Jul 31 2013

The Tennis Psychologist: Psychology for Club Players and Captains

Book Review | League Tennis | Rules | Team Captain | USTA       Clif Render      

A review of the book
The Tennis Psychologist: Psychology for Club Players and Captains
by Adrian Lobley

As a USTA League tennis player and captain, I'm always on the lookout for good information about captaining. While there are a few good blogs and forum threads out there, there has traditionally been very little in the way of published material specifically geared toward captaining a team. Now, though, thanks to the wonders of self-publishing, this is no longer the case. 

The Tennis Psychologist: Psychology for Club Players and Captains is a truly great resource for captains looking for a fresh perspective. While I may not necessarily agree with every position taken by the author, I can't deny that this book does a fantastic job of covering nearly every significant aspect of being a captain and doing it the most effective way possible.

The material in Lobley's book is presented in a clear and concise manner and is easily followed. It's a quick read packed with lots of excellent food for thought. It is cleanly divided into sections that are very well self-contained and can either be read as a part of the overall narrative or separately as need and interest directs. If you'll click over to Amazon, you should be able to click through the chapter list to get an idea of what the book covers. There are chapters on everything from basic play and movement strategy to team management and gamesmanship.

The author touches on strategies for match formats that we don't get lots of opportunities to play here in the states so some of what he discusses may not be directly applicable to what you do on a match by match basis in your standard USTA League. That being said, however, the principles at work are still very similar to what you will experience in any league that you are a part of. You always have to scout the opposition, you always have to carefully plan your lineup and you always have to keep in mind both the short and long term psychological impact of those decisions.

In my opinion, the area in which this book shines most is in the psychology of being a captain. How do you handle a nervous beginner who goes on and on about how bad they are? What kinds of cues do you listen for when talking with the opposing captain? How can you use your opponents teammates to gather intel before (and during) match play? How do you handle a player with anger issues (other than cutting them from the team, of course)? Which of your players do you pair together? Do you rotate partners? Which side of the court do they play? In my opinion, this section alone more than pays for its $5 (US) Kindle price. 

Where the author and I have some differences of opinion (and, incidentally, where I found the book most helpful to me personally) are where he discusses exactly what kind of team management strategy to employ. In general, there are three different methods that you can follow with your team:

1.) Just have fun - In general, this means that everyone plays more or less equally, courts are never "sacrificed", and the Win vs. Loss numbers are less important than the phone number to the nearest pub.

2.) Learning through playing - with this goal, you plan on putting players on courts where their weaknesses will get the most work. Do you have a player who struggles with Singles? Give them lots of practice at it. Is one player afraid of the net? Make them play it every match. This category also includes team who playing up a level just to get used to faster play and more skilled players.

3.) Win, Win, Win - The goal here is obvious. You pretty much do anything short of cheating to win. If you need to sacrifice a court, you sacrifice a court. You do not play everyone equally. You play the strongest players the most. Players compete for opportunities to "move up the ladder" to earn more playing time.

The author clearly favors the "Win, Win, Win" approach and seriously encourages you to consider making this your goal as well. And, to tell you the truth, he makes an extremely compelling argument here. After all, it is more fun to win. Why would anyone want to put together or play on a losing team? You want to motivate your players to continually improve so why not put playing time on the line? The answer here, at least as I see it, is that not every team has the same goal. Some teams are made up of people that just like to play together. They play together on a regular basis for fun. For them, League play is more of a bonding experience than a competitive one. There is also the case of the excellent 3.0 or 3.5 level team that wants to play at the next level up to start getting used to the faster paced game - preparing for their next year. In these cases, I don't necessarily think "Win, Win, Win" is in either of their best interests as they all want and need equal amounts of playing time but these are exceptions rather than the rule. Mr. Lobley's system obviously works and works well as he is extremely accomplished as both a player and a captain.

And, to be honest, his arguments certainly do give me pause as to my own personal captaining style. I think that I often error too much on the "Just Have Fun" side of things. I work hard to get people playing time sometimes bending over backwards to work them into a match on the few times when they are available even if their skill level just can't handle the level of play of those matches. I will definitely be changing my approach in many ways as a result of this book. So, pick up a copy and give it a read. I can just about guarantee that you that you will find it helpful and worth far more than the asking price.

Adrian Lobley has 22 years of tennis captaincy experience and 30 years of tennis playing experience. You can find out more about him and his book by visiting his website at http://www.thetennispsychologist.co.uk/ or by connecting with him on Twitter at @AdrianLobley.


Comments (4) -

John John says:

Under strategies, does the author ever mention the classic "Spike the Gatorade" play? Or has that not made it to the UK yet?

Clif Render Clif Render says:

Hah! No, I sure didn't run across that one anywhere but I'm hopeful that it'll make an appearance in the next version!

Kim Kim says:

I like to play somewhere between Win, Win, Win and Just For Fun.  I think the important thing is that everyone on the team be on the same page so they all know what the captain wants and what the team goal is.  That way, maybe they don't get quite so upset if they have to play the "sacrifice line."  This book is a great find and I'm definitely going to check it out.  Thanks for the review!

Adrian Lobley Adrian Lobley says:


Many thanks for the time you spent producing the review of my book. The comments were much appreciated.  I somehow  missed your tweet to me from August last year so have only just read your review.  

I tend to no longer use or look at my @adrianlobley twitter account and instead, around 2 months ago, set up an account where I tweet regularly on tennis psychology tips and any other tennis trivia that takes my fancy.  So please feel free to follow me @TheTennisPsych.

I wonder if it is possible to ask a favour.  I think your review would be handy for someone who is thinking about whether to buy the book or not.  So if you could put a review on Amazon with a link to your article, I would be very grateful.

Thanks and I'm glad you enjoyed the book.

Adrian Lobley

PS I have a match tomorrow night and I have already prepared the free bottles of Gatorade

Add comment

  • Comment
  • Preview