Mythbusters: Are Tournament Directors Too Disorganized or Do Parents of Tournament Players Expect Too Much?

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In the last issue of Long Island Tennis Magazine, I tackled both sides of some issues in holding a junior tournament. I have been around tournaments for 30-plus years, as a player/coach, and bring my kids to tournaments, I think I’m a pretty good judge of what is acceptable and what is not.

According to my article in the March/April issue of Long Island Tennis Magazine:

Timely posting of tournament draws: Advantage Parents

Enforcing the code of conduct: Advantage Tournament Directors (and a silent majority of parents)

Changing the surface of an event after the deadline: Advantage Parents although by rule it’s actually advantage tournament directors

Tournaments sites that continually run late: Advantage Parents

Lack of on-court monitor: Advantage Parents

Late-entry acceptance: Advantage Tournament Directors

Partiality of court monitors: Advantage Tournament Directors

Many have asked me to discuss other topics in having a good tournament. Here we go!

Tournament Director: Congratulations on winning the tournament … here’s your trophy.
Parents: Really!? What a small trophy!
Of course, the victory is bigger than the size of the trophy, but trophies are a small expense for the director, compared to the happiness a child gets with a big trophy. It’s pretty amazing how $80 extra can substantially increase the size of the standard four trophies distributed. My rule of thumb is $7 per entry for an L1, $6 per entry for an L1B and $5 per entry for an L2. The kids love it and it’s really not that big of an expense. Tournaments would lose money giving big trophies for small draws, but a small trophy for more than eight kids cries out cheap!
Advantage: Parents

Tournament Director: We are sorry, but match time requests cannot be accommodated.
Parents: Why can’t you accommodate my time request? It’s a small draw.
There is often more than meets the eye with scheduling matches. The obvious issue is court availability. Another is that it is the tournament director’s obligation to have opponents play the same amount of matches in one day as often as possible. For example, a child who cannot play Friday night wants to play two matches Saturday instead. It’s not fair to the child’s opponent (who may win) to have to play their second match against an opponent who is playing their first match of the day. It’s also not fair to have a club incur the costs to stay open later than necessary to accommodate a player or to pay for an umpire for only one match. It is also hard to project a child’s first match time before the draw is made due to byes. As an aside, never complain the match times are too late and then ask for a later match time the following tournament at that location. That would mute any further requests ever at that location.
Advantage: Tournament Directors

Tournament Director: I’m sorry if your child was getting cheated on the score or didn’t know a rule. It is their responsibility to get court monitors and players should know the rules.
Parents: There were no umpires around to help my child and he/she was getting taken advantage of. That’s not right.
This is a scenario where everyone should take some responsibility. As a tournament director, I hate hearing that the court monitor wasn’t on top of a controversial court, and I take responsibility for them not being aware. At the same time, as a parent/coach, if my child is forgetting or being cheated on a score or doesn’t know a rule, I tell them it is their job to get a linesman, know the rule and stand up! It is the coach/parent’s job to make sure they are on top of this stuff before they go on the court. There is no excuse however when a child asks for someone to watch the court and nobody is around.
Advantage: Deuce

Tournament Director: Sorry, there are no refunds for pulling out of the tournament after the entry deadline.
Parents: Can I get a refund? The draw hasn’t been made yet and I realize that there is a conflict (or any other reason for pulling out).
The USTA’s no-refund policy has been around forever. It’s not fair to the tournament site to have to go the trouble of cutting a refund check or re-working a draw that may have been made but not posted. It also touches the fact that someone may not want to face another player who signed up at the last minute. If refunds were given after the deadline, a lot more people would pull out. This is an easy one.
Edge: Advantage Tournament Directors

Tournament Director: We have to keep the lessons on the viewable courts. They are on those courts every week.
Parents: It makes no sense to have the tournament on the back courts so that lessons can be viewed from the window.
This doesn’t happen very often, but when it does, the tournament really deserves priority. There is no rule about spectator viewing but it is a courtesy that clubs have historically extended to participants and when it isn’t followed it really stands out. Unfortunately, at one of the tournament sites that I run, the spectators are so close to the court curtains they often get involved and communicate with their player (and sometimes even the opponent) during the match. If there is ever not going to be viewing, it should be posted on the tournament home page before the deadline.
Advantage: Parents

Tournament Director: You can warm up with a coach/parent/other child before your match, but it would be a half-hour court rental.
Parents: I paid my entry fee. Can’t we just jump on an empty court before the match?
It’s completely up to the club which policy they want to implement for warming-up before matches. Some clubs give a 10-15 minute warm-up courtesy which is nice and some don’t. Most clubs will charge a court fee if you want to hit for a half-hour beforehand. It is not part of the entry fee, and if you decide to sneak onto the court (essentially stealing), don’t refuse to pay when the club asks you to.
Advantage: Tournament Directors

Tournament Director: We are sorry, but we will need to penalize you two games for being seven minutes late.
Parents: Can you please give us a break? Our opponent was late last week at a different site and the tournament didn’t penalize any games.
This is a tough spot for a person working the tournament because they really don’t want to penalize the child for being late. Directors also don’t want game penalties determining a match. The problem is when other tournaments make an exception and where another may not. It’s all about consistency implementing this rule. What if you make an exception and the child who was waiting was penalized the week before. I get annoyed when I hear that they made an exception somewhere else. The rules are the rules for a reason, and when they get implemented only part of the time, it’s bad for all the tournaments. A rule some people don’t know is that the clock for lateness starts after the match time passes and a court is available.
Advantage: Tournament Directors