Junior Tournaments: Playing for Time
To serve up successful junior tournaments, you need to make them fun for players, parents and officials.
By Holly Chomyn
As we all work to get more young players involved in tennis, we need to consider what happens when children transition to playing entry-level tournaments or district ranking events. We will undoubtedly lose some players because they want to play for fun, and not for competition. But too often, juniors quit because of bad experiences playing tournaments. To keep juniors competing, we need to make tournaments enjoyable for them, their parents and tournament directors.
I recently conducted an informal survey and asked junior players, parents and tournament directors what they felt was important at an event. Among the findings: Young players want matches to start on time, want court monitors to ensure fair play, want practice and warm-up courts, want to play others at their same level and want to play consolation matches.
Parents also want matches to start on time, frequent communication about start times and schedule changes, a tournament director who enforces the rules for fair play, court monitors and consolation matches.
Tournament directors, as well, want matches to start on time, court monitors, an adequate number of courts and to minimize parental interference.
All three groups listed matches starting on time as an important factor. Hank Hughes, director of tennis at Mount Lebanon Tennis Center in Pittsburgh and tournament director for more than 120 events (from children through the pros) says he uses no-ad scoring with a 10-point tie-breaker for the third set (up to the semifinals) to keep things on schedule.
Court monitors are also important to all three groups. Hughes uses three court monitors, who help with scoring, line calls, rulings and tie-breakers. The monitors are very helpful with young players, who are still learning the rules and don’t want to be intimidated by more experienced players — and they’re also helpful when parents need to be educated on tournament etiquette.
In addition, Hughes offered these tips for running a smooth, enjoyable tournament:
- Warmly welcome each player as they check in. For new players, a sincere welcome can decrease their anxiety.
- Explain the scoring and rules to each player before they go on court.
- Post the draw with estimated start times for future rounds so players and parents can plan ahead.
- Have a backboard area and practice court so players can hit before playing.
- Have a TV monitor that lists players, their court number, running time of the match and the next match to be called. (This also helps keep the tournament information desk clear for check-ins and score reporting.)
- Have scoring cards or devices on each court, plainly viewable to spectators.
- Sweep clay courts after every match.
- Have playoff matches for third and fourth places.
- Award trophies, including a Sportsmanship Award.
By making entry-level and district tournaments more enjoyable and meaningful, we’ll keep more players in competition events, while making sure running one is pleasant and profitable.
Holly Chomyn is a USPTA Master Pro and a High Performance Coach with the USTA. She is currently teaching in southwest Florida.
See all articles by Holly Chomyn
About the Author
Holly Chomyn is a Master Professional with the USPTA, the highest professional rating in the organization. She has coached USTA and ALTA teams, USTA Junior Zonal teams and been a USTA High Performance coach. She also has coached the men's and women's teams at the University of Delaware for 12 years.
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