Rookie captain - any tips?

Discussion in 'Adult League & Tournament Talk' started by JesseT, Apr 13, 2008.

  1. JesseT

    JesseT Rookie

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    So I'm taking the reins of a mixed doubles team. I'll have lots of questions over the next few months, but for now I only have 2:

    1) Any obvious pitfalls to avoid? Stuff that wasn't obvious until after your 2nd+ season as captain?

    2) I'm really big on drills/practice vs just playing a bunch of matches. However, previous captains never did this (unless it's paid lessons). I don't know what the team will like, but I'm curious if other captains have introduced drills into their practice times successfully. I'm thinking something like Court A - best-of-3 practice match (4 ppl), Court B - run a "drills of the week" session with the remaining 8-10 folks. Like volleys, lobs, movement, etc.
     
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  2. JavierLW

    JavierLW Hall of Fame

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    Depends on your players. A lot of players I know lack actual match experience. So that's what our "practice" mainly consists of and I like most captains have a fun time getting people to show up for that.

    But the way my team works is if you work on your game and you are a better player, you will get to play more matches. It's not the captain's job to "make sure" that someone learns how to hit a volley, or gives them tennis lessons. (that would be a better job for a coach)

    But again, it depends on your players. Dont make them drill if that is not what they are interested in. If they love to drill then you should drill. They are adults, you cant (and shouldnt) really MAKE them do anything.

    Running an adult team is a lot like running a business in some respects, the people who are paying money to play are paying for a product, so you cant go too overboard imposing your will on them.
     
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  3. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    Stuff I knew the second time I captained that I didn't know the first time?

    I think one thing that surprised me was how little provocation it takes for some players to blow off their matches. They'll have a few weeks of notice that they're supposed to play a match, but they'll call and say they're unavailable because a friend is in town. Or they have a hot date. And then they'll demand a refund of the court fees and ask when I'll give them a make-up match. Grrrrr.

    In subsequent seasons, I changed the rules. If you cancel out on a match you are scheduled to play, no refunds. Whoever subs for you plays for free. Also, no make-ups. If you paid for 5 matches and you cancel out on one, then you only play 4 matches.

    Harsh, but necessary.

    Regarding practice, my teams don't practice. Or more accurately, we start the season with the best of intentions, but eventually no one is coming to practices. So we've stopped trying to have team practices and players set up foursomes on their own.
     
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  4. spot

    spot Hall of Fame

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    Women seem to be far more accepting of playing drills- guys pretty much universally want to play matches during practice instead in my experience. If you aren't doing a paid coach then you may have a very tough time getting people on board with drills unless you have someone on your team that is clearly better than everyone else to run them.

    The biggest rule of being captain to me is to clearly state the goals of the team up front. I think teams need to decide whether the goal is to have everyone improve where everyone plays the same amount or whether the goal is to win the division where the best people will be in the lineup more often. If you state it up front then people have much less to complain about later.

    One thing that I love to do is to sit myself the first week to watch matchups. I think it helps me set the lineups better when I can just focus on watching and not playing. And if you show you are willing to sit yourself then its harder for people to complain about playing time. But if you are a top 2 line player then this is a bad idea (unless its a social team).
     
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  5. JesseT

    JesseT Rookie

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    Interesting notes about the lineup dynamics. We're a neighborhood team, so the fees aren't a driver (almost makes we wish we did...people tend to take stuff they pay for more seriously). I'd actually love to just be the captain and not play often. Not cause I don't want to, but it would make playing-time conversations easier.

    re: drills
    Makes sense what's been said so far. I'll figure out a few alternatives (like alternate days/times, etc) just in case too few want it. I get what you mean about the coach vs captain dynamic. I'll be the first to admit I'm no coach, but at the same time, I'd love for someone to convince me that taking 40 volleys wouldn't make them better than watching someone double-fault 10 times in a practice match. *shrug*

    As an aside, I find it funny about the ego thing/coach-led drills. Many of these same folks are golfers and don't think twice about the concept of using a driving range or the putting green. But practice tennis? Please.

    Thanks for the tips. I'm open for more.
     
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  6. Nellie

    Nellie Hall of Fame

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    I have never been a captain, but I think the biggest problem I see is that certain captains schedule the same core group of players constantly, and use the remainder of the team as, effectively, substitutes when the core is unavailable.

    On the converse, I was told this was done because certain players are easier to schedule (more available, more responsive to e-mails, etc)

    I like Cindy's system where every one gets an equal number of matches.
     
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  7. JesseT

    JesseT Rookie

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    And that depends on the goals of the team. If you want playoffs, you play core. Consistency wins, period.

    If you want everyone to have a good time, you rotate.

    The tough part is when everyone *says* they want "good time", but then complain 'we always lose' and just blow it all off. Fact is, winning is more fun than losing.

    Seems the real work here is knowing when to play core and when you can play the field and still win.

    On that note, my idea is to sorta have a priority rule:
    1) If you want to play with your spouse, I'll get you in at least 1x, if not 2x
    2) If you can only play 2 weekends, let's get that scheduled now and lock it in. We plan accordingly and everyone's happy
    3) Once 1 and 2 are filled, play lines normally (by skill, availability)
     
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  8. spot

    spot Hall of Fame

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    For mixed here is how I like to do PT. first of all the top 2 guys and top 3 girls will play every time they are available. (women tend to be available less) I am simply not going to bench my top players unless we already have the division wrapped up. After that I guarantee everyone 3 times in the lineup (out of 7 weeks) and the rest of the playing time is merit based. But I play on a competitive team that has made the playoffs every season- maybe that wouldn't work for other mixed teams.

    You are opening a can of worms if you start the precedent of playing people together because they are a couple if this is anything other than a social team. Just because its often in the best interest of the team to split couples apart- your job just gets much tougher if you are trying to keep couples together. Either you put the strongest pairings together that you can, or else its a social team where you play people with the person they want to play with. Trying to split the middle is very tough.
     
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2008
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  9. marcl65

    marcl65 Semi-Pro

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    May or may not be obvious:

    1. Make SURE you have all your player's phone numbers programmed into your phone. I always have 2 things happen at least once every season: A) A player forgets he/she is supposed to play or cancels at the last second (so I need to look for a sub) and B) A player goes to the wrong courts on match day. Having everyone's phone numbers saves you having to frantically search for a person's number and allows you to instead frantically make calls.

    2. Get ready for personality clashes (I don't want to play with "him"). They're inevitable.

    3. Schedule ahead. I let my players know when/where they are playing several weeks in advance. I once had a captain who waited until the week of the match to try to find players. People make plans if they don't know they are going to play - we ended up forfeiting a lot of matches.

    Good luck!
     
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  10. catfish

    catfish Semi-Pro

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    Giving everyone an equal number of matches sounds good on the surface, but players don't always contribute equally to the team. Every team seems to have a "core group". This "core group" are usually players who are available for most or all matches, they make the team a priority, they never have to be reminded about match dates and times, they always set up practice matches and call teammates to play, they always bring tennis balls, they help squeegee courts and sweep courts if you are playing at courts that don't have a court maintenance crew, etc., etc. Then you have the players who do none of those things and expect to get equal playing time. Sorry, but I just can't do it. Dedicated team players will always get more playing time on my teams. The players that "forget" to bring balls, "don't have time" to call people to set up practice matches, are often unavailable but ask you to "keep trying to get them a match" , stand around and try to look busy while the rest of us are squeegee-ing wet courts, etc., will not play as often. Why play league team tennis if it's such a low priority? I've never figured out that mentality.
     
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  11. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    Following on to Marc's list:

    4. Send a match reminder for every match. I send mine via e-mail 2 days before the match (with date, time, location, line-up, warm-up court). Players know they *must* reply via e-mail. If they don't reply that first day, I call them on the phone the second day. If I still can't reach them by match day, I send a sub and the sub plays (this has never happened).

    Even with all of that, I have had people go to the wrong venue. Imagine how bad it would be without the match reminder!

    5. Tell your players they must arrive no less than 30 minutes early (if you have strict time limits like we do). At 25 minutes before the match, start calling anyone who isn't there. This gives you time to give directions to lost players or change the line-up. It also reinforced to players that 25 minutes before the match is *late.*

    As you can see, I'm really really really rigid and anal. Sorry. This spring team will be my ninth time captaining. It's my job to make the trains run on time. I'm proud of the fact that we've suffered only one defaulted court ever due to player tardiness (not counting when my pregnant player was told by her doc to stop playing and we lacked a replacement!). Being loose about these things just leads to problems, IMHO.
     
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  12. catfish

    catfish Semi-Pro

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    Just a comment, and not totally on the subject......but you can see from Cindy's email how being a team captain can be quite a bit of work. No matter what your team goal is or how great your players attitudes are, it's tough to be a captain and you'll never make everyone happy. I wish all players would be more appreciative of their captain's efforts. Without captains, we wouldn't have any leagues.

    Cindy, I hope your team buys you a nice gift after every season......like a gift certificate to TW!
     
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  13. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    Making the decision about whether you'll play everyone equally is one of the toughest and most important things you will do.

    To play devil's advocate . . . the "core group" goes by another name on some teams: The Clique. The In-Crowd. The Captain's Pets. Those who are on the outs -- whose entire season boils down to being nothing other than second string -- can get resentful. Especially in close cases, where one player looks good in TennisLink by virtue of getting the better partners, the easier court assignments, the weaker opponents. Deciding who is 10th best and who is 12th best on a team of 20 people isn't easy unless you have the ability to do a ladder.

    In fact, I'll be honest with you. If I changed to a policy where the strongest players played more, I'd have to change something else I do. I'd have to stop playing with weak partners and start cherry-picking instead. I mean, I don't want to ride the bench. Right now, I'm willing to pair with a weak partner, knowing that this might be the best line-up for a team win. If a loss meant I might have to bench myself . . . well, I'd put myself with the strongest partner for every match, just so I could be sure I wouldn't lose. Ugh.

    Then again, it is annoying that splitting playing time equally means people with no dedication whatsoever still get to play, requiring stronger, more committed players to sit the bench.

    Then again, it is difficult to base playing time on practice commitment, as some people are on multiple teams and so don't come to practice but get plenty of practice with other teams.

    So, you know. Good luck with all that!!
     
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  14. k_liu

    k_liu Rookie

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    Establish expectations up front: do you want to play and win or are you playing for fun? If you are playing to win then no everyone will play. If you are playing for fun then you can work everyone in.
     
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  15. catfish

    catfish Semi-Pro

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    I didn't say anything about "stronger" players or "weaker" players. I was talking about people who are "team" players. If you go back and read my post, it said nothing about win/losses. If someone gets resentful about lack of playing time yet they aren't available and they rarely pick up a racket, I'm not going to feel bad about not playing them. And if someone makes no attempt to contributte to the team and then labels them a "clique" that's their problem, not mine.

    I try to match compatible partners each season and those partners stay together. I rotate doubles teams in and out and try not to mix partners up too much. Doubles teams who enjoy playing together stay together. Why split them up? Frankly, I get very few complaints. But I do keep my teams pretty small and I don't add players to my team if I feel like I can't play them.
    Most of the people I play with enjoy league tennis and like to play as much as they can. So really there are very few problems.

    And who came up with this "cherry-picking" concept? The captain is part of the team and entitled to playing time and compatible partners just like anyone else. Why shouldn't a captain get a compatible partner and equal playing time?
     
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  16. flash9

    flash9 Semi-Pro

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    Double Post?
     
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2008
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  17. flash9

    flash9 Semi-Pro

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    Playing for FUN or to WIN

    Have a team meeting where it is decided if the team is playing for fun or to win as much as possible.

    I hope for your sake it is playing for fun. That is how my team has chosen to play. I then post the whole season on TennisOne and have them mark their availability. I then create a master playing schedule where everyone plays (within one match) the same number of matches. Since everything is posted, it is up to each player to either find a replacement to someone to switch dates if they can. It has worked quite well over the past four years.

    If they want to play to win, then you have to play who you think is your best player each week and you will always have player who do not agree with your lineups.

    Good Luck
     
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  18. yelnats

    yelnats New User

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    I'm not sure this is the most effective method, but I ask from the start how much people WANT to play. Most say they are happy to play when needed. A few (myself included) say they want to play as many matches as possible.

    If I ever run into a situation where EVERYONE wants to play as many matches as possible, then I guess I'd have to rotate evenly. (By the way, I rotate the rest of the team around the core that wants to play all the time)

    My advice is to grow a thick skin. I tend to take criticism from my players very personally, especially where lineups are concerned. When I've played for other captains I would have never have thought to question the captain. It is a lot of work and there's no way you will be able to please everyone.
     
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  19. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    Well, OK. I mean, captains do it lots of ways. I don't honestly know how I would assess whether someone is a "team player." If they show up for their assigned matches and give 100%, that is about all I can ask. If they never pick up a racket and still win and/or keep their partners happy, I have no problem with it. If they pick up a racket every day and still stink and teammates avoid them, that doesn't do me much good.

    It just sounds very subjective to my ears, Catfish. Not that there's anything wrong with that, mind. It's just that subjective decision-making does leave a captain open to all manner of criticism from teammates who see it differently.

    For us, availability seems to be the driver for many partner decisions. Yes, I can have doubles teams I like to keep together. But if one is hurt, I may well need the other one very badly. For instance, I played 7 mixed matches (I'm not the captain of that team). I played 4 with one guy, 2 with another and 1 with another. All due to availability.

    Also, if one partner is frequently unavailable and the other isn't, there's no way you can give the available partner enough matches unless you are flexible on pairings. I'd be very annoyed if I only played twice in a season because my designated partner was away on business a lot or something.

    Cherry-picking refers to the idea of the captain hogging the best players for herself so she can have a winning record.

    The players who are saddled with the captain sometimes *hate* it. After all, if the captain were any good, she would be a "cherry" her own self. Top players often don't like carrying anyone or losing matches they could win with a half-way decent partner. Captains aren't entitled, IMHO, to the best partner. They're entitled to whatever partner makes sense for getting a team win.

    Cindy -- the grateful beneficiary of good players who have left teams because they were fed up with the cherry-picking
     
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  20. kylebarendrick

    kylebarendrick Professional

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    Top players that are also team players don't mind carrying weaker partners every once in a while. That's the only way weaker players get into matches without being fed to the wolves.

    Now if it is every match, that's a different story...
     
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  21. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    Mmmm, nah. I don't agree.

    If someone is asked to win on Court One, they ought to get to play with someone who can carry their weight (assuming such a player is available). If the strong player gets the partner she thinks she needs, then I needn't worry about her griping to me should she lose.

    This may reflect my own bias/experience in that it rarely works to pair a weak and strong player. The match becomes keep-away. Neither the strong nor weak player can play her best, what with the strong player trying too hard and the weak player deferring too much.

    Feeding two weak players to the wolves on Court Three can yield some amazing upsets, when the two weak players realize they will have to get the job done all by themselves.
     
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  22. kylebarendrick

    kylebarendrick Professional

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    Well, being a "strong" player that was partnered with a "weak" player on Sunday, I'd still disagree. We played on the 2nd line against a relatively weak team. I can't fault my captain for using this match as an opportunity to get my partner some playing time as well as a chance to win.

    I took it as a challenge - especially when my partner cramped up at the end of the 2nd set. I don't have much use for prima donnas that only want the best partners.
     
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  23. marcl65

    marcl65 Semi-Pro

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    Ditto!

    Like Cindy, I often pair myself with the player the other teammembers don't want to play with, who often is the weaker player. I do it because I feel the team is better served by me playing with said player(s) than someone else playing with him or her. I do it because I'm willing to "take one for the team".

    It's not all selflessness. There are plenty of other teams out there and I constantly see other clubs trying to recruit my best players. If they're unhappy with being paired up with a weak player then they're more likely to join the other club.
     
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  24. JesseT

    JesseT Rookie

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    These have been some good stories. Interesting to see the same issues crop up in so many diverse situations.
     
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  25. catfish

    catfish Semi-Pro

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    Many teammates (especially women from my experience) are going to criticize no matter what. Many times, the captain is the only one who knows who's been available and who hasn't, who's complained and who hasn't, etc. So the captain can certainly make a decision about who's a team player and who isn't based on their experiences as captain. I've found that many women's teams have players who will gripe about anything and players who have an inflated view of their own tennis ability. These players often talk behind the captain's back without having any facts. They just speculate and give opinions as though they are facts. I try to avoid these players, but there are plenty out there. Usually, the biggest complainers have never been a captain, and would never captain in a million years. I guess they are afraid that if they captain, players will do to them exactly what they are doing to the current captain.

    Isn't calling a captain a "cherry-picker" making a subjective decision? So it's not OK for the captain to make subjective decisions but it is OK for the players to do so? Hmmh. The captain may be the most versatile doubles player on the team and is what you call the "cherry" but no matter what she does or who she partners with, some of the players will grumble that she's cherry-picking. Maybe these players who left teams and accused the captain of cherry-picking are the weak players on the team who the captain played herself with because no one else would play with them.

    Every situation is different, I'm sure. But a team captain has to make decisions. That's part of the job. And making everyone on the team happy isn't always possible.
     
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2008
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