Could This Work for Juniors?

boxI know y’all are sick and tired of hearing about my travels, but this past weekend I had the opportunity to attend a really unique college tournament at the University of Minnesota, and it got me thinking. . .

Here’s how the tournament worked: Colleges entered pairs of players who were selected into a round-robin draw based on UTR. After a 5-minute warmup, each pair played one set of doubles against an opposing pair immediately followed by (aka no additional warmup) a regular singles match with the top-rated players in each pair competing against one another and the next-rated players competing against one another. They used no-ad scoring, played let serves, and played a 10-point tiebreaker for the 3rd set. The doubles and each singles match counted as one point, and the team winning 2 out of the 3 points moved on in the draw.

On the first day (Friday), the teams played 2 full rounds – 2 doubles matches and 2 singles matches for each player. On Saturday, they again played 2 full rounds. On Sunday, they played 1 full round, giving each player a total of 5 doubles and 5 singles matches over the course of the 3 days.img_7924

Wouldn’t this be a great format for junior tournaments as well? It would give juniors a chance to work on their doubles skills since they would be playing multiple doubles matches during the tournament regardless of outcome. It would also give them a chance to get in some quality singles as well. What if we use this format for future iterations of #TheSol? Would you and your junior player(s) be interested?

I would love to hear any feedback on the format and its use in the juniors. In my mind, it is a great way to run a junior tournament – you get players entering as a pair, so they have their partner there cheering them on throughout the event. All of the matches count equally toward UTR, so you’re less likely to have players pulling out if they lose their first or second match. Juniors can work on a variety of doubles skills and strategies since they’ll have multiple matches with the same partner regardless of the outcome. What am I missing? Please share your thoughts in the Comments below.



 

15 Comments on “Could This Work for Juniors?”

  1. The way I see it one of the key problems we have is all USTA tournaments are like a professional tournament, with a back draw. The key issue we have is that tennis is simply cost prohibitive so a way to make it more accessible is to have the kids play more so they learn more. We as parents have to play $50 tournament for match play and blowing our weekend time just doing tennis, well most families have more than one kid and they all dont like tennis. So we have fewer and fewer players. What we all need first is not a US world champion which everyone seems to pursue with 20 years of no luck, yes 20 years, we need fans, so more kids play, so parks are full, so competitions are great and so the sport grows. So, I am all for more playing time

  2. As an additional format, I love it. As a replacement for traditional scoring, I don’t.

    It’s a great way to make the experience more enjoyable, and to accelerate the matches so there is less wear and tear on the players. I am also a big proponent of the skills developed in doubles. All good stuff.

    Where I diverge is in allowing this to migrate throughout tennis competition. There will certainly be people who will gravitate to this format, but I find Ad-points exciting, and value fitness as a weapon in tennis.

    No-ad in singles takes the thrill out of saving/winning games when down the ad. This is akin to making a tiebreak, first to win 1 point. No-ad removes the opportunity for an exciting momentum shift. Haven’t we watched matches where one long deuce/ad game creates a level of excitement not found in the rest of the match – except maybe the wining point? I vividly remember watching my player fighting through multiple ad points and my heart-rate would climb well above its norm for the rest of the match. Plus, the player can gain immense confidence from winning one of those games. To make them all no-ad creates a homogenizing of the games so each carries almost the same weight.

    Now couple no-ad with 10-pt tiebreak instead of a 3rd set, and why bother running in training anymore? I win a lot of my matches in three sets, because I work harder at fitness than my opponents, and can still play hard, deep in the third. Many juniors do the same, but it they don’t need to be as fit to last through the match, they won’t bother.

    I have heard many commentators say that the single thing that almost all players transitioning from junior, college, or lower level pro ranks, up to the ATP/WTA can do to immediately improve their win ratio, is to improve their fitness. The level of fitness required to compete in the ATP/WTA today is light years beyond what it was 10 years ago, so lowering the necessity of fitness in the junior ranks will cause difficulty later if the players want to advance. Even playing ITF will be an unpleasant wake-up.

    So, bottom line for me, is that I think it’s a great thing to add to the tournament schedule, as long is its just supplementary.

    1. Lin, I’m not a fan of no-ad scoring either and certainly have no issue with ditching that aspect of this format!

      One thing, though, that I just want to throw out there is that for the overwhelming majority of juniors, college tennis will be the end of the line for them in terms of the high-level competition aspect of the game. So, in light of the recent article on the percentage of scholarship dollars going to non-US players (http://parentingaces.com/abuse-of-american-generosity/), maybe we need to give more thought to how to best prepare our juniors for the college game in order to make them more appealing to the college coaches out there recruiting players and doling out scholarship money. The team approach and importance of doubles in this format might be one way to do just that.

  3. Lisa, I hope sometime you will do an article on how colleges/ITA are using UTR. Obviously UTR was used for seeding in this tournament-sounds like a fun format. When players won, did they just move up to a higher level within their draw or were the winners of Maroon flight able to play the winners of the Gold Flight? Grouping players in draws or groups of 4 by UTR probably kept the matches closer and more fun.

    One impact of UTR I saw in some of the Regionals was that untested freshmen got in the main draw of the Regional or were even seeded over some guys who may have played 1S/2S at mid majors. Most Regionals were 128 draw so any player had a chance to go deep if they kept winning. However some Regionals had 64 draw Qualifier and then 64 MD; some colleges at those Regionals did not have a single player starting in MD. Using UTR for selection to Q vs main draw favors the Power schools; it seems like the 1S/2S of the MMs should get in over the 7th player from a Power school. To some degree, a player’s UTR is based on opportunity; to move up, a player needs to beat or have competitive matches with higher ranked players. For the top players in weaker conferences, playing regionals and/or non conference matches is their chance to prove themselves against higher ranked competition; however UTR based selection could deprive them of their chance. If a player comes out of the juniors as a 12-13 UTR but attends either a MM with a weak schedule, sits on the bench during the dual season at a Power school, or plays C draw at fall invitational, the player’s UTR will go down even if the player wins all his matches.A player may try some Future Qualifying tourneys, but the range of players is from UTR 8.5 to UTR 14 in a Futures Q draw. Ironically, now the unlucky draw is the one when players get weak opponents in the early rounds because they replace wins vs higher UTR opponents a few months back with wins vs weaker opponents.

    If players know their selection or placement at fall invitationals will be based on UTR, hopefully they will put some thought into their selection of summer tournaments. Conversely, a negative impact is that players who played for ranked college teams might see their ranking go down in the summer since there is such a wide range at Futures and Opens. For a power conference for each line, the UTRs of players are very close between players in their conference-probably only a variation of .5-1.0. A player might actually hurt their chances of being seeded in fall tourneys by playing in the summer at opens where he/she does not know the level of opponents he/she will face. There is an opportunity cost to playing tournaments with UTR-there are bad wins-a 0,0 win vs a 8.5 can never make up for the win vs a 13 that is dropping off one’s rating. There were even 8s at the US Open National regional playoffs. With most other systems, there are no bad wins.I wish UTR could be tweaked so that it keeps more matches, e.g. 6 months or it keeps a player’s best wins. Let’s say a player had a 18-12 college and summer record-the system keeps the last 12 losses, but then takes the 18 best wins over the last 6 months so those 8-11s wins in recent early rounds dont replace 13+ wins. Maybe in the future, Opens should have minimum UTR for entry. I also wonder how it will affect team morale if the senior midmajor 1S sees the new freshmen seeded ahead of him in the fall tourneys. Before UTR, if a coach could send 4 guys to a tourney and was given some main and Q draw slots, he could say put my senior/1S in the main draw; with UTR it is an automatic selection looking at one factor-a factor with faulty correlation between junior and college ranks. By the end of spring, rankings/ratings will settle out. Many people think juniors are overrated at least .5 compared to college players.

    The way UTR currently works, there is an incentive for players (even college ones) to play national juniors as long as possible due to the narrow and somewhat overrated UTR range; e.g. at a Nat 1 or 2, there are a handful of 11.5s but most players are 12-13.5+ – a narrower range than Future Q draws or ITA summer circuit. Should we advise our 17 and 18 year old college freshmen to play junior nationals over the holidays to keep up their UTR? Shouldnt be that way.

    1. I think we need to get away from focusing so much on how to develop better ratings and rankings and focus instead on how to develop better players. It’s not about playing specific tournaments in order to get a higher UTR. It’s about playing the events that will help the player grow his/her skills technically, tactically, mentally, and otherwise.

  4. Yes but without the right ranking, players may not get in the tournaments that allow them to develop and improve technically, strategically, and mentally. Players improve from training and practicing with coach and teammates and also by playing higher level players in competition. For example, there is a recent grad who is playing Future Qs that played high in the lineup for a midmajor in a weak conference. Now that he has some Future Q wins (though no main draw yet), the player’s UTR has improved. However, when he was in college, his most competitive matches were at fall regional or invitationals or at nonconference spring matches. In spite of a high win ratio within conference, his UTR would go down in the spring unless he played a lot of non conference matches. There are 1S/2S players-the top of the lineup for their midmajor teams-that did not get to play in the main draw of the Midwest Regional due to UTR; 8 out of 64 got to move on to main draw if they won 3 matches but I am sure there were 1S playing 1S in some of those Q matches.There were freshmen who got in the main draw just on UTR.

    If selection to the main draw of some major ITA tournaments is going to be based on UTR, then players who do not attend Power/ranked schools or players who dont make the lineup at those schools better figure out how to raise up their UTR in the summer so they can get in challenging matches in the fall Regionals and invitationals. If you look at the UTRs of players at Kzoo and then follow up with their UTR the following spring, many have dropped 1.0 unless they were a starter on a Power team. Part of the adjustment is legit as they were overranked, but part of it is limited opportunity; to stay a 12, 12.5 or 13+, a player has to play against players at the level and win or at least be competitive.

    The easiest solution for development of course would be for players to play for colleges where they fit toward the bottom or the middle of the lineup or conference as far as UTR; they would have challenging practices and competitive matches. However there is little or no athletic scholarship $ at that levels for the bottom or middle of the lineup so more 4 and even 5 stars are playing for midmajors. Players in that situation will have to be smart in their offseason tournament choices to ensure they have the UTR to get in the better draws at fall ITA tourneys.

    1. It depends on the school as far as the available scholarship money goes. And, again, what’s the goal here? Is it to finish college with a high UTR or is it to become the best tennis player you can be? The great thing about UTR as opposed to PPR is that it rewards effort and competitive spirit by including a piece in its algorithm that rewards the player for every game won in a match regardless of the outcome. We parents need to shift our mindset away from ratings and rankings and focus more on making sure our players are progressing every day. One of the cool things to see during last weekend’s tournament was the progression of the players, especially in doubles, over the course of the 3 days. They had the chance to try different strategies and tactics and figure out what worked and what didn’t as they moved around the draw. As one college coach said to me, “The Fall season is simply a classroom, a chance to learn and improve before the dual match season in the spring.”

  5. I like the format! As a D1 coach that was completely against No Ad a few years ago I think it is great for the college game now. More exciting and more fans watching. College coaches still condition their players now as much as they did before No Ad came so they are in great shape. Playing this format at least a bit in juniors will help the juniors adjust to the college game quicker. Playing more doubles will help them develop more skills and maybe junior coaches will start teaching their students how to play doubles more. I thinks there are more pro’s to having more tournaments like this there cons.

  6. I don’t no ad or 3 set super breaker as an issue for conditioning here either. Each player would have 5 – 2 set singles matches and 5 – 1 set doubles matches in 3 days, that is the equivilant of each player getting to a 32 draw final in 3 days. I love the idea of grouping players of like abilities for multiple matches like this.

    The obvious problem of this set up is you need a lot of courts and officials, since half the field is not done after the first round. This is a great set up for a small event with a lot of courts, but I dont see it working well for a large draw.

  7. It is difficult to see how many players on the draw, tourmenamen would have to be effecient to make timing work. The nice thing about no add and 3rd set breaker is that timing is was more predictable. The absolute worst thing about tournaments is being next court on and 3 matches go to third set, and you sit around for another hour (this is after they are already running an hour more late). That is why adult league tennis is so popular because you can play a team match in 2 hours if you have enough courts. When I was in college with best of 3 singles and best of 3 doubles, the matches would always be 5 to 6 hours. You only needed one singles and one doubles to go deep into 3rd and match would last 6 hours.

    It is funny you here the complaints about how no ad ruins college tennis, but Europeans who want to go pro are coming here to play for the development aspect of college tennis. Mackie Mcdonald gave credit to no ad scoring in college for making him more mentally tough.

    Tournaments like this where you get lots of match play are great, but I am no expert on UTR. There is a tournament locally where they match top senior players against top 12/14 years old’s, another great idea. We obviously need people to put on great events, and think out side of the box

  8. I know that I (and a load of other parents.out there) would love to see a more concerted effort in keeping the extremely limited number of college scholarships in tennis be given to kids from the US junior circuit to begin with. Every school I look at (especially D1) has recruited and given US scholarship money to a roster full of international players…and some rosters have zero US players. If we spent half as much time and invested half as much money at the collegiate level on US kids, the likelihood of top US players having a signigicant presence in the pro’s would be much higher.

    While I liked the UTR format at first, it has been more and more obvious that it is aimed at inclusion for those that have access to tournament’s all the time and the ability to be ranked higher and that simply isn’t the case everywhere (actually, case and point being Hawaii for example, but another example is very talented kid I saw recently in Tennessee that came from a working class family that did have three other kids and limited funds and time).

    I personally enjoy the ad-scoring, as well. It does bring a little more of a competitive spirit out (in my opinion).

    I will forever be a supporter of giving first opportunity to US juniors. We love playing international players at international tournaments, don’t get me wrong. Just my very humble opinion.

  9. I agree there are way to many international players in college tennis, but I think you are wrong on a few items:
    – Only state schools are funded by tax payers, most of scholarships are funded by student fee’s and the athletic program.
    – The vast majority of kids who are not able to secure a college tennis scholarship have no chance of playing at a professional level beyond futures or teaching tennis.

    I will say that the lack of access for US juniors to college tennis is terrible, and many late blooming juniors could become great players if they had the chance to play college tennis.

    You can also blame title nine for many boys who don’t have access to college tennis, the fact that women’s teams have 8 scholarships means that pretty much any 3 star and above girl can play college tennis

  10. Max – you’re right about the low number of college players who will turn pro, but that is a different discussion than making college tennis more attainable to US kids. I just read an article on TRN about the earlier date to file FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) paperwork. What caught my eye was the paragraph below:

    “How does this impact the recruiting process? There is a trickle-down effect. The fact that the form will accurately represent taxes rather than be an estimation will give coaches a better picture of whether or not they can get financial aid for a student if a full athletic scholarship isn’t available.”

    This further reinforces my opinion that coaches offer much more scholarship $ to foreigners because they can direct US families toward financial aid. The catch is that most aid is not a grant, it’s a loan, so US families are going into debt so the team can recruit more foreigners.

    Also, the theory that athletics if funded by student fees, it only accurate on the surface. All funds are fungible, and can be shifted as needed. There is no lock-box that segregates student fees for athletics. it’s all put into the general fund, so tax dollars are included in any college expenditure. Even if the student fees were isolated for athletics, a scholarship extends to tuition, books, housing, food, etc. Where do funds for those expenses come from?

    We, as a country, are funding the development of foreign tennis federation’s future players. Let’s turn those resources back inward.

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