To put it bluntly, I basically sucked. My friends who were much better tried patiently to instruct me in how to "attack" the ball, how to hold my arm and elbow, all that stuff. But most of the time was spent retrieving balls that flew out over the fences or into the net. It was no fun for anyone and I soon abandoned any thoughts of having fun at that game.
Later on I realized it might have made more sense to play with someone at my level. We may have spent the same amount of time searching for tennis balls in the underbrush outside the court but I'll bet the tension level would have been lower.
Fortunately, playing the guitar with others doesn't need to be stressful, no matter the level of experience of either player. This assumes a certain amount of patience on the part of the better player of course, but ultimately both parties benefit. Here's what I mean.
We can spend hours and days and weeks practicing on our own and while we may see some improvement, true musical accomplishment must be measured in terms of how our playing matches and responds to what others are playing. It's called making music. Not just playing music.
What has to be avoided at all costs is allowing that devil called ego to enter the room. I confess that in my (much!) younger days I fell into that trap. I think most young male guitar players are guilty of this. Am I "better" than that other guitarist? I think I am! Listen to this! (fanciest lick in repertoire follows)
That attitude serves no purpose whatsoever. All it does is make one party feel bad about his playing, and proves nothing about the supposedly better player because it's an ironclad guarantee that there will be someone much "better" to deflate Mr. Guitar Hero at some point in time.
Some of the most pleasurable playing experiences I've ever had involved playing with less experienced musicians. One of my dearest friends is a totally self-taught mandolin player and I treasure the infrequent sessions we have. To watch and hear him discover some nuance or musical idea because he can depend on my holding things together melodically and rhythmically is almost more gratifying than making those kinds of discoveries myself.
On the other end of the spectrum, if I'm fortunate enough to play with a guitarist who is much more knowledgeable than I am about a certain style I know the experience will have long term benefits and inspire me to tackle musical ideas that seemed out of reach.
Playing with someone of more or less the same level of experience and ability has great benefits too. Both players can stretch out and when one has an exciting idea it can easily be conveyed to the other.
I think the reason playing tennis and playing guitar with others are so different is that the essence of one is competitive and the other is cooperative. Maybe I should have been more competitive, I don't know.... But I do know that being cooperative helps BOTH participants, no matter what their level of experience.
Peace & good music,