Take one glance at USTA Florida’s event calendar for Fall 2019 and you’ll see an overwhelming number of entry-level tournaments scheduled; that’s because young tennis players across the state want more opportunities to jump-start their competitive play.
“Young players love these types of tournaments,” said USTA Florida Youth Program Coordinator Thad Hawkes. “They get a lot of match play opportunities in entry-level competitions and the more they play, the more they’re educated on the sport as they continue their tournament career.”
Entry-level tournaments offer beginner-level players an introduction to tournament play in a no-pressure, fun environment. Under USTA Florida Section tournament levels, levels 8 and 9 are considered entry-level and do not award ranking points to participants. Level 9 (L9) are entry-level tournaments using red, orange, green or yellow balls depending upon the child’s age and development, while Level 8 (L8) tournaments use orange, green or yellow ball. Players must know the basics of how to serve, rally and score in order to participate in the events, which have a non-elimination format and normally finish within one day.
“During these tournaments the kids will play three, four, sometimes seven matches in one day, but they’ll start on a Saturday and end on that same Saturday,” commented Hawkes. “Entry-level tournaments offer a greater deal of flexibility for families when compared to weekend-long competitions.”
Entry-level tournaments have surged in popularity over the past few years. When it comes to the number of tournaments offered, 2019 has seen a 471% increase since 2012. This year, USTA Florida is on track to have more than 200 tournaments offered by more than 40 providers; just seven years ago that number was around 35 tournaments and 12 providers.
Numbers have also grown annually in every ball color. Through the third quarter of 2019, red and orange ball registrations are both up 19% compared to 2018; green ball has seen a 49% increase from its 2018 registrants; and yellow ball had an impressive 72% jump from the previous year.
Entry-level tournaments are also seeing more new players than ever before with more than 1,130 new players in 2019. Overall, nearly 4,000 players participated in an entry-level tournament so far this year, a climb of 40% from just 12 months ago. It’s not hard to see why these events have gained momentum; according to Hawkes, kids want to have fun and make friends, all while learning tennis tournament basics.
“These tournaments are important because these young tennis players are the future of the game,” said Hawkes. “If they have a good time playing in entry-level competitions, there is a greater chance they’ll continue to play tennis for years to come.”
Interested in signing up for a Level 9 or Level 8 entry-level tournament? Click below to find events in your area.
For more information about Level 9 through Level 1 junior tournaments, visit ustaflorida.com/youth-tennis/junior-tournaments/