By J. Fred Sidhu, USTA.com
Indian Wells, Calif. – If you’ve ever been to a USTA League National Championship, chances are you’ve seen the roving officials roaming the courts dressed in their familiar USTA uniforms with ocean blue and red-orange colored shirts, khaki shorts and straw hats.
During last week’s USTA League 3.0 Adult National Championships at the Randolph Tennis Center in Tucson, 58-year-old Chris Castro served as one of those roving officials.
However, this week Castro, a USTA Southwest section umpire/referee, traded his officials’ hat for a players’ hat as he accompanied his Southwest section team to the USTA League 4.0 Senior National Championships.
While Castro has worked as a USTA official for the last 14 years, he was playing in his very first USTA League National Championship.
On a hot, sunny weekend at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, the Tucson resident and his team just missed advancing to Sunday’s semifinals as they dropped a hard-fought 2-1 decision to the USTA senior men’s 4.0 Caribbean section team.
Following the match, Castro, who turns 59 on Oct. 26, was asked about the differences between being an official and playing at a League National Championship.
“There’s more pressure as a player,” Castro admitted. “As a player, you are your own linesman and you have to play the ball. As an umpire, I’m always roving, but as a player I have to focus on just one match.”
Another aspect that Castro noted was the communication that he needs to have while playing with his doubles partner on court.
Castro, who usually plays doubles with team captain Fred Wegner, said, “While working with other officials, of course you communicate, but on the court (as a player), the communication is more focused.”
One of the biggest challenges for Castro was the gap in between winning his sectional championship and actually playing in the Nationals. “We won the Sectionals back in El Paso four months ago and it’s been four months of nervousness, said Castro.
While Castro discussed the differences between being an official and a player, he also said both sides have their rewards.
As a player, Castro experienced the rewards of going undefeated during league play and winning his Sectionals to advance to the Nationals.
What are the rewards for an official? According to Castro, the littlest things make a big difference for umpires and officials. “Compliments like ‘thank you for watching our match,’ and a handshake from a player,” he said. “That makes our day.”