German Club Team Tennis & Little More

I met a player from Germany, Wolfgang Jaeger (means hunter) on the FL SSGP, and after telling him I was interested in playing for a team, he hooked me up with his team from Pforzheim.  So I arrived in Germany in late April, 2010 to play tennis for a German tennis club team and for two days the weather was wonderful.  .  Then it seemed that Mother Nature was angered, and decided to make it cold and rainy for the next month.  Ironically, there was a tournament in Ottesweier in the third week of May (religious holiday), and for three days the weather was perfect.  But then it started raining again.  The good news it usually stops for at least a few hours a day to sneak in some tennis.

So I’m picking up a few words here and there of German with occasional verb thrown in, but they have some curveballs.  First is w’s are pronounced like v’s and v’s are pronounced like f’s.  Don’t see many f’s.    Then they like to put the verbs at the end of the sentence and scramble things up.  Can I  help you find something?  They say “Can I me you something to help?”    I stick to short sentences.

Transportation – fortunately one of the team members, Jurgen, the Burgermeister (mayor of a city), loaned me his bicycle to go from a little garden house I’m staying in to the tennis club and back.  It’s about a 20 minute ride, and the only hiccup is a couple of hills that I can’t quite make; so I walk up those.  My legs are getting stronger; maybe before I leave I can make it up the hill.  To go into town, I lock up the bike and take the bus #5 to the Bahnhof where I can get a International Herald Tribune in English for only 3 Euro ($4).  Expensive news, but it is a great newspaper and very little advertising.   Finally, I get rides mostly with Wolfgang and Jurgen.  When we go on trips to some of the matches, it’s time to test out the speedometer.  On the autobahn (main highways) there is no speed limit so the driver decides.  Often we go between 90 and 100, and I’m not always sure I want to be in the front seat.  The good news is that the driving test for Germany is very strict, and they have no bozos driving slow in the left lane like the US.  If you are not going at least 90, get over to the middle lane.  This only works if you have three lanes which all autobahns do, and most of the time the roads are quite good.   Price of driving – $8 per gallon so I guess it’s good that they can have a little fun while driving. 

Ottesweier Tournament – it was a fairly long stay of six weeks extended by playing in the Ottesweier tournament.  Since I am the coordinator of the Florida Super Senior Circuit I was curious how a tournament was run in Germany.  Except for the doubles it was a great event.  I couldn’t understand why not many signed up to play doubles; to start with the tournament combined divisions to make it at least eight teams.  Then I realized why when I saw that we played two singles per day.  On the good side the tournament had lots of sponsors, banners and festive atmosphere that made you feel you were playing in a big tournament.  Because it is held during the Finksten (religious) Holiday and it is a tradition tournament, a good number of people came out to watch the final matches.   I played Jorge Camina from Spain who was #2 in the World at the time (currently #1) and had been beaten badly by him the previous year in the German Club Team finals.   My thought was I better do something different or it would be a quick final.  Amazingly my strategy of playing his forehand worked and with a little luck I won the match.  It is the first of five matches I played against Camina that summer finishing with the World Championships in Turkey.   They were all dogfights, but I somehow managed to win four of the five including the World Championships.  He is a very tough competitor. 

Back to Ottesweier, they had two nice offerings:  one, the daily lunch cooked in the back kitchen with a few daily specials.  There were two large areas with shade so it was a great place to hang out.  Naturally, they had great Kuchen (cake) as well.   You could get beer or wine with lunch, but it was later (not much) say 2pm that the beer wagon, second offering, opened up.  This was an amazing trailer than turned into a nice beer stand (taps, refrigeration, and all) see picture.

Friendly Beer Wagon

   As the day went on players and fans would congregate around the beer wagon.   German beer is very good, and they serve it cold; very refreshing after a tough match.  Last item, a little odd, was the prize money.  On the FL SSGP we offer prize money based on number of entrants per divisions; thus larger draws have more.   I am encouraged the day before the finals when Clem Hopp, top 80’s player from the US, gets his prize money – 150 Euros plus 50 Euro silver bar.  His draw was 7 players and mine 60.   My prize money – 150 Euros plus silver bar –  but I’m grateful for any PM, and they did give me hospitality for the week.

That summer I went back to Germany two more times one for the European Team Championships and one for German Team Championships.  My team TC Wolfsburg from Pforzheim (close to Stuttgart) came in 2nd in the European Team Champs, and 1st in the German Team Championships.  It was a good summer for TC Wolfsburg and me.

German Team Tennis Continued – 2011

2011 is my third year coming to Germany to play team tennis ( I kind of forget 2009 although we did win both the European and German Team Championships for the first time in many years for the club).   I arrive the 11 of May, and to my surprise the weather is nice and warm.  The Garden House is occupied so I stay in the Hassenmeyer Hotel for a few weeks.  The breakfasts are great, but room is a little small and bed even smaller.  It is normal in Germany that they provide all kinds of food for breakfast starting with eggs, cereal, then cold cuts and items (pickles, tomatoes, cheese, etc.) we normally have for lunch.  So what the heck on match days you take a sandwich or two with you.  So what is a match day like?  In the US you play a league match maybe 10 am on Saturday consisting of some doubles and a few beers and snacks afterward.  Then you can go play golf or watch the kids play a soccer match.   In Germany it is an all day program.  You go to the courts about 11:30 or so and have a warm up with team members.  Sometimes you have to warm up two or three players at different times, but part of the team effort.  They only use 3 courts so that several teams can play at one time; so #2,4,6 play first and #1,3,5 second.  I’m playing #1 so I have time for a sandwich from the Hassenmeyer, and watch the #2 play his match.  The good news is they play a Match TB for the third set; otherwise it might be a two day match.  So first match on at 1pm and then if lucky I start around 2:30.  Finish at 4pm and time for shower, Kuchen and coffee.  At approx 5pm time for doubles.  Finish 7pm and shower (make sure to bring towel & soap with you), and finally, time for dinner.   But don’t expect dinner for awhile, because first a little Weissen beer (beer with wheat) and conversation.  Maybe about 8pm dinner begins, provided by host club and usually pretty good.  At 9pm the two captains make speeches which I never understand, but they usually say thanks to the American for playing.  Last match, we had a one and half hour drive back; so long day.  In the US only in golf does this happen on member/guest weekend.

Things they do different and maybe better

Solar – Germany has made amazing progress in promoting solar.  They have solar panels on it seems 25% of the houses and 50% of the business buildings.  The club we play at in Singen has an Indoor building which is completely covered with solar.   The club director explains that the government is able to offer 6 to 7% return on your investment if you put in solar.  A friend of his is looking for a place to put solar, and bingo, why not the Indoor Tennis building?   He spends $500,000 helping repair the roof and install the solar.  In 25 years the club gets the solar and energy that goes with it.  Good deal for all; why don’t we do this in the US?   I live in Florida where we have sun everyday, but almost no solar. 

Solar Roof

It seems we prefer Nuclear & Coal over solar.  One other thing since rebuilding after WW II they have put all electrical lines below ground.  So much nicer not seeing all the wires, and they don’t have to cut the trees to have more wires.  For those towns that are destroyed by tornadoes they should put the wires underground when rebuilding.

Home items – on the electrical theme they only have 220, which seems like overkill, but for safety they build their wall sockets so that the plug must fit inside the socket.  This way no worries about kids putting their hands in the sockets.   Amazingly I was about to by a 220 plug for my Acer laptop and it works.  Also in many hotels when you put your plastic room key in a wall spot after entering the lights will work.  So when you leave and remove the room card the lights go off and you know where your card is.  We haven’t figured this out yet in the US.  Toilets – I have a fascination with toilets in that they always seem different around the world.  Being on the ball like in Australia they have the two flush system 1 liter for #1 and 3 liters for #2.  We don’t have this much either.  Interesting they have signs for WC around and it doesn’t seem to fit (it’s an British term).  It means Water Closet; sounds like a great place to go to the bathroom.  Next on the ball they have great recycling and not much litter as a result.  Unfortunately they do have some MacDonalds which always produce lots of roadside trash.  Here’s one last one in the Supermarkets, if get a cart you have to put in a 1 Euro coin.  Naturally, you get it back upon returning the cart.  So instead of having carts all over the parking lot like we do; they are all neatly put away by the shoppers themselves.  I know this would give some workers less to do, but isn’t there something better they could be doing?   Does it seem we are a little behind?

Don’t get me wrong, I love the good old USA, but I think with a little effort we could do better on conserving.   Tennis is also great, it has given me the opportunity to see the world and make a lot of new friends.