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Scheduling Matches

Q. "In Leagues, what is the procedure for letting team members know who will play each match? My team wants to know at least two weeks beforehand, but our captain says that she will let everybody know before the match begins. We want to know to practice with our partners."

From Donna M., Centerville, OH:

At the beginning of the league, each team member gives the captain their availability. One week before the match, the captain sends out an e-mail with the line-up. She also lists two back-up players in case someone can't play. This works well for us.

From Ann S.:

Having been on many USTA teams and having been a captain this season, I can tell you that nothing frustrates league players more than not having some visibility into their playing commitments. None of us are tennis professionals. All of us have work/family/social commitments to juggle. On my team this season, we have always scheduled about three weeks out, which has worked great. This provides enough time for people to organize their calendars but is not too far out so we can address personal issues/injuries/partner changes over the course of the season.

From Kitty B., New Jersey:

As a captain, I set a schedule at the beginning of the season, and at that time, I assign doubles partners and singles players for each match. I don't determine first, second and third until the day of the match, based on practice performances, how each player is feeling, that kind of thing. But everyone knows who her partner will be for each match so that she can practice specifically with that partner.

From Big KahOOna, Littleton, CO:

The CTA here in Colorado does not dictate how captains should set up their weekly playing roster. After 25 years of coaching, I've found that winning teams bring the entire family to the match, and players beg to play each week.

The dynamics of every match change from week to week. So, I would never select the players more than a week in advance. The mixed doubles leagues play a round robin of only six or seven matches. If players can't be available at least four out of six matches, I don't care to waste their time and registration fees by putting them on the roster.

With a match scheduled every Sunday, I scout our opponents on Tuesday and pick the players who match up best against them. Then I send out the next match roster by e-mail on Wednesday, requesting confirmation.

We have an all-team practice on Friday night, with a challenge to knock off the three couples who will be playing on Sunday. This intra-team competition keeps us sharp for the match on Sunday.

We are so fortunate in Colorado to have couples who love to play tennis every week of the year, so I usually disappoint couples who want to play every match if they could. This enthusiasm has yielded many district and sectional play-off teams every year.

From Ralph D.:

There is no "procedure;" it is whatever your captain can do for you. It is usually a volunteer position and lineups can be ad-hoc, depending on who is around that week. If you would like to practice with various players, make a call or e-mail them, offer to set up practice.

From Misty R., Canyon, TX:

While I have only been playing for a couple of years and do not know of any specific procedure for letting players know who their partner will be, as a captain myself, I try to get the team together for practices before the league begins to see who plays well together, get the team's input and determine the doubles partners at that time. This way, we can practice with our partner before and during league to really have a chance to improve our play.

Ultimately though, I believe the choice is up to your captain. If there is someone in particular that you play well with, you might try asking your captain if you could stick with that same partner. If she's not willing to work with you on this, you could always form your own team next time around!

From Bryndel (Bryan) C., Hilo, HI:

As a team captain of the local USTA adult league, I can understand the request by players to have as much advanced notice as possible. It allows them advanced preparation and pairing practice in doubles play and the mental and physical preparation required in singles play.

I am in agreement with giving doubles pairings as much advanced notice, if possible. But that decision needs to be tempered with unexpected issues (injuries, non-tennis emergencies, etc.), how the season is evolving (which doubles pairings are successful or need to be "tweaked," the quality of opponents and whether the team is in a position to challenge for the title, etc.) and the make up of your team (how many players are on the team, what is their commitment level, etc).The make up of the team's season schedule also affects how much in advance you can "project" who will be playing. If you have a number of matches in a short period of time, you then have to consider individual conditioning. It is an involved process for captains, as we also try to ensure playing time for everyone, including consideration on requirements for sectional play should the team advanced to sectionals.

I will agree with giving players as much advanced noticed, including two-weeks notice, if possible, but a lot of factors will play into how far in advance you can realistically project your lineup.

From Jose R.:

As captain of many 4.0 League tennis teams, it is my practice to announce team players at least 15 minutes before a match begins.

First of all, this practice will ensure a full team turnout for every match and a good cheering section.

Secondly, although I may already know who should be playing this match, it allows for unexpected emergencies to resolve themselves. Sometimes emergencies present themselves to team members, and they are not able to attend the match but do not find that out until the last second. By having my whole team at the site, I could choose and substitute for another player who is on site.

Third, it is my expectation as a captain that everybody continues to strive to become better and continue practicing as hard as they can to be that No. 1 singles or doubles player. If we announce the roster two weeks in advance, what will that do to the people who know they will be playing in two weeks? Morale could go down, desire to try to excel may not be there and, in summary, they may not turn in to practice, and the whole team will suffer.

May I ask, why do we want to know who will be playing two weeks in advance? What benefits will that bring to the team as a whole and not just to the individual players?

From Henryk K.:

I propose a preliminary lineup on the Monday before the match, and a final lineup on Thursday afternoon, hopefully with back-ups. I do ask for availability a month in advance to be able to block out players who are out of town. Finally, I make phone calls at the last minute when folks drop out due to injury/emergency.

From Bill Stoll, Pittsfield, MA:

I've been captain of our club's 3.5 men's team for five years.

While I disagree with your captain's approach (reveal assignments right before the match), it would be interesting to ask her why she does it that way. It certainly makes sense to allow time for unfamiliar partners to practice together, but she may have a good reason for doing things her way.

My team has a weekly practice, and for the first month or two of the season, everybody partners with everybody, so only rarely does someone come into a match with a completely new partner.

For my team, two weeks notice is unreasonable. I rarely have eight committed players by then! My players are very busy with jobs and families and often cannot commit that early. I e-mail the roster as soon as I have heard from everyone, usually about four to five days before the match. I do try to honor requests for particular partners and to preserve proven partnerships.

From Coach Poppie, Palm Bay, FL:

That’s a tough one, Jose. There is no one correct answer. Communication is key in every organization. It has been my experience, however, that as a team, the players should meet and determine how much lead-time fits best for them. People have lives and families, things change overnight, people get sick, sometime right before a match, and so substitutions are part of team sports.

As for practicing with your partner for a match, may I suggest getting with a pro who excels in team coaching and especially doubles. This way, you and your team can learn the common threads that will hold y’all together. Then it will make no difference with whom you partner. Your play will be cut from the same cloth. Have fun, and just keep playing.

From Tim, Boise, ID:

Having captained an adult USTA team for the past five years, I can tell you that it is a very laborious task. To make things easier, I created a spreadsheet that I send out to my team members at the start of the season, usually right after the League schedule comes out. I ask them to fill in the dates that they are available and not available, and then I create the partner arrangements for the whole season. Depending on the amount of time we have between when the League schedule comes out and our first match, I normally can get the season scheduled out before the first or second match. I would recommend this be suggested to your captain, and it might make things much less hectic for him/her in the future.

From Roxanne S., Monticello, AR:

I always let my players know well in advance when they are to play and if they are playing singles and doubles. For starters, they may have a conflict with a date, and you might have to make a substitution. The reason I do this is because I have at least 12 players on a roster, and you need to give everyone ample time to play and enough matches to hopefully qualify for state. They also need to have time to practice with their partner. What I don't do is communicate to our opponents who is coming to play when we have matches. They don't know until we assign courts who is playing. We've even gone so far as to warm-up with another partner so they don't get an idea of how we will rank them.

From Harry N., Raleigh, NC:

I've been captaining teams for several years now, and one thing I've learned is that people's schedules are far more dynamic than they think. I ask my team seven days in advance if they are available to play and send out the lineups the Friday before Sunday's match.

To be able to have a set lineup two weeks in advance requires commitment on your part (getting everyone's availability that far in advance and setting the lineups) and also a responsibility on each player’s part that they will play as scheduled and that THEY are responsible for finding a substitute (or you get to do all the scrambling at the last minute).

Further, THEY are responsible for letting you know who is replacing them so that you can adjust the lineup as appropriate. A downside is that two folks scheduled to play doubles together may begin to practice together only to be notified that the lineup has changed due to someone else's unavailability. Having a contact sheet with all the pertinent phone numbers with each team member is handy in these cases.

Hope that helps!

From Rick, Detroit, MI:

I am a USTA captain, and I always send out the lineup for each match at least one week in advance. You have to give players advance notice when they will play so that they can organize their schedule around it. As for knowing whom you are playing with, I try to put certain players together who play well together, but it is not possible all the time.

From Ed N., Toledo, OH:

I usually give my teammates a week's notice as to who will play in the next match. They should have already let me know regarding their lack of availability on certain dates. I have used this system throughout my 25-year tenure as league captain.

From Rapid Robert, MI:

Sounds like your captain is a control freak. Tournament pros do not have more than 48 hours to prepare for the next match once a tournament has started, so two weeks in advance might be a little far out. But you do need time to prepare yourself mentally for whoever your partner and opponents are going to be.

From Kenny S., Highland Park IL:

I talked to my mother – a long-time USTA team player – and she said it was common for her to get her partner the day of the match. She said there seems to be no rule but was not clear. Maybe contact the USTA office and ask if there is a rule?

Knowing your partner in doubles is very important to make a winning team. Have fun, talk on the court while you are playing, cover your side, and get your serve and return in!! If you have a side you like, tell your new partner. Play your game and hope your partner lives up to theirs!

From Wendy W., Thousand Oaks, CA:

I am a USTA captain. I have tried different ways of doing things. First, once I had the match dates, I asked each player what their availability was for the season. Next, I scheduled players for all the matches before the league started. I found that wasn’t really working because players’ schedules changed by the time the matches came around. Now, I give everyone the match schedule before the league starts, but I don’t schedule the players until a week before each match. Even then I don’t match up partners because the lineup may still change if someone isn’t available. Once I have confirmation from each player, I send out the final lineup.

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