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How to Sign up to compete in USTA Tournaments

Gonzo Tennis offers several opportunities wherein kids are given the opportunity to compete against other quality players outside of Boulder.  CARA and USTA league tennis are both big draws every year, and now we also offer the Fall Ladder of Champions. I’ll be the first to tell you the importance of competition, and to tell you why our programs are among the best around — But, there’s more out there.  USTA sanctioned tournaments go on all year round, and we want you to know how to explore those opportunities.

Finding Tournaments:

We have several USTA ranked players in our program, and I have recently had more than a few inquiries from parents about how to get their kids started along that same path.  Some of the top questions, and my answers, are as follow:

Q.  Do I need a USTA membership to participate in tournaments?
A.  Yes, you need a USTA number in order to register for tournaments.  There are a variety of membership options.  Go to USTA.com to register.

Q. How stiff is the Competition?
A. What parents are really asking here is obvious, “Will my kid get crushed and embarrassed?” No, your kid will most likely not get crushed.  The USTA divides junior tournaments into three main categories.  They are Novice, Satellite and Open.  If your child is new to competition it would be wise to start by doing a novice tournament and see where he/she stands.  It’s good to win, right?  If your child is better than the competition then simply do a satellite tournament the next time.  There is very little to fear from the competition provided you start slow.

Q. Where are the Tournaments?
A. Tournaments are regional. Our region, here in Colorado, is the Inter-mountain Region.  When finding a tournament you will look for Inter-mountain: Colorado tournaments.  This means that you’ll be given a list of every tournament available in Colorado.  During the summer it’s easy to find tournaments in and around Boulder.  However, in the fall and winter, you may need to travel to Pueblo or Colorado Springs to find them.

Q. How does my child get a ranking?
A. This is one of the great mysteries of the USTA.  The formula the USTA uses to determine ranking points sometimes seems like voodoo.  But, rest assured it’s not. They apply the same formula to everyone equally.  Thus, I wouldn’t worry too much about figuring it out.  Keep competing and keep getting better.  The ranking will come as you naturally find the better competition as your child gets better.  The old saying that cream rises to the top is absolutely true.  If you’re good, you’ll get recognition.

Q. Can my kid play outside his age group?
A. He/she can play up but not down.  We have a 9 year old that plays 14 and under tournaments.  He wouldn’t be able to play 8 and under though.  The age categories are 8 and under, 10 and under, 12 and under, 14 and under, 16 and under, and 18 and under.  Theoretically an 8 year old could play in the 18’s – but it would be highly inadvisable!

Q. When MUST my child move up an age group?
A. He/She can continue, for example, to play 12 and under until their 13th birthday.

Q. Can I sign up online?
A. I thought you’d never ask! Yes.  In fact, it’s quite simple.  Here is the procedure in screen shots:  Click on each screen capture to see the full size.

The first step is to get a USTA membership if you don’t already have one.  Then, there are several ways in which to reach the page with junior tournaments.

Click on Find a Tournament.

Fill in the appropriate fields.  I filled in the areas I would use to find a list of relevant tournaments.  Don’t worry about “Type of Tournament”.  Just go for the divisions,  the proper regional drop down and the month.

Here we find a list of all the tournaments in Colorado with Boys divisions (meaning boys junior divisions by age group) in September.  You’ll see there is a link on almost all of them to register online.

Click “Register Here” if that’s the one you like.

As the date of the tournament gets closer the organizers will update the draw information and any other information you might need.  After the tournament, or even during the tournament, you can continue to check on draws, winners, schedule changes (if any) and so forth.

Q. What should I expect when I arrive at the tournament?
A. Tournaments generally want you to arrive at least 30 minutes before the match.  However, they’re usually flexible on that up until the actual match start time.  Arriving late, even by a few minutes, can result in a forfeiture of a game or two.  When you arrive, there will be someone at the club or park to greet you and to sign you in.  When your child’s name is called he/she (both players) will be instructed on the format and asked if they have any questions then shuffled off to a court.

Things to be aware of in USTA Tennis:
1. Parents are not allowed to coach during the match.  Applause and “Good Points!” are allowed, but no “Move your feet!” and “Attack his backhand!” stuff.  Some tournaments will actually kick you out if they think you’re coaching.

2. Some tournaments are single day affairs.  Be prepared to bring lunch and lots of sun block.  Other tournaments are stretched over several days where one match is held per day.  Thus, if you are driving from Boulder to Pueblo – I’m just sayin’ – ouch!

3. You cannot help your child keep score.  I know it’s painful to watch your kid forget the score and give away free points or even whole games.  But, you have to let it happen. You also cannot argue the validity of a line call.  If your kid messes up the score or gets cheated on points (It happens all the time) just take heart in knowing that in the end it will 9 times out of 10 work out as it should.  Also, be sure to remind your child that if he feels he is being cheated he has the right to go to the tournament organizers and ask for a line judge.   But, you can’t be the line judge.

So, there you have it.  Once you’ve registered for a few tournaments, you’ll find that it’s pretty easy. And, naturally, your first few tournaments might make you a bit nervous.  But, fear not! You’ll get into the swing of it in no time.

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