Captaining: A Conflict of Interest?

Discussion in 'Adult League & Tournament Talk' started by Cindysphinx, Oct 30, 2009.

  1. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    I've captained many teams. This means I get to set line-ups. This also means I get to pick my partners, decide which court we play, decide which opponents we play.

    In the past, I bent over backwards to make sure I wasn't favoring myself in any way. I have been on teams where the captain hogged the best partners for herself, and I know that this causes resentment. This is especially so if the captain is not the strongest player. If a captain plays her cards right, she should never lose a doubles match because she can play with the strongest partner against the weakest teams. The team suffers, but the captain can bask in the glow of her own awesome W/L record.

    I rarely pair myself with the strongest player. I do this to avoid having my teammates become resentful of my using my position as captain to take the best partners. I also do it because I think it is good for my development to avoid having a strong partner carry me. I don't much care what my W/L record is. If we lose, I know full well the extent to which my own poor play caused the loss. Besides, pulling off an upset is more fun than pounding weak opponents (or watching your stronger partner do it!).

    I am wondering if I should start doing things differently.

    The reason is that I am finding that captains of some teams I would want to join want you to have an established partnership, especially if you are playing up. Well, I don't have an established partner. I just play with players I enjoy playing with. But if I am going to commit to playing with primarily one or two partners, I would want them to be strong ones. Taking on a weaker partner (say, low 3.5) means I would have a hard time playing up at 4.0.

    The easiest way to develop a partnership with a strong partner is to start pairing myself with stronger partners on my own team. This does not sit well with me because, on some level, it feels like I'd be doing it for the wrong reasons. I'd be doing it for myself rather than to advance the interests of the team.

    Then again, I'm not a bad player. Not at all. Why shouldn't I have a strong partner? I mean, none of us is the best judge of our strength compared to those of our teammates, but I do think I am plenty strong to justify partnering with the stronger players. It is possible, however, that my teammates may feel differently.

    I don't know quite what to do about this. I really liked playing up at 4.0, but there is no question that I have little chance of winning unless I have a partner who is as strong as I am or stronger. And unfortunately, 4.0 captains who are thinking of taking on a 3.5 are understandably concerned about whether the 3.5 can win.

    What do other captains do?
     
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  2. Nellie

    Nellie Hall of Fame

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    If you partner yourself with strong players and win, than it is fine. If you lose, than your partners are going to get annoyed and stop playing for your team.

    However, picking the lineup is one of your perks as the captain - in exchange for the hours of unpaid work. I think, instead of picking a strong player, try to be fair and find a partner that meshes well with your game. I don't think that you should put yourself with the weakest players either - that is going too far. Try to be objective.
     
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  3. jrod

    jrod Hall of Fame

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    ^^^ Simple question Cindy: How often does it hurt the team when you field a winning partnership in your matches (e.g. say yourself and another strong player)?

    In all the doubles I've played, having a weak partner is a liability. Any team worth their salt will immediately realize this and exploit the weakness to increase their chances of winning the match.

    My feeling is, your personal objectives are probably not poorly aligned with the team's objectives at all. So, I say quit feeling so damned guilty and do the right thing, for both yourself and the team.
     
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  4. kendall22

    kendall22 Rookie

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    If you're good, play with a strong partner. There isn't any better defense than saying look, this is the best combination and the rightful order of players.

    At least you know the rules: my friend didn't know he was bumped up under Early Start and signed his wife up self-rated for the same level but his new Early Start rating makes their combined rating too high for our league. But it was all figured out too late to join a team for at the next upper level. It would have helped if our captain knew instinctively to check Early Start.
     
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  5. MomentumGT

    MomentumGT Semi-Pro

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    Our captain on my 4.0 team is a true 3.0er and captains the clubs 3.0 team as well. Since he is not close to the level of any of the 4.0's on the team, especially some of the ringers on our team, our captain does not play any of the USTA league matches unless a player calls off on the last minute or doesn't show up on a road match then he fills in. Our captain has played one doubles match this season and lost in straight to guys that were 3.5ers playing up to 4.0 at the beginning of our season.

    Our captain understands he isn't up to par with us so he knows putting himself in the lineup handicaps our team, especially when 4.0's in Socal are like the wild wild west in that you never know what to expect, as far as levels of players go. The benefit he gets out of captaining our team is that he gets to practice 3 times a week with guys way above his level that would normally not want to hit with him. He's improved quite a bit now and sits at #1 on the club's 3.5 ladder.

    -Jon
     
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  6. blakesq

    blakesq Professional

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    when I captained, I picked the strongest line up possible. I tried to have my team win, not just me personally win.

    but, if you are captaining a team, you deserve to give yourself perks, because it is a thankless job, so pair yourself up with who you like, and play yourself as often as you want.
     
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  7. flash9

    flash9 Semi-Pro

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    Try This

    Cindy - It sounds like you play your 3.5 team like I play my 4.0 team, where there are no established partners.

    I have players I know do not pair up well, so I avoid playing them as a team if at all possible.

    Since there are no fix pairings, play half of your matches with a weaker player(s) at court 3, and half with a stronger player(s) at court 1 or maybe 2.

    If you like one of the stronger players and find a local weekend tournament, play and see how you do, this will give you more time to get in a grove with them.
     
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  8. OrangePower

    OrangePower Hall of Fame

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    The main perk that I've allowed myself for being captain is that I put myself in the lineup as often as I like. So I get to play more often than many other players on the team. I see this as justified given the additional effort that I put into running the team versus other players. Plus I am legitimately the best or second best singles player on the team.

    Since I play mostly singles I don't have the issue of choosing a doubles parter for myself. But putting myself in your shoes, I would choose a partner who is at a similar level and who has complimentary skills. I would not feel like I need to sacrifice myself and play with the weaker players on the team. But on the other hand I would not feel entitled to playing only with the strongest players, if I am not at the same level. That would just **** the stronger players off if they feel that they should be playing with someone stronger than I. So basically, I would pair myself just like I'd try to pair anyone else on the team - with a complimentary player of similar skill.
     
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  9. Geezer Guy

    Geezer Guy Hall of Fame

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    Cindy - I know you can pick your partner. How can you pick your opponents?
     
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  10. Geezer Guy

    Geezer Guy Hall of Fame

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    OK - I've read the rest. Sounds like you mix up partners quite a bit. How about if you ask your team if they have preferred partners? When doubles teams play together frequently, they get stronger. If there's a strong player that wants to play with you, and vice versa, then you can be a team with a clear conscience. You may have weak players that no one wants to play with, so stronger players may have to take turns partnering with the weak players. Even two relatively weak players individually CAN form a strong doubles team IF they know good doubles strategy and can cover for each other's weaknesses. But, the more often you can field stable teams, the stronger the teams will be. And, mix up the courts you put your teams on. You might have the stongest team on court 1 one week, and court 3 the next.
     
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  11. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    I know which teams are weak and which are strong. If I slotted myself against the weak teams, I could probably win more.

    You know, the real problem here is that I might suffer from the same delusions many other players do: Thinking I am better than I am. My honest assessment is that, of the 3.5 players on my team, I am clearly weaker than one. I would say I am in a 3-way tie for second place, although it might be a 2-way tie.

    But what do I know? I could be all wet.
     
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  12. Ripper014

    Ripper014 Hall of Fame

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    Being the captain of your tennis team definitely can be a thankless job, and the bottom line is that you cannot make everyone happy. The only way I have ever seen it work is when the captain is obviously heads and shoulders the best player on the team, level headed and has the respect of all team members to do the right thing. If this is the case I have never seen anyone question a decision that the captain made.
     
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  13. robby c

    robby c Semi-Pro

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    Tournaments.
    Pick a partner you enjoy playing with and go prove the partnership by winning tourneys. Then no one on the team can question a proven winner.
    Robby C
     
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  14. michael_1265

    michael_1265 Professional

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    There is nothing wrong with being a little self-centered as a captain, as long as you are generally fair. Last spring, I was a green captain on a green 3.0 team, and I overcompensated. I used myself as cannon fodder, playing #1 with a variety of partners against stronger teams. I am a strong 3.0 (I play competitively in fall 7.0 mixed), and I went 1-7 in doubles. We went 2-8 as a team. By the last match, I just wanted it to be over. I didn't do the team any favors by putting myself in that position. Just like any player, you need a taste of success on a regular basis.
    Mike
     
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  15. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    Two issues come up here.

    First, I don't flat-out asked all of my players who they want to partner with. I instead approach individual players about who they want to play with on a case-by-case.

    I'm just not sure what I would do with the responses if I asked the question of everyone. For instance, there are players who have hinted they want to partner with me, but I don't want to partner with them. Awkward. I would bet a large sum that the weakest players would ask to pair with the strongest ones (I get some of these requests as it is). And if I ask people their preferences and they tell me, doesn't this just raise an expectation that they will get what they request?

    I mean, if my captain asked who I wanted to play with and I said Players A, B and C, I would raise an eyebrow if I was paired with D for the next match. Did A, B and C say they didn't want to play with me? Is the captain blowing off my preference, and if so, why?

    Second, it isn't easy for players to be honest about whether they want to partner with their captain. I mean, how does one say no thanks to the captain?

    I recall once when I asked a strong player which of several prospective partners she wanted to pair with for an upcoming tough match. She said Player A, Player B and me. And then she said, "If it's Player B or you, I think I should be on Court Three."

    I appreciated the honesty, but I have to admit that a part of me thought, "Oh, really now?" I imagine it is hard for a player to suggest that she thinks the captain is so weak that they couldn't win on Court One, but it is equally hard for the captain to hear it. Especially if she doesn't agree! :)
     
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  16. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    Mike, I hear what you're saying and I totally understand.

    After all, who took those weak players onto the team? The captain. There is some argument to be made that if the captain didn't find good players or made an error, the captain should feel the pain.

    I was on the other side of that particular issue once. I was not the captain of a team, and the captain invited someone who was playing up and wasn't strong enough to play at that level. The captain -- a higher rated player than I am -- put *me* in as this lady's partner. In that match, our opponents outranked us by a full rating point (7.5 versus 6.5), and we got slaughtered. And you know what? I was highly irritated by this. I think if the captain is going to let someone play up before they are ready, the captain ought to get out there and play with them and take the hit.

    So maybe you feel you overcompensated. Fair enough. The flip side of that coin is that players will be justifiably annoyed if you take poor players on the team and then won't partner with them yourself.
     
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  17. Ripper014

    Ripper014 Hall of Fame

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    As the captain of your team I am not sure I would be asking members who they wished to play with. As captain your job is to manage personalities as well as their abilities. If you ave practices you should be able to tell from the practice sessions whom likes to play with whom and how well players pair up. Them asking you to captain should be their endorsement for you to assess, determine pairings and slotting.

    As you have mentioned once you give team members the opportunity to choose potential partners they are going to wonder if they do not end up with their choices.

    Being captain is definitely not an easy job unless you are winning... but it seems you are a thoughtful person and should have little trouble working it out.
     
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  18. Geezer Guy

    Geezer Guy Hall of Fame

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    Well, your original question was (I think) about how you could have an established partnership with an player - a good one - without your teammates feeling like you were cherry-picking the best player for yourself. I say, just find someone you want to play with and that wants to play with you, and schedule yourselves to play together whenever you're both available. Schedule yourselves for hard matches as well as easy ones. And, offer that same option to your teammates. If two of them agree that they want to play together, schedule them together whenever possible.

    There are LOTS of established partnerships around here. They always play tournaments together and they almost always play league matches together. Everyone just expects it. No one is mad or upset or jealous about it.

    And if No-backhand Betty can't find anyone that will play with her, well...

    And, I guess I'll just add that it also depends on your team goals. Are you guys out to win by playing your strongest teams the most, or are you out to have fun and play everyone equally?
     
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  19. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    ^^I should clarify that we play everyone equally. So I always have to find *someone* to play with No Backhand Betty. That someone often wound up being me.

    That said, you may be onto something. Maybe what I could do is ask each player to tell me (privately!) three teammates with whom they think they play well. If Players A and B list each other, great, they are partners. If A lists B but B doesn't list A, then B and A don't play together (unless there's a scheduling problem). If no one lists a particular player, then that player is a "floater" who plays with a variety of people.

    There are some issues, of course. I'll know who listed me and didn't list me, which is Seriously Awkward. And everyone will know that if they list A and then they aren't paired with A, it is because A didn't list them.

    This system isn't especially fair to new players, though. No one will know them, so no one will list them. I guess they will have to start as floaters and work their way in?

    Has anyone tried anything like this? Do you see any pitfalls?
     
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  20. Annika

    Annika Semi-Pro

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    I'm a rated 3.0- mainly because I haven't played enough usta matches to move up. Was a 4.5 singles player once. So I can play as a high 3.5 easily. The harder the hitting, the better. I hope to join a combo team and play as a 3.0 partnered with a 3.5. I want someone who's stronger than me once in a while; someone who poaches; someone who aces; someone who remembers the darn score!:shock::shock:
     
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  21. Geezer Guy

    Geezer Guy Hall of Fame

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    FWIW, I think that's a great idea. About the "Seriously Awkward" part, yeah - you'll need a thick skin. I'm thinking that's not a problem.

    About No-Backhand Betty listing A, but A not listing NBB - just because you never end up scheduling them together doen't "necessarily" mean she'll figure it out. She may or may not. And, it's not YOUR fault if A didn't list NBB as one of here favorites.
     
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  22. OrangePower

    OrangePower Hall of Fame

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    Do have practices together as a team? That would be the ideal time to try out different combinations of pairings and see how they work out (with respect to strength, stylistic compatibility, personality compatibility, etc). That would give you some idea of which pairings are feasible and which are not.

    My team has been together for several years, and we play together quite a lot. So I have a pretty good idea of who can (and wants to) play with who, and so on, without having to ask every week.

    But when we get new players, usually a couple of practice sessions is all it takes to figure out how to pair them up. During a practice we'll pobably play 3 or 4 sets and rotate partners, so after two practices I would have seen the new guy with 6-8 different partners.
     
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  23. CrocodileRock

    CrocodileRock Rookie

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    Maybe I'm missing something here, Cindy, but I will add my two cents, since no one else has said things the way I see them. You stated above that your team is an "equal court time" team, which, by definition, is almost never a competitive team. In fact, the competitive teams I have seen use their core group of players repetitively, with most of the other players cheering from the sidelines. Once the playoff start, some of the weaker players get little or no playing time.

    Since the captain's job is to carry out the mission of the team, and your mission is to play everyone equally, how can someone get bothered over your win and loss record as long as you are playing everyone equally? From the very beginning, this team should know that you're not playing to win the league (which is fine) but to enjoy a match with friends, stay in shape, etc. I don't think anyone has a right to question your lineups as long as you don't single-handedly abandon your original mission, and invent a new one.
     
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  24. Winners or Errors

    Winners or Errors Hall of Fame

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    Thanks for captaining. Not everyone is willing to take on the headaches or endure the criticism that invariably accompanies the job. It doesn't sound like you have done anything out of line. I wouldn't worry about it. I'm going to go give my USTA captain a compliment and remind him that I appreciate him taking on the role. Thanks for the post.
     
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  25. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    Orange, we don't have team practices. When we have tried, we rarely get more than 4 people, and it is usually the same 4 people. The players have too many family and work obligations, and many play on multiple teams and so cannot find the time.

    We are an "equal playing time" team, and we tend to finish in the middle of the pack each year. I don't think anyone would be bothered by my personal W/L record or the team's W/L record. What might bother them is if I favor myself in terms of hogging the best players for myself.

    I know another captain who did that. She was a middle-to-weak 3.5 captaining a 3.5 team. She had one very strong player. She would pair herself with that player, on Court Three. They would usually win, but not always. The other players noticed this, and the strong player was not happy about being saddled with this captain as a partner instead of enjoying more challenging, balanced matches on Court One with a strong partner.

    Eventually, a group of players from this captain's team got together and left. The strong player approached me and asked me to captain their team, and that was how my 3.5 day league team was formed. I wouldn't want to be perceived the way this captain was.

    WinnersOrErrors, thank you for that!!
     
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  26. jrod

    jrod Hall of Fame

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    ^^^ Cindy- I'm still trying to understand how parterning you with a equally capable dubs partner (and hopefully complementary in styles) is in conflict with the team's interest. Wasn't this your primary concern? Honestly, I don't see any conflict of interest here...
     
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  27. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    Am I one of the better 3.5s? I think so. Do my teammates think so? I have no idea. Some have better W/L records than I do. Does that mean they are stronger players? Or does it mean that I tend to assign them better partners and/or easier opponents?

    If I am simply delusional about my abilities, then I would imagine my teammates might get resentful if I suddenly change what I've been doing and start giving myself the strongest partners.

    I mean, there's always a conflict of interest when a person is handing out benefits and is also in a position to receive those benefits. Like, imagine you are in charge of determining the size of bonuses of your co-workers and yourself. That is an inherent conflict of interest.

    It's the same with the captain of a tennis team.
     
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  28. jrod

    jrod Hall of Fame

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    As the captain, I would expect you to be in a good position to determine the best pairings for the line-up. The singular objective should be to maximize the odds of winning given the available players, or, given the players whose turn it is to play. If you do this with strict objectivity, you are just one player on the list of players from which you select. I realize there is some potential for the appearance of a conflict of interest, but regardless as to what you do there will always be some who question your motives.

    My feeling is that as long as you remain 100% committed to the team winning, you shouldn't feel guilty or overly concerned about individual perceptions. Hopefully the teams results will reflect well on your line-up choices.

    As an aside, it turns out that I am in a position to set salaries, bonuses, stock options for my employees. Fortunately, the $ pool for management is entirely separate from the pool I allocate from so there is no direct conflict of interest. The last two review cycles management has recommended that all management promo, wage and bonus increases be reallocated to the employee pool. This decision was unanimously supported by management and viewed as being the best thing for the team. The company continues to thrive and has consistently been voted into the top 20 of Fortune's 100 best companies to work for for the past 8 years running.
     
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  29. JavierLW

    JavierLW Hall of Fame

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    I finally started this year with putting myself with a stronger player at a tougher position (#1 Doubles against the toughest teams and in the playoffs).

    But I didnt do it for my own interests, I did it because I felt it would get the team a win.

    In other years I never did that, because either I wasnt at their level yet or I had better options that I felt better about.

    If you think getting a win for the team is a worthwhile "interest" of the team then you should go for it. (some would even say you are doing the team a disservice by not doing it unless you have a better option there)

    But if you have a bunch of other interests then I dont know what to say.

    What I had going for me is I played with this "strong" player in a tournament before the season started and we had a couple of strong matches. So he felt good about playing with me, and I obviously enjoyed playing with him.

    If you can establish something like that outside of a league then any team that is trying to have any success would love to actually take on an actual established team. (rather then have them stick you with someone and hope that it works out....)
     
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2009
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  30. kylebarendrick

    kylebarendrick Professional

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    The conflict of interest is one of the benefits of being a captain. If you don't like how often you play or who you partner with, you form your own team and make your own decisions. If your decisions are good, then nobody will hold it against you. If your decisions are bad, then your team won't do well or won't be happy.

    The others are right - as long as the people you partner with like playing with you and as long as you win, nobody will hold that against you. But if you put yourself with a good player and regularly lose, then your team will question your ability and decision making.
     
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  31. jserve

    jserve Rookie

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    None of us are going Pro, so just make sure your having fun. As a captain, if someone is complaining about pairing, they are probably a party pooper and can be replaced. As long as you have pleasant people on the team, it makes no difference what the pairing are.
     
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  32. michael_1265

    michael_1265 Professional

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    Cindy,
    I know what you are saying. I would be peeved at that captain's actions also. In this case, I inherited my team at the last minute, and we were shorthanded due to some defections, but it is a great bunch of guys, and I want us to get better together. We were just plain outgunned, playing the whole season with nine guys. Recruitment has paid off over the summer, and it looks like I have three more players, all of whom are very good or excellent 3.0s. We will no longer be doormats in 2010.
    For me, given that all the members on my team are playing at 3.0 level (they all are), everybody plays equally. Everybody paid their $33.75 plus USTA membership, so they all get a shot. I try to come up with pairings that maximize the potential of the players. In the spring, it was a challenge. I'm hoping this philosophy achieves team continuity and, eventually, success. Who knows?
     
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