Recruiting for USTA Team Success

captain strategy team Jun 20, 2020

The USTA Adult League 18+ season has just opened for registration!

Captains and players are abuzz with excitement and anticipation. Finding the right fit for both the team captain and the players is paramount to team success. The right fit does not happen by accident.

Creating the right recruiting fit is a two-way street. Whether the recruiting road ends in a dream or a nightmare is the responsibility of the recruiter and the recruitee!

Preparation and planning is key to a happy team.

Playing ability is a given in the recruiting equation. It’s the easiest factor to assess. For players seeking a team, look at the captain and her team’s past success on the USTA website. Often, captains will have little award ribbons by their name on the team page. This signifies that they’ve captained a team (or several) that went to districts or further. This may or may not be important to you as you may be looking for a fun, developmental team. But if you want post-season play, this is a good barometer.

If you are a captain, check out a player’s NTRP ratings and past results, paying attention not only to wins, but with whom they played (if doubles). A player may have only a mid-range winning percentage, but that may be for various reasons. For example, look for a partner playing with newer players to that level or moving from singles to doubles (or vice versa). You can also check TLS ratings, though these are just a best guess of a person’s dynamic rating. TLS is not affiliated with USTA ratings — it is it's own separate universe. UTR is a newer rating system and ranks a player against all other players and does factor age or gender. This is a great tool to see which players are at the upper or lower end of the ratings spectrum. Many 3.0 and 3.5 players are grouped together in the 3 and 4 range in the UTR system. Finally, you should also check with your teammates to see if they know the player and can recommend her. Do your best to get a complete picture of the recruit’s ability. Recommendations are as important as the numbers. 

But don’t stop there! Any good recruiting plan needs to go beyond talent assessment. I’d suggest both team captains and players “interview” each other and play together to check the fit before committing.

Players Recruiting Teams

Here are a few starter questions to ask the team captain:

  • What is your philosophy as a team captain?
  • What are your goals for the upcoming season?
  • How do you pair doubles partners?
  • Describe a typical practice session.
  • How do you determine the line up?
  • How does the team resolve conflict?

Here are a few questions to ask potential teammates:

  • Why did you choose this team?
  • What do you like best about the team? Least?
  • What do you like most about the captain? Least?
  • What do you like most about practice? Least?
  • What are your best memories of the team? Worst?

For Captains Recruiting Players

If you are a team captain, thank you for your service! Here are a few suggestions:

  • Make a plan for what types of players you are looking for: how many singles players vs. doubles players/teams, specific personalities (no drama), high match availability, etc.
  • Clearly articulate your vision for the team and the season and note the things that are most important for you in forming a team. Do this at the beginning of the season.
  • Spend time finding out what the prospective player really wants. Listen carefully – everything she says has value. Make sure she listens to you, too.
  • Let the player know up front what the team expectations are for practicing, playing matches, and partnering.
  • Find out ahead of time if the player is on multiple teams in different flights, and if she is, then find out where their loyalty will most likely be when it comes to post season. You don’t want to be left in the lurch come end of season (especially in 40+ where you need more qualified playing lines for post season than during regular season).

Spend some time creating your interview questions - as Nobel Prize winner Naguib Mahfouz said, “You can tell whether a man is clever by his answers. You can tell whether a man is wise by his questions.” Plan accordingly, and you will be more likely to find or fill the perfect team.

Good Luck!


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