Ladies Teams can run a club. They can also ruin a club. They shouldn’t do either, but they do at times and at some clubs. Men’s teams, although not as numerous, can also throw a wrench into the cog. But Ladies Teams tend to be one of the top 5 reasons for Directors of Tennis being shown the door. Here’s the low-down on how to avoid the politics that are inherent in any competitive league.
Document, and then Document Again
As a Director, Club Manager or Facility Owner, it is essential that you avoid the pitfalls that competitive teams can so quickly present. By documenting all conversations and reiterating that conversation with a team player, either by text or by email, after the fact, you are creating a protective backup throughout the team environment. However, first and foremost in our play book, is this: Avoid as much discussion with team players as possible. We advocate a “hands-off” approach to competitive teams. There really is no reason why, beyond practices and strategies, that a Director or Owner should be involved in day-to-day decisions for teams. Competitive teams are there as an additional offering to members – a small percentage of members in most cases at the facility – and should be treated as just that. Teams are just another opportunity for competitive play.
The best method to avoid confrontation is through communication. If members of a team understand how the season is going to work from the outset in terms of pairings, which team at the club they will play for, and how they can move up to a new team, or move up within a team, then half the battle is won. Do remember to communicate that with the chance to move up to a new team or within a team, so also exists the opportunity to move down. We advocate a full “Team Member Rule Book” which should outline all possibilities from the first team meeting. For a BeyondTheBaselines.com “Ladies Team Rule Book” Cheat Sheet, please visit our Patron Page and become a Gold member at https://www.patreon.com/BeyondTheBaselines
Control vs Delegation of Team Play
Therefore, delegate as much as possible to elected team captains. We believe, particularly at a member-owned club, that delegation to captains wins hands down over control over the teams. Far too often we have seen the backs of dismissed Directors of Tennis over Ladies Teams. In most cases, this can be avoided by upfront communication with the teams and delegating to team captains, fellow members, of pairings and placings. With our experience with Ladies Teams ranging from New England and the Dorothy Bruno Hills Indoor Tennis League (DBH) to South Florida and The Palm Beach County Women’s Tennis Association (PBCWTA), we have found that we advocate an “advise and consent” position by the Director. They can listen to the captain and maybe help with some additional ideas or advice, but leave the major and final decisions to the team captains.
Certainly, as a recently employed Director of Tennis at a club, it is essential to mind your communication with team players. Just like a first day of school, trust no one. But do know that those who want their say are going to find you and believe that you will have a sympathetic ear to their woes, unlike your predecessor in their view. That’s why you’ve been hired, right? Wrong. Directors are hired to run a complete program – aimed at all demographics, juniors and adults, through offering programming and event planning. Too often we see certain demographics of membership left unattended while a Director is literally consumed by Ladies Teams and their issues. Ignoring a demographic of membership can be as fatal as not dealing with a vocal ladies team.
Remember, most players and lesson-takers are not team players. And if teams start to dominate a Director’s time, or even court time at peak times, the tenure of the Director might be shorter than he or she would like at the Club. We have heard it so many times from a member: “Why must ladies teams play at 10am on a weekday? Thats a peak time and we are allowing 12 non-members on our courts every Tuesday morning with ladies league matches. What am I paying for when I can’t get a court!” They’re right of course – when else would a club let guests show up weekly and take up 12 or more playing spots on club courts. Most clubs hold fast to a particular guest showing up more than once a month!
One of the best lessons in life, I learned at ATP Chair Umpire School while travelling with Jerry Armstrong, one of the highest qualified chair umpires in the world and assistant Wimbledon referee. It was one of the last days of training in Dublin, and of course, how to handle players disagreeing with line calls had been a recurring theme in our discussions. “We all remember when I defaulted McEnroe at the Australian Open,” remarked Jerry. “But, do you remember who was on the other side?” I couldn’t recall. Since then, I’ve asked numerous “tennis know-it-alls” the same question and no one has been able to answer. “Always remember, there’s a player, waiting to play on the other side of the net while you discuss the call. That player is ready to play.” said Jerry.
The same holds true for Ladies Teams. They are just one player among a plethora of players at a club or facility. It is too easy to be consumed by a particular group or demographic of a club and forget or neglect all the other groups. Keep a distance, like a good chair umpire, and realize the entire setting while gently advising the Ladies Teams.\
Ed Shanaphy worked for the ATP Tour across the globe and had several run-ins with players. He never forgot that Byron Black was waiting to play as Jim Courier shouted about an overrule at the Lipton Championships on set point. Neither has Ed forgotten the spectator with the bellowing voice and whipped up towel in the top row of the stadium that saw the call better! By the way, it was Mikael Pernfors, now Ed’s neighbor, who walked away a winner after McEnroe was defaulted. Small world.
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