The Only Two Types of Statements You Need to Make to Your Partner in Doubles

Communication, verbal and nonverbal, is extremely important in doubles as it is in all relationships. You know that there are people who can get under your skin or undermine your confidence with a simple phrase, tone or even a look. it's the same in doubles and it's absolutely avoidable if you remember to only use one of two types of statements. What I am about to tell you will change your life ( with regard to doubles) and will make you a very desirable partner. Everyone will want to play with you. Here it is. The two types of statements are, I need you and I support you. It sounds simple but very few players have mastered the art of communication and what most players don't realize is that their inability to communicate properly hurts their game as well as  their partner's game. Let me explain

    The ideal state for playing your best tennis is one where you're never thinking about technique ( the worst thing you could ever do), and where tactics and shot selection have been practiced so many times in drills, games and matches, that everything is happening instinctively. You are the game and the game is you. I'm talking about you as an individual player. But you don't play alone and everyone needs to be needed and to be supported in every important relationship we have.  If you can make your partner feel like they are an important part of the success of the team ( especially if you're the stronger player), they will be happy, relaxed and comfortable. Whatever they have, you're going to get it because they don't want to let you down.

    If you miss a service return and you say to your partner " pick me up", or " give me another chance", you're telling them that you need them and you're telling them you trust them to cover for you when you make a mistake. You're empowering them. There are many examples of I need you statements. They always center around the fact that you're struggling and you need them ( and trust them) to play better to compensate. You will be amazed at the things your partner can accomplish when you show confidence in them and give them the credit when your team is successful. They will play better with you, they will enjoy playing with you and they will tell everyone what a great partner you are.

    The same goes for when your partner makes a mistake. They need to know you're not flustered and you're not going to turn against them if you're losing or if you ultimately lose. If your partner misses a return you tell them," don't worry, I'll get you another chance." If they go for a poach and miss you tell them, " keep being aggressive, it will help us to win. No one is perfect." If your partner is experiencing a crisis of confidence don't hesitate to ask them, " what can I do to help."

    As far as I am concerned, this is the essence of good doubles and you will see that people who struggle with interpersonal relationships in their life tend to be bad doubles partners and people who are self confident and really like people are the best doubles partners. The key is to make people feel valued and safe. When they feel valued and safe they relax and they play their best for that day, whatever that might be.

    Some people are going to say that you have to talk about tactics and I agree but if you follow your principles (The System), are in the proper position and choose the correct shots, you'll be amazed how little tactics you need to talk about. You're also signaling on serves so you're always formulating and adapting your game plan based on what's happening during the points. You will be making small adjustments of a tactical nature but you won't need to over communicate or over complicate things.  

    In essence, you need to put your own insecurities aside and stop worrying about what others are going to think if you lose, what's going to happen to your rating, etc. All the things that make you tense and insecure. That's the single most common reason that people are poor doubles players. Their fear and insecurity is tangible and everyone on the court can feel it. It fuels your opponents and destroys your partnership. Just like learning a new stroke or grip, this will take time and repetition but unlike physical errors which can never be completely removed from your game, mental and emotional mistakes can eventually be obliterated for good.