Here's my scenario:
I know a group of 6 to 10 guys that are available to play on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. Each week, I pick three (or one or two) depending on if any of the guys from the last match confirmed he wants to play next match. I hit 'em all with a text message, "who's game for Tuesday at 10am?" and sit and wait for a response. When I get that first "no", I pick another and hit them up, and go on down my list until we have four.
With confirmations in hand, I call the club and reserve the court, then let everybody know we're on. Often I get this accomplished with just one or two texts to the guys. But, not always. Sometimes I go down my entire list and not get four guys, then I resort to text-bombing them all for suggestions for a new guy and sometimes get lucky and pick up another to make the fourth.
Sometimes, I scramble at the last minute when one of the guys pulls out at last minute with illness or injury and send out a text blast to everyone I can think of, "last minute sub needed urgently! first come, first serve" -- That usually gets the hole plugged as the guys know when I send that one out, I need a warm body.
In the mix of this, a couple of guys don't do texting -- emails only. So I often forget about them when reaching out. That's a shame because they're fun to play and get invited out to the courts less often as a result of my laziness.
But, you know what? That's a lot of work to do twice a week every week. Can this be improved at all? I say emphatically, "YES!"
Imagine this scenario:
I am signed up on a website where I have all my pals in my contact book -- both email and mobile phones. There's a robot on this site that can take action on my behalf. Let's call this robot my tennis assistant or TA for short.
I can set up a schedule with two repeating events, one on Tuesday at 10am, the other on Thursday at 9am.
I can set the location to my club's courts.
I can set up a pool of players that want to play on each day from the guys in my contact book.
Now, with that, I tell TA, email or text the guys (per their preference!) with the message, "Do you want to play doubles at 10AM Tuesday? Reply Yes or No" and let me know when we have four to play.
Sometimes I'm out of town and can't play, but I still facilitate getting the guys together for a match. So I get the message, too and reply "yes" or "no" to indicate my own participation. TA knows whether to track down three guys or four based on my reply.
As soon as four are confirmed, TA emails or texts the club: "please make a reservation on the clay courts for Michael, member #5322123 for 10AM. The players playing are John Doe, James Smith, and Tony Bambino. please reply with our assigned court. Thanks!"
TA has the smarts for some simple natural language processing, so can figure out the court number we're on or if the club replies indicating no courts available, alert me directly so I can call. With a court reservation confirms, TA goes on to compose and send an individualized message to the four of us -- mine reads like this: "You're confirmed scheduled to play on court #10 with John D., James S. and Tony B. -- TA"
If for some reason, TA can't figure out court or there's no reply from the club desk, I get a message to bug the club myself and then I tell TA, "we have court #12" TA then tells everybody.
Now suppose, Tony can't play. He simply texts TA (just finds the incoming text confirming the match and replies) with "Something came up and I can't play. Can you find somebody else?" TA immediately springs to action pinging the next person in pool of players for Tuesday. TA gives each person an hour or two to respond, and if no response, sends invite out to another player. This goes on until the list is exhausted or somebody confirms. TA then tells any non-responders, "I found a fourth. Maybe next time?" Meanwhile, TA turns around and emails the four of us, "Game still on, but Tony's out and Eric's in. See you on court #12 at 10AM"
The cool thing? I wasn't interrupted by Tony's last minute pull out. TA found someone else without any action from me. TA's smart like that. Even more amazing, my twice-weekly effort to get a doubles game up on Tuesday and Thursday is reduced to replying "yes" or "no" to TA's incoming invite and the guys can go on playing even when I go out of town.
Here comes the fun part. If the pool of players is exhausted, TA can send a message to everyone in the pool, "hey, we've asked everybody and only have three. Michael, John, and Eric needs one more player. Can anyone play? If you can't play, can you suggest someone? Just reply with "yes" or name, and number or forward this message to someone who might be interested."
So let's say Tony forwards this to his friend Sam and Sam then replies, "yes" Now we have a fourth and a new guy in the pool. When I see him Tuesday, I can ask him after we play, "do you want to come back?" (if we like him, of course). If he says yes, I mark him in my contact book as someone to invite again. I tell him about Thursday just in case he likes to play then, too.
I also like to rotate the line up around a bit to keep it fresh. TA knows me all too well, and shuffles the weekly invites for me automatically so different people get a chance to play.
I don't know about you, but TA just totally rocks. This is the idea that motivated me enough to even set up this website.
What do you think?