What makes a tennis team great? A good captain? Strong players? Cute uniforms?
Having been on all kinds of tennis teams, good and bad, I think that part of what makes a tennis team great is that they are working together towards a common goal. Whether its moving up to the next level, winning a team tournament, or just having a really fun time playing tennis with friends, a happy, successful team is the one where everyone's on the same page.
A good way to get on that page is to have team practices. I'm not saying you need to have weekly practices throughout the year to succeed, although that would probably help your team get to a higher level, but rather to get together as a team at least a few times before the next season starts.
Why? Well, this is just my opinion, but I think practicing as a team instills some camaraderie or "esprit de corps" that you can't get any other way. Even if you practice regularly with your partner, practicing with your teammates is different and beneficial to the team as a whole.
Now, how do you make these team practices happen? If you're the team captain, just call a practice. Do NOT send out an e-mail asking if everyone thinks this is a good idea and asking for their availability. I guarantee, if your team has not been practicing together in the past and you ask for your team member's opinions, half the people won't want to do it at all and they will all have different and conflicting schedules. (I'm speaking from experience here and I have the chain of 24 e-mails to prove it.) So, captains, just call a practice.
If you're not the captain, suggest it to your captain and offer to help get it going. If your captain isn't going for this idea, let her know you'd like to try it and set something up just for whoever's interested and see what happens.
Now, once you schedule a practice, make sure your team actually gets some benefit from it. So here are a few tips for ensuring a great team practice:
1. Schedule practices when you're going to play. Team members need to start making themselves available to play league matches. So if your league play will be on Tuesday mornings, schedule team practices for Tuesday mornings.
2. Try to get most of your players there. I'm saying this because I promise you - you will never have a team practice where every single team member shows up. But if you can get at least enough people to play tennis, singles or doubles depending on what your team plays, then that's probably a good practice.
3. Have a plan for your practice. You don't have unlimited time for a practice, probably only an hour to an hour and a half. So have a plan. For example, if your team has regular partnerships, try playing them against each other to determine who will play what line. If your team switches partners regularly, try pairing different people together to see who works well together. And don't try playing entire matches or even entire sets. You can get pretty much all of the information you need by playing as few as 8 games.
4. Remember - it's just practice. Make sure it's fun. Enough things are going to go wrong once league starts. So team practice needs to be a place where everyone gets along and enjoys themselves.
© Kim Selzman 2010 All Rights Reserved