Well, I did it again! I captained not one… not two… but THREE teams to the post-season district playoffs this year. (In case you’re wondering how to do it and what work goes into it, read my previous blog post HERE).
Unfortunately, only two of my teams ended up going because one didn’t have enough players. (Note to self, don’t have your team so small that you can’t field a team for summer playoffs). On the bright side, the two teams that did go to playoffs, BOTH came in second overall in their flights. They were tough flights, and everyone played great! 🎾🎉👏
So, now, I’m here to tell you about our amazing experience so that if your team makes the post-season playoffs, you’ll be ready for the same!
If you haven’t been to a USTA League team district/sectional/regional/national playoff before, here is what you can expect.
First, it will be held over a 3-day weekend (Friday – Sunday) and hosted at multiple locations (depending on how far and wide your USTA region is). The teams will have several matches spread out over Friday and/or Saturday (yes, you probably will have more than one match on the same day, and they could be at different locations). If you win your bracket over these two days, you’ll advance to the final round held on Sunday. The team that comes in first place in their flight moves on to the next round – sectionals, regionals, etc.
These are full matches, so make sure you take a full roster. That way, the players will be fresh and ready to play in case you have multiple matches on the same day.
- Get your lineups out early for championships. You’ll have time to schedule practices with your courts and get everyone comfortable with playing with each other. Stick with what works- don’t put two people that have never played together in the regular season!
- Don’t change your team uniform! You had a good thing going during the regular season; keep it. If anything, add to it! Grab some cute matching socks, hairbands, or ¼ zips for pictures!
- DO NOT look up your competition beforehand! You will most likely not know anything about the teams you are playing since you did not play them in the regular season. That’s a good thing! Don’t go in with preconceived notions thinking you are ranked higher than them, so it’s an easy win; it’s a surefire way to lose! Go into the match with confidence and play your game!
- Wins AND losses matter. This is where total games and sets come into play because you may end up tied with another team in total matches. If that happens, officials will look at the total individual wins/losses and which team lost the fewest sets. If there is still a tie, officials will look at who lost the fewest games. Still a tie? Then officials will look at the game-winning percentage: the total number of games won divided by the total number of games played. Whatever you do: don’t get down if you are losing in the match. Concentrate on chipping away at more games, which can make the difference between a close first and second place!
- Come prepared. You would be surprised that some tennis clubs don’t have first aid kits or water coolers. And if you have a break between matches, don’t go out for a heavy lunch! Stick around and watch the other teams, or chill in the parking lot.
- Tennis bag essentials: These are important to have on hand at all times because you never know if you (or a teammate) may need them!
- Do schedule a team dinner on one of the nights. It’s great for team bonding and strategizing for the following day!
- Take lots of pics! You and your team will want to remember this momentous occasion, and it makes for fun printouts at the team party!
- Celebrate how you got here. It took hard work, dedication, and lots of practice. Remember that!!
These tips helped make my team’s playoff experience educational but fun and memorable – and all in the best way! As a matter of fact, we had such a great time that we’re already working hard to get ready for next year!