Junior Coaching & Development

Junior Competition Landscape in UK

Today’s Guest Post was written by Keith Brown (more on Keith at the end of the article). I met Keith at the 2019 WTCA Conference in New York, and he was gracious enough to share some insights on the Competitive Pathway in the UK. If any of you have children competing in the UK, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the Comments below.

The LTA competition pathway consists of 7 grades of tournaments that are run throughout the summer and winter seasons. A brief explanation of the grades is outlined below:

  • Grade 7 are club internal events such as annual club championships or regular box leagues or ladders.
  • Grade 6 are local level match play events that usually attract players from local clubs.  These are designed to give the players experience and opportunities to improve their player rating (standard).  These events can be run whenever an official wants to do them and usually a result of demand.
  • Grade 4 and 5 are local level and county level one day tournaments that count for player ratings and offer ranking points depending on how well a player does in the event.   All of these events form part of the calendar of Winter County Tour (WCT) and Summer County Tour (SCT).   These tours ensure that there are sufficient events for each age group every month.   Organisers and officials such as myself have to apply for these events at the start of the season and are allocated events according to the demand and age demographic requirements in each area.
  • Grade 3 are week long regional level events that are held during school holiday and contain every age group of players and events are both singles and doubles matches.
  • Grade 2 and 1 are invitational national level events for the very best players in their age group each year.

Top tips for competition organisers and officials

*Be organised and communication is key.  Send out a timely email to all players and include all the important information about the day.  Venue details should also go in here. Introduce yourself and most importantly include a reporting time for all players.
*Ensure all draws, scheduling and match times are done promptly and communicated to all players and published, where appropriate to the tournament websites.

On the day

*Mark out all courts correctly and professionally.  Use masking tape and include side lines for orange ball courts. In damp weather or rain use throw down temporary lines.
*Always provide NEW balls and consider an extra set if a final is scheduled.
*Ensure a welcome speech is given to all players. In this speech the tournament format, number of expected matches, results reporting procedure  and venue information can be included.  This is the opportunity to set a positive and engaging scene so use it!
*Request parents help as court helpers and if need be issue them with a tie-break scoresheet.  Usually only 8u and 9u matches require this and scoring is a 10 point tie break at both age groups. If parents are unavailable or new to competition then ask some older junior or teenage players. I have done this a lot and offered them a free lesson for 30 mins as payment.
This really is the best advice I can give when running mini events.  It makes the job of the official so much easier as he/she can oversee the whole tournament and number of courts instead of being stationed on one court.   Obviously if there are issues or problems then the official will spend some time on an individual court.
*Record all scores immediately at the end of match. Ensure both players come to the referee control desk and report the score. You’ll be surprised how often both players think they’ve won!
*Issue every player with a certificate (10u) for attending and if a Grade 5 or above, where there must be a winner, hand out a medal or bigger prize.   The Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) who are the governing body for tennis in the UK, provide all officials who are running Grade 5 and above events with medals and prizes.
*Thank all players and parents at the end of the tournament and ask them if they’ve had a good and positive tournament experience. Get a photo on the court and encourage them to complete the post tournament feedback questionnaire that is issued by the LTA.

Post tournament

*Enter all results in to the software and send off within 48 hours.
*Send out a final email thanking parents and advising them of future events at the venue or that are being run by the company.

Top tips for parents

*Arrive early or on time to events.
*Offer to assist the officials with court helping and/or scoring.
*Encourage or support you child. Competition can be daunting and shouldn’t be purely a results driven outcome. Ask questions of the player such as “What level out of ten did you play today? What went well? What went badly?” There is often emotion in mini events and should be managed effectively by all parties.
*Understand competition and ensure that the players are in appropriate events.
*Ask questions and find out about the competition pathway in your area. 

To finalise I am passionate about competition and believe that it is one of the most important things that can help retain players in tennis.  If the tournaments are run efficiently and are suitable for the level of the player they can become a real tool to generate participation and aid retention.  All of the other sports that rival tennis allow the players an opportunity to compete regularly.

However, poorly run or unsuitable levels of competition can have the reverse effect so do your research and ask questions.  Most officials will gladly answer any questions or queries relating to the pathway.

I have outlined some of the strengths of our Company and myself as an official that enable our events to be consistent and of a standard that allows the players and parents to have great competition experience.  Hopefully all of the things that I list in my top tips are happening at tournaments across the globe and then a level of standard and consistency can be achieved and that is a benefit to the whole tennis community.

Who am I?

I am an LTA Licensed Official at R4 Grade and LTA Accredited+ Tennis Coach in West Sussex in the UK. I am also the founder and director of CompeteEasy Ltd. The company specialises in providing competitive tennis events for players of all ages and standards. Our events are currently being run at 6 venues in Sussex with the hope of securing some more venues in the near future without sacrificing the event standard and outsourcing to officials where possible. The company currently delivers approximately 20-25 events per year. In 2017 I was awarded the very prestigious honour of receiving the award “Official of the Year” at the Tennis Sussex Annual Awards in November. All county awards count toward the national LTA British Tennis Awards. Although I wasn’t a regional winner it was fantastic to be recognised and awarded by my county for my work in competitions.

Editor’s Note: You can reach Keith Brown via email at info@competeeasy.co.uk or by phone at +447702 983042. To find out more about CompeteEasy, visit its Facebook page here.

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