Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Officiating in Houston, Texas--What Its Like!


HOUSTON, TEXAS

Since we became a group site, we have included articles by different officials from around the state.  Here is a great article by Nancy Vivero--President of the Houston Tennis Officials Association.

Tennis officiating in Houston is very challenging with tournaments almost every weekend.  Since Houston is so large with surrounding cities it is tough to find enough officials from the Houston Tennis Umpires Association (HTUA) to supply the tournaments.  We have a training shadowing project where newbies shadow a seasoned official for 8 hours of a junior tournament and 8 hours of an adult tournament before we release them to work on their own.  We have a roving clinic that all newbies attend that is taught by a sectional trainer.

Supplying tournaments with officials:  Our HTUA Operations Manager receives requests from tournaments for officials and then our manager sends out a broadcast email to our members for them to reply that they are available for the tournament dates.  She then sends the available officials back to the tournament referee who then assigns the officials to the tournament sites.  Many tournaments use the 3 Houston Public Parks which have 16 to 26 courts for use.  And with the guidelines that the Junior Tennis Council mandates to tournament referees on the number of officials per number of courts, it does get a little tricky with multiple tournaments going on.  Of course there are tournaments that find their own officials for their tournaments and do not go through the HTUA.

High school team tennis in the fall and individual tennis in the spring have started using more officials for their district and regional tournaments.  Many of the Houston official work the high school state meets in November and May in College Station.

College is another challenge.  We supply Rice men and women, University of Houston women, Lamar men and women, and Prairie View A&M men with ITA officials.  Our college coordinator goes bonkers when many of the collegs have men's and women's dual matches on the same day at the same time.  Many of our ITA officials work Big 12 matches that are in Waco, Austin, Dallas, Ft. Worth, Corpus Christi, and Lubbock.  But most of the college matches are from January to May.

Then add in all the other tournaments--National Senior Women's Clay Court Championships in April; the US Men's Clay Court Championships in April and the pro circuit Tamale Cup are Rice, and various other junior national tournaments in Deer Park and in Spring--you have a full slate of tournaments.  The National Senior and SS Mother Daughter tournament is also held in Conroe.

So if you know of anyone that would like to be a tennis official here in Houston and the surrounding areas please have them get in touch with the area coordinator, Nancy Vivero, at nancymv243@aol.com.  WE NEED MORE HOUSTON OFFICIALS....

Nancy Vivero
HTUA President

Monday, September 26, 2016

Bees, Boobs, & Banter--What More Could You Ask For?

After another weekend of officiating in the state of Texas we wanted to share some of the unique experiences and then ask you, "how would you rule?" in these situations.


Scenario:  The Stinging Bee

We got a message from a fellow referee asking this question:  "If a player gets stung by a bee during a point, do they get a let?"

Rule:  (Friend at Court page 13.  26 Hindrance)  "However, the point shall be replayed if a player is hindered in playing the point by either an unintentional act of the opponent(s), or something outside the player's own control (not including a permanent fixture.)"

Ruling:  This was my response since I wasn't totally sure...

a.  If you like the player and he is behaving, give him a let.
b.  If you don't like the player and he is misbehaving, deny the let.

Not sure it was the correct ruling but at least it was fun sharing my opinion!  How would you have ruled?

Scenario:  Balls in the Bosom

I was actually the referee for this weird scenario this past weekend.  Team A came to me after the match and asked what they should have done in this situation.  Team B would place the extra ball in their bosoms during the point.  They would then give Team A the ball and it would be wet with sweat.  Team A asked Team B not to do but they refused.  What should they have done?

Rule:  Friend at Court page 5.  USTA Comment 3:1:  May a player cause a ball to become wet by using the ball to wipe perspiration from the player's body?  No.  A player may not take any action that materially changes the condition of the ball; therefore, a player may not use a ball to wipe off perspiration.  

Never had this happen before nor ever heard of it!  What would you have told them???


Scenario:  The two happy opponents.

This occurred this past weekend in an adult tournament where I was the referee.  Two ladies were playing each other and having a great time laughing, talking, and hugging during their match.  They would even go to the net and hug each other after a good point!  I was standing a few courts away and was observing them--and enjoying watching the love fest...  Just out of curiosity, I thought I would time their changeover since they seemed to be having such a good time.



From start to finish, their changeover after an odd number of games took SEVEN MINUTES!  Don't hyperventilate and accuse me of ignoring the rules about a minute and half on changeovers--I was just doing a social experiment...  I did go out and tell the ladies about their time limit and they promised to obey the rules but somehow I doubt that it happened!

Just one of the special joys of officiating and it was good to see players enjoying their match.

Friday, September 23, 2016

What Aren't We Teaching People Skills? Here Are Our Recommendations.


Now that the new USTA tests are about to become required reading and history on October 1, 2016, its time to take a long hard look at how we are training, teaching, and testing our officials.  While the new exams are a fantastic improvement over the old school methods, there is still a huge gap staring us in the face--teaching people skills--and we need to figure out what we are going to do about it.

All of us have seen officials (both new and older) come and go and its usually not because of a lack of knowledge of the rules of tennis.  Its usually because of their lack or misuse of their personal skills.  Officials without a good understanding of their own personal skills will usually react in one of two ways.  They will either become overly aggressive or hide themselves in a shell.  Its time to help them move on to a better grasp of their own lives and how to deal with others.  Check the picture below to see how important people skills are in our futures and you will begin to grasp how important it is for us to begin to teach people skills and constantly affirm their importance.

Teaching people skills is not nearly as easy as teaching the fundamentals of a rule book.  It requires personal knowledge and grasp of the skills, experience in utilizing them, and a willing and attentive audience.  Usually when a person is lacking in an area of personal skills it will be MAGNIFIED the moment they arrive at a site to begin officiating.

Maybe its time to take some of that accumulated USTA money and hire some experienced (and good) personal skills teachers and make them readily available to our officials.  This can be done in a classroom setting or letting the instructors roam the courts of some of our tournaments and help our officials as they are involved in the heat of the battle.


An official has to have the personal maturity, patience, and skills to deal with an abusive player--and this occurs at all levels.  Some of the most difficult challenges we face are in the super-championship boys 12's division.  A wise instructor can teach an official how to deal with this situation and these abusive players--and their parents.


An irate parent poses an even greater challenge because they are adults and have personal skills (or lack thereof) of their own.  They come from every walk of life and every income level so they offer one of life's greatest challenges.  We need to offer training in dealing with abusive parents or we're going to be losing officials by even greater numbers.


And there is everyone's nemesis--the abusive coach.  If you don't have some fairly well-developed personal skills they are going to eat you alive.  They are masters of how to manipulate and dominate and we offer nothing in our own defense.  Officials should be begging on some teaching to help them with their greatest challenges.


Tournament sites (both on and off the court) are going to feature everyone from adults to children who are creating havoc with their personal relationships and with those around them.  A well-trained official will know how to deal with them in the proper manner--and then everyone can go about enjoying their tournament.  Problem is--we aren't offering any of that training...


The truth of the matter is that adults (and kids) don't always get along.  Its their nature--and we can't change it.  But we can (and should) learn how to deal with it.  An untrained official will ignorantly jump into a volatile situation or run and hide if they have no training and teaching.  We are being asked to send sheep into the wolves' den without proper training and that needs to stop.  We can and should be teaching and equipping in the area of personal skills...

Learning to diffuse a difficult situation or person is an art--but one that can be learned.  Older officials usually have learned this art by trial and error (lots of them) but we need to train and re-train our officials on how to deal with difficult situations.  People don't care if we can make a 100 on our rules exams if we can't handle the situations in our everyday tournaments.  Let's get to work and start some real and valid training...

A few years ago there was a seminar offered for officials in the DFW Metroplex--and I immediately got car sick because I thought I was going to be forced to sit through yet another boring class about a bunch of nothing.  However, when we got there we were introduced to our speaker--a psychologist!  We didn't hear a word about rules and regulations but we heard a lot about people skills and how to utilize them as a tennis official.  IT WAS GREAT!  But, I've never seen or heard of it again...

HERE ARE OUR RECOMMENDATIONS:
*  Find and employ instructors who know how to teach personal skills.
*  Be more attentive to those officials who have difficulties in this area and take steps to remedy the problem.
*  Offer localized seminars with good instructors.  This can be a requirement or optional as long as its done.
*  Have the instructors work at tournaments and dual matches.  Pay them enough to let them branch out with their teaching methods.
*  Develop some quality materials on personal skills and make them available to all officials--free of charge.  Its worth the investment and someone who is lacking in personal skills probably won't pay for materials that will help them out of their situation.
*  Develop comprehensive exams that deal with personal skills and all aspects thereof--and then make it part of the requirements for an official.  In the long run, you will see some great results!

Its time to build on what we already have.  We have a great foundation for teaching rules and regulations--now we need to teach officials how to use everything they learned with their new-found people skills!

Don't leave your latest tournament feeling like the guy below...


Thursday, September 22, 2016

Help With Nucula Is Here!

Here is a comment that we received from one of our readers this morning:  (Feel free to utilize the advice to solve any problems you are having with Nucula)

Julio Echavarria still answers his line in New York if you have a nucula problem. Can't imagine what it will be like when he leaves. 
914-696-7280 call at 8 am our time.

Evaluating The USTA Tests

Since we as officials are evaluated regularly by everyone who has even hit a tennis ball, played in a tournament, had a child who played, or watched a match on TV, perhaps it is time for us to openly and honestly evaluate the new USTA and ITA tests.  In their effort to overcome mediocrity and to become "relevant", the USTA has gone entirely to the internet--and a minimum of five tests for every official (new or older).  That doesn't include additional tests for referees, chief umpires, line officials, and chair officials--and some of these won't even be ready until 2017.

Since everyone in our officiating world should have taken all of the required tests by October 1, 2016, we would welcome your thoughts, comments, and evaluations of the new tests.  Not that our opinions really matter or will be received, its sure fun sharing them...

Here is our evaluation of the USTA tests:


FIRST IMPRESSION AND OVERALL PRESENTATION deserves an A-.  The videos are done professionally and well with the voices and actors doing a good job.  The presentation didn't come across as aggressive and provided a fresh, new approach.  Excitement was at a high level in the beginning presentation or two but soon faded about the 5th hour in front of the computer.

In any internet test or presentation, the EASE OF NAVIGATING THE SITE is important.  While the site gave good explanations there were a tad too many clicks on each page to access different information.  Overall though it was fairly easy and deserves a B for a good effort.  Sometimes there were so many clicks required that you got lost in the process.

CONTENT is always important in any presentation and the tests provided good content.  They got a little slow when they kept asking you to click on the pages from the Friend at Court.  Noone has eyes good enough to read that!

TEACHING TO THE TEST is always a good thing to do when you have a minimum requirement of 90%.  There was much information from the Friend at Court that wasn't covered in the presentation but then we don't have a year to sit in front of the computer.  One of the attributes of the old schools was that different scenarios could be discussed in conjunction with a rules discussion and maybe that's what we lose when going completely to the internet.


LENGTH OF TIME to take the test and watch the video presentation was biggest drawback to the tests.  The first five tests took around 5 to 6 hours to complete and if you add in the referee test, you are talking about an inordinately long time in front of a computer.  Perhaps the length is due to the fact that many in leadership felt that the schools were getting too short and that more instruction time was needed.  Making an official sit in front of a computer for this length of time is not the solution and will probably drive off new officials in the future.  I cannot fathom a new official being told that he/she will have to take a 6 hour test before working being excited about joining our ranks. This length of time will probably prove to be our undoing in recruiting new officials--but we can only hope that it won't...



OVERALL GRADE of "B" seems appropriate for the new tests and their implementation.  Hopefully things will improve in time.  Most of the experience was good but the length overshadowed everything and all of the required tests should have been ready to go when the new requirements were initiated.  Poor implementation of a new program is never a virtue.  Thank goodness for the redemptive traits of smoothness and professionalism in the presentation.  They saved the day!

Our BIGGEST QUESTION is what we do require when it comes to shadowing and real-life training? Just taking a bunch of online tests isn't enough but then I guess that is left up to the local associations. The only problem we encounter here is that there are not enough valid local organizations in Texas to implement much of this kind of training and teaching.  A newly certified official is not going to respond too positively when we tell him/her that they have to work a shift or two for FREE and then take additional training if someone feels they aren't ready.  Maybe its time for more emphasis on on-court teaching and training and a tad less on book learning...

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

So You Want To Be An ITA Official? Here's What You Need To Do.


Seems like everyone wants to become a collegiate official beginning in January--and that's a good thing; however, in the collegiate officiating world, things just don't happen that quickly.  You can't put your hat in the ring today and expect to be doing chairs and getting paid in January...

Being a collegiate chair official requires much more knowledge and training than being a USTA roving official (even though we all start there) and this process takes time and commitment.  If you are just looking for a part-time job to make some money you probably need to look elsewhere...

Here are things that need to happen before you are in the chair and working a collegiate match:


First and foremost you are going to have to know the rules.  Here are the steps to move along:

*  Study the Friend at Court--and then study it some more.
*  Go to the USTA site and take and pass all of your required tests.  This takes at least 6-7 hours.
*  Be sure you are a certified USTA member and have paid your annual dues.
*  Be sure you have a Nucula account so you can more along in the process.  Without this, there is no hope.
*  Once you have a Nucula account, go to ZebraWeb and request an account.  If you have problems, contact us and we'll help you in the process.
*  Remember you can always contact the ITA at:  officials@itatennis.com
*  Once you are entered into ZebraWeb, you need to take the required ITA tests and webinars before you can begin training as an ITA official.
*  Once you are certified, local referees will be notified of your certification and should begin calling you to work.  If you have a local association, they should help you with your training and shadowing of experienced officials.


Training and training is what makes a good ITA official--and there is no shortcut.  Here are the steps:

*  Once you are a certified ITA official, you need to contact your local ITA coordinator for your area.  They are always looking for new officials and will welcome you into the family.
*  If you don't have a local collegiate coordinator, contact us.  We offer on-court training in real collegiate matches here in the Metroplex and are open to training anyone.
*  The coordinator will show you the local requirements for training and this usually includes shadowing, studying, actually doing some chairs with supervision, studying, and finally getting put into the chair for your own match.  Its a great experience but takes time!
*  Its best to find a coordinator who can train you in real-life matches but if not, get one who will train you in some practice matches or USTA tournaments.


Training means that you are sometimes going to get "down and dirty" and have to work in the trenches.  Collegiate chair officiating isn't always glory and glamour--sometimes it just plain hard work. Coordinators look at how someone does in training before enlisting them to work.  Pay attention to detail, do what you are told, smile when you are doing it, and then you're ready to jump right in...


Pay attention to your deadlines!!!  All of your USTA tests must be taken and passed by October 1, 2016.  The deadline for ITA testing has passed but they are offering a chance to redeem yourself and that testing begins now and runs for a short while.  Remember--you have to be ITA certified and a member of the USTA, Nucula, and ZebraWeb before you can work in the 2017.  There are no exceptions!

If you need more information about the deadlines, check the previous post on this site.


Once you have passed all your requirements, done the required training, and finally gotten assigned to matches where you will get paid, we want to WELCOME YOU TO THE FAMILY!  You will find the collegiate tennis officials family in one of the best anywhere--and we have lots of fun together!

Let us know if you're ready to begin the journey!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Deadlines Are Coming And Time Is Wasting...


October is going to be a huge month for tennis officials because that's the deadline for all USTA officials to be certified for next year and its also the month where the ITA lets in new officials and those who didn't take their tests earlier.  That means that EVERY OFFICIAL needs to pay attention to these deadlines.  You cannot work USTA events if you aren't certified and you can't be an ITA official if you haven't been USTA certified--and have taken the ITA tests and webinars!  That's in addition to paying the annual USTA membership dues and the new $48 fee from the ITA.  Isn't it fun being an official!!!

Reports vary on the length of time that the USTA tests take from 5 to 7 hours and that's probably quite accurate.  The tests are designed so that you can't skip anything and get the enjoyment of watching every video they have.  The ITA test is much shorter but the webinar tends to be cumbersome and wandering at times.  However--they are both requirements and both have DEADLINES that are fast approaching.  

The "set in stone" deadline for the USTA is October 1, 2016, if you want to be certified in 2017.  They aren't joking and these deadlines need to be met!  Here is the information:

Link:  http://lrc.learn.com/ustaofficiating

Your login is your email address and these are the tests that are offered:
   Introduction to Officiating
   Rules & Regulations I
   Rules & Regulations II
   Rules & Regulations III
   Level I Roving Umpire
   Level I Referee (Optional)

All of the tests above are required except the referee test and you must make at least a 90 on each of the tests to pass.  The referee test is required for those who wish to work as referees in 2017.






The ITA deadline is basically for those who didn't take the certification test when it was offered earlier in the year.  The ones who take the test in October (and its a very short time frame) will come in as provisionals for 2017, but certification is an absolute must if you want to work collegiate matches next year.

Here is the ITA information:

*  The new rulebook for the 2016-17 season is now available on ZebraWeb in the documents section.  To view or download the new rulebook, please look in the Documents section of ZebraWeb.  The printed rulebooks will be mailed out as soon as possible to all certified ITA officials.  If youo are listed as uncertified, you will not receive a hard copy of the rulebook until you complete your certification process.

*  If you need to take the ITA test for certification, the test is now available.  If you already have a valid certification, you do not need to take this test.  This is only for those who remain "uncertified" in the system.  

*  To access the test, select the "Documents" tab from across the top and then select "Online Test 2."  There is a PDF of the test available for download.  Please note, once you begin the test, you must complete it at that time.  The test is open book and is based on the new rulebook.  Be sure you download the new version to use when taking your test.

*  As always, if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to email us at officials@itatennis.com

Friday, September 16, 2016

Just What Does Your Referee Do For You? How About Something Extra?

This is a frequently asked by new officials (and some old ones too) and is probably a legitimate question that deserves an answer.  Right off the top of my head, here are a few things a referee does:

*  Makes sure the event or dual match is properly staffed with certified officials.
*  Makes sure you get paid and that you get meals provided if you work through meal time.
*  Makes sure you get paid for mileage if at all possible.
*  Protects you from irate players, coaches, and fans if the situation arises.
*  Makes assignments in spite of criticism from those who always want the #1 match.
*  Keeps order and calm among the assigned officials.

These are just some common sense things that the referee should provide for the officials--but with my coming from a background of 45 years as a pastor/preacher, I always provide them with a little something extra...

I don't want to offend anyone with this so if you are offended by something from the Bible, then don't read any further.  If you are one of my officials and want to know what "something extra" I provide for you, then keep reading.  What you get doesn't cost you anything, doesn't hurt when you get it, and comes free of charge...

Remember: This something extra covers you from when you leave home, when you are traveling, when you are working, and then all the way back home.  If you'd like, I can extend it so it covers you all the time--at no extra charge!

Here is what I do for my officials at every tournament or dual match:


The Biblical Hedge of Protection

Since Scripture tells us that Satan and his minions are out to destroy us and that we are in a continual spiritual warfare, we need protection in our daily lives--and most of all, we need victory over things that would harm us.  This principle holds true in tennis officiating as well as all aspects of life so I thought I should help do something about it...

In the book of Job, Scripture tells us that Job would rise up early every day (Job 1:5) to pray a HEDGE OF PROTECTION around his family for their protection.  I like to do the same for my officials.  I want them protected from anyone or anything that would harm them physically, emotionally, or any other way.  In today's world, we have no guarantees of what might happen to us at any event that we officiate so God's protection is always a good thing.  

Here is the Biblical definition of a hedge of protection:  that which surrounds like a fence--made to protect that which is in it from the enemy on the outside.  Infers that that which is protected is precious.

You may be a believer or you may not be, but you will have your hedge of protection anytime we work together.  I think we can all agree that God will do a better job of protecting us that we can do for ourselves...






Thursday, September 15, 2016

Novak Djokovic--The Ultimate Professional


In our generation we are privileged to witness not only one of the best players to have ever played the game, but also a man of many talents and a personality meant to thrill everyone.  Let's walk through the many faces of NOVAK DJOKOVIC.  Enjoy the journey...  (Just click on the picture to see the entire video)


Press conferences are always exciting with Novak.  He regularly shares all aspects of his personality.


Novak's eyes tell us a lot...


Celebrating yet another win!


Noone celebrates quite like Novak.


Embracing (and tasting) the grass at Wimbledon...


Novak is always good friends with the ball boys and girls.  A great trait in a professional!


Then he pays special attention to the beautiful ladies...


And he remembers that older women need attention too!


His impersonations of Nadal always thrill the crowds!


A personality for the ages...


Plus, it doesn't hurt to be good looking!


When he's playing, he takes things seriously.


And even argues a call from time to time.


Farewell and thanks for everything.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Great Balls of Fire!


Its somewhat incredulous that in our tennis officiating world everything revolves around a little tennis ball.  We watch how the ball is hit, where it lands, and then what happens after it lands--and its such fun!  There is nothing more exciting than being right in the center of a hotly contested tennis match and here are a few of the unique twists and turns of the glorious tennis ball...


As we prepare for a match, sometimes the ball just appears out of nowhere.  Of course we are supposed to open the can, clean the balls, squeeze the balls, and begin the warmup.  However, it doesn't always happen this way...

Part of our job is to learn how to watch the bounces of the ball and whether it lands inside the court boundaries or outside.  Try to follow and bouncing ball and learn to focus...


Sometimes the players have trouble focusing on the ball--but play begins anyway.  Ready or not...


The serve is struck and the point is begun!  Now get ready for the real action.

Sometimes the ball is hit with such force that it just "burns right past the players".


And sometimes it catches us by surprise...


Then there are those who don't really care what the ball does.  They are just there for the fun, entertainment, and socialization.


Then there are those who want to argue about everything that happens with the ball...


Some want to dissect the game--and there are those who watch too many cooking shows!


Tennis is truly an evolving game--just look at the new rackets and how hard the players hit the ball.  Be sure to watch long enough to see the evolution...


And thus the tennis ball quickly rolls away to live yet another day...