Playing up is one of those controversial topics in junior tennis. Should my child play up? If so, when should he start playing up? Which tournaments? How many? Should he keep playing his own age group as well? Ask 5 different coaches, and you’ll get 5 different answers!
What I have learned is that, as your child gets older, it becomes more important for him to establish a good ranking early in his age group so that he can actually get into the higher-level tournaments (see Life In Limbo). Since many of the tournaments will admit a certain number of players from the younger age group, it’s good to take advantage of that opportunity to play up and earn some ranking points, especially as your child gets closer to his official aging-up date.
Talk to your child’s coach. As a team (remember that whole Tennis Triangle thing?), you can devise a plan in terms of which tournaments and which age group your child will play in order to maximize her chances of reaching whatever goals she may have. Go online and look at the tournament schedule for the next 3 months or 6 months or 12 months and map out your route. If there are multiple tournaments on the same weekend, include them all on your list and keep an eye on them as the entry deadlines get close, then talk with the coach to determine which is the best to enter. It takes planning – as well as flexibility – but it’s worth the time and effort, believe me!
My son is still in his first year of the 16s. But, since he has a July birthday, and since many of the national tournaments he aspires to play are shortly after his birthday, he is going to start playing in some 18s tournaments now in hopes of having a good enough ranking to play those big tournaments after officially aging up in July 2013.
My son’s playing his first 18s this coming weekend – it’s just a small local tournament, but I think it will be good for him to get a little taste of competing against the older (and, yes, probably bigger) guys. He practices with hard-hitting guys and girls every day at drills. He’s now playing on his high school team with boys up to 3 years older than him, so I know he can handle the pace of the Big Boys. He’s looking forward to the challenge of this tournament, and I’m looking forward to seeing him play the part of David to what may very well be Goliath on the other side of the net.