Thursday, November 19, 2015

Poinsettia Morning Open Tennis (PMOT)

Sometimes the best things in life just evolve, with very little planning or official intervention.  This is a story about a bunch of people, many hundreds over the course of several decades who have been getting together over doubles tennis in the city of Carlsbad California.  We are there by the courtesy of the residents of this city who built the Poinsettia park over the course of several decades, the last seven of ten courts completed around 2010.

Some people have come almost every weekday morning for decades, others drop in for a few games when visiting family in the city or just passing through.  Our oldest player is in his mid nineties now,  and most of us make sure he doesn't have to run too far to return a shot, which he does with great precision.  Others are men and women of all ages and backgrounds; in fact the wide diversity is what makes this setting work so well.  Skill levels vary widely, so some games are highly competitive and others less so.  One aspect of this kind of group is that some games don't provide optimum competition for the strongest players, yet the advantage is then we focus on the sociability of all participating in a type of group event.

With standard doubles tennis you get exactly four people per court,  but with this group, PMOT, those on the benches can be reading a paper, watching the games, or just chatting - so they are counted as  participating, which is why the recreation department allows us to take several courts for most of the morning. Of course, on the occasions when there are those who are not part of this group waiting a long time for a court, we will give up one or two, to be fair.

The first people arrive as early as 7:30 AM, and play quietly not to disturb neighbors, and stay as long as they want,  and then some leave and others come later.  The last set usually breaks up after 11 when the courts in the complex are almost all empty.  It can take a few sessions before a new person understands the procedures which is why this guide is being provided.

It's not really that complicated, but each "set" is four standard games without switching sides (you will pick up the sequence after a set or two) but winning doesn't matter, as the person who has cycled, played all four games is then "out."  "Out" means waiting for your turn if there are others, and you are at the end of the line on the benches. The active courts (including those across the walkway)  let the waiting people  know they finished with a loud call of "FOUR."  If you are the next in line on the bench, you go to that court and you have the first position for the next set.

If there are 3, 4 or sometimes 5 courts being used, the cycles are pretty quick, a few minutes at most. If there are less than 4 people on the benches, then only the one next person goes in.  If there are four or more on the bench waiting, then the next two go to the court that finished their cycle and called "FOUR." and the last two players there are "out". Those who have waited the longest get the priority position in the set.  

That's the end of the introductory guidelines. 

Players come and go, and at times it's not clear when someone is done for the day or just resting, so there can be some confusion at times.  This group has lasted for so long, without rules or official supervision because enjoying the personal interactions really is the essential element, whether its among old timers or visitors for a week.  So, these guidelines are meant to be an overview of how this works.