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!