June tip of the month: What type of doubles partner are you?
I have been around tennis clubs all around the world for the past 52 years of my life. This has given me a unique opportunity, not only to observe a wide variety of behaviour, but also made me privy to what people really think about the people they play with.
The root of almost every complaint is that players do not feel supported by their partner. This lack of support can be expressed in many ways. A negative gesture or a pregnant silence whenever your partner makes an error are the most subtle ways to express disapproval.
Not everyone can be subtle, however, some openly express their frustration or anger and this can lead to some nasty confrontations or suppressed hurt feelings.
The tone and content of the comments you make to your partner when they err are key factors in determining if you are a supportive partner or a negative influence.
Please keep in mind that no one means to make a mistake; errors happen despite our best efforts to avoid them.
Does your behaviour influence your partner’s performance?
Will a player perform differently if he or she feels criticized and put down as opposed to being supported and accepted?
What do you think?
Instead of open criticism, some players will adopt the subtler, passive-aggressive approach of offering ‘advice’ and suggestions to their partner on a wide array of subjects.
The implication being, ‘I’m the better player and I am going to teach you how to be a better player’.
This is a very condescending, disrespectful attitude, which has no place between two humans.
My feeling on giving advice to your partner is simple—don’t do it unless your partner expressly asks for it and even then, do it very, very sparingly!
It is quite possible that many readers will argue that since doubles is a team sport, would it not be beneficial, if not absolutely necessary, to confer with one’s partner?
There is certainly truth to that statement. So how do we reconcile these two seemingly opposite statements?
I think a lot depends on where the advice giver is coming from. Coming from a state of superiority that ‘I am better’ than the other and ‘I know’ is very different from discussing a particular situation with a partner and exchanging ideas on how to proceed.
The fact is that very few advice givers would place themselves in the first category…………..and yet, many, many players feel intimidated and uncomfortable with their partner giving them advice. That’s why I think it is better to avoid it altogether.
Advice givers, think on this:
Why is winning or playing the ‘right way’ so important to you?
How would you feel if others constantly told you what to do on the court?
Why is it so difficult to focus simply on yourself, instead of trying to ‘help’ others, especially when they have not asked for help?
Why are you so certain that you know what is right for others?
Please understand that your partner is doing the best they can (even if they don’t play as well as you or even if they are not having a good day) and they have the same right to come out and play their game as you do to play your game.
Finally, please note how much more pleasant your playing experience is if you and those around you are laughing and enjoying themselves. Is winning or playing the ‘right’ way really more important than respecting, accepting and connecting with others in a way that is uplifting for all concerned?
Advice receivers, think on this:
Why do you need the support of your partner?
Why is their disapproval so painful?
Why is the fear of conflict so scary that it stops you from standing up for yourself when you feel uncomfortable or if you feel someone has treated you disrespectfully?
How long are you willing to suffer before you will do something about it?
How long are you willing to blame others for your unhappiness?
Do you see your role in this scenario? Why are you are allowing this to happen and doing nothing?
It doesn’t matter if the other is a better tennis player than you or ‘knows’ more than you. As individuals you both have exactly the same rights to express yourself on the court in the unique way that you do.
So, what kind of partner are you?
Are you supportive or are you critical? Do you inspire your partner to play their best or do you bring out their worst? Win or lose, do your partners walk off the smiling or unhappy?