How To Improve Tournament Communications?

This week’s rain-delayed CAT II tournament highlighted the need for ALL tournaments and the USTA to consider ways to improve

What time is my match?
What time is my match?
communications with the players. Many people travel significant distances and spend upwards of $600 – $1,000 in total expenses to participate, and deserve to get the most for their efforts (on and off the courts).

Obviously, the biggest need is when weather impacts the schedule and match times — and locations (when satellite sites are involved). But changes do regularly take place, both in the main draw and consolation brackets that need to be communicated.

Here are some suggestions

• When players register for a tournament online, be sure to provide their cell phone (rather than home phone) number along with their email address.

• The USTA should provide a digital file of all participant’s email addresses to the tournament director.

• then, in ADDITION to posting updates on the website, the tournament can send out an email “blast” with general announcements about delayed start times, weather conditions, etc.

• Players should regularly check online and/or emails for updates.

• Tournaments should NEVER change a posted start time, without notifying the players in that match.

• Tournaments should always label a website update with a new time (NOT edit an old one, that players may have already read).

• If there are satellite sites being used, identify them on the draws (online, big board, etc.).

• AND allow players to go directly to those sites and check in there (rather than driving to the main location and then being told to get back in their cars and drive somewhere else).

• Tournaments should provide a phone number that will always be answered … and by a person who has knowledge of what is happening.

• Tournaments should use an “all of the above” philosophy when trying to reach players: website, email, and cell phone.

What communication suggestions do you have for problems you may have encountered?

Sterling Oaks – finishes up today. HERE is the link to the results and pending matches.

Palm Aire – starts in one week. The deadline for sign-up is tomorrow at 5 p.m. (I will be keeping it a short week in Sarasota and playing singles only). The link is HERE

If you are not on my “new posting alert email list” and want to be (I promise, no other uses of your email address!), just drop me a note at George@seniortennisandfitness.com

8 thoughts on “How To Improve Tournament Communications?

  1. Another communication method would be text messenger. It is easy to send out text messages to players cell phones to update a change in time, venue or format. Changes on the tournament website draw sheets are very tricky to manage and not directed to individual players by the tournament management.

    I do congratulate the volunteers for hanging in there over this week. What a difficult situation and they handled themselves well…..

    Chuck – add another good method! tks, george

  2. George, to varying degrees I agree with all of your suggestions but most especially endorse Chuck’s suggestion of using text messages. Pretty much everybody has a smart phone these days and text messages are universal. That is the easiest and most direct way to communicate information to players. It is as good as email, but easier for the recipient to retrieve because it is instantaneous and most phones are set to register a sound when a text message arrives (not so usually with emails) so the player is more likely to read the message shortly after it is sent, rather than having to log into an email account which many people only do a few times a day if at all on weekends. It is better than a phone call because information can be conveyed by a single text message sent to multiple phones, making it easier on the tournament officials, rather than having to call dozens of individual phone numbers separately. And if the message is too long to fit into a single text, it came be combined with an email and shortened to something like “Updated tournament schedule. Log onto email for details.”

    As for me, I have had a few instances where tournament scheduling got me annoyed. Never to the point that I was defaulted, or anything. But there was a time a few years back when I had to play a USTA league playoff match the same day I was set to play a tournament final at a different location. I had told the tournament director about this and he assured me he would work it out with my opponent so the schedules would coincide. I also asked, and he assured me, I would get at least an hour’s rest between the two matches so I could recover as it was anticipated to be a brutally hot and humid day. Well, it turned out to be over 100 degrees that day with near saturation humidity. And to make things worse, I got paired in doubles in my USTA match with the slowest and weakest player on our team, AND we were playing against a team of lob and drop shot artists. So the team match wound up taking almost three hours to complete (we wound up winning in three sets) and I had to immediately jump in my car and drive the 20 minutes to the tournament final. On the way I kept trying to reach the tournament director on his cell phone to inform him I was on my way and to reiterate that I was going to need some time to recuperate when I got there, but he never picked up his phone to answer and, as I later found out, also never checked my numerous voice mail messages.

    You can guess what happened next. I walked up to the tournament desk, only to be told that the tournament director had temporarily left an assistant in charge, that my match had been called a few minutes earlier and I was expected to play immediately. All my protests to the desk that this was not what we had discussed were responded to by the assistant director that the director had told him no such thing and if I wasn’t ready to play then I would be defaulted. So, barely having time even to change my very wet and sweaty shirt, I walked onto the court to play the finals, still in 100 degree heat, but with extremely wobbly knees. I gave it my best effort, but went down something like 6-3, 6-1 to a guy that I later beat easily in another tournament. I was not happy.

    After the match was over, the tournament director came up to me to apologize, saying that the heat had gotten to him and he had gone off to an air conditioned building for a few hours himself, without his cell phone, to recover but he had forgotten to tell the assistant director of our arrangement. (My opponent, who knew about it and had given his consent, simply assumed that when I walked on to the court it was because there had been a change in the one hour rest arrangement, not knowing of the assistant director’s mistake.). In hindsight, the whole thing was kind of a comedy of errors that I contributed to myself because I should never have attempted to play two important matches in a single day. But it does illustrate the perils of bad communication when tournaments are being run.

  3. All I can say is that the technology has been around for a long time now and there’s just no excuse for not using it. Seems to me that someone at usta has to make this happen, starting with tournament registration. Good topic!

  4. On the subject of communication – I thought the communication at the Sterling Oaks tournament for the non-playing attendees really sucked. Most tournaments e.g. at the WTC 2 weeks earlier, they had all the draws on display in the main congregating area and posted what matches were in progress on what courts and what matches were “on deck”. This is ideal for the fans who can instantly check where the players are now.

    At Sterling Oaks, we had to find our way inside the crowded players lounge and wait in line to ask a busy volunteer where Joe so and so was playing. In several instances, the matches we wanted to watch were at Mediterra or Spanish Wells! We ended up just staying at the stadium court and watching those matches or pacing between courts to find a good match. FOR THOSE CLUBS HOSTING THE SUPER SENIOR GRAND PRIX TOURNAMENTS NEXT YEAR, THINK OF THE FANS AND HAVE A CENTRALLY LOCATED BOARD COMMUNICATING THE MATCH STATUS.

    ONE FINAL THOUGHT – VERY OFTEN WE’LL LOCATE AN INTERESTING MATCH ON COURT X AND NO ONE KNOWS WHO IS PLAYING. WHY NOT GIVE EACH PLAYER OR TEAM A CARDBOARD SIGN WITH THEIR NAMES THAT THEY COULD HANG ON THE COURT POST WHENEVER THEY PLAY?

    Bob – i like both ideas! thanks. george

  5. A lot of frustration from players at Sterling Oaks. The fact that whoever was answering the only phone number listed on the website was not knowledgable as to the details of what was actually happening was particularly frustrating. As far as blast emails and texts are concerned once set it would be easy to do both.

  6. With a tournament of this size ,two days of rain , and multiple sites it is quite a task to keep everything straight. I want to commend both the players and the volunteers for their patience. That said I appreciate all the input and I would love to be able to take a step forward and get into the modern age particularly with texting alerts. I’m not sure how to set it up, but with certainly look into it. On a few other ideas they did have a board saying what matches were on, but it was next to stadium court, should have had one in players area. On external sites I know it’s an inconvenience, but too often signals get crossed and players go to wrong site or get mixed up. If they meet at home site much safer. Also outer sites were mostly close by. I will be forwarding this to Paul Barrus the TD, and I’m sure next year they will be better prepared for rain. Not supposed to rain in the winter in FL. Hope you enjoyed the first half of the SSGP even with the hiccups and look forward to the second half.
    Larry Turville, FLSSGP Director

    Larry – i think we all need to remember what Winder Bill and Chuck Kinyon pointed out about being appreciative for the staff and volunteers who are willing to take on the challenge of running a tournament. Tks to them (and you) for all their work. george

  7. Having followed the tournaments difficulties, I can imagine the players’ frustrations. One word of caution, the tournament officials, volunteers, etc also had a very difficult experience. It does not take much for a club committee to say “let’s not do that again”. I do not know the specifics in Florida but in Virginia, the age group, open level tournaments have been drastically reduced.
    The reasons vary from less participants (rated league play really dropped open tournament registrations) and that most pros at the host clubs can make more money with less hassle by just teaching lessons. It is a privilege for us when a club opens itself so we can enjoy competing. Trying to design better communication tools is a positive goal – good luck with the rest of the Florida circuit season.

    Winder – that is a very good point for all of us to remember! tks, george

  8. This tournament was very well organized and the volunteers did a tremendous job. Don’t forget they were volunteers, many who were members that gave up their club for a week so we could play at a very reasonable price at their private facility. Too many times we only think of ourselves. To have two full days of rain in Florida was unusual and they still pulled off a wonderful tournament. If we didn’t have people like Paul (who was fighting the flu) and Larry going to bat for the older generation players, we would still be back up North in the snow. These people don’t have to do this. This is a wonderful circuit these volunteers have put together so we can travel and play tennis the entire months of January and February. From this snowbird, THANK YOU VERY MUCH FOR EVERYTHING YOU DID! The weather was really the problem this year, not this organization. See you next year if my health and backhand allows. Jim

    Jim – well said! thanks, george

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