How to handle being the weakest link?

Discussion in 'Adult League & Tournament Talk' started by Shaggy, Jun 22, 2012.

  1. Shaggy

    Shaggy New User

    Apr 13, 2012
    I just signed up for a league for the first time. The guy who put it together is a totally nice guy, and told me it was a casual level 3 league (which is where I'm at), and while I was a little nervous because it would be my first time engaging in competitive play, I thought that even if I didn't win many games, at least I'd get some experience competing.

    Well, long story short... Last night was the first night, and I'm pretty sure that while there were one or two other players at level 3, the vast majority of the folks were at least level 4 or higher.

    Now it looks like I have to make an unpleasant decision. I can either admit that I am seriously outclassed and quit, in which case I hurt my team. Or I can decide to stick it out, in which case I still hurt my team. Fortunately, the league is "just for fun" (i.e. non ATP), so I'm not going to be hurting anyone's official ranking.

    At this point, I'm leaning towards staying in. I'll admit that my reasons are pretty selfish. Basically, I need more experience trying to keep my head together in competitive situations, and I don't know how else to get it. But staying in has some complications. There are three other people on the team. Two of them seemed to understand that I was really nervous, but that I was hustling my ass off even if I wasn't playing my best tennis. They were as cool about the situation as could possibly be hoped for. The third person on the team is super competitive and seems to really want to win, and is clearly not happy that she's been saddled with someone who could cause her team to lose. Unfortunately, I've already built up some tension with this person by losing my temper with her when she took the initiative to helpfully criticize my playing after the session. Honestly, if at that moment I wasn't already mentally reliving each and every mistake for the evening in excruciating full-color smo-motion detail, I probably would have just nodded and accepted the fact that she believed that she was trying to be helpful even if her delivery was a little less than gracious. Instead what I said was something like, "Look, this is the first time I've done this, and I'm doing my best to hang with people who are clearly better than me. I am fully aware of all the mistakes I made tonight, so I'd appreciate it if you could just back off for right now." In retrospect, there might have been more cussing on my part. Anyway, even though I lost my temper, I did resist the temptation to return the favor and helpfully criticize her playing (yes, I did notice some legitimate holes in her game). I really wanted to, but I figured I'd already done enough to destroy team spirit for one evening so it was probably best to keep my mouth shut.

    So I guess my questions are: if you were the other three people on the team, would you appreciate it more if I quit, or if I stuck it out? And if I do stick it out, what should I be doing to try to minimize the damage I'll be causing if I stay?
  2. floydcouncil

    floydcouncil Professional

    Feb 2, 2010
    I welcome any opportunity to play with better players!!!!!!!!!!!
  3. jdubbs

    jdubbs Hall of Fame

    Oct 18, 2010
    This is all part of the game. I get bored being the best link, so don't mind being the weakest if I'm playing with people above me.
    Continue to improve, ask for advice, learn the game, take some lessons. You'll be better in no time.

    And don't lose your patience with people. You suck right now. Man up and admit it to yourself, but know that you'll improve with dedication. We all have to take our lumps.
  4. anubis

    anubis Hall of Fame

    Mar 2, 2012
    If you want to become better, then playing with a team is one of the best ways to do it. you aren't playing with ppl that are 3 levels above you, so if you put the time and effort into it, you'll get better. plus, people with the most room to grow often get noticed and recognition for their efforts more so than their top player.

    If you're #1 and win every match, then less ppl care when you win. But if you rise up from the ashes so to speak, more will notice and appreciate the work you've put in. That alone should be enough to keep you interested long enough to move on to more teams in the future. Teams where your skills can be honed and improved upon, no longer being the low man on the totem pole.
  5. SweetH2O

    SweetH2O Rookie

    May 11, 2010
    Powder Springs, GA
    Stick it out. Your quote to the one lady seemed fine until you mentioned that you left out the cursing. I would apologize to that person for losing your temper and hopefully that will help smooth things over with her.

    When playing doubles with people better than you, don't try to do too much. Stick to what you are good at and let your partner handle the rest. In singles, don't give up and just work as hard as you can since your other teammates seem to respect you for that. Be open to their suggestions, even if they don't have the best delivery or you don't want to hear it at that moment.
  6. Shaggy

    Shaggy New User

    Apr 13, 2012
    Actually, maybe there wasn't as much cussing as I remember because she did become a lot nicer afterwards. Still, as much as I maybe should apologize, I just can't bring myself to do it. I feel like if you actually want your teammates to become better, the criticism you offer should be constructive rather than destructive. It's like the difference between saying, "hey, I think you'd have more success with your backhand if you got under the ball more," and saying "you need a better backhand" if that makes any sense.

    I do think it's fair that if there are things that I need to improve on the court to help my team that they should expect to be able to let me know and expect me to work on those things. Along those same lines, I also think that it's fair for me to expect that, off the court, the difference between constructive and destructive criticism is something that she needs to learn to help her team. But there's no denying that there is probably a more diplomatic way for me to get that point across.

    Having had a little time to reflect more realistically on my playing, by the end of the night I had lost most of the nerves and was doing a lot better. So maybe it's not quite as bad as I remember it.

    I will say that all in all it was a pretty eye opening experience to have to play against people whose average serve and groundstroke speed is a good 20-30 MPH faster than I'm used to seeing in my classes.

    I always have this hope that I'm going to suddenly become one of those people who can magically pull their game up a couple of levels when they're thrown into the deep end. Much to my disappointment, last night proved that's just not the case for me.

    Still, I guess the only way to get better at returning a 120 MPH serve is to actually face down a bunch of them, right? And I'm pretty sure I will get better at it. If I have one saving grace it's that I usually find failure to be quite motivational.
  7. GameSetMatchWin

    GameSetMatchWin New User

    Jun 18, 2012
    If you were on my team, i would respect your decision to stay. You can learn something from everyone and playing with a weaker link can bring you back to the basics. there are a lot of good players who forget that

    it's definitely not an overnight magical thing. It's more like improving a lot over a short period of time from playing in the deep end. Along with that is the confidence and self acknowledgement that comes with it
  8. TomT

    TomT Hall of Fame

    Jun 20, 2012
    Fort Lauderdale, FL
    @ Shaggy,
    My two cents is that you should stay. My guess is that your playing will improve, and you'll have fun. Just don't lose your temper. :)

    I'm also playing at the 3.0 level -- in a local men's league that has 14 players from 3.0 to 4.0. I just got back into tennis about 8 months ago after almost 40 years (I'm 65), and continue to improve and be more competitive.
  9. stapletonj

    stapletonj Professional

    Mar 31, 2009
    Lavalette, WV
    Do NOT quit.
    DO practice and try to get better BETWEEN matches.

    Hit the wall, hit the ball machine, if strokes are the problem.
    Hit the track if endurance is the problem
    Hit the weight room if strength is the problem

    It sounds like (reading between the lines here) you have the strokes, but you are not used to the pace. Try to practice with team members who hit that hard. Do it in a structured way that works on your lack of experience at that pace, but can also help them in some other way. (They will not want to hit hard to you for hours while you struggle to adjust).

    Suggestion - figure out who has a weak overhead. Find some overhead drills in a book. Offer to be their "feeder" on this overhead drill if they will bang some groundies at you while you are at net (if your volleys need work, for example)

    You get better. You show them you are a "team player" becasue you acknowledge that you can't help them by pushing them on the Court, so you help by being the "feeder" for the drills.

    Viola - your teammates know you are working hard, they appreciate and respect you for it.
  10. Shaggy

    Shaggy New User

    Apr 13, 2012
    Thanks for the advice everyone.

    I also contacted the guy who set up the league to ask what he thought. He echoed pretty much all of the advice given here and convinced me to stay.

    He also told me that the super-competitive member of our team had called him and quit. At first I thought it might be because of me, but apparently she was just as unhappy with everyone on the team. That's fine I guess. I can see her point of view. She wanted to win and she didn't think that would happen with us, so it probably works out better for everyone involved this way.

    Luckily, there were a few people who were interested in playing who contacted the organizer late, so we should have a new team member this week.

    As for my part, I feel like I've identified that at least half of my problem was my mental state. I went out there feeling like I was going to stink up the court and, not surprisingly, I did. So that's clearly one of the things I need to work on. The other stuff (getting pushed around by higher pace than I normally see), I should be able to work on using the advice you all gave. If I'm able to make a little progress at each of them, it should become a self-feeding system. If I can go into it with a little more belief, that should help me keep it together when facing down the basher balls, and getting a few more of those back should boost my confidence, which should feed back into the system and allow me to start playing better tennis.

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