Junior Tournaments & Rankings

Winter Nationals

Image courtesy of Long Island Tennis Magazine

Image courtesy of Long Island Tennis Magazine


So, who’s going to Winter Nationals this year? We are, for the first time, and it’s my son’s last opportunity to play a National Level 1 tourney before he ages out of the juniors altogether. He’s pretty excited for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is it will give him a chance to meet some of his future Santa Clara University teammates and to spend time with one of the assistant coaches who will be there, too.

This is the first time we’ll be flying somewhere specifically for a tournament, though, and I realized there is still much to learn about how to navigate these types of situations. I posted a question on the ParentingAces Facebook page asking about booking flights, specifically the return flight, for tournament travel. As always, y’all came through with some very helpful advice, and I wanted to share it here for those who aren’t on Facebook.

My specific question was: When you have to fly to a tourney, how do you decide when to book your return flight? Here is some fantastic Tennis Parent Wisdom:

  • I’ve always used Southwest, which lets you cancel flights & not lose money (keep it in the ‘bank’ for future flts, with no fees/penalties, and so i’d book 2-3 return trips, spaced throughout the tourney based on worst case, mid-case, and best-case scenarios. Then, set phone calendar alerts to cancel as well as to get boarding passes based on what happens. that procedure worked well for us — love to hear what other people have used! You can book as many one-way flts as you want. Book one RT, and then book your returns. Just keep super good records of your Confirmation numbers, and keep ALL of your emails showing your cancelled flts, price and associated confirmation number so you don’t lose track & forget to use the money within the next 12 months. ALSO: if you get the Southwest Rapid Rewards credit card, you can earn great points towards the flights. ALSO: if you use SW enough, you earn a Companion Pass, which lets your player fly FREE. I have always had no problem reaching that, maybe it’s from using my Southwest Visa card for EVERY single purchase, though, i’m not sure. One thing is for sure: using Southwest’s Rapid Rewards Visa card has been a huge boon for us, saving us tons. I pay it off in full every month, and literally use it for almost every single purchase. (And NO, i don’t work for or have any connections with Southwest!)
  • When they lose!  🙂 I book one-way tickets and usually get good prices from Priceline, Name your own price, for the flight home.
  • To the last day. The one time you don’t, they will make it to the last day and you know how hard they worked to get there. So, then you will purchase the change fee which will prove to be a lot of money.
  • One day longer than they have proven to stay in that level tournament in the past.
  • I fly Southwest if at all possible. I book two return tickets. One for midway through the tournament and one for the end. Since Southwest has no change fees I cancel the one we don’t need and use those dollars to buy the next round of tickets. You have a year to use travel funds and can’t beat the no luggage fees!
  • Buy one way tickets, buy the return when ready to do so!!
  • I assume she will make the finals. Always. Anything else and you shouldn’t be flying to a tournament.
  • Usually the last day. If she’s out before then we go do something fun like go to the beach if it’s Clay Courts, etc. I made hotel /plane reservations for the full length of tourney.
  • A tennis parent veteran once gave me this advice: I used to book just past half way. When you book the end of the tourney and they lose early, paying the change fee stinks. When you book to come home early (Wednesday or Thursday) and they have a great tournament, paying the change fee is much easier to take.

The official selections for Winter Nats should be posted online today. For those of you waiting to hear, you can go to the TennisLink page for your child’s age group, click on the Selection Process tab, scroll down to the Endorsement List for your particular section, then look to see if there’s a green dot next to your child’s name. If there is, congratulations, your child is in! If there’s a yellow dot, your child is an alternate. A dark grey dot indicates your child wasn’t eligible to play, and a red dot means your child has withdrawn from the tournament.

Good luck, and if you’re going to be in Scottsdale, I hope you’ll let me know so we can meet in person!


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