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Creating a Winning Team Atmosphere

December 31, 2008 12:54 PM


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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