“Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.” Winston Churchill
Drawing parallels between tennis and war is a stretch. However drawing a parallel about the fact that a small portion of tennis players do the lion’s share of the work has some degree of truth to it.
Tennis has its organizer angels. You know them, the tennis angels (not angles). They are the people at your club, park, league or regular match-up who organize the weekly “hit.” They mean so much to so many people, and for love of the game and the good of all, they spend their time and energy making it all happen. They send out the email, then the replies start trickling in. The final head count comes in at the last minute, and off to the courts you go. Your tennis tribe is what keeps the game alive for you. Grassroots leadership like this carries the day for the recreational player.
Organizer Angels do what they do for love of the sport, for sure, and probably because they want to play as much as any of us. But how do we incentivize their participation, reward their energy and encourage others to follow suit?
First, reply! Be responsive and immediate in your response when your organizer contacts you. Second, keep your word. Last minute cancellations can be the bane of the tennis group’s existence. If you say you are coming, then come! Third, acknowledge your organizer by pitching in for a gift card, presenting him or her with a new warm up jacket or just saying thanks. Your appreciation will help to ensure the health and well-being of your informal grouping, and it may also encourage others to follow your group’s lead.
You want to play, and you need other tennis players to do that, right? Leagues and tournaments are fun, and many of us enjoy regular league play, but informal “hits” are the most popular way for us to play our sport. What happens often is that we look to an already existing population of people who play tennis and do our best to find a way in. But maybe there is an easier way.
We all know recreational players who don’t play often because they don’t have a regular group with which to play. So step up and be the tennis angel. Invite them in. Create a group yourself. You’ll see how easy it is.
Here are a few hints. Keep your emails short and to the point. Use an appropriate subject line such as “TENNIS this Sunday at 9 AM.” (Keep the subject consistent and avoid ambiguous subject lines such as “Question.” If you want success, then set up some ground rules when you embark on the project. Try these on for size. Group email recipients reply only to the organizer so as not to fill up everybody else’s inbox. Reply as soon as you can. As soon as there are 8 (or 4 o 2 or 12) people confirmed, the roster is full. Check your email before you come to be sure weather has not cancelled. Designate who is responsible for balls each time. If you cancel last minute, you are responsible for finding a sub. See how setting up group “norms” or habits will ensure a more successful, relaxed, and enduring group experience? Keep it simple and keep it predictable.
Too many people say “they” need to do a better job. “They” should put more money into promotion, and maybe “they” are right. But who are “they?” Many of us are out there everyday doing our best to make tennis fun and appealing to more people. Local tournament organizers, club owners and employees, public court players, high school coaches… All of us, including you, dear readers, are part of a larger effort to keep tennis alive and well in our individual communities and clubs. So many of us owe a debt to so few. We aren’t trying to win a war here, but we do want to keep tennis thriving. Promotion? Sure. But I’ll take a good weekly hit any day, and if you need me to do it, I’ll be your tennis angel, too.
If you have a regular tennis group, we would like to hear from you. Send me a picture of your crew. Tell us how long you have been meeting and what keeps you all invested in your group and I will post it on our Facebook page.