Partner problems..

#51
Tactical advice versus Technical advice .... totally different in my mind.
Yup. Tactical advice can easily be phrased as a "we" statement. As in "We need to take the net." Or "We need placement into the open court."

Technical advice is about what the other person should do differently -- a "you" statement.
 
#52
Usually, the people giving such advice keep giving it all the time and become upset if it is not followed. That is the problem. They also do it in non-league social play. It becomes a habit.
Advice is one thing. Badgering is another.

Here's an example. Club tournament several years ago. My partner was ok - had limited skills but there were a couple things he could do well. One of them was lob. This was effective for awhile, until the other team adapted and started camping on the service line and eating his lobs up. And he kept lobbing. So I talked to him, and told him if they're going to camp on the service line, hit the other shot he hits well - a cut forehand that will force them to volley up from their ankles against backspin. If they move in, then lob. He just wasn't experienced enough to see that's what he should do.
 
#53
"You’re basically saying that anything that is even marginally negative said to your teammate is off limits.
No, I am basically saying that your solution to your partner's inability to volley is ineffectual and offensive so you need to come up with a better solution. Several people including myself have suggested that instead of trying to teach her how to improve her shots, you should change tactics so that she isn't in the position to hit that shot as often.

An example: I really like serving down the T. It's my favorite serve and it's great when I play doubles because my partner can poach the return winning many points over the course of the match. Sometimes however, I get partnered with someone who doesn't know how to poach and every attempt winds up in the net or caroming off the side wall. Now I could, like you, walk over to my partner and give her a lesson in how to poach and unrealistically expect her to start poaching well just because I told her to. I could then continue to serve down the T putting her under a ridiculous amount of pressure to succeed.

Or, I could do what I actually do which is to recognize that my partner is having a hard time poaching, and therefore instead of severing down the T, I serve out wide preparing for the short wide angle return back to me taking the pressure off my partner and increasing our chances of winning the point.

Do you understand the difference? In the first solution, you refuse to accept your partner as she is, attempt to change her and fail, offending her in the process and generally making the situation worse than if you had said nothing. In the second solution, you accept your partner as she is and find tactics that play into the team's strengths or at least avoid it's weaknesses. If at this point you still think teaching your partner how to swing a racquet mid-match and then complaining about the loss of points that results is the best way to do things, then I'd say you seem more interested in blaming your partner's ego and lack of skills than you are in taking some ownership of what is happening in the match.
 
Last edited:
#54
Yup. Tactical advice can easily be phrased as a "we" statement. As in "We need to take the net." Or "We need placement into the open court."

Technical advice is about what the other person should do differently -- a "you" statement.
Yeah, but sometimes it needs to be a you statement .... or the team just loses. As in .... I know you like coming directly in to the net after your serve (or your return or for no apparently good reason on God's green earth) but you need to slow your roll and you need to at least split step (GDI) when they hit the ball so you have some idea of (how badly) whether they are going to (they are going to!) lob you (r *** again).

Can be phrased nicely as in .... when facing good lobbers, have you ever considered staying back a little? (you idiot why do you keep rushing the net when you shouldn't and dammit you don't even know what an approach shot it and why do I even play this stupid sport)
 
#55
In our first match we lost the first set 6-1. And I noticed that at net she regularly put too much air under the ball where her volleys were soft floaters that the opposing team easily got back. At the end of the set, I gently told her "Hey I noticed you're floating a lot of your volleys. Try coming down on them a little more".
Don't intend to pile on, nor do I want to overly rehash the point. But since I'm going to wade in I feel like I need to start here.

I think the simplest observation is that after getting shellacked 6-1, all she probably heard was "your bad volleys are making us lose". Undoubtedly, at 6-1 there were quite a few things that didn't go ideally, so that's probably where things went poorly.

As I mentioned earlier, I would never recommend that approach to feedback, but let's clear the air. You're suggesting that your intention was pure, and I don't doubt it. You attempted to do the right thing, but my honest assessment is that you're going to find quite a few people who would take this badly. If you wanted to broach this a little safer, you could've gone with the route of saying "I've noticed when we keep our volleys low it's giving them trouble, did you notice anything else we can try?". It's not a perfect spin on it, but you're softening the 'advice' in a few ways:
1. It's not "her" problem, it's a team thing
2. You're approaching it from the "positive" angle of what works
3. Last one is a bit of a sop, but asking her input again makes it seem less accusatory

I apologized to her and explained to her I wasn't trying to be mean, I was just telling what I observed (that she was floating her volleys) and that if someone had gently mentioned what I was not doing well, I would welcome the feedback. And she came back and said that my timing was very poor.
First part good, second part bad. It would be easy to read the "I would welcome the feedback" as a passive aggressive shot suggesting she's being silly.

You have to figure out what type of partner you have before offering up advice. No matter how correct the advice is, some people will react badly.
Absolutely, that's what this whole thread is discussing too! I can sympathize with the situation this lady was in too. If I'm playing badly in a match, and maybe I've been trying the whole time to target my volleys better without success... now I'm frustrated with myself because we're getting housed and I can't even get a basic volley to go where I want. Then on the changeover my partner tells me "hey try not to make that obvious mistake". Now I'm made at me and her, because she apparently thinks I'm a total idiot, and if only I wasn't hear she'd be sailing to victory.

Now - quite a bit of poetic license there, but it's not much of a leap to see how someone who doesn't want advice can get there. If I'm being totally honest, when I'm playing badly, about the last thing I need is someone I think is worse than me telling me what I'm doing wrong.

I know it may not be comfortable to have a conversation with someone you don’t know very well, but we’re all adults here.
Impractical world view. People are complex and varied. You will have to approach them differently, and expecting everyone to conform to your expectations of what is reasonable will lead to consistent failure. A good communicator understands that different people have different perspectives.

I'm saying, "Talk in a way that will get you the result you want."

I would not say communication is the key to almost all relationships. I would say *good* communication is the key to almost all relationships.
Dang, now I used all these words to try and get the point across, and Cindy nails it perfectly with one sentence.

Several people including myself have suggested that instead of trying to teach her how to improve her shots, you should change tactics so that she isn't in the position to hit that shot as often.
This is the advanced level move. A good doubles team will understand each others weaknesses and play to minimize those exposures, even if that might drift slightly from the conventional wisdom.

Honestly, I don’t see how my comment gets construed as what you just said, unless my teammate is an extremely insecure person. Such people do exist and yes if I knew someone was so insecure I would avoid saying anything negative to them, but someone like that would not be a good teammate.
You’re basically saying that anything that is even marginally negative said to your teammate is off limits. I understand that a delicate approach must be taken in order to avoid bruising egos, but what you are saying is almost akin to a form of self-denial if teammates can say nothing but positive things to each other.

Anyway, appreciate the feedback. Helps me understand the potential personalities that exist on court.
I'm hopeful that you do understand, but I'm worried that you still seem to be assigning all the blame to your partner's response. I believe you will encounter easily as many people who would react negatively to that feedback as would appreciate it. The difference is that she took the time to explain it to you instead of simply avoiding you going forward. She's done you a favor here, and your response is to keep hammering her over being too sensitive.

Can be phrased nicely as in .... when facing good lobbers, have you ever considered staying back a little?
Ha, that line feels like it drips passive-aggressiveness. You can, with a little bit of a white lie, make that sentence into a "we-type" statement easily.

'This team has really good lobs, so we'll probably have to hang back in the court to cover them.'
 
#56
I'm hopeful that you do understand, but I'm worried that you still seem to be assigning all the blame to your partner's response. I believe you will encounter easily as many people who would react negatively to that feedback as would appreciate it. The difference is that she took the time to explain it to you instead of simply avoiding you going forward. She's done you a favor here, and your response is to keep hammering her over being too sensitive.
Hey, I hear you. You're right in your observation that I haven't fully let go of believing that her reaction is a bit her own fault (for being too sensitive) as it is mine (for being insensitive). I think the truth is always somewhere in the middle. But from all the replies to my post I clearly recognize now that there are a lot more very sensitive people out there than I thought!
 
#57
Ha, that line feels like it drips passive-aggressiveness. You can, with a little bit of a white lie, make that sentence into a "we-type" statement easily.

'This team has really good lobs, so we'll probably have to hang back in the court to cover them.'
Feels like? Oh it totally is. And probably why in reality I just say nothing, grind my teeth more and think all the other thoughts from my post.
 
#58
Hey, I hear you. You're right in your observation that I haven't fully let go of believing that her reaction is a bit her own fault (for being too sensitive) as it is mine (for being insensitive). I think the truth is always somewhere in the middle. But from all the replies to my post I clearly recognize now that there are a lot more very sensitive people out there than I thought!
You seem like a really nice guy, so I don't want to belabor the point. But I wouldn't think it a good idea to characterize someone who is offended by your mistake as "sensitive." It sounds a little dismissive, like they have some sort of problem or deficiency or are an outlier.

You unintentionally disrespected her. People can and often should push back when disrespected. Rather than say she was sensitive, I would say she stood up for herself when treated poorly. Not in the exact way I would have, but that's effectively what she did.
 
#59
You seem like a really nice guy, so I don't want to belabor the point. But I wouldn't think it a good idea to characterize someone who is offended by your mistake as "sensitive." It sounds a little dismissive, like they have some sort of problem or deficiency or are an outlier.

You unintentionally disrespected her. People can and often should push back when disrespected. Rather than say she was sensitive, I would say she stood up for herself when treated poorly. Not in the exact way I would have, but that's effectively what she did.
Point taken.

Thanks all, for the feedback. Really helpful - and makes me wonder if I am out of touch in other parts of my life (yikes!)
 

TnsGuru

Professional
#61
I play rec doubles and I try to remain upbeat and try to keep the spirits of my partner up most of the time. Whether it is a good shot bad shot or whatever happens but never saying or reacting to their mistakes is what I try to do. Scolding or getting upset just makes your partner play worse not to mention your play will be affected as well.

Funny though some players don't give me the same respect when I make mistakes and this irks me a little because they forget they make mistakes also.
 
#62
S&V, you've made two interesting observations.

Regarding asking the partner how she wants you to handle this situation . . . I feel like the partner has already kind of answered that question: Don't criticize her strokes. After all that has transpired, it would annoy me if this partner now started treating me like a soap bubble: "All right, whenever I see you hitting poor quality shots, how do you want me to handle that so as not to hurt your feelings again?"
Ideally, I'd ask this before we played, not after a dust-up.

But since the OP didn't do that, he now has to figure out how to proceed. You mention soap bubble; I think eggshells, as in I have to play like I'm walking on eggshells so I don't accidentally say something that might be interpreted as hurtful.

Doing nothing is will likely lead to losing the match unless one or both partners make some sort of change. I did write that it should be a cooperative problem-solving effort, not just one partner telling the other what to fix.

Regarding whether folks should be receptive to stroke mechanics suggestions, I will share with you what I think when my partner gives me stroke mechanic suggestions. I think, "WHY ARE YOU WATCHING ME HIT? YOU WOULD BE PLAYING BETTER YOUR OWN SELF IF YOU WOULD STOP WATCHING ME VOLLEY AND INSTEAD WATCH WHAT IS GOING ON WITH OUR OPPONENTS! AND IF YOU WOULD STOP STINKING THE JOINT UP, I WOULDN'T HAVE TO HIT SO MANY DIFFICULT VOLLEYS IN THE FIRST PLACE!"

So no, I think it is really best not to offer stroke mechanics advice unless asked. You have to wait to hear, "OMG, my volleys are really sitting up today; what am I doing wrong?"
I did suggest that in my response. However, the weakness of that path is that the partner has to be self-aware enough to diagnose the problem. If not, no diagnosis and no correction. Then what?

Maybe a solution is to bring the coach and let the coach offer feedback [to both players]; then it won't sound condescending or offensive.
 
#63
Yup. Tactical advice can easily be phrased as a "we" statement. As in "We need to take the net." Or "We need placement into the open court."

Technical advice is about what the other person should do differently -- a "you" statement.
Except if I've been rushing the net every possible chance and my partner has been clinging to the BL, it's pretty obvious when I say "we need to take the net" that I mean "you need to come to the net with me".

At some point, this devolves into hyper-sensitivity over not wanting to offend. That line is different for everyone but can we agree that if this is take to its logical extreme, that's where things are headed?

The bottom line is that I'm not out to hurt my partner's feelings. Simultaneously, I'm trying to figure out how our team can win the match. I guess if it came down to choosing, I'd keep my mouth shut. Fortunately, I don't have partners where I have to make that choice. Or maybe I do and they've crossed me off of their future partner list. I view that as a "win-win".
 
#64
The bottom line is that I'm not out to hurt my partner's feelings. Simultaneously, I'm trying to figure out how our team can win the match. I guess if it came down to choosing, I'd keep my mouth shut. Fortunately, I don't have partners where I have to make that choice. Or maybe I do and they've crossed me off of their future partner list. I view that as a "win-win".
This essentially sums up my situation. I think I will lean towards keeping my mouth shut in future situations where I'm playing a with a partner who I don't know well. Maybe once a doubles team has been together for a while and know each other's sensitivities then they can communicate more directly. The reality is that at my level players could be making mistakes that are easy to correct with simple feedback during a match like "don't hit as much to the stronger opposing player" or "aim lower on your volleys". I once played with someone who was missing every first serve long and I walked over and told him "aim lower" and he didn't miss another first serve for the rest of the match. I'm sure the guy was already trying to keep the ball in, but not every recreational player may know to aim lower if you're missing long (they may continue aiming for that service line - and keep missing). So that's where a partner's external viewpoint could help. Obviously if they don't take my advice I would not press whatsoever. The reason I was confused by my situation was I made one small comment and it offended my partner and turned into a 2-3 week grudge.

I've learned something from everyone's feedback, but my perspective before this happened was that this kind of simple, presumably helpful advice should be welcomed. Now my view is more to keep my mouth shut, depending on the person I suppose.
 
#65
How about "let's hit to the weaker player"? After all, you both have to execute that tactic.

Now, if I was missing serves long and you walked up and said "Aim lower", I would absolutely wring your neck.
 
#66
“Aim lower” is simple and specific, and doesn’t really require a change in the underlying mechanics. “You’re floating your volleys. Try coming down on them more” is none of that. It starts with something easily construed as criticism. It’s not only not specific, I don’t even know what it means. If I “came down on my volleys more” I’d probably start chopping them. And what would they need to do mechanically? Alter take back, racket angle, etc? It’s just a completely unhelpful “suggestion” in the heat of a match.
 

sureshs

Bionic Poster
#67
Tactical advice versus Technical advice .... totally different in my mind.
Some tactics need good technique to pull off.

Asking your partner to poach aggressively when he cannot see the ball and move that fast and then control his shot cannot be separated out into tactics vs technique. Similarly, asking someone who can just get the ball in decently on the serve to go for certain spots is not wise.

I play with a guy with a decent first serve and a dinky second serve who asks me to hang close to the net on both serves. I am not going to stand there when his second serve is so weak that it is going to be pummeled. That is an example of a strategy advice when the adviser is in no position to implement the strategy.

Another one is to give you complex instructions like, after I serve and if the ball comes back to me, then I will go forward but you move back for the lob, but if it is that other opponent, then try to stay in. LOL just play at your low level and leave me alone.
 
#68
“Aim lower” is simple and specific, and doesn’t really require a change in the underlying mechanics. “You’re floating your volleys. Try coming down on them more” is none of that. It starts with something easily construed as criticism. It’s not only not specific, I don’t even know what it means. If I “came down on my volleys more” I’d probably start chopping them. And what would they need to do mechanically? Alter take back, racket angle, etc? It’s just a completely unhelpful “suggestion” in the heat of a match.
"Aim lower" is about as helpful as "Just get it in."

Serves go long for a reason, not because the server doesn't know what aiming is.

If my serve is going long, the likely culprit is that my toss is too far back. It could also be that I am tight and and am not accelerating. So a silly suggestion about aiming will be unhelpful and make me more tight.

Aiming lower or hitting volleys lower are not simple technical matters that can be fixed by one comment from a partner, especially if the partner cant even see the stroke because the advise giver has his back to the server.
 
#69
How about "let's hit to the weaker player"? After all, you both have to execute that tactic.

Now, if I was missing serves long and you walked up and said "Aim lower", I would absolutely wring your neck.
I'm there with you. WTF? "Aim lower"? My first serve goes in because of where the toss goes and the height I hit it at. There is no aiming low or high on a serve for me. My aim is to the T or out wide. Distance control has nothing to do with my aim. If someone told me to "aim lower" on a long serve I'd seriously give him a look.

I'd absolutely refrain from ever giving that kind of meaningless advice to anyone.
 
#70
I'd absolutely refrain from ever giving that kind of meaningless advice to anyone.
"meaningless" is in the ear of the beholder: what's meaningless to one might be insightful to another and contradictory to yet another.

I guess the bottom line is to be wary of handing out unsolicited advice. Even when it's solicited, things can be tricky [ie do they really want my opinion?].
 
#71
I'm there with you. WTF? "Aim lower"? My first serve goes in because of where the toss goes and the height I hit it at. There is no aiming low or high on a serve for me. My aim is to the T or out wide. Distance control has nothing to do with my aim. If someone told me to "aim lower" on a long serve I'd seriously give him a look.

I'd absolutely refrain from ever giving that kind of meaningless advice to anyone.
It really depends on the level of the person you are giving that kind of advice. If it's 4.0 or above then yes I wouldn't tell them to aim lower. Players at that level are focused more on down the T, out wide, kick or slice, etc. But if it's a 3.0 player who is just focused on getting the ball into the service box with good pace, then aiming lower absolutely can make a difference during that match. Because he or she might be tossing the ball too far back and all else being equal if he aimed lower (angled the racquet downward a bit more) that could compensate for the toss just enough to keep the serve from going long. Like I said, I gave this exact advice to a partner who was about a 3.0 and it worked wonders and he was appreciative. So I don't agree with your over the top "WTF" response at all.

So in the end, the answer to how we should provide advice to a partner depends on the situation, the quality of player, and on our relationship to that person (how well we know them). When we don't know them, better to err on the side of caution to avoid offending someone.
 
Last edited:
#72
IMO, unless you know your advice will be welcome, don’t give it. Take the loss. It’s better to lose as friends than to win as enemies. At least in tennis.

If they are agreeable to your wisdom, use “we” and “us,” as Cindysphinx advises.
 
#73
So I don't agree with your over the top "WTF" response at all.
Trust me, in the heat of a match, most partners are going to have a "WTF" response to a comment like that. I don't think I'm being over the top at all. Unsolicited technical advice is generally met with unwelcome skepticism. Hell as a physician I see many people who specifically come to me for my advice and still, if I don't tell them what the want to hear, they are skeptical and sometimes even angry.

The change that works when my serves are going long is to bend my knees more on the toss btw. That helps me hit the ball on ascension and produce topspin that brings it down into the service court. If you don't understand why an error is happening and haven't critically analyzed someones serve technique its best to keep quiet.
 
#74
Trust me, in the heat of a match, most partners are going to have a "WTF" response to a comment like that. I don't think I'm being over the top at all. Unsolicited technical advice is generally met with unwelcome skepticism. Hell as a physician I see many people who specifically come to me for my advice and still, if I don't tell them what the want to hear, they are skeptical and sometimes even angry.

The change that works when my serves are going long is to bend my knees more on the toss btw. That helps me hit the ball on ascension and produce topspin that brings it down into the service court. If you don't understand why an error is happening and haven't critically analyzed someones serve technique its best to keep quiet.
You totally ignored what I said about a lower level player who is not going to be thinking about "ball ascension" and topspin on the serve. With someone who is still in the earlier stages of understanding tennis technique, simple advice like "aim lower" could work, and it has for someone who I gave this advice to. I'm not going to say anything about your ability as a physician, but if you take this approach of not listening to others and just framing discussions purely from your own perspective, I would advise strongly that you change it.
 
#75
You totally ignored what I said about a lower level player who is not going to be thinking about "ball ascension" and topspin on the serve. With someone who is still in the earlier stages of understanding tennis technique, simple advice like "aim lower" could work, and it has for someone who I gave this advice to. I'm not going to say anything about your ability as a physician, but if you take this approach of not listening to others and just framing discussions purely from your own perspective, I would advise strongly that you change it.
We're all guilty of this to one extent or another. Since we weren't there to witness the event nor privvy to her state of mind at that moment nor how her judgments were formed based on interactions with you and things she possibly heard about you, we can't know what would work, if anything.

Arguing about whether "aim lower" was sound advice loses sight of the big picture about giving advice at all. As I wrote originally, it may have been very sound advice, agreed upon by every knowledgeable player/coach who observed but if it was taken as an attack, any value will be lost.
 
#76
We're all guilty of this to one extent or another. Since we weren't there to witness the event nor privvy to her state of mind at that moment nor how her judgments were formed based on interactions with you and things she possibly heard about you, we can't know what would work, if anything.

Arguing about whether "aim lower" was sound advice loses sight of the big picture about giving advice at all. As I wrote originally, it may have been very sound advice, agreed upon by every knowledgeable player/coach who observed but if it was taken as an attack, any value will be lost.
Agree. I fully realize that "aim lower" is not going to work for many players, especially more advanced ones.

I think we're in agreement that providing advice requires a lot of restraint and taking great care not to be tone deaf, but this guy Dartagnon is basically expressing his view while being tone deaf to mine.
 
#77
I don't understand giving advice of aim lower for another reason.

Someone who understands technique will find that advice useless.

Someone who doesn't understand technique but who has a brain will have already thought to "aim lower."

But if you need another reason to avoid giving unsolicited advice, consider this. If I take your advice to aim lower and start hitting into the net, whose fault is that?

See, when people give unsolicited stroke advice, they are often doing it out of their own anxiety and a feeling of helplessness. When I get that surge of anxiety about my partner's stroke problems, my best response is to focus on making sure I cut my own errors down so I'm ready for when they finally get a serve in.
 
#78
Advice is one thing. Badgering is another.

Here's an example. Club tournament several years ago. My partner was ok - had limited skills but there were a couple things he could do well. One of them was lob. This was effective for awhile, until the other team adapted and started camping on the service line and eating his lobs up. And he kept lobbing. So I talked to him, and told him if they're going to camp on the service line, hit the other shot he hits well - a cut forehand that will force them to volley up from their ankles against backspin. If they move in, then lob. He just wasn't experienced enough to see that's what he should do.
EXACTLY. tactical advice and stroke mechanic advice are 2 very different things!

I remember helping with middle school tennis years ago (very low level). there was one little girl who had never played or had any instruction and couldnt play AT ALL. Her partner could. Rather than crush her with trying to build a complete game in no time at all, I focused on teaching her how to lob. every single time. She went from crying on the Court to actually laughing and enjoying playing! Why??? Because it was presented to her in a positive way.
I told her that we were going to make her into the player that drives the other team CCCCRRRRAAAZZZYYYY. (of course, saying it in the most absurd way possible).

And they actually won a few matches along the way! She wound up being a decent little volleyball player and an excellent swimmer.
 
#79
Agree. I fully realize that "aim lower" is not going to work for many players, especially more advanced ones.

I think we're in agreement that providing advice requires a lot of restraint and taking great care not to be tone deaf, but this guy Dartagnon is basically expressing his view while being tone deaf to mine.
Sorry for being tone deaf but the basic point is I don't think you should advise players with unsolicited technical advice especially technical advice that could compromise form and technique. The proper way to get the ball to land in the court for all players, beginner to advanced, is to use spin. Giving even a beginner advice that compromises this process can lead to a bad habit of patty caking balls. That's not worth winning a few more points. Yes maybe they will never advance beyond the patty cake serve, but I don't want to be complicit in highjacking their learning process for my own gain.
 
Top