December 27, 2008

Playing Ladies' Doubles With A Man

In the aftermath of the holidays, my indoor team still was scheduled for block time on our indoor court yesterday and, of course, a few of us wanted to play. Unfortunately, while three of us were available, we couldn't find a 4th. Everyone was out of town, visiting with family, recovering from Christmas, etc. Well, all was not lost. One of our team members, Mimi, convinced her wonderful husband, Larry, to be our 4th! We had a great time playing "ladies' doubles" with Larry and it got me thinking about how helpful it can be to play against a man every once in a while.

Occasionally, you can't avoid finding a guy on the other side of the net and it can be a little stressful. I get into this situation in drills quite a bit and try to see it as a welcome challenge. Playing against a guy is a little like playing against a woman who's much better than you. You can psych yourself out just thinking about it. The fact is that men play differently from ordinary women like me. So when I come up against a guy, I approach it as a learning opportunity. I try to keep just a few things in mind.

1. Remain calm. Unless you're playing in a mixed doubles tournament, it probably doesn't matter much what happens in your match. So have fun and don't stress.
2. Men usually try to serve harder and/or with more spin than women do. So, at least initially, on your return, just think about blocking the ball back.
3. Similarly, men often want to rush the net. Watch the ball and not the guy running at you.
4. Many men want to either hit hard ground strokes or put the ball away at the net. Many men do NOT want to run down lobs. So don't be afraid to use the lob.
5. Of course, if your lob comes up short, be prepared for the crushing overhead that guys love to hit. The good news is a lot of these may end up in the net.
6. Forget about pace. You're not going to outhit most guys. Give them soft and short balls that require them to do some work.

Thank you again to Larry for a fun match yesterday!

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