The Answer to the Big Question: How Do I Prepare for Aging Up?
The term “aging up” refers to the moment when you reach the month of your birthday and consequently become no longer eligible to compete in the age appropriate division.
The Answer to the Big Question: How Do I Prepare for Aging Up?
Written by: Bob Pass
What is aging up?
The term “aging up” refers to the moment when you reach the month of your birthday and consequently become no longer eligible to compete in the age appropriate division with in which you have been competing.
Your 13th birthday is on August 21st. On August 1st you can no longer compete in 12 & under events and can only compete in 14 & under (or older) age category events.
Why does this happen?
Under the PPR (points per round) ranking system, the points you have earned in the lower age division through the past 12 (11) months do not move with you when you age up into an older age division. In the example above, on August 1st, the players points (standing points) in the 12’s do not move with the player to the 14’s age category. Therefore it is possible for the player to have zero points, and zero standing points, in the new age division. In other words, the newly “aged up” player who is now in the 14’s looses their ranking of the previous age group. This is true even if the player is number one in their age group when they move up.
What do we do?
The good news is that the outcome stated above can be avoided if the player prepares for the aging up event. This is accomplished by proper scheduling, beginning from 6 to 12 months before the aging up event.
Six to twelve months prior to the aging up event (the month of the players birthday), players should begin to “play up” in the next age division in order to acquire points in that division. If a player is playing Level 1 tournaments in their current age group and would like to continue to play Level 1 tournaments in the upper age group, they must have played enough appropriate upper age division tournaments to get the required number of standing points in that age division. Players who do not possess the required number of standing points for their age division will not be permitted to play in upper division tournaments.
(Note: Starting January 1st 2006, entry into MAS (Mid Atlantic Section) Level 1 and 2 events will be based on standing alone.)
To begin to accumulate standing points, players may have to start competing in Level 5 and 4 events in the upper age division. With the accumulation of points through successful competition, the player should then enter Level 3 and 2 events. (Admittance to Level 3 and 2 tournaments will again depend on the players standing point acquisition in the Level 5 and 4 tournaments.) It should be noted that it is possible to gain entry into Level 3 and 2 events from the outset. If the player believes that they are ready to compete in the Level 3 and 2 tournaments in the upper division it is advised that they start there. This strategy also applies for those currently playing Level 2 events but not always able to make the cut for Level 1 events. If successful, the player should enter Level 1 events in the upper division.
Playing up is an important and useful developmental strategy for those players sitting near the top of their standings in their age appropriate division. This strategy allows athletes to play more competitive and challenging matches where they can test their skills and grow their overall game. Playing up should always be a part of these players scheduling tournament mix.
(The MAS schedule for Level 1 and 2 events is set to allow for, and encourage, playing up an age division. The schedule is set so that the adjoining age group events purposefully do not conflict.)
The PPR system is used by the USTA for all of it’s National Events and the preparation for the aging up event remains consistent nationally. For those players in the Mid Atlantic Section, National Level 5 events to be entered are MAS Level 2 events (also called “challengers”) and the Level 4 events are MAS Level 1 events (called “championships”). Also, players should be aware that one “sectional championship” may be designated as a USTA National Level 3 event. In the MAS, this would be a Championship #1 held in January, followed by USTA National Level 3 events held throughout the year. (See USTA National Schedule by going to www.usta.com) There are four USTA National Level 2 events, one held each quarter of the year. Within six months of aging up, a national caliber player should be entering these USTA Level 2 events in order to acquire points to position themselves for the aging up event.
Top players may also prepare for aging up from a national competition perspective by competing in the MAS section. Here, the player should be playing in the sectional Level 1 & 2 events so that they make the “sections endorsement quota” for National Championships and other National events. The MAS has an endorsement quota of three for the two 192-draw (clay and hard) and two for the two 128-draw winter and spring National Championships.
Typically at USTA National Championship events, the last 20% of the draw is filled from the age appropriate national standings list as it exists, on January 1st for the spring, May 1st for the clay & hard courts, and October 1st for the Winter National Championships. In the past, players with national standings in the range of 225 have been selected. There have been instances however, of players in the high 200s also being accepted. Remember, if you do not apply, you will not be selected.
Some may question the amount of tournament play that may be required to accomplish the goal of being prepared to move up an age division. One of the reasons for adopting the PPR system of ranking is to promote more play. Typically juniors outside the US have been playing 3 to 4 times the number of tournament matches than their US counterparts. Competitive match play is deemed by most experts to be the single most important component of the development of ones game. The top players in the MAS have been successful using the scheduling scenario mentioned at the beginning of this piece. Not only have players in MAS succeeded, they have also managed to maintain good academic standings in their respective high schools. Colleges admitting students coming out of the MAS attest to the workability of the PPR system in regards to academic achievement as well as athletic achievement and experience.
About the writer:
Bob Pass is the director of 4 Star Tennis Academy in Fairfax Virginia.
He has served on the MAS Junior Competition Committee for 14 years, 6 years as Chairman.