Playing tournaments is a great way to improve your tennis game. There is no way to replicate the pressure of matches that count. Typically, you will be eliminated when you lose, although most tournaments have a consolation bracket for those who lose in the first round.
Most local tournaments are sanctioned by the USTA (US Tennis Association) and you need to be a member to play. Membership is very affordable for juniors - $20/year or so and it includes Tennis Magazine.
That all sounds great, but the tournament scene is a little rough, especially for high school players. I’ll get to that in a few minutes. Tournaments come in 3 levels (with varying names):
Champs/Advanced – These are where the best players play and most players are very good. Honestly, the best players Sherwood has ever had would struggle to win many matches at this level.
Challenger/Intermediate – Competitive players who are currently (or are destined to be) fairly high-level varsity players (usually varsity’s 2nd to 5th best players).
Rookie/Entry Level – Players who are becoming competitive. Players in these tournaments are not far below the Challenger kids (frequently, people will play both levels anyway), but they usually don’t have as much experience.
Tournaments are also based on age groups (18/16/14/12/10).
The problem for high school players is that there aren’t very many people who want to play the Challenger or Rookie level tournaments in the 18s age groups. So, those sections usually get cancelled. The same problem can happen in the 16s, but only about 40% get cancelled. In the 18s, that only leaves you the Champs tournaments, and that’s not a good place for most people (they also cost twice as much as others – I don’t know why).
But, since there are younger kids playing in Sherwood these days, looking into challenger and rookie tournaments is probably worthwhile. The 14s and 12s sections almost always draw 8-16 players. You can find tournaments at the website below.
In the search, set the National/Section/District field to either Pacific Northwest (if you want to travel a few hours) or Pacific Northwest – Northern Oregon if you want to keep it fairly local.
Make sure that players going into tournaments for their first time have a realistic view of their chances. Even at the rookie and challenger levels, many players will have been playing for much longer. Expecting to win might be a bad assumption. But that’s okay. If they do win some matches (or all of them), great! But if they don’t, they’ll still get a sense of the skill level they need to work for.
If you are interested in pursuing tournaments, talk to Todd and he can research them a bit for you.