Moving From The Fun Team To The Competitive Team
I've been wondering just how often it works when a player decides to move from a "fun" team (where people try to improve and win but know they have little chance of making the playoffs) to a "competitive" team (where playoffs and beyond are the goal).
I've been watching the experiences of one of my former teammates, kind of as a test case.
This lady joined my team maybe two years ago. She and a few other players were leaving her old team because they had issues with the captain. She joined our little orbit (day, combo, adult) and seemed happy. She was a strong doubles player (with ambitions to make it to 4.0 this November), so I made sure she had her choice of partners and I tried to be accommodating of her schedule etc. Last December and again this March, she confirmed her intention of continuing with the team for our spring 3.5 season.
Then she played a fun, competitive doubles match against another captain. This captain -- who always tries to field a team strong enough to go to Nationals -- was impressed with her and offered her a spot on her team. My player called me and asked if it was OK if she backed out of her commitment and went instead to this playoff-bound team. She felt this could be her last chance to make a playoff run before she moves up to 4.0.
Well, what could I say? Of course I said it was fine if she backed out. It's a free country, last time I checked. All I can do to retain players is be the best captain I can be. If that isn't enough, or if a player has other priorities, then it probably is best if they change teams. Why try to guilt someone into staying with a team?
So. That left me shorthanded at the beginning of the season and left me lacking a strong Court One player. I later heard this teammate got some blowback from another captain she plays for in the winter, who was irked that this player would go to That Other Captain rather than go to her. Oy.
It will not surprise you to hear that I have kept one eye on how things are going on this new team. My former teammate is crazy fast around the court, so it seems her new captain has decided to use her in singles (this may also be because many of the players on that team have established partners). The new team played her once at No. 2 singles. My former teammate was beaten, something like 7-5, 4-4 (timed). This probably came as a shock given that her opponent was just a 3.0.
She got another shot yesterday, again at No. 2 singles. Again she drew a 3.0 opponent -- and this opponent is a former teammate of the captain so the captain knows how that player plays. Again my former teammate lost, 6-4, 6-3. Oh, man.
What could be causing her to play so poorly that she can't beat players a full level beneath her? It certainly isn't that she is a poor singles player -- I've seen her play singles and she knows what she is doing.
Me, I think it is the pressure to win, plain and simple.
I think the atmosphere on some hyper-competitive teams can be toxic to a person's tennis. I know from conversations with this other captain that her approach is that you don't play if you can't win. That is a big change from a less competitive philosophy where you know you will get your shot and no one will hold it against you if you lose.
I also have some personal experience with this. I joined a competitive team this season, and it is the first time I've been on such a team. The jury is still out -- I've only played one match, and I lost. Did I feel tight during that match because of the pressure? You betcha. Do I feel like I will walk the plank if I don't win next time? Ay yay, Captain.
Has anyone else had difficulty making the transition to a competitive team? Captains, have you seen it among your players?
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-- Master Moonballer