By Wanda Collins and Cheyenne Hayes
Word has it that there are players out there who would love to enter a tournament, or who have been to one or two, that find them intimidating…seems like everyone knows what they’re doing except for you. This is much like the feeling you get when you walk into a weight room to do a workout for the first time and everyone else in the room acts like a professional body builder – trust us, they’re not! Feel like an outsider at these events? Here are some tips:
1. There are a couple of ways to enter sanctioned tournaments: either mail in your entry form with a check or go to the R2 website and enter on line. Just head to upcoming racquetball tournaments. There is a $4.95 charge to enter online, but to a lot of players, it’s worth it!
2. You can request special start time consideration when you enter most events! Just send a note with your paper entry, or note it in the space provided for comments on the R2 website. For the ladies, because their draws are relatively small, sometimes you can avoid playing ‘til Saturday, depending on the size of the tournament. Just keep in mind that when you ask for a later time, you may have more matches in one day than some players, and they may be scheduled closer together.
3. Check in and get your souvenirs and tournament information at least an hour before you play on your first day. After that, you’ll be checking in at least a ½ hour before your match time each time you have to play. The tournament desk gets busy…they need to know you’re waiting. If you don’t check in, you’ll end up being one of the last matches to play during your time slot.
4. Check out the draws posted on the wall. Find your division, and plot your times based on winning or losing. It can help you to find a time when you can leave and take a break, or plan your weekend better. Check it every day before you leave: sometimes tournament directors need to change a time, or correct an error in placement. If you don’t know how to “read” draw, ask someone close by you that looks like that body builder on the weight floor. They’d be glad to show you how it works.
5. How to see if the tournament is running on time as you wait for your match: Cruise by the tournament desk and look at the score cards on the table. They have a time written on them. If it’s the same as your scheduled time, you know you’re up soon. If they have an earlier time on them, eat a banana and relax. It’s going to take a while. Courts are assigned as matches finish.
6. When you’re called to a court, head there as soon as you can. You have 5 minutes to warm up before the referee starts your match. Each player takes a side and hits balls down the wall. Switch halfway during warm up so that both strokes are ready to go.
7. Work at being a quality referee. Everyone appreciates it when a ref has actually read the rulebook, speaks clearly, and pays attention. You should not be asked to referee any match that is much above your playing level, so if you are given something you can’t handle, tell the tournament desk! Be sure and attend any reffing clinics that are offered at the tournaments. They are an enormous help. Ask the desk to send a “helper” with you if it’s your first time and/or you’re unsure.
8. Ladies – Use your resources! Any woman who plays tournaments will help guide you through the trenches. There are no dumb questions! Cheyenne Hayes works hard to get you there, she’ll also help find someone to mentor you!
9. Bring the supplies you’ll need. Most clubs do NOT provided towels, so bring a small towel to wipe your sweat, and a big one for your shower. Most clubs have lockers you can use, but many of them do not provide locks. Bring your own, and take it off at the end of each day. Most tournaments have some meals available, but be sure and bring a few snacks for energy and a drink bottle with water, Gatorade, or your favorite drink. Refill OFTEN at the drinking fountain. Lastly, bring enough clothes to keep you going. Round robins can lead to a lot of matches and having a dry shirt can make you feel much more refreshed than that wet one. Carry at least two racquets. Strings and frames can break.
10. Don’t let things distract you during your match. Play each point the best that you can. The referee is there to help you, so if you have any questions (who’s serve is it?, what’s the score?, do I have any time outs left?) look at the ref and get the answer. And remember, you DO have three 30 second time outs in a 15 point game, and two in an 11 point game. Make use of them! Bring your gear and your water bottle to the back of the court you are playing on. You won’t have time to go find them during a time out.