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Harry Gilbert’s Lauren Jr. Local Championships

February 10, 2009 01:12 PM

By: Tori Townsend

As part of USTA Florida’s commitment to excellence, the association is evaluating many of its tournaments in 2009. Every month, one junior tournament will be selected as a “Tournament Spotlight” due to its high evaluation marks received post-event and/or for hosting a successful tournament for junior players in the state. Congratulations to inaugural recipient Harry Gilbert, Tournament Director of Harry Gilbert’s Lauren Jr. Local Championships at Ginn Hammock Beach Resort in Palm Coast, Fla. The tournament drew 74 players, Jan. 17-19, and simply went above and beyond.

Harry, Ginn Hammock Beach Director of Tennis, has been running tournaments for longer than he cares to remember and named the local event after his daughter, Lauren, 20 years ago. Harry Gilbert’s Lauren Jr. Local Championships has resided in Volusia County since its creation in 1989, starting first at Plantation Bay in Ormond Beach, moving to the Florida Tennis Center in Daytona Beach, and housed now at Hammock Beach in Palm Coast. He is a staple and supporter of USTA competitive tennis in Florida, hosting an average of seven or eight sanctioned tournaments a year and close to 400 total tournaments [UTSA and non-USTA]throughout his 28 year career. Throw in president of the USPTA, and you have an individual who has pledged his life to tennis and cares about the future growth of the sport.

While in Texas at a USPTA convention, Harry talked to USTA Florida about the importance of hosting quality tennis tournaments in the state.

Q. This tournament has been going on a long time. What’s your secret to its success?
A. We always try to work with the parents the best we can. We do the little things like provide lunch and I’d like to think that we do a nice job as far as organization and making sure that we can accommodate whatever request. Also, we’ve always tried to keep the tournament in perspective. The results are important, that’s why they are there, but we try and provide a social experience. You know, keep it where the kids can maybe stay at the site, have some fun and interact with the other kids in addition to the matches. It is nice to see the kids hanging out and being active in between matches. We don’t plan for that, but we encourage it – we provide the football!

Q. What did you enjoy most about hosting the event this year?
Well, I do them [run tournaments] because I like them. I like the traffic that it brings, I like the interaction with the kids and the parents, and I like to see the kids grow up around tennis. I’ve been doing it long time and it’s just fun. I like brining that activity to my facilities.

Q. What is the most important thing you want the kids to remember when they walk away from your tournament?
A. Truthfully, they are going to remember how they did, but from our side, I’d like them to think that we were personable and pleasant to them and by in large, they [more so the parents than the kids] recognize that we worked hard to make the event go well.

Q. Are you aware of the new online evaluation system recently instated by USTA Florida for all junior tournaments?
It is nice that the section is asking for that feedback and I think it is nice that parents take the time to recognize that some people are trying a little harder to do a more professional job. I am pleased to hear it and happy.

Q. Why are local tournaments important and why is it important to keep the quality of the events high?
As someone who makes a living in the game, and recognizes that the bigger tournaments certainly draw more people, there is still a place for these tournaments, even if the draws are not as big. My contention is at least 50% of the people that play my local wouldn’t have played that week if we didn’t offer a local tournament in our area. A local is a great place for kids to start and they are less pressurized than a Super Series. It provides that high school player, new competitive player and players that are not quite good enough to get in a Super Series, a place to play. And if the tournament director and the Section recognize and treat these tournaments with the same level of interest and effort, I think everybody wins.

Q. What are three key priorities or standards you focus on when you run a tournament?
A. Organizing and scheduling appropriately and efficiently – that is number one. In the world we live in, peoples’ time is very valuable. Two is to establish good relationships and interact with the parents and players. And thirdly, from my seat, I look to give the kids an opportunity to play, particularly the ones locally because it is fun to see them, and the students’ I coach, play the sport.

Q. How important are well run tournaments to the future of junior tennis in Florida?
The designated and Super Series, because of the points, are very important, yet I don’t think there is any question that they will continue to succeed and drive the high end of the competitive junior market. I think that our Rookies and Locals are really important to keeping the type of kids that are playing Jr. Team Tennis or coming out of Jr. Team Tennis. And those are the players which, from the Community Tennis side of the USTA, are the type of players we are trying to keep in the game, who won’t play in college. If we can make sure their tournament experience is important and maintains their interest , we will keep them in the game and hopefully turn them into lifetime players.






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