Saturday, 5 November 2016

Chapter 45 : Anyone for a team game?

Last week Bradley and I played together in the same tennis team.  It was not part of my grand plan but it happened. We found ourselves playing together as members of the same team for the whole tennis season.  There are two males and two females in each team so Bradley and I constitute the male half of the team. Playing tennis with my son reminds me of playing tennis with my Dad.  Which I did often. One of his proudest moments was winning a premiership with one of his daughters.  He constantly talked about it.

Our present team is down near the bottom of the ladder and we won’t win the title but it contains two young people who have the potential to improve dramatically. As the season progresses I expect to witness a significant improvement in these two people (Bradley is one of them) and that will be exciting. There are actually three of us who should improve dramatically this season.

I’m the third one. I have improved since the start of the competition.  I have improved and I am worse than I was. I have improving compared to twelve months ago and I will continue to improve.   My play is worse than two years ago. My play compared to my highpoint is bad. I have slipped off the apex.   But I am looking at my discharge from hospital as the baseline. The line from which we are seeing improvement. I have to forget what I was once capable of. Ignore that. It was another life time. Another person.  I am now a different person.  My tennis career began a year ago.  I see my rebirth as the baseline.

This team is not really about me.  What this team is largely about is giving two young people the opportunity to play competitive sport. They have to find out about making commitments; playing as a team; getting on with other team members, working on weaknesses; experiencing wins and losses;  coping with bad umpiring; improving ones fitness; improving self-awareness; making supper and socializing with the other team. Playing in a team is just like working in a group of people. They will have to work with everybody in the team. Irrespective of who they are. They might be different people but they should have common goals/aims.

Everybody in the team needs to know their own weaknesses.  Then they need goals related to their weaknesses. Ideally everybody in the team should know what everybody in the team is working on. Agree what the weaknesses are.  The areas that need practice.  Agree on what we are going to practice. Then do it.  Doing backhands drop shot may be my weakness. I need to identify that and then practice it. I need the help of my teammates. No point practicing what I enjoy practicing. No point practicing my favorite shot.

Bradley also needs to think of tennis as a physical sport. He needs to learn how to be at his best physically. What helps?  What hinders? To be at his best physically at a certain time he needs to prepare yourself. To eat appropriately. Be aware of how your body responds to certain foods. If he eats cake, or ice-cream or a banana how is he going to play? If he sleeps well the night before or stays up late how will it affect his play? What about stretching or exercises before playing? What helps? What doesn’t? These are things to consider. It involves getting to know yourself. Tennis should help Bradley get to know himself.

As well as getting to know himself Bradly needs to assess his opponents. If the opponent is weak on the back hand or high balls or strong on the volley then change your game. Plan to win based on what you are up against. Look at their serve. Where does it go? What speed? Now prepare for it.  If it always varies then prepare for that. In competitive sport you need to assess your opponent as well as yourself. And then try and change yourself. Not your opponent. Assess everything and change yourself.

We need to look at the emotional state of your team. We need to assess the team. Is it happy, unhappy or does it vary? The whole team needs to learn about this. To learn that the happiness of everyone in the team is important. To learn that the happiness of the team affects everybody in the team; depends on everybody in the team and influences the way everybody plays.  It’s a factor they need to consider. 

The team needs to play flat out to win. To do everything (within the rules) it can to win. And then treat both wins and defeats the same. Not to get emotionally involved.  Not to get upset if we lose. If we lose we don’t blame the opposition; the umpiring; bad luck; the weather or the courts.  If you lose we look at our own play. How could that have been better? What do we need to work on? If we win we respect the opposition.  We don’t celebrate winning in front of the opposition.  We see life from their point of view. We don’t criticize their play.   We don’t thank them for losing.  

And when we have finished playing. We will sit down together and socialize. We will have a cup of tea or a beer together. Competitive sport invariable results in winners and losers. Throughout life we will be both. The way you play may not be related to the official result. The way you play is more important than the result. So how do you now if you played well or badly.  You can play well and lose. You can play badly and win. You normally know if you played well. You played well if you played close to your potential. If you played close to what you are capable of. If you achieved some small goals then you played well. The important thing is to ignore the overall result and assess yourself. Normally you find you did some things well and some things badly. Your own assessment of how well you went is what matters. And your own assessment of how in the future you can improve. That’s what matters. Being honest with yourself.  Normally you find you did some things well and some things badly.

Moving on... Jolene and Matt are the main players in a team that has bought a block of land at Orford. The block needs a lot of work and they are approaching it the way a good team does.  They are honestly and openly assessing where they are. And then they are making a plan and then they are doing it. They are not blaming or concentrating on how others play. They are only concerned about their own play. But they do look at the way others play and see if they can learn from it and copy what others are doing.

They are a team in which they have to work with the other team members. Try and get the best out of each team member. Take advantage of the strengths of one member and avoid the weaknesses of another person.  They are not a team that has to work on their weaknesses. If one person is weak at something then they don’t have to do it. The other person can do it. Tennis is not like that. In tennis everybody has to do everything.   

And back to the team working on the block. They have a plan which is flexible and continually changing. They continually reassess where they are and continually update the plan. Based on the people involved and what they encounter.

What about the emotional state/happiness of the team. This is an issue. How is that going? What is the next job that needs doing? How should it be done? What is the best way of doing it? Or does everybody need a rest? Do we need to back off? Do we need to stop working and just party? Can we just enjoy the block; take a break and go and play tennis.  

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