." In the PE office, the boys' basketball coach asked me if he should play the stars who kid around or the ones who work hard. I told him, "Coach, play the hard workers. The right attitude makes great ability. It doesn't always works the other way."

Unfortunately tennis teams aren't "Fields of Dreams." If you build it, they may not all come. If the season is just starting, you can have a team meeting, and vote on it. A way you can draw in the talented no shows is set up challenges at practice. A no show is a default. Post challenges before practice, and post results after in an email. No one wants to see themselves default, much less a loss sent to the team. Good luck on your decision.

Gunja S.

Hi Jane. I think that in most of the teams it is all about winning. I play in the USTA, and I am not as good as my friends, but I am good enough that I can beat the other team but still never get to play the singles. It is all about winning when it gets to competition.
*Please note that any advice given out in this forum should in no way be confused with actual medical advice. Before starting any new exercise regimen or altering your existing one, we strongly urge you to consult with your regular physician.
Click here for USTA.com's Player to Player Archive.


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