Brandon Alguire is Head Coach of the U12 Provincial Team, ACE's System Developer and Coach Developer for Tennis Canada; below he gives an insight into how to navigate the competitive system.

Many young players and their parents don’t know what tournaments to play when they transition from U10 to U12 or how many tournaments they should be playing. Luckily, Tennis Canada provides this information in a document called Long Term Athlete Development (LTAD). In this document; it outlines a range of how many matches kids should play at all age groups, as well as how many training hours they should be doing on court and how much physical training should be being done. For example: U12 players should play 50-70 matches and train 10-12 hrs/week. U10 players should play 20-40 matches over the course of a year and train 8-10 hrs/week. Anyone can access this info if you simply google “Tennis Canada LTAD”. A PDF document is available for you to view.

When it comes to tournaments, in Ontario we have a few different levels that parents and players going from U10 to U12 should be aware of.

1.     Rookie tournaments - these events are an introduction to competitive tournaments. They are played over the course of 1 day and have modified scoring or a time limit to ensure matches don’t go too long. Players are guaranteed 3 matches but they don’t receive any OTA ranking points for participating in these types of events.

2.     Transition Tour (2 star) - these events are the lowest level event that do provide OTA ranking points. You’re guaranteed 2 matches and have slightly modified scoring where you play no Ads and if there’s a 3rd set, it’s a tie breaker to 10 points.

3.     Provincial Circuit (3 star) - these are your “regular” events with full scoring and you’re only guaranteed one match. However, you will receive more ranking points for each win you get in this type of event.

4.     National Selection (4 star) - this event is much bigger as it’s one of the events that helps a player qualify for a spot at the Canadian National Championships. There’s usually about six to eight 4 star tours that’s each year.

5.     Provincial & National Championships (5 star) - these events are the biggest in the U12 calendar each year. They are worth the most points and obviously have the best competition you’ll face throughout the year.

So now the question is, you have a child going from U10 to U12 and which tournaments should they start with. I personally suggest you start them at Transition Tour because I think the players want to get a ranking ASAP and try to build on that ranking. However, it’s VERY important that a player feels like they have success too. Some research suggests players should have a win to loss ratio of 3:1. This ratio is near impossible to achieve unless the player is being severely under-challenged. I ask my players to enter events where they are somewhere around winning half of their total matches over the course of the year. This way, they’re winning lots but are still being challenged. There’s nothing wrong with mixing up different events so the player has tough matches and then some easier matches; so maybe they lose 1st round in one event, but win the tournament in another event. Winning a tournament goes a long way to helping a child feel good about their training and inspire them to train harder. Losing too much can have the opposite effect.

To summarize , make sure your child trains the right number of hours in order to improve at a solid rate and mix up the tournaments they play so they’re challenged, but still has a healthy amount of confidence. And lastly, keep in mind that even the best players in the world don’t win all the time so don’t expect your child to.