The District Tournament
The District Tournament is very different from everything you have seen during the season. It's a long and exhausting day, but it has always been my favorite event as a player and a coach.
Here are a lot of random things to know, in no particular order:
1. You are not placed into the tournament based on where you play on the team. It is fairly common for people who play #1 all season to play someone who played #4 from another team in the first round. Whether you are the #1 or #4 in that situation, we expect you to represent yourself, your team and your school well. Play your best, work hard on court and show class in victory or defeat.
2. The reason the tournament exists is to identify the four singles players and four doubles teams who will represent the league at the state tournament. To qualify for state, you'll need to make it to the semi-finals (win 3 rounds in the main draw).
3. The coaches vote for 4 players/doubles teams who played best during the season get placed in the draw as "seeds" - that prevents them from having to play each other before qualifying for state. That's great if you are one of them. If you are not, that means that you'll probably have to beat one of them to make it to state (unless someone else did that favor for you already). Get this down: Seeds are not unbeatable. If you are seeded, you still have work to do. It is very rare for all the seeds to actually make it to state. For girls singles and doubles in 2019, only 5 of the 8 seeds made it through.
4. Most of the season is about creating fair matches and getting everyone pretty good experiences. The district tournament is not. It is about eliminating people. One of the hardest things to deal with in the switch from team matches to tournament play is that almost everyone loses their last match in tournaments, 97% of pro players lose their last match each year, and 97% of high school players lose their last match of the season. It's important to process that idea in advance and not let a loss ruin your experience. You should be prepared to fight for every match because the only way to get another is to win. You should walk away feeling good about putting your best effort forward, then celebrate a good season with teammates. Hopefully your team will have teammates to cheer on after you are eliminated.
5. On the Good Side (we aren't totally evil): The tournament will attempt to have a consolation bracket for players who lost in the first round. This is never guaranteed, especially in years with rain or excessive heat making some courts unplayable. Go back to #2 - the main draw is what the tournament is about, but all the coaches work hard to have a consolation bracket as well. Consolation matches are usually pro-sets instead of 2-out-of-3.
6. You are more responsible for yourself at this tournament than at other point during the season. You'll need to monitor the courts and tournament desk to make sure you know when you are called to play. The Pacific Conference plays at 2-3 different venues, some that require a shuttle ride. You may not see your coach or teammates for a while. Make sure you are prepared - have your water (and spare water) with you, and bring anything you might need to the court. You only have 90 seconds to change ends between games. That is not enough time to get something you forgot or wait for coaching if they aren't waiting for you.
7. Tournament days are long days You could easily have to sit around for 6 hours. Bring plenty of clean clothes for playing and for being comfortable off-court.
8. There may be roving umpires. Their main goal is to monitor the tournament and be available if needed. If they are standing on your court, they won't make line calls for you - they'll only over-rule you if a bad call is made. If they are on your court, don't be intimidated - make your calls just like you normally would. If they over-rule you, don't worry about it. We all make the occasional bad call. If they are there and you see a double-bounce, someone touch the net, make a bad call or whatever else, ask the umpire to confirm if they watched the point. They might call foot-faults. If they call you for that, back up a little and be safe after that.
9. Be aware of how much time you get for things.
Warm-up: 5 Minutes (this goes SO fast - you should be loose and ready in advance)
Change-Overs: 90 seconds (including coaching, drinking water, then being back on court ready to play)
Between Points: 25 seconds
10. The district tournament is also a scored event with one team named the champion. In our league, you get two points for every main draw win, and players in the consolation bracket also earn some points. The team who earns the most points wins. In 2019, we won by 1.5 points. A 0.5 point consolation win by McMinnville almost swung the tournament in their favor, but we won one last main draw match to beat them. We'll need all the points we can get, so fight for each win.
11. Most importantly, have fun. This is your last chance to be together as a team. Hangout, cheer your teammates on, go watch as the top players start to play each other on days 2 and 3.
2013 Doubles Draw: Sherwood takes the top 4