By Rita Maloof, Junior Leagues Vice President
According to Frank Giampaolo, award-winning coach, popular sports researcher, and author of “The Tennis Parent’s Bible,” spectacular performances are preceded by spectacular preparation.
Spring ALTA is all about preparation. There are the tangibles — Spring Break, Easter, Passover, and SAT/ACT testing. We know these dates before the season begins. We then have the intangibles, the ones out of our control like weather, injuries, prom dates, and a host of other family activities no one wants to miss.
Historically, teams with the most success during the spring seasons are those who are prepared. It’s not always easy — some of our veteran team managers compare it to herding cats! Please be sure to download the rules and your schedule packet. If you are reading this and haven’t already looked at your schedule, you are behind … but there’s still time to catch up. You have two full weekends before the season starts to play lines or matches early.
Does your team have a BYE week during the season? Are there weekends during the season when you won’t be available to attend matches? Hold a team meeting with your players, players’ parents, and coaches and talk about the schedule. Find out upfront who may or may not be available to play early matches. Discuss who will step up if you are out of pocket. You may be the manager, but it is a team sport.
Reach out to your opponent early if you think you may have availability issues during the season. The odds are they may have issues as well. It doesn’t matter if you are the home team or visiting team. Be prepared before making the call; be flexible, not demanding. Propose several options for getting the match played. Be creative. Offer to give up home court advantage or meet halfway. Try to schedule the 1S and 1D lines first. If lines remain to be played on the originally scheduled match date and players aren’t available, the outstanding lines will be defaulted. Don’t lose points already won by defaulting from the top down instead of the bottom up. You worked too hard getting the lines set up to give those points away.
Remember, new this season, we’ve eliminated the illegal movement rule. You still can’t legally play a player twice in the same match, but you can move players to any position as long as you don’t “sandbag,” or play losing players/teams over winning players/team. This should make it easier for you to construct a lineup with a shortage of players. If you have questions, contact your coordinator. You have her name and contact info in the schedule packet. You are prepared.
Once a plan has been agreed to, text the confirmed plan — date, time, line, players, location — back to the team managers, players, players’ parents. This becomes your new scheduled date and can only be changed if both teams agree to the change. Remember, you can still change players if the need arises without additional approval, just not the date.
Time is a valuable commodity these days, and we don’t want to waste it. Being prepared can make a key difference in completing the match. Our ultimate goal is to get the juniors to play. Nobody wins when teams default lines or refuse to consider early play. It won’t always work out, but you’ll get through the season a lot easier if you take the proper steps of great preparation.