As my 2nd year coaching the USTA/Eastern Intersectionals Team started, I expected a similar experience as last years. Last year's team finished 5th out of 17 sections and everybody was into the team-concept. They welcomed a coach who was anal about team meetings and being organized. This year's group was a different animal. There were three out-spoken college bound freshmen and three relatively introverted high school bound seniors. The older group was outspoken in their dislike for team meetings, meeting times and warming up before matches. This mood permeated the team and negatively affected the younger players on the team and admittedly me as a coach of the team.
This team was seeded fourth but finished 6th. We all pretty much knew that we were over seeded. The first night the guys asked me to appoint a captain. I made my first mistake by taking the bait and assigning one. I made my second mistake by assigning the wrong person. I had individual meetings with everyone that night and I could tell the team had too much of the attitude of "I'm off to college, I don't really care." so I asked the "Captain" to be a leader on and off the court. I got a terse response of "What do you mean? I don't understand." I tried to explain, if the guys aren't focused, get them going. "I still don't understand" was the response. I realized at that moment that I didn't have the captain I thought and should never have assigned one.
The first day we beat Pacific Northwest 6-1. Our doubles were brutal. It's very rare to win 6-1 and lose the doubles point but we did. We went on to lose the doubles point in all 4 matches. I told the team before the tournament that we could be very good but our doubles "stink." I hoped this would fire us up. Didnt work.
Second day we lost to Florida 5-2. We thought we could win but after Florida ended up winning the whole thing, I realized that we didn't have the horses and I didnt do a great job as coach. We had a rudderless ship with poor senior leadership. They didnt want team meetings, they were on the phone right before matches were starting. They also didnt show up for matches and got blown out by so-so opponents. I let the tournament run its' course and accepted the role as chaperone without a fight. This team needed a coach and rather than take on the senior leaders and let anarchy reign, I went along with it. We beat Mid-Atlantic 5-2 in the backdraw and then lost to Texas 6-1 for 5th/6th.
Ricky Becker is the Director of Tennis at Pine Hollow Country Club. He independently coaches high-performance juniors and adults of all-levels year-round at Bethpage Park Tennis Center. He has coached hundreds of ranked junior players. As a player, Becker was awarded Most Valuable Player for the 1996 NCAA Championship Stanford Tennis Team and 1989-1992 Roslyn High School Tennis Teams, and was ranked number four in the United States in the 18 & Under Division.