When USTA Florida Super Senior League team captain Malcolm Simmonds embarked on his very first year of play in the Super Senior (players age 60 and older) division, he faced two obstacles: he was primarily a singles tournament player and didn't like to volley, and at 76 years of age he was older than many of the "youngsters" in the league.
Neither obstacle proved a deterrent as Simmonds now finds himself and his teammates representing USTA Florida this weekend at the USTA League 7.0 & 9.0 Super Senior National Championships, April 29-May 1, 2011 at the Surprise Tennis & Racquet Complex in Surprise, Ariz.
As the team captain Simmonds challenged the age issue by partnering with someone even more experienced, his 78-year-old teammate Edward Pavlick. The volleying issue was also solved by Pavlick, who Simmonds says is happy to take charge at the net while he scampers along the baseline.
"I'm a singles player, so I play doubles from the baseline," Simmonds said. "I don't like to volley and I'm really not confident volleying, and some people don't like that. They want a partner to be up at the net with them, but my partner is happy because he likes to be up at the net, but he cannot move as well as me.
"So he's very happy because he's a good volleyer, and he knows I'm covering the back, and if I play with someone else I know they're not happy to play with me," he adds with a laugh.
Simmonds quickly found himself in the team's captain's seat after the former captain, who was also the USTA local league coordinator, stepped down due to a conflict of interest.
"So I got an e-mail from her, not saying, 'Would you mind being captain?' but it said 'You are captain,'" he said, laughing. "And that's how I ended up being captain of the men's team."
Just as Simmonds and his partner are a unique fit, the 76-year-old feels that much of the success of their team is due to long-term teaming at the doubles positions.
"I had some experience back when I played county tennis [in England] where I used to really get (ticked) off because they used to just pick the two best players, and they would play No. 1 [doubles], and that was just absurd," Simmonds says. "The best players don't necessarily make the best doubles team. We play it as four teams of two, which really makes a big difference. A doubles team is about playing the best with that player. You may have the two best players together, but they might not get along, and there's some people that just play better when they're playing with someone else. I play the same teams together all the time. I think that has a lot to do with our success really."
While many captains of USTA League teams navigate rough waters in juggling their line-ups in an effort to please everyone all the time, Simmonds says his captaincy has been smooth sailing.
"Everybody is a team member, they put the team first and themselves second," Simmonds says. "Almost every member of the team has come to me at one time or another and said, 'Don't worry about playing us, you must do what's best for the team.' That makes it much easier as a captain, when you don't have to deal with some of the difficult issues."
No matter what their results this weekend in Surprise, Ariz., he says two things are for certain -- they will have their supporters from their home club, The Plantation at Leesburg, just north of Orlando, some in person and some in spirit -- and they will be having fun.
"We get a lot of support from the community at The Plantation," Simmonds says. "Last year we had six or eight people travel with us, and I'm not talking about the spouses, but other people from the community that are interested in playing tennis. They come to some of our away matches and to sectionals, and it makes a lot of difference to have that support. We have a lot of fun when we're playing -- it's not that we're not serious, it's just that we are enjoying ourselves."
for more news & photos from the 2010 USTA League 7.0 & 9.0 Super Senior National Championships.