You might not have planned on being a USTA league player, you might not even necessarily want to play in a league, but if you are a club player chances are you have played on a USTA team, if not multiple teams.
League tennis is one of those things that kind of sneaks up on you. You begin playing tennis at a club, you get into a group – whether it be a club league, a permanent court time, a social play group, or what have you – and next thing you know someone asks you to be on their USTA team. You’re flattered, and of course you say, “yes”.
That’s all it takes to get in. But like the mafia, getting out is next to impossible.
USTA leagues can be great fun, and they’re a great way to develop and grow friendships. The flip side though is that, for some, the pressure can be extreme and really squeeze all the fun out of the game.
Though all of us play for fun, it’s easy to forget that when you’re playing in a league – especially when your team has won two and lost two and you are playing the deciding match. Some thrive on this kind of pressure, some are oblivious to it, and still others crumble.
The problem with USTA leagues, as I see it, is that once you have joined a team it’s sort of expected you will continue to play in leagues indefinitely. This is fine for the thrivers and those who are numb to the pressure, but if you’re the type who doesn’t necessarily enjoy the pressure the expectation to continue playing can feel like an albatross-sized weight around your neck.
Life’s too short, I say. If every upcoming league match keeps you up at night – worried about how you’ll perform, what everyone will think about your abilities – it’s time to give it up. When captains ask you to join their teams, thank them for the invitation and tell them you just have too many other things going on – and stick to your guns, because most good captains are good salespeople and it’s going to take at least two “Nos” to get them to stop asking.
There are plenty of tennis formats available at most clubs, and refusing to play USTA league won’t mean the end of your social tennis life.
So, if you’re feeling a bit trapped in the USTA league tennis merry-go-round, don’t hesitate to jump off and reclaim your tennis fun.