How To Get Your Junior Started Playing USTA Sanctioned Tournaments
I can't tell you how many times I have had an adult come up to me after watching the juniors in our academy train and say "Man! I wish that I played like that when I was their age". Jokingly I normally say something like..."Yeah, me too". This is normally done by adults who probably didn't train in an academy style at early ages as our juniors are.
Offering a well rounded group of programming which emulate what they would be getting in a grand academy, tournaments is a very important piece of the development puzzle.
Why I Require Our Students To Play Tournaments
Tournament results let me as a coach know how each player is doing. It also gives me a better understanding of whether or not what I am teaching them is relevant. Training juniors to compete against a variety of play styles, conditions and situations is extremely complicated and demanding. Getting direct feedback from our juniors based on how they played the previous weekend is extremely important to our clinics and helps me to improve them.
Getting juniors involved into playing USTA Tournaments is in my opinion the most important step in their development. For the juniors in Gripspin Tennis Academy, it is a requirement in order to be involved and here is why.
It is the best and sometimes only way to get feedback on how a junior is developing
It gives juniors a sense of purpose and direction
It improves their focus while in training
It gives them a community among themselves and in the broader community through a ranking system
Combine with Junior Team Tennis, it is the BEST way to prepare them for high school tennis
Gives each player a ranking which ranks them both in our state/section and nationally
Each official match that they play goes towards their UTR
It is still the best pathway to use when aiming to play college tennis
Getting higher rankings offer benefits like USTA Training Camps, Sponsorships, Discounts and more.
It gives me direct feedback on how they are taking the academy lessons and how I can help them improve by adjusting my lesson plans.
The list could go on longer, but I am sure that you get the idea. Having juniors playing tournaments at an early age is extremely crucial to their over all development and progress.
It is important to note that tournaments are not the only way to determine a tennis players overall ability. There are other avenues to success as a player such as high school and middle school tennis and Junior Team Tennis or any other team based or group based system of matches. The difference with USTA Sanctioned tournaments and it's ranking systems are the best ways to find tennis players who have potential to play at the upper levels.
Most industry professionals tend to agree on a general age of about 10 or 11. Finding a balance to how many tournaments to play somewhere between 6 and 18.
JUNIORS WHO'S MAIN FOCUS IS TENNIS
Juniors looking to play tennis at the higher levels (Division 1 or pro level tournaments) should play a minimum of 12 tournaments a year. Most of these tournaments should be National, UTR and Sectional Championship tournaments. This will keep them focused and playing kids at higher levels and keep them from burning out. The issue with this is making sure that they have proper mental training in dealing with losses, post and pre tournament planning and a yearly ranking/UTR goal in mind.
JUNIORS WHO'S GOALS ARE TO EXCEL IN MULTIPLE SPORTS AND ACADEMICS
Juniors looking to play tennis at a slightly lower level and who have other sports and or academics which take precedence should play a minimum of 6 tournaments a year. Here the kids should focus more on lower level to medium level tournaments. Since their ambition may be slightly lower than the previously mentioned juniors, they will need to keep from playing too far outside their level. Recommended tournaments for this level is Challenger, UTRs, NTRP Round Robins and some Opens.
WHEN TO START
Most if not all junior players should start playing yellow ball 12U tournaments around the age of 10 1/2. Before starting players should have gone through USTA's Youth Progression System. Following this link will get you to more information on the program and webinars set up by our section to help parents understand the system. As a former USTA Early Development Camp Instructor, I highly recommend ages 6-10 start there, regardless of their skill level (beginner welcome).
I would like to also say that it is ultimately up to the parents and the players to decide on how often that they want to play tournaments. For the parents it is a huge commitment. Traveling and spending an entire weekend in some cases can be a bit much for a busy family. Not to mention the added cost to an already expensive sport. It can also take a toll on the parents and the kids if done too often, which may even include injury. Which is why we have developed an Injury Prevention Program with the Bay Club's fitness center. Being a tennis player does require commitment from both player and parent and it is up to you to find the balance that works.
HOW TO GET STARTED PLAYING TOURNAMENTS
Registering For A USTA Membership
Go to USTA Membership Registration Page and register for the junior membership.
Registering For A Tournament
Go to TennisLink's Tournament page and type in your zip code
Enter Zip Code and Select "Junior Sanctioned"
Search For Tournament Level And Choose A Tournament
TOURNAMENT LEVELS IN NORTHERN CALIFORNIA
Challenger-Beginner to Intermediate Level
NTRP Round Robins-Beginner to Intermediate Level Round Robin
UTR Round Robins-Intermediate to advanced level. Selection based on UTR rating highest to lowest.
Opens-Intermediate To Advanced Level
Championships-Advanced Level. Selection based on sectional rankings
Super Series-Advanced Level. Selection based on sectional rankings
Excellence-Advanced Level. Entry level National
Sectionals Championships-Highest Tier for advanced and National Players. Selection based on ranking and rating
Year End Masters-Top Junior of Section. Selection based on rankings
*Top two (Challenger and NTRP are entry level tournaments.
Select Tournament Based On Level And Date
Click The Title Link To Go To The Tournament's Registration Page
Review The Page Before Registering
Review The "Important Info" Section
Click The Registration Button And Follow The Prompts
Enter Your Child's USTA Number
Select Your Child's Age Division and Whether Or Not They Will Play Singles And Doubles
Proceed To Checkout And Confirm Payment
Congrats! You are now registered.
Be sure and bookmark the tournament page so that you can go back to it to check the draw(Schedule of matches) to see what time your child will play. The draw is normally released on the Wednesday before the start of the tournament. Normally sometime in the afternoon. Be sure and check the page regularly to see if there are any changes.
Here is what it may look like
Select Draw Tab and Choose The Event That Your Child Is Registered For (Ex. Boys 12s)
Search For Your Child's Name and Match Time
Times and Location Are Usually Located Here
And that is all.
There are subtle things that you will need to learn the more that you do these tournaments, but this guide should give you a great start.
Don't forget that you can always speak with me and I can help you with this process if you are getting confused.
See you on court!