Tennis Tournament Competition for Juniors

Tennis tournament competition can help junior players develop to a higher level. Once a student has a good technical foundation and tactical understanding, it is good to “test out” his or her skills under match pressure.

Tournament play is the last stage of the muscle memory development. We want to know if a player can hit the same shots in a match that he hits in practice. The only way to find out is to try it out in the competition. If the player succeeds in “doing it right” (looking for forehands, taking the ball early, and moving forward), then he has developed some positive habits. If not, then it’s back to the practice court to try again.

The first step of junior competition in Georgia and the Southern section is “Level 5” tournaments. This is an entry level for beginning players. They just need to know how to hit the serve in the box and keep score. Level 4 is for the more experienced tournament player looking to move up in the state ranking. Levels 3 and 2 are sectional tournaments and Level 1 is nationals.

When I started with Rina and Ken in August 2008, they were just transitioning from Level 5 tournaments to Level 4. They were ranked 187 and 116 respectively in Georgia. By August 2009, they had played around 20 tournaments (almost two per month). Most of these were Level 4 and three of the tournaments were Level 3. They also played up an age group in three tournaments.

Ken played up in the boys 12s because he had already won at least one Level 4 in a 10 and under event. Rina played up in the girls 14s for the same reason. They played their age group for Level 3s. They played Level 4s to gain a ranking in the higher age group and to keep their lower age group ranking moving up.

After one year, Rina is number 37 in Georgia, so she moved up 150 spots in the time that I’ve coached her. She has one more year in the 12 and under age group, so her ranking will continue to move up toward the top 10. Ken went from 116 to 15 in the same twelve-month period, so he moved over 100 spots. He moves to the 12 and under in January, so he’s beginning to focus on the older age group competition.

The kids love to watch their state and sectional rankings. Seeing their results gives them an incentive to play more. And they love the trophies! My job as the coach is to celebrate the results with them, but also to help them keep their minds focused on “doing it right” in practice and in their matches.

We keep the big picture and long-term perspective in mind, i.e., succeeding at the higher levels by training to play like the top players. They may lose a match or two now because they’re pushing the limits of their game, but it’ll pay off in the long run. In other words, they don’t push the ball back with no purpose just to get a win. Tennis tournament competition can be fun and rewarding. The life lessons gained from the heat of the battle can be invaluable.

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