Thursday, October 26, 2017

Secret to a winning lineup

Kristianne Bontempo | Towpath Tennis Contributor

The Men's 3.0 40+ Team captained by Michael Kramer
reaches the final four at the USTA National Championships
in Fort Lauderdale, FL.

With our summer Men's 3.0 40+ Team & Men's 6.0 55+ Team from Towpath Tennis competing in Nationals this year, we once again applaud their effort for making it among the best of the best in the country. This is the 4th consecutive year Towpath has had teams qualify for the National Championships and we couldn't be prouder. It takes quite a lot of motivation and work to get to the national stage, so it's interesting to take a step back and look at how these teams were able to make it each year. Having strong players is obvious enough, however it's not all about having a few ringers on your team. In fact, you may have the strongest team in the league, but you won't get anywhere if you don't know where to place your teammates. In the past we posted an article on How to create a winning tennis team (check it out). While we still stick to these fundamentals in creating a solid team, we did miss something that is kind of important in making a winning tennis team--that is creating a winning lineup!  So where do you start?

  1. Roster Likable Teammates - Hate to admit it, but one sour pickle can spoil a team's fun and success. They don't ALL have to like each other, but your team should genuinely get along not only to avoid a toxic atmosphere amongst the group, but also to make players interchangeable in the lineup so that they become indispensable when its time to pull out the big guns.  
  2. Singles Anyone? - If you have a full roster with no singles players, then you might have a problem. However, you'll be surprised at who is actually good at singles when they don't even know it. If you have solid singles players then hurray, good for you! But, if you're like many struggling captains who are trying to fill the spot then first look for willing participants, second look for a hacker/backboard player, and third look for somebody with solid ground strokes. Sometimes players might be intimidated to see a young, hard hitter on the opposing side of the court, but truth is younger, harder hitters tend to make more errors and are generally impatient. If you don't think you can find a singles player that will knock their opponent out, then look for someone that will tire their opponent out. Trust me, it works!
    The Men's 55 & Over 6.0 Men will compete this weekend at 
    the USTA National Championship in Orlando, FL.
  3. CHEMISTRY - For doubles, I'm a true believer that on court chemistry among partners is everything to a team's success. Chemistry is not just about being nice and encouraging to each other, it's about moving well together, speaking the same language (I get you), having the same goal and making each other laugh. Sometimes what looks good on paper may not translate well on court so that's why it's important to practice and switch teams around until you find one that absolutely gels. 
  4. The Lineup - Typically, you want to place your strongest doubles team at 1st doubles and then place the rest subsequently after. Makes sense right? Well, if you're able to fine tune your team enough to predict the result (this team has been undefeated, this team has a strong serve/net game, this team can run anything down), then you will have a better idea of where to place your players. 
    1. Second Court - The reason I bring 2nd court up first is that many of the most successful lineups include playing your most solid and valuable singles/doubles team in 2nd position--they're dependable for a win 9/10 matches (in theory). 
    2. First Court - The most 'intimidating/fearless/powerful' singles/doubles team play well on 1st court for several obvious reasons. They might not always get the win, but they'll have a higher probability to come out on top or at least put up a damn good fight.
    3. Third Court - Let me make something clear, being placed on third doesn't necessarily mean it's the 'forgotten/toss up' court. It's just as crucial to get this right since many a time it's the 3rd court team pulling off a win for the match. The difference is you're allowed a bit more freedom when deciding who to play on 3rd. Third court is a great position to play a stronger/weaker player combo, experiment a potential partnership if you're not able to in a practice, or play those backboard/hackers that will make your opponents want to scream in frustration. 
  5. To Stack or Not To Stack? - Here's the deal, I'm not a fan. I understand if you may want to play around with teams in different positions, or even if you place a team with a lower rating in a higher position because you truly feel they are the stronger partnership. BUT, if you play your 1st singles/doubles team that has remained at 1st singles/doubles all season long, only to now play 3rd court against a particular team, then you're not playing a fair game, which isn't great sportsmanship. Play a fair game, and you will be rewarded. 
There you have it! This will certainly not give you overnight success, but with continual practice and a little luck you'll find that your team will be the one to be reckoned with.

Monday, October 2, 2017

The No Meat Athlete Cookbook

Barbara Youel | Towpath Member & Cookbook Author

The No Meat Athlete Cookbook: Whole Food, Plant-Based Recipes to Fuel Your Workouts – and the Rest of Your Life
by Matt Frazier and Stepfanie Romine (The Experiment, 2017) 

One of my favorite doctors is Michael Greger, who highly recommends The No Meat Athlete Cookbook – “a must for active people and athletes at every level who want to perform at their best, while protecting themselves from disease with whole, plant-based foods.”  Dr. Greger is an internationally recognized physician, author and researcher (How Not to Die), who relies on the science for his recommendations ( How refreshing! He is not beholden to any industry – no dairy, no chickens, no big pharma. Yippee!!!

Co-authors Matt Frazier & Stepfanie Romine re-
invent the athlete's diet with this plant-based cook-
This book is a real primer in learning how elite athletes do extraordinary things without animal protein or oil.  Yes my friends, sayonara to chicken wings, Thanksgiving turkey and cheeseburgers. And, adios amigos to olive oil, peanut oil, canola oil and all oils.  To escort you through what may be a painful journey is the authors’ very easy labeling system; each of the 125 vegan recipes is clearly identified:

            FF – fast food
            SF – slow food
            SC – slow cooker
            CL – carbo loading
            GF/GFO – gluten- free/gluten-
            free option
            OF/OFO – oil-free/oil-free option
            XS – soy-free

The spectacular color photography made me want to walk, no run to my kitchen and get going. I am particularly interested in the beet (yup, beet) bourguignon (page 125), Greek chopped salad (page 139), cumin-citrus roasted carrots (page 166) and chocolate-coconut-pecan chewy bars (page 220). Yummmmmm. OK, one more I can’t resist mentioning, the sesame-turmeric oven fries (page 173). Woo-hoo!

Chapters are clearly divided into morning meals, hearty meals, greens and dressings, small plates and sides, recovery foods, flavor boosts and desserts.  Helpful guidance on nutrition, stocking the plant-based kitchen and meal planning are interspersed in this cookbook, just right for those of you newbies to plant-based foods.  

The book’s forward by Rich Roll, a vegan-strong and ultra-athlete, and co-author Matt Frazier’s introduction are worth reading before you dive into the mouth-watering recipes. The two make a solid case for the benefits of a plant-based diet for ALL athletes. If it works for the pros it can work for us amateur tennis players; it is at least worth considering, despite our devotion to the all-meat sub sandwich (which contains such awful nitrates and nitrites, I cannot even go there).

Co-author chef Stepfanie Romine is a plant-based yogi and runner. She has expanded her original repertoire of stews, stir-fries, and bean-based meals to more root vegetables, spices and healthy treats for this cookbook. Her creative recipes have been tested on pros and amateurs alike. Food stylists, registered dietitians and new cooks have all vetted these recipes, giving them a “thumbs up!” Who wants to eat food that tastes like packing peanuts? We all want great taste, satisfying mouth feel, and yes, the visual pleasure of anticipation of a delicious treat coming our way.

The recipe format is readable and easy to follow (most fit on one page) but I am not a fan of the informational colored pages with their mixtures of fonts; however, this is really a minor drawback. Overall, I highly recommend The No Meat Athlete!

* Co-author Matt Frazier is an ultra-marathoner. The No Meat Athlete Cookbook: Whole Food, Plant-Based Recipes to Fuel Your Workouts – and the Rest of Your Life (The Experiment, 2017) is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, independent bookstores and public libraries. 

Barb Youel, author of First
Serve Cookbook
Towpath Tennis Member Barb Youel author of First Serve: 40 Delicious Plant-Based Recipes for a Year of Tennis Grand Slams & Club Matches, (Lean Green Living LLC, 2017). Copies are available exclusively at Towpath Tennis Center for $15.95 or 2 for $30. You can order yours today at 330-928-8763.