The Alternate List Redux

I wrote in an earlier post about life on the tournament alternate list.  Now, let’s talk about a different kind of alternate . . . the on-site alternate.

When you’re on the alternate list for a tournament, you have the option of showing up to the tournament site on the first morning of play and asking to step in if anyone in the draw doesn’t show up for his/her match.  Each tournament has slightly different rules for how they work the on-site alternate thing, but, basically, if you show up, and one of the main draw competitors doesn’t, then you get to play.

Typically, on-site alternates are put into the draw in the order they appear on the alternate list.  So, getting to the site before the other alternates doesn’t help your cause – just like everything else related to USTA tourneys, it’s all based on rankings.

We’ve tried the on-site alternate route a couple of times.  The first time was at a Bullfrog (Designated) tournament about 30 minutes from our house when my son was in the 12Us.  My son wound up getting to play in the tournament when one of the seeded players failed to show up for his first-round match.  It was a great experience for him, even though he lost his first match in both the main draw and the backdraw – he got to be on the court with players who were ahead of him, developmentally, and see what it was going to take to reach the next level.

The second time was also at a Bullfrog, this time a little further away from home in Macon.  At the coach’s urging, my husband got up early and drove the 90 or so miles so my son could try to get into the draw.  He didn’t get in, but it made for some good father-son bonding time on the highway!

The third time was for a big national tournament, the Easter Bowl.  Since we were going to be in LA anyway for a family event, and since it was over his spring break, my son asked if he could sign up for the tourney just for the heck of it.  He was put on the alternate list, so we again decided to try the on-site alternate route.   We warmed up early that morning then showed up to the main site where we waited.  And waited.  And waited.  After a couple of hours – this tournament did a staggered start, so we had to wait until the very last match was called – the tournament official told my son he did not get into the draw and thanked us for coming.  We hung around a while and watched some great tennis in a beautiful setting.  Then, since we weren’t scheduled to fly home for a few days, we decided to hang out in the California Desert, soak up the sun, play a little golf (son, not me!), and relax.  Not a bad way to spend Spring Break!

The latest time was this past weekend, again for a national tournament that was being held locally.  My son was pretty far down the alternate list, but since many of the guys ahead of him were from out of state, we decided to try the on-site thing one more time.  Thunderstorms wreaked havoc with Day One of the tourney – we basically spent the entire day in front of the computer waiting for updates from the tourney director, only to find out at 6:30pm that all matches were canceled for the day.  Day Two started out pretty much the same way.  We arrived at the courts as directed, only to be told that it was too wet to play and to report to a different site 2 hours later at which point Day Two was also canceled.  Day Three – today – was a school day, and, luckily, play wasn’t scheduled to begin until 12:30pm (the time my son finishes his modified school day).  However, Day Three also brought the rain and a final tournament cancellation.

Was the weekend a complete waste of time, waiting for the weather to clear so the kids could play?  In my opinion, no.  My son got to hang out with the other players at the site, and he got to hit on the not-quite-dry-enough-to-play courts with some of the boys in the draw.  But, I’m guessing if you ask the family that drove 12 hours from Michigan or the family that traveled from Maine, you might get a completely different answer!

Life in Limbo

As a precursor to this post, you might want to go back and read my earlier post on the USTA ranking system and how it works.  That done, let’s talk about life in limbo aka The Alternate List.

With the new smaller draws at the USTA tournaments, there is likely to be an alternate list for most age divisions.  The alternate list is simply a document listing the registered players who were not ranked highly enough to make it into the main draw but who, in the event that a main-draw player decides to withdraw from the tournament before the first match is played, might get to play.  This list is ordered by ranking so that the higher your ranking, the better your chances of making it into the main draw.

For local tournaments, being on the alternate list isn’t really that big a deal.  After all, you live close to the tournament facility, so finding out last-minute that you get to play is okay.  But, when a tournament is out of town and requires travel and hotel reservations (and maybe even missing a little school), the alternate list is a big, fat pain.

My son and I are living in limbo right now.  There is a Southern Level 3 tournament this coming weekend about 2 1/2 hours from where we live.  Under the new rules, 32 kids get to play in each age division, 28 taken from the age group itself and 4 taken from the younger age group.  In this weekend’s tourney in the 16U boys, in addition to the 32 in the main draw, there are 33 boys on the alternate list – my son is #5.

[Interesting aside:  the only age group in this tournament that DOESN’T have an alternate list is the 10U where they have to play on the short courts with the low-compression balls; in fact, there are only 10 girls and 14 boys competing in the 10U.  The 12U boys have an alternate list of 19 and the 12U girls have an alternate list of 5, probably due to so many of the younger kids playing up.]

When you’re on the alternate list, you cannot sign up for another tournament unless you remove yourself from that alternate list.  At #5, it’s hard to know whether or not my son will get into the main draw at this point.  There is no other Southern Level 3 tournament this week, but there is a Southern Level 4 tournament a little further away that he would like to play IF he doesn’t get into the Level 3.  We are hovering in limbo!

Solution?  Win matches to improve his ranking so my son automatically gets into the main draw of these tournaments.  Obstacle?  His ranking isn’t high enough yet to guarantee entry into the main draw of these tournaments to earn the necessary points.  Anyone else see the irony here?  Maybe another rule change is in order!

Licensing Requirements

As a follow-up to the Choosing A Coach series, I wanted to share a comparison of the licensing requirements to become a certified tennis coach through USPTA vs. the licensing requirements of some other professions. Please note that most of the other professional requirements are based on California law as that is where the research took place. Interesting stuff to be sure!

Before any of us relies on the certification itself we have to do additional due diligence. The certification is the garnish. There must be additional knowledge and experience that should be identified and investigated to make sure that the coach is legitimate. What are his qualifications as a player? What is his educational background? Who are some of his students? What is his reputation?





















Application Fee


$25 test fee + $120 application fee

$200 + 45 for test




Work/Education Prerequisite or Experience

Not prerequisite

In accordance with Section 8565.5 of the Structural Pest Control Act, an applicant must

submit proof satisfactory to the Board that he/she has satisfactorily passed board approved courses in the areas outlined

under the branch the applicant is applying for licensure.

For certain licenses: Possess unexpired intern technician license; or 1 year automotive experience or education in engine performance; possess AA or AS degree from accredited college; or possess automotive technology certificate from accredited college with minimum of 360 hours of course-work

Yes: 1600 hours of practical work experience

Not required for the test. May be required as part of the clinical studies.

In California a candidate must have a minimum of six years combined qualifying education and training/experience to be eligible to take the LARE.


Written [100 Qs] (technical, ratings, code of conduct, rules), and Stroke Part. Stroke analysis plus running a group lesson and private lesson.


Yes, for certain licenses.

Written (100 Qs) and practical Demonstration of proper disinfection and sanitation techniques, consumer protection and safety

Set-up of necessary equipment, materials and supplies

Preparation of model

Ability to perform basic skills

Written (60 Qs) and clinical examination

Landscape Architect Registration Examination:

100 question multiple-choice examination.

Membership Fee**


$30-$120 (depending on type of license)





Continuing Ed. Requirement

Not required

Yes – 12 hours/year

Not required


Yes (35 units/year)

Not required


See below

Applicator; Field Representative; Operator

General Automotive Repair; Lamp, brake or Smog technician

Cosmetologist; Barber; Esthetician; Electrologist; Manicurist 

1 Level only

1 Level only

Other Benefits or Requirements

Benefits: liability insurance;

specialized books and videos available; access to job listings;

subscriptions to tennis magazines;  discounts on tennis merchandise;

help with the business end of the profession;

tournament competition against fellow members. Not subject to criminal liability for working without USPTA license.


Board-approved or Board-developed courses must have been successfully completed within three years prior to the applicant taking the operator’s licensing examination.

Requirements: operating with an expired registration is illegal and may result in administrative disciplinary action, and in legal action, including possible criminal prosecution.

Requirement: trained in an approved California School. Subject to a $1,000 fine if you are working without a valid license.

Requirement: Applicants must

pass both clinical and written examination in

California dental law and ethics, and undergo

a criminal history investigation, prior to

receiving a license. Applicants must have graduated from an

accredited dental hygiene program in order

to apply for examination. All licensees are responsible for understanding and following the laws and regulations which govern their practice. Violations can result in license denial or discipline, as well as criminal prosecution.

Requirement: In order to take the LARE in California, candidates must meet all of the following examination eligibility requirements:

Be at least 18 years of age.

Hold a degree (Associate, Bachelors, or Masters) or extension certificate (UCB Extension and UCLA Extension) in landscape architecture.

Have at least six years of combined educational and training/experience credit.

Have at least two years of training/experience credit (1500 hours of qualifying employment equals one year of training/experience credit; limited to 40 hours credit per week) with one year of training/experience credit under the direct supervision of a landscape architect licensed in a U.S. jurisdiction gained after obtaining a qualifying degree. Current California regulations require applicants to have a degree or extension certificate in landscape architecture in combination with qualifying training/experience credit.


** Approximate

## California

USPTA Levels (Source USPTA website):

Master Professional

All Professional 1 skills and more than 10 years of experience and proven expertise.

• Ability to run any program at any facility

• Accomplished in teaching, playing, business, industry service and other comprehensive attributes of the highest-rated professionals in the world

Most common job titles: Director of tennis or tennis manager

Professional 1

All Professional 2 skills but with higher levels of experience and expertise.

• Must be 22 years of age or older

• Must pass all portions of the certification exam at the Pro 2 level or higher and have 3 years or 5 seasons of teaching experience

• Must have an NTRP rating of 4.5 or higher

• Train competitive players

• Pro shop management

• Facility management

• Activity management

• Other business management activities including human relations, hiring, budgets, communications and professional management team skills

Most common job titles: Director of tennis or head tennis professional

Professional 2

All Professional 3 skills plus:

• Must pass all portions of the certification exam at the Pro 2 level or higher and demonstrate teaching ability through apprenticeship or teaching experience

• Instruct all students at all levels

• Conduct group and private lessons

• Assist and develop competitive players

• Design and implement lesson plans

• Organize and implement most tennis programs

• Assist with and/or direct pro shop management and facility maintenance

Most common job titles: Head tennis professional or associate professional or assistant professional

Professional 3

•Must be at least 18 years of age

• Must have an NTRP rating of 4.0 or higher

• Must pass all portions of the certification exam at Pro 3 level or higher

• Conduct private lessons

• Assist with group lessons

Most common job titles: Associate tennis professional or assistant professional

Developmental Coaches

• Part-time tennis teachers who may assist full-time professional staff

Most common job title: Part-time instructor

Rankings Anyone?

Now let’s talk about how the USTA ranking system works.  This is where things can get a little bit tricky!  First of all, rankings are all based on points (as opposed to whom you beat and whom you lost to), and points are accumulated by winning tournament matches.  And different levels of tournaments afford different numbers of points.  So, at first glance it would seem that the child who plays the most tournaments and wins the most matches would have the highest ranking, right?  Nope!

USTA only looks at the child’s top 6 singles tournament results (100% of total points) PLUS his top 3 doubles tournament results (15% of total points) in order to formulate his ranking.  And, a child can have a state, sectional, and national ranking that all look very different from one another based on which types of tournaments he plays.  The ranking points earned are based on how far the child gets in that particular tournament NOT how many main draw vs. back draw matches he wins.  A child who loses in the first round of the main draw then gets to the semifinals of the back draw will get more ranking points than the child who wins two matches in the main draw but then loses in the quarterfinals of the back draw.

[Added January 2014] Some sections also have Bonus Points available for significant wins (over highly-ranked opponents). In the Southern section, a player is awarded bonus points on a sliding scale based on the ranking of his opponent, regardless of whether the opponent is ranked higher or lower. For example, a win over a player in the top 10 in the section is worth 150 bonus ranking points.

The different USTA states and sections post their own Points Per Round charts on their respective websites.  Click here to see the one for the Southern section.

Using a hypothetical 12 year old boy in the Southern Section as an example, here’s how a ranking would be calculated:

Tournament 1:  Southern Level 5 with a 128 draw, Johnny wins 2 rounds of singles in the main draw, 2 rounds in the back draw (Feed-In Consolation or FIC), losing in the FIC quarterfinals for a total of 18 points.

Tournament 2:  Southern Level 5 with a 32 draw, Johnny loses in the first round of singles in the main draw but wins the back draw.  He also wins the back draw of the doubles.  His total for this tournament is 51 –  44 points for the singles and 7 points (15% of 44) for the doubles.

Tournament 3:  Southern Level 4 with a 32 draw, Johnny wins one round in the main draw singles then loses his first back draw match for a total of 53 points.

Tournament 4:  Southern Level 4 with a 32 draw, Johnny loses in the first round singles but wins 2 rounds in the back draw.  He gets to the semifinals in doubles.  His total is 69 – 53 for the singles and 16 for the doubles.

Tournament 5:  Southern Level 3 with a 64 draw, Johnny loses in the first round singles, loses in the first round back draw, and gets to the quarterfinals in the doubles for a point total of 21 (15% of 140).

Tournament 6:  Southern Level 3 with a 64 draw, Johnny gets to the semifinals (3rd place) of the main draw in singles and the round of 16 in the doubles.  Because it’s his 4th doubles tournament and he didn’t do as well as in previous tournaments, he’ll get no points for the doubles.  However, he will get 160 points for the singles.

Tournament 7:  Southern Level 4 with a 32 draw, Johnny gets to the semifinals (4th place) of the main draw for a total of 105 points.

After these seven tournaments – the top 6 of which count for singles and the top 3 of which count for doubles – Johnny has 477 points.  To see his ranking, he would go to the USTA’s ranking website, use the drop-down box to find his section (in this case, Southern), then use the next drop-down box to find his age division.  According to the November 1, 2011, rankings, he would be ranked 201 in the South.

Another thing to consider is having your child “play up” in the next age group as he starts to have success in his own age group and gets closer to that official aging up date.  If he does play up, then any ranking points he gets will apply to both his current age group as well as the older age group, helping him establish a ranking before he ages up.

As you’ve probably already figured out by now, the higher level tournament matches are worth significantly more points that the lower level ones.  So, once your child has proven himself at the lower levels, it’s definitely worthwhile in terms of building his ranking to attempt the higher level tournaments.  That said, you always need to weigh the potential financial and time cost of travel and higher entry fees when making the leap to the next level.  As I said in my last post (Help! My kid wants to play in a tournament!), first be the best in your house, then the best on your block, THEN the best in your neighborhood!

Help! My kid wants to play in a tournament!

For those of you just starting out in the overwhelming world that is Junior Tennis, I thought I’d give you a down-and-dirty breakdown of how the USTA tournament and ranking system works.  Hold onto your sanity because you’re in for quite an adventure!

The first step in playing a USTA tournament is getting a USTA junior membership and number for your child (see USTA’s website) – no USTA number means no tournament play!  Make sure you write down the number and keep it in a safe place until the actual membership card arrives in your mailbox – you will need this number for pretty much everything your child does in the tournament world.

Most tournaments require online registration via a service called TennisLink.  You can search for tournaments in your town or state or section by simply using the drop-down boxes on the website.  You can also search by month and year or by division (age, singles vs. doubles, all junior tournaments, etc.).  Once you find a tournament to enter, take note of the entry deadline.  Until you get to know the different tournament directors and can ask for a special favor every now and then, those deadlines are written in stone.  To enter a specific tournament, click on the name of the tournament in TennisLink which will then take you to that tournament’s webpage.  From there, it’s pretty self-explanatory – you’ll click on the online registration link and fill in the blanks.

Junior competition is broken down into age groups based on the child’s age at the time of the tournament.  The age groups are 10-and-under (10U), 12-and-under (12U), 14-and-under (14U), 16-and-under (16U), and 18-and-under (18U).  A child can play in an older age group if he chooses, but he can’t play in a younger age group.  How do you know in which age group your child should play?  When starting out, he should always play in the age group in which he falls.  For example, if your child is 11 years old, then he would be in the 12U group.  He would move up to the next age group the month he turns 13.  So, if your child’s birthday is March 6th, then March 1st would be the “aging up” date.

Once your child wins a tournament match at any level in any sanctioned USTA event, he will then have a ranking.  If he’s playing a Satellite tournament, that ranking will be in your state of residence.  If he’s playing a Championship or higher State tournament, then he may also gain a sectional ranking.  Once he starts playing the higher level Sectional tournaments, then he might be earning points toward a national ranking.  I’ll talk more about how the ranking system works in a separate post.  Please note that each USTA section has its own set of rules and guidelines – for the purposes of this blog, I’m using those set forth by the Southern Section (the light turquoise area in the map above).

For you visual learners, here’s a graphic depiction of how the tournament structure is set up  (apologies for my amateur graphics!) . . .



The layout for National Tournaments is very similar.  So, for a child playing his or her very first tournament ever, the Satellite (State Level 5) would be the appropriate starting point.  Once the child has become used to the tournament environment and IF he decides he wants to play at a higher level, then it may be time to try a State Level 4 tournament.   If he’s having good success at that level, then moving up through the system becomes pretty straightforward.  As one of my tennis go-to people puts it, though, you first want to be the best in your house, then the best on your block, then the best in your neighborhood.  In other words, winning tournaments at the lower levels should be a pre-req for moving up to the next level.

In the tournaments themselves, there are two types of draws:  the main draw and the consolation draw (aka the back draw).  For most USTA tournaments of any level, singles players are guaranteed at least two matches since, even if they lose in the first round of the main draw, they still move into the back draw to continue playing.   For doubles play, typically the tournaments are single-elimination, meaning that once a doubles team loses a match, they are done with that tournament.

I hope this helps clarify things a bit!  If you have any questions, feel free to ask them in the Comments box below.  Remember, this blog is a fluid entity, and I’m certainly no expert, so please add your own experiences so we can all learn together.

Edited August 23, 2013: Once you have registered your child for a tournament, you will receive a confirmation email (as long as you entered your email address on the registration form in TennisLink). Unless something very much out of the ordinary happens, that is the last communication you will receive from the tournament. The onus is on you and your child to keep checking the tournament website to see the draws and find out your child’s match times. Be sure you look for your child’s first match time on the Main Draw as well as their next match time (if it is posted) on both the Main Draw and Consolation Draw. Note the match location, too, if multiple playing sites are being used. One last tip: be sure to check the tournament website early in the morning of each day of play, especially if weather delays could be an issue. The tournament director should update the website no later than 7am for 8am matches and will post any delays. All of this information can be found on the specific tournament’s webpage through TennisLink. If you have trouble, contact the Tournament Director or Tournament Referee – their contact information should be on the webpage as well. See What To Take With You on Tournament Day for more suggestions.