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T.A. Tennis Blog - 10/09/08

October 9, 2008 01:00 PM


Mixing it up in Daytona at Sectionals

It has been 21 years since my last foray into competitive mixed doubles play, but I am about to wield my sticks in USTA Florida’s Adult Mixed Section Championships, Daytona Beach, October 10 – 12. My partner, Erica Cossairt, and the other members of our team (Elaine Mettauer, Chris Capps, Belinda DuFrene, Marius Espeleta, Greg Copeland, and Sandy Miller) will be representing Park Meadow Tennis Center and Lee County as we try to emerge victorious from the co-ed fray which includes 11 other teams from across the State.

Thinking back to my last competitive mixed event, I can’t help thinking about the hours I spent in the hospital the very same night after losing in the mixed doubles final of the New England Tennis Association’s 62nd Annual Open. Earlier in the day, I had won the men’s open singles championship after several years of trying, and had lost in the final of the men’s doubles before playing the final of the mixed doubles under the lights.

By the time the day was over, I had played six matches and approximately nine hours of tennis. All the water and bananas I had consumed throughout the day didn’t help me much. My entire body locked up on the way home from the Yale Tennis Center in New Haven, CT, and I found myself begging whatever powers there were to end the agony in any way they saw fit. Little did I know, in my pain-racked stupor, that I didn’t need death to relieve the torture, just a little IV drip. 

At least I know, as I prepare for this weekend in Daytona, that I won’t be heading to the hospital for dehydration.  These days, I can barely get through two singles matches in one day, but if I can’t handle two mixed doubles matches, maybe it’s time for full retirement.

Yeah, I can see some of my tennis tournament buddies and fellow teaching pros shaking their heads, and I can hear them saying, “Mixed doubles!” Yep that’s right, mixed doubles. For some reason, I must have given people the wrong impression, because a local colleague, Carolyn Lawver of Heritage Palms mentioned that she was surprised that I would be playing on a mixed doubles team.

Just in case anyone else mistakes me for anything but a lover of the game, I will state for the record that I love the game and feel really fortunate that I am still able to play it competitively, whether it be mixed doubles, league play, USTA Florida sanctioned tournaments, national events…it really doesn’t matter. So this weekend, when I take the court with Erica, or Sandy, or Belinda, I will enjoy every minute of it every bit as much as I enjoyed playing the National Grass Courts in August.

The USPTA has a slogan that says, “Tennis- for the health of it.” I’m thinking that USTA could get one of their own and I’d like to suggest, “Tennis- ya gotta love it.”  Be back with ya to report on the event in progress. Game, set, match….

T.A. Niles

DAY 1: Mixed Reviews in Daytona


Okay, so my return to mixed doubles has drawn, well, mixed reviews. In a less than stellar performance against a husband and wife team from Broward, Erica and I pulled out a third set, ten-point tiebreak (10-5). We slogged through the first set (5-7), before becoming slightly more nimble to take the second (6-3). 

Of course we were happy to get the win, but it was one of those matches where the “W” was the only thing you could be happy about…Well, maybe that one diving volley, or the sweet passer down the line, but overall, it was one to be forgotten.  Our No.1 team, Belinda DuFrene and Marius Espeleta played one that they should be happy to remember…at least the last six games or so. They were down 1-5, 30 - 40 in the second after having lost the first set 4-6, before coming back to win the second set 7-5 and the super tiebreak 10-4. Marius and Belinda had a much easier time picking up their second win, this time against Sarasota, in straights sets (6-3, 6-3).

Our No.3 team, Chris Capps and Elaine Mettauer, lost the first set 2-6 before finding their stride in their first match against Broward, but couldn’t quite get over the hump, falling 5-7 in the second set. In their second match, facing Sarasota, they fared as well as Erica and I did in our second match against Sarasota, losing 1-6, 2- 6. There is little to say except that the teams we played were better than we were…today. Perhaps tomorrow that won’t be the case.

Jacksonville appears to be the team to beat in our flight and we have them at 8:00 a.m. Saturday morning. We better bring our A games or we’ll only be playing for the fun of it…which, after all, isn’t a bad reason to play. Game, set, match…

T.A. Niles

Post Event: Creating a Winning team Atmosphere

My return to the mixed doubles competition court at the USTA Florida Mixed Adult League Section Championships at the USTA FL Tennis Center in Daytona Beach was not the most successful venture I’ve undertaken. I finished 1-3 record with a variety of partners at the Championships. In comparison, my other competitive results thus far in 2008 include a record of 31-13 in singles play in a combination of USTA sanctioned competition and Ultimate Tennis; and a 1-0 record in men’s doubles.  Perhaps the lesson for me is that I’m not a very good mixed doubles player.

But then again, I think I may have re-learned more about what it takes to be a team player and a team captain than anything else. After looking at all the results, I believe we had a good enough team to have won our flight and contested for the spot at Nationals. I believe a lack of clarity about team objectives and a lack of communication amongst team members may have detracted from our performances.

After reflecting on the experience, I am reminded of how difficult and often thankless the captain’s job is. Like a team coach, the company president, etc. the final decisions rest with the captain, and perhaps some captains’ guidelines would be helpful to have. For any who are thinking about becoming a team captain, below are a few basic ideas that may contribute to a positive experience for you and your team members.
During the initial period when a team is being formed, it might be helpful if the captain outlines the team objectives so that players who are being considered for the team can decide whether or not he/she wants to be on a team with such objectives. If the team’s primary objective is to win, you may need different players than if the team’s primary objective is to have fun.

In addition to identifying the team’s primary objectives, I think the captain needs to make it clear that individual egos will not be his or her main concern, but the overall well being of the team. Players need to commit up front to the best interests of the team, and should state their willingness to subjugate their desire to play if it is in the best interests of the team that a teammate plays instead.

Team unity could be the deciding factor in a competitive field. The team that plays “together” is likely to win “together.” Discussions about line-ups are probably best held amongst all team members, rather than with individual team members, and match line-ups should be decided in the presence of all team members after everyone has had an opportunity to provide input. Failure to have an open atmosphere within the team can cause divisiveness and negativity.

When it is all said and done, I think that most of us would like to win and have fun, but one or the other needs to be identified as the primary objective. In the case of our team, our primary objective wasn’t very clear, decisions were made without team discussion, line-ups were presented without full team input, and the best teams weren’t always on the courts clear. Of course, there’s no way of knowing whether we would have done any better if we had done everything I have suggested above, but I suspect that almost everyone on the team would have been more pleased with the experience.

Before playing on another team, I will ensure that I know the team objectives and the perspectives of the other players on the team. If our objectives aren’t compatible, I’m afraid I’ll have to muddle along on my lonesome on the singles court. At least I won’t have questions about the line up and my objectives.

Although things didn’t turn out as we would have liked, I appreciated the opportunity to help our team try to qualify for Nationals. Playing with Sandy Miller on the last day, although she couldn’t carry my heavy weight all the way to victory, was the highlight of my efforts. Sandy, I’m proud of you and admire your grit! To my other teammates (Belinda, Chris, Elaine, Erica, Greg, and Marius), we gave it our best and that’s all we could do.

Game, set, match…

T.A. Niles

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