| By Lonnie Mitchel

I have written a variety of articles in the past and believe in the importance of playing tennis as the sport of a lifetime. Still, tennis players have to learn the skills of a team environment, not just because you might find yourself on a collegiate team or maybe playing on a USTA tennis team at some point in your life. Teamwork is a life skill that can be used at school or in business and on a doubles court. A group of tennis players playing on a collegiate or USTA team does not necessarily constitute a team. Teams normally have members with complementary skills who are able to generate synergy through a coordinated effort which allows each member to maximize his/her strengths and minimize his/her weaknesses. If you truly want to be part of a USTA team or play on a collegiate team and maximize your experience, look at these qualities as described here and find those who share that philosophy. Taking your tennis skills that can have a long life span and putting them into a team structure can provide you with some of the most memorable experiences you could have on-court.

Billie Jean King has long been a champion for social change and equality. King created new inroads for women in sports and beyond during her legendary career and she continues to make her mark today. Among her many accomplishments was the creation of World TeamTennis, which made its inaugural appearance on the national stage in the 1970s. Growing up on Long Island, I remember going to the Nassau Coliseum and watching World TeamTennis and seeing top-level professionals, such as Billie Jean and Virginia Wade, playing in a team format for the very first time. Currently, we still have a professional World TeamTennis squad that plays in the New York area, the New York Sportimes. Davis Cup and Federation Cup have a rich tennis history taking world-class tennis players and having them represent their native country in a team format. We forget that team tennis is an important staple of our sport.

The U.S. Open, the French Open, the Australian Open and Wimbledon are the most celebrated events in our sport, but we rarely discuss the Davis Cup or Federation Cup. Many of you reading this article are about to begin playing for USTA leagues this spring and perhaps have a regular team that you compete with each year. I have also heard of those who also have joined teams and have had less than a great experience. The one common complaint I usually hear is that there is no team chemistry. I described in the opening paragraph of what a team is, and therefore, if one had a less than great experience, then I suggest to “find the right team for yourself.”
I am lucky enough to work at the collegiate level, coaching two teams (men’s and women’s) for the State University of New York. I know that for our teams to be successful and for the experience to be optimized, you need to do the following:

►Check your ego at the door;
►Be flexible;
►Listen to the captain and/or coach and accept criticism; and
►Be all in and go with the flow.

How many times have you seen players play opera music (I, I, I, I, Me, Me, Me) and when you do see that most teams are bound for a self-destruction sooner or later.

In closing, use the advice I have given above and get yourself on the right team based on the philosophies described. I know you will have the best experience ever playing team tennis this season and beyond.

Lonnie Mitchel

Lonnie Mitchel is head men’s and women’s tennis coach at SUNY Oneonta. Lonnie was named an assistant coach to Team USA for the 2013 Maccabiah Games in Israel for the Grand Master Tennis Division. Lonnie may be reached by phone at (516) 414-7202 or e-mail lonniemitchel@yahoo.com.