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Tuesday, October 4, 2016

When to use Time-Outs

Tournament play normally brings several issues into play that don't arise in recreational play. One of these issues is the choice of taking the side or the first serve, as discussed in my post Side or Serve?. Another issue is the use of time-outs. Tournament directors will establish time-out rules - typically something like 2 time-outs per game for one minute each.

My experience has been that time-outs are rarely used. That is likely due to their non-existence in recreational play or practice. Another reason might be that the players want to save them with the expectation that they will be used when a rest is needed. The reality is that rest breaks are normally unneeded in doubles play. Instead, time-outs are used by top players for strategic purposes. This is the topic of Sarah Ansboury's video Quick tip about time outs!.

Mark Renneson supports one of Sarah's points in another quick tip called How to Stop a Slide.

We've all been there. You're playing a close game and the next time you look up, you're WAY behind. You've become the victim of "a run". Your opponents have knocked out several points in a row and you're sliding downhill -- fast! Here are three things you can do to stop a slide.
1. Stop Play. You need to disrupt their rhythm. You need to regroup. You need to figure things out. If you're playing a competitive match, this is a good time to call a time out. If this is rec play and timeouts aren't allowed, perhaps this is a good time to re-tie your shoelaces or deal with something in your eye.

2. Identify the Problem. Why has this run happened? Is it because your opponents are playing great or because you are making mistakes? How have the last few points ended: their winning shots or your losing ones?

3. Move Forward. Based on what the problem is, you need to refine your plan. If the other team is on fire, it is time to mix up the tactics (e.g. pick on a different person, use drives instead of drops, change the person you return to, etc.). If your errors are the issue, get more focussed and be less risky! 

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