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One Family’s Zonals Experience


The following was written by fellow Georgia Tennis Parent, Brian Bowles, about his son’s experience at the 12s Zonals. For those of you who were at one of the Zonals in your area, please share your experience in the Comments below.

Recently my son had the opportunity to participate in Zonals in Sumter SC. We live in Georgia which is part of the Southern section. The Southern section takes the top 30 boys and girls who apply to participate. To qualify players had to play in either the January Southern Closed in Macon GA or the June Southern Closed in Cary NC.  Zonals started on July 3rd and lasted through July 7th. We arrived on July 2nd around mid-day. My son, Connor, had the opportunity to warm up with some friends on the day before play started. That evening all of the players, parents, and coaches were invited to a dinner where Mark Rearden, the tournament director, welcomed us to Sumter. We also got to listen to some wise words from legendary tennis coach Chuck Kriese.

Players were divided into teams of 6 boys and 6 girls from their section. The teams were determined by water-falling players based on sectional ranking and based on USTA National guidelines.  The matches were played against teams from the Southern, Mid Atlantic, Florida, and Caribbean sections. On Thursday- Sunday match start times alternated starting at either 8:00a.m. or 12:30p.m. The matches lasted about 6 hours each day. Each day, each player played an 8 game pro set of doubles first and then a 2 out of 3 set singles match with a full third set. On the last day players only played singles.

Normally tennis is an individual sport. At this event the opportunity to play on a team was really exciting for all of the players. We were the Southern “C”  team. Our players called themselves the “Cows” and they spent the whole weekend “Moooing” each other. Each team had a coach who was allowed to coach the players during changeovers. Our team had Rod Ray, the coach from Wofford College. His son, Ashe, played on our team. Rod did an excellent job of motivating the kids before match play and during the match. We were also very lucky to have an excellent group of players and parents. For the most part the team spent the entire day with each other. After each match they usually hung out and went to dinner together.

My only criticism is the price. The tournament was $253.00 to enter for each player. When you add that to 5 days of hotel it does not make for a cheap tournament. That said I would definitely do it again.  My son had a great time. He told me it was his new favorite tournament and he made many new friends. The tournament was run very well. Sandy Harris from the USTA was there on the first day. Mark Rearden, the tournament director, has many years of experience. He did an excellent job of organizing the event and quickly handling any issues as they came up. Zonals for the boys 12s will be held in Sumter next year as well. If you child has the opportunity to go I highly recommend you take advantage of it. I also would not hesitate to return to Sumter for a tournament during the year. The staff and the facility are top notch and court set up is great viewing of the matches for parents and coaches.



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