At all levels of performance, there are possibilities to take part in team versions of tennis, so all players should get knowledge on how to develop positive spirit between teammates. Many times what is going on between the players is more important than their pure tennis skills.
Doubles is a typical example of team format. There are two players who share the court, complement each other’s skills and react to different experiences together. Then we have leagues where teams are created, and even though players compete individually, the points are scored for the whole team. We also have the Fed Cup, where players compete together for their country. Finally, we have to mention high-school and college tennis formats, which are dominant for many young players who try to combine education and sport.
Playing tennis for teams is a great opportunity to improve different skills, but it also puts specific pressure on players. If you play just for yourself, you can let down only one person. In team format, you play for your team, so you have to take responsibility for all the members. Additionally, you have to spend a lot of time with teammates, so it is of utmost importance to develop positive relationships with them all, to make sure that there are no personal conflicts that can have a negative impact on the results. If we look at the most successful teams in history, we can see that they always treat each other as family members. They understand that team is more important than each one individually, so that is why they learn how to never put own ego before team’s wellness.
As a tennis coach, I’ve been able to observe what impacts team spirit both in the USA and in Europe. There are some general rules that all coaches and players should stick with to make sure that all the job done on the court is not wasted by actions off the court. If you want to have a successful tennis team, you should take into consideration these factors:
Generally, the more time players spend together, the better they understand each other. Practice sessions are crucial to prepare for important matches, so mates should always train together. By doing this, players learn from each other, get to know each other’s playing styles, and they can see if their teammates put the best effort on the court. Coach should always avoid situations where some better players train whenever they want, while lower ranked players have different schedule. Team cohesion is created on and off the court, so there are no exceptions – either you are a team member or an individual.
Level of your game doesn’t define you as a person. All players have the same value, so the rules have to be the same for them all too. Favoring one player over another is the best way to crash team spirit and start forming groups inside the team. There are many examples of teams who had great players, but they couldn’t win important matches because of lack of chemistry, so coaches should always make sure that there are no players under “special protection”.
Teams are based on experiences. The more memories they have together, the easier it is to create a special bond between teammates. Eating breakfast together, going to the cinema after a won match or having a party at the end of the season are perfect examples to show that team tennis is more than just practice and match. Opportunities to talk freely, get to know each other and even have time without tennis are steps to improve team’s wellness and achieve better results on the court.
The best teams have players who are proud to represent a given team. They feel there is something more than the team’s name and they try to show it every time. There are values, experiences, culture… and uniforms! Yes, little things like the same clothes can make teammates much closer to each other. Why do soccer fans buy shirts of their favorites players? Because they want to feel like they belong to the team even in the smallest possible way. Use this little psychological trigger to add extra boost to your team.
There is much more than great coaching to create a successful tennis team. Team is a connection between two or more players and we have to remember that we are all different. Only by conscious work we can make all the members fight for the one goal. As the famous phrase says: “There is no I in T-E-A-M”.