This junior tournaments guide mini-series will help you navigate the tournament landscape no matter where you live in the U.S. Today we will be focusing on the Florida Section.
Junior tournaments are an important part of any players regimen. Without the competitive atmosphere where there is something on the line, it will be tough for your child to learn how to fight off nerves and play their best in tight matches. I know we’ve all seen this scenario. It’s a big match, and your kid just practiced yesterday and was looking great. During warm-up, everything looks just as good. Your child is hitting the ball cleanly, and their strokes are on point. But then as soon as the match starts it’s like watching a different person. They start pushing the ball as if they’ve regressed a year or more in ability and it only gets worse as the match goes on. Eventually, they lose the match, and you can’t help but wonder why it happened and what needs to be done to get over these mental barriers.
Unfortunately, the only way to get better at this is to continue to put your child in these situations until they start to get comfortable with them. However, you can speed up this process by allowing your child the highest chance of success early on. Early success will give them the confidence they need to play up to their actual level in a match. This is why playing tournaments can be so important. If used correctly then you can boost your child’s match confidence and mental toughness allowing them to win when they need it most.
USTA junior tournaments are split into five different age groups 10&Under, 12&Under, 14&Under, 16&Under, and 18&Under (“Under” is sometimes referred to as U, For example, 10U, 12U, 14U, 16U, 18U). Your Child is eligible to play in tournaments their age and older. If your child is 13, they can play 14U tournaments and up. On the first day of the month of your child’s birthday, they are no longer eligible to play in an age group younger than them. For example, if your child is 14 going on 15 and their birthday is in March. On March first, they would no longer be allowed to play in 14U tournaments. (Note that 10U tournaments follow a different framework which I go over in our youth tennis progression post).
Florida Section Tournament Levels
Beginner Tournaments (Level 8 and 9)
Level 8 and 9 tournaments are one-day events geared towards players who are relatively new to the tennis world and want to try out some tournaments. They last about a half-day per draw and are in non-elimination formats (round robin) with a guarantee of at least three matches per child. These tournaments may have timed matches or short sets depending on the court availability of the location hosting the tournament.
It is easy for kids to get discouraged when they go to a tournament that is 2+ hours away just to lose in 20 minutes. That’s why L9 and L8 round robins are so important. Not only do they get the valuable experience of playing multiple matches with different kinds of players but, you spare them the discouragement of being sent home right away. No ranking points are awarded for this level of tournament.
Intermediate Tournaments (Level 7)
The level 7 tournaments are for those that are looking to start to get serious about playing in tennis tournaments and have had success at who have had success at the L8/L9 level or other tennis competitions (like High School Tennis or Junior Team Tennis). They are an excellent way for kids to get their first taste of elimination tennis tournaments and check out their skill to see how far they’ve come and what still needs to be worked on. Kids are guaranteed at least two matches and can earn Florida USTA ranking points with match wins.
Advanced Florida Tournaments (Level 5 and 6)
The L6 tournament is for advanced-intermediate players who have had repeated success at L6 and is an introduction to advanced competition. L6 tournaments are open to everyone so they are filled with players of quite a few different levels and can be a bit of a gamble regarding the level of opponent your child will play. These tournaments are usually single elimination but do have consolation rounds so your child will be guaranteed at least 2 matches. Your child can earn USTA Florida ranking points through these tournaments and will earn more in an L6 they could at an L7.
These Tournaments are for advanced players or players looking to play against the best in their area. There are only 6 L5’s held a year and only the top 32 to 64 players who register for it will be given a spot. If your child has a top 200 ranking in the Florida Section, this is where they should go to test out their skill. Winning one of these isn’t easy, but there can be a lot of Florida ranking points won if your child does well. Florida level 5 tournaments require parents to prove that their kids are Florida residents. You can find out more about the process and how to make sure your child is able to participate on the USTA Florida website here
Florida National tournaments (Level 3 and 4)
These are level 3 and 4 tournaments that are held in Florida every year and are for top-ranked players. While they don’t offer as many points as the level 1 and 2 tournaments they do still have national and Florida ranking points on the line and thus have a very high level of competition. It’s no easy task getting into one of them, and you usually have to be in the top 100 in the section to play in one. Florida level 3 and 4 tournaments require parents to prove that their kids are Florida residents. You can find out more about the process and how to make sure your child is able to participate on the USTA Florida website here
National Tournaments (level 1 and 2)
These are level 1 and 2 tournaments that are sometimes held in Florida. These tournaments are for the most advanced level of player and where the best in the country come to compete.
Which Tournmanent Should Your Child Play?
So the next question is which one should your child play? Well, I’ve broken it down based on tournament experience.
If your child is just curious about maybe playing tennis, then this is the tournament for them. It will be a nice relaxed and fun atmosphere for kids to go out make friends and play some tennis.
If your child has little or no experience playing in tennis tournaments but have had success at the L8/L9 level or other tennis competitions (like High School Tennis or Junior Team Tennis) then the first one they should try is an L7. Even if they end up easily beating all the competition, having a good first experience is essential to building confidence and keeping your child wanting to play tennis. Even more important, if they start to get nervous and lose, they at least have the opportunity to play multiple matches. The more matches they play, the more they will be able to start to overcome their nerves in matches.
If your child plays a USTA tournament every now and again then I would suggest they start playing L6’s. Although L6 tournaments can be a bit of a gamble regarding the level of the competition, it is important to start gaining some tournament experience where a loss means you are going home. These tournaments will allow you to gauge how your child plays when the pressure is on. L6’s are also great places to start if you are looking to get your child some experience with playing kids in the next age bracket.
If your child plays on a high school varsity team, plays tournaments on a regular basis, and consistently gets to finals of L6’s then it’s time to try out L5’s. This is where the best in the area come to play, and it will be the best place to test your child’s skills. If they do well here, then they can start to build a ranking and possibly get into a level 4 or level 3 tournament!
Feel free to check out all the information on the Florida Section tennis options on their page here.
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