Tournament Director Spotlight
It’s a tough gig, but somebody’s gotta do it. Tournament directors are a critical and indispensable part of USTA competition. Weekend after weekend, they manage a wide range of moving parts—and might even extinguish some tiny fires—to provide young players with a fun, competitive opportunity close to home.
And some do it without breaking (too much of) a sweat. We talked to three directors whose events have, to date, scored the highest mean rating on our tournament survey: Peter Green of Sportime Schenectady in Schenectady N.Y.; Steve Lee of Mountainside Racquet Club in Mountainside, N.J.; and Diego Valencia of CourtSense Bogota in Bogota, N.J. They spoke about their experiences in the sport and what they love about working with young juniors across the section.
You’ve all received high marks for the events you’ve run as tournament directors. What is key to providing an optimal experience for participants?
PETER GREEN: There is no one key to running a good tournament. It’s really about everything you do and everything you need to do. It’s being flexible with a player when you can be, while still being fair to everyone else. We try to give players in every age group and every ability level the chance to compete with players of similar ability. We also try to attract players from out of the area so that our local players see new players and new game styles.
STEVE LEE: For me I like to emphasize two factors: consistency and professionalism. I want participants and parents to know that when they come to play a tournament at Mountainside, that tournament will be run both consistently and professionally, and always within USTA guidelines. I run 99% of all the tournaments at Mountainside from start to finish behind the tournament desk.
DIEGO VALENCIA: We keep a very clean and organized facility. We keep players informed about scores and other notices as quickly and efficiently as possible. We always emphasize the importance of being fair, honest, and also having fun. Even though we want the players to take this seriously, we always want to make sure there's not too much pressure on them.
What do you enjoy most about running tournaments?
VALENCIA: I get to create new experiences for players. For some, it’s their first time competing, so I try to make it as fun and professional as possible.
GREEN: My favorite part of the tournament is when things start winding down, and I get a chance to get to know new people better.
LEE: I enjoy seeing the kids that frequently play at our club going through the journey of playing junior tournaments from level to level and watching them grow up through the years.
You all have a great deal of experience in tennis. What do you love about the sport itself? What has it meant to you to be a part of the Eastern tennis ecosystem?
LEE: Tennis is a sport of a lifetime. The memories and friendships are what I cherish the most while working in tennis. I have been in the tennis industry since 1995 as a tennis professional. So many memories, and I'm still in touch with many of my former students.
GREEN: I have been a coach at USTA Zone Team Championships many times, and I don’t get to see most of my Zonal players again until I run a high-level tournament in their age group. It is always great to catch up with them and follow them through to college. In addition to running tournaments, I also like to write about tennis. I have a local tennis blog called 518 tennis. I enjoy writing articles about local players and tournaments.
VALENCIA: I’ve worked in the tennis field for about 40 years and it brings me so much happiness. I’ve seen some of these players go from starting their first tournament when they were little to getting the chance to play at the US Open. [Also] seeing some players that maybe once could not control their emotions on the court at tournaments do a complete turn around [over the years] is amazing. As a coach, nothing beats the feeling of watching a player you know grow and get offered more opportunities.