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PostHeaderIcon Three Helpful Tips from the USTA Frontlines

Monitoring the courts at Valley Vista

Monitoring the courts at Valley Vista (courtesy USTA Norcal)

It’s been a busy January in terms of my USTA and ITA “Official” duties. Between Junior events, Adult League Mixed events, and the Cal Winter Invitational, every weekend has been booked with time spent watching some great matches. While doing so, I’ve noticed a few things that might be helpful to others as they prepare for the 2014 Adult league and tournament season. Here are three tips to help your upcoming USTA season be more productive and sporting.

Come prepared for a five-minute warm-up!

One of an official’s duties is to time the player warm-up prior to matches in officiated league events and tournament play. While doing so, I’m often struck by how unprepared many players are for the quick pace of their five-minute warm-up. Five minutes seems like a good amount of time until you think about all of the tasks you might want to accomplish in your warm-up.

Here’s a short list of what most people include in their warm-up:

  1. Short court balls to start
  2. Easy baseline shots to start
  3. Stronger baseline rallies
  4. Volleys at the net
  5. Overheads
  6. Practice serves

When you attempt to do all of these things with one or more other people on the court also trying to do them, the results can be less than satisfying.

Remember that the five-minute warm-up is NOT your match warm-up. If you come to the court without having warmed up in some other way prior to the match, it’s not your opponent’s job to do that for you; nor is it the official’s job to give you extra time.

If possible, grab a side court to hit with a friend or doubles partner. If no courts are available, you can still do shadow swings and footwork drills to prepare yourself for the match. When you go to court for your match, know exactly what you want to accomplish so that you can stay focused and not lose time. And prioritize! You may not get to do everything you want to do, but you can at least make sure that your basic needs are met to start play.

Call out the correct score before every point

A lot of time is spent in matches correcting scoring errors. Whenever officials hear talking, then see players conversing at the net, it’s almost always a scoring discrepancy. This can easily be alleviated by calling out the score before each point in a manner that’s loud enough for your opponent to hear. If he disagrees, you can fix it before the point instead of creating more confusion “after the fact”.

Also, it’s extremely helpful for all if you use the correct terms for calling out the score. If the score is 15-40 and you say 5-4, or you say 3-5 for 30-15, you’re probably going to run into some issues. Remember, keep it loud, and avoid shorthand scoring.

Be honest with your opponent on line calls

This isn’t just about making correct line calls, it’s also about being honest with your opponent when asked about the call if it was out. Often, an opponent may balk at a close call of “out”, or ask as an FYI how far out the ball landed.

If asked, be honest about the distance. If the ball landed one inch outside of the line, don’t say, “It was WAY out”. You’re not being honest, and you’re also not contributing to an environment of “good sportsmanship”. Say it was close, or a couple of inches, or something along those lines. Your opponent will appreciate the honesty, and will less likely think that you are cheating on calls.

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