TOURNAMENT DIRECTOR HANDBOOK
Tournament Director -
The goals of any tournament director should be to have a tournament that is well-planned, well-run and fun for the players. As such, a successful tournament will be one that is player – focused. Remember, players are the ones who are paying their hard-earned money to play in your tournament. As in any business, customer expectations (in this case players) are very high and it’s your job to meet or exceed those expectations. Most players go to tournaments not to necessarily win the tournament but rather to have a great experience both on and off the court. If you have done your job well, players will want to return and in the process tell their friends about their experience.
On the following pages, you will find a compilation of best practices that have been used by successful tournament directors. This is not meant to be an exhaustive list of all best practices but we’ve endeavored to make it as complete as possible.
Please feel free to contact us should you need any advice as you are going through your planning process. We are here to help you have a very successful tournament.
All the best,
Board of Directors
National Senior Men’s Tennis Association
Special thanks to Steve Solomon, Alan Messer and Ed Trost for their contributions to this handbook.
Consider creating a tournament committee which will have individuals responsible for such things as social events, publicity, organizing volunteers, etc. This will allow you to focus your energies on the other aspects of running the tournament.
At least one email should be sent to eligible players inviting them to play in the tournament directed by the Tournament Director (“TD”). The email should include information on divisions, amenities, activities, accommodations, discounts and entry deadline.
Consider having a portion of the revenue from the tournament go to a cause.
The tournament home page should include: the event starting day, hotel information, directions (Google Maps) to the facility, social events and dress code.
At least one social event will be held for the tournament, e.g., banquet dinner, luncheon, cocktail gathering, to provide the opportunity for tournament participants to socialize. Consider off-loading some of this planning to a member of your tournament committee.
Practice courts are to be available to players on-site or close by, preferably for free, at least one day before the start of the tournament and during the tournament. If your club cannot accommodate extra courts for practice consider working with another club to help provide practice courts on a limited, by availability basis.
The tournament's USTA ID # should be on the entry form.
A refund policy should be stated on your entry form and tournament website. It is common practice to not offer refunds once the draw has been made. Others refund entry fees up to the start of the tournament. Whichever policy you chose, again, be sure to have it in writing so there are no questions about it when/if a refund is requested.
Have a “Things to Do” section on your entry form or tournament website of attractions in the area for spouses, children or the entire family to enjoy while they are in the area.
A good business practice is to return calls and emails within 12-24 hours.
Tentative Start and End Dates should be listed for each event during the registration period. They are “tentative” because draw size may be larger or smaller than you had originally planned.
Enter mailed and telephone entries into TDM as soon as they are received. Players want to make sure that their entries have been received. Entering them into TDM on a daily basis lets them know you are on top of things!
Unpaired doubles players – in TDM you may notice that some players are not paired with their partner. In some cases, they may not have a partner but did not inform you. In other cases, one partner may have signed up without identifying who their partner was. Before entries close, it’s a good idea to look in TDM for those unpaired players and call them to find out their situation (who their partner is or if they are looking for one)
If someone is looking for a partner encourage them to register for the doubles event. Often, players who are looking for partners will look to see if any of the players registered for doubles are unattached and ask the TD if that player is looking for a partner.
Category I tournaments should have an entry deadline 2 weeks in advance, at the minimum. For Category II and Super Category II the entry deadline should be anywhere between 10 days to 3 weeks depending upon size of draw as well as taking into consideration how far people have to travel.
Seeding represents the committee's objective rating of various players’ chances of winning the tournament and should be justified by a reasonable amount of factual evidence. The USTA uses an All-Factors method of seeding which includes: ranking, standings, types of surface and head–to-head encounters and UTR rating (often used as a tie-breaker when selecting one player as a higher seed than another).
For a National Category I or II tournament, a circuit chair is available to assist the TD with his seeding. While they may give the TD recommendations for seeding, ultimately the TD is responsible and has the final say in seeding.
Standing lists - The standing list is your guide to seeding and the first step for perusing the player’s record. Seeding may not coincide with the standing list as the head-to-head win/loss record is significant. As an example, there may be a player who has a high standing because he has played a lot of tournaments and has, as a result, accumulated many points. Upon further inspection though, you may find that he has not had any significant wins or has losses to players who are lower in the standings. In this instance, the player may not be deserving of a higher seed even though he has a high standing number.
Designate and post provisional/tentative seeds a few days before the draw is finalized and give consideration to revisions suggested by players.
Since seeds are placed randomly, it’s easier and more equitable to use the number 5 for all seeds 5 to 8; the number 9 for all seeds 9 to 16; and the number 17 for all seeds 17 to 32, in alphabetical order.
Refer to Friends at Court for more information on seeding.
SCHEDULING AND MAKING THE DRAW
The player's city should be shown on the draw sheet.
Semi-final play-offs must be scheduled for all main draw divisions.
Singles and doubles draws should be posted at the same time. In some cases, however, it may be helpful to delay posting the doubles draw a day or two to encourage getting more doubles teams.
Ensure that players play every day (no skipped days).
Post the draw as soon as possible after the entry deadline. On the tournament homepage the Posting of Draws Date is noted. Be sure that you have those draws posted when you said you would!
Should there be a few entries over a full draw, consider playing those matches a day earlier than the first scheduled day.
Schedule, at the very minimum, the first two days of matches. It would be preferable to schedule the entire event, or at least up to the semi-finals ahead of time.
In making the draw, it's allowable (and desirable) to prevent players from the same Section and/or doubles partners from meeting in the first round. In TDM, you can CREATE GROUPS, to separate players based on different criteria, including those cited above.
A round robin is highly recommended for a draw of 4 or 5 players.
Emphasize the desirability of using voluntary consolations to avoid the numerous defaults and scheduling problems that can result from using the TDM automated consolation feature.
Have first-match losers voluntarily sign up for consolation events and manually enter each player into the corresponding manually-created event.
DURING THE TOURNAMENT
Ensure that staff, volunteers and maintenance personnel greet players so they feel welcomed.
Create an ON COURTS NOW or COURT ASSIGNMENTS board so players/spectators can see who is playing and on what courts.
The event should have a certified USTA referee per every six courts used with an absolute minimum of two referees. Referee/Umpire
The tournament director should make every effort to run the event on time. It's important that the players can schedule their day around the matches. Probably the biggest complaint that players have about tournaments is that some do not run on schedule or are poorly scheduled. Certainly you cannot avoid long 3 set matches but there are ways of mitigating delays.
Since court usage is important, you might consider starting the first match fifteen minutes before the normal hour and ensure that the first ball is struck on the hour. This works very well in keeping the event on schedule. If your courts are spread out, we estimate you can save 10-15 minutes per match, per session by giving the umpires 2 way radios and have them report the ending of a match to the tournament desk.
Results should be recorded online, preferably as soon as the match is completed. They should also be posted on draw sheets that you have created at the tournament site.
Have each court equipped with chairs, singles sticks, score-tenders and water.
New balls for every match and for third set, including consolation rounds.
Consider using 10 point match tiebreaks in lieu of third sets for consolations.
If possible, call players when his/her opponent defaults. While most players do call in ahead to notify the TD of a withdrawal, some do not. Place a message in the notes section on your tournament homepage to encourage players to call if they are unable to play their next match.
As stated in SCHEDULING section, at the very minimum, the first two days should be scheduled. Should you decide not to schedule the entire event ahead of time, be certain that the event is scheduled far enough in advance so that players reporting scores are given their scheduled time for their next match. When giving out the player’s next match time, consider giving them a slip of paper (or a Score Entry from TDM) with the initials of the person at the scorer’s table on it. This will help avoid any issues about what time the player’s next match was scheduled should there be any questions. Regardless of what method you choose, ALWAYS remind the players to check their times online the morning of their match.
As a tournament director you should want to get feedback, both good and not so good, on your tournament. By hearing from the players, you will learn what things went well so that you can continue with them and what aspects of the tournament need improvement. There are a couple of different online evaluations that are at your disposal:
NSMTA online Evaluation Form:
The NSMTA has designed an evaluation form that is available to all tournament directors. It is a star-based evaluation (1-5 stars) whose results can be posted online as soon as 10% of the participants respond. We have found that a number of tournaments get at least a 25% return of evaluations, which is outstanding! If you are interested in having this evaluation appear on your tournament page, reach out to the NSMTA for instructions and a link.
USTA Evaluation Form:
The USTA also has an evaluation form with a link that is on your tournament page.
Follow up email:
The players appreciate and deserve a letter recapping the event and thanking them for their participation. Let them know how appreciative you are and to tell their friends about the event and what a great time they had. Word-of-mouth marketing continues to be the most powerful of all marketing techniques and it doesn’t cost any money! It does though require you to be prepared, focused and committed to the tournament in such a way that the players can feel that you care about them.