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Panel Discussion: Scheduling in the Spring (Part 1)
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During the spring season, college tennis teams play dual - or "team" - matches against other programs. For many teams that compete in athletic conferences, a number of these matches are predetermined, but coaches have a lot of latitude in deciding the full schedule.

We put the following question to a number of college tennis coaches:

Q) What factors go into deciding who your team will play in the spring? Level of competition? Travel? Something else entirely?

Quite a few coaches answered. Here are answers from the first set of coaches.

 

Andy Christodoulou, head coach, Siena Women

Several factors determine the scheduling of a team's dual matches.

Most teams including ours are budgeted for a set number of matches from their athletic departments. This number is not set in stone, but coaches generally use this number as a target. This is what I call the business end of the scheduling.

You also have to keep in mind that everything has to fit around conference matches. Accordingly, I schedule my conference matches first because those are the mandatory matches that have to take place no matter what. After that I start filling in the gaps with matches that will help us improve. When I am scheduling dual matches for Siena, I try to avoid Monday through Thursday to minimize conflicts with academics. Also, from the coaching prospective the best and most productive practices take place mid week when you had a chance to absorb everything that took place during the previous weekend's matches - and make any corrections and adjustments with the players.

Scheduling matches that do not interfere with academics is just impossible. Coaches try to minimize missed classes - at Siena College we try not to miss more than three or four half days during the regular season. These are the matches that are within a two-hour drive from us so that we can depart around midday, play, and be back on campus by 8 PM. This minimizes the disruption of classes. Academics is the priority here - we are not a professional touring team.

My scheduling philosophy is to try and schedule matches in "threes". The first match comes against one I believe to be weaker than us, the second will be against a team that I feel is equal to us, and the third match will be against a stronger team. This kind of scheduling gives us a chance to learn a lot about the state of our game - both as individuals and as a team. The stronger team will expose our weaknesses and allow us to start working on them. The match against the equal team will help us build on-court toughness and character. Accordingly, the match against a weaker team will be a match where we start bringing new strategies from the practice court to the game court and improve our confidence.

Scheduling matches with the same teams outside of our conference year after year builds respect and friendship, often extending relationships beyond the tennis court. On the other hand, adding a new team to the agenda gets the team excited and provides a new match that we can anticipate.

All the matches home or away are usually reciprocated in the following year - with a few minor additions or deletions.

During our spring break trip we try to introduce geographical variety in our schedule. Meaning we try schedule teams that we will not have a chance to play due to the geographical distance. That's the beauty of spring break... the unknown and exotic factor.

When you put all of the above together I believe it creates a good recipe for an exciting "match scheduling" and, most importantly, keeping academics as the main focus.

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