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Alternate Tennis Circuits
by Janice Combs

Sometimes a player has to decide what they would really like to pursue in their life and what sacrifices they are willing to make to achieve their goal. If you knew it was going to take $50,000 - $100,000 (to simply pay for the plane fares, hotels, entry fees over a period of 5 or 6 years while playing Junior tournaments here in the US) to achieve your goal, with still no real guarantees, not even for that great scholarship you were shooting for, this would eliminate a great portion of our youth in their pursuit of even playing tennis, and spending this amount of money doesn't really justify the college scholarship anyway. Now if someone told you you could achieve your goal, especially if your real goal was to play pro tennis, and to try to achieve a top 200 world ranking by the age of 20, by seeking out alternative means, that would cost more sacrifice, but much less money, would you be willing to do whatever it takes to make it? Here are your alternatives:

Forget the College Scholarship, but that does not mean you have to forget college!
Many Americans think that players from Europe are just going to become farmers and milk maids if they turn pro "early" but never make it since they seem to quit school early and never go to college. Actually they can complete their high school education by age 16 and can play on the tour before and after this age and still go on to study at a european university later on after they have given pro tennis a decent try on the tour. They start playing pro tennis at age 14. They play the ITF World Juniors circuit between ages 12 and 14. Since their universities are not tied to sports, they are free to fully concentrate on their pro careers up until 19 or 20 years of age with their universities being much more lenient than our US universities when it comes to regular attendance and they are not trapped by not being allowed to make prize money and playing for the school. The serious players in Europe try their guts out from age 12 - 20 and then if they do not make it to the top 200, they opt for university studies while continuing on making money on prize money circuits and by playing German Team Tennis in their spare time. Some players also decide to come to the US to get scholarships at the Div III and NAIA divisions (don't care if you play pro tennis) much to the dismay of many Americans (not this one). I personally am happy that they come so that our present level of tennis can at least get elevated since our Federation doesn't also provide for this to happen by itself.

If Americans could do the same, we would be better off. Free to play and then free to study. The money a player would sometimes save for tuition is not worth killing the dream. Well, that is for every player in the US to decide. If your heart says to follow your dream and your parents see dollar signs by cashing your dream in for college tuition, then they are assuming a lot without asking you what you think. It is your job to convince them otherwise. Your parents and the USTA try to pacify you by saying that you can "turn pro" after college, when without heavy wild card help this really cuts your career short as it is very difficult to make it up from the $10,000 Qualies, beginning at age 22. If you truly would like to play professional tennis, why would you give up your dream just to please your parents when you know that instituiton will always be there and your opportunities to play pro tennis will not? They don't want you to be a lazy tennis player with no education, but it is your life and you should have enough of a plan to make something of your life (Plan B) if you do not make it. Turn pro at age 14 and do everything you can to make it. If you must get a part time job to pay for expenses to finance your dream and to convince your parents of your seriousness, then do it. At age 20 if you still have not cracked the top 200, then go to college. After your wholehearted pursuit of pro tennis, start off in an inexpensive Junior College, transfer to a State University and finish up at a prominent Graduate school, perhaps you can defer expenses there by being the Assistant Coach (you need a Masters Degree to be the head coach) or be a pro at a local club while attending Graduate School and earn $40+/hour to help pay expenses.

Now another very up to date alternative is to sign up for Distance Learning starting at age 14 or 15 and go for it by taking all of your coursework on-line to obtain your diplomas and even degrees. Now you would think Distance Learning was designed for tennis professionals. So o.k., if you have decided to break the mold of US tennis, then read on and get busy planning your life. Remember! "Pro tennis is a moving train. If you don't get on, it passes you by." (Quote from a Dutch coach, I cannot remember her name).

In addition to playing all of the ITF/ATP Tour/WTA Tour events that you can get into, consider the following alternatives and these are especially important for any girl who is running out of her quota due to the Girl's Age Eligibility rule but still wants to keep making money to pay for her career as well as get good practice:

1. Play the Florida Prize Money Circuit

This is a series of tournaments running year round in Florida (Del Ray Beach for the most part, but actually all over Florida) for up to $2,000 in prize money per tournament. $250 Semis, $500 Runnier-Up $1,000 Winner. There are many ATP Tour and WTA Tour ranked players participating. Check it out with Paul Campo

2. Play the Southern Calfornia Prize Money Tournaments
Play tournaments in San Diego, Orange, and Los Angeles County with prize money from $200 - $2,000 with the occasional $10,000 event
Southern California Tennis Association

3. Play the Prize Money Circuit in Germany
The German prize money events (500 - 10000 Euros) also count for a German National ranking which can help you get into ITF events in Europe if you do not have a national ranking from your country. They also allow foreigners to play these events (many have Open Qualifyings) and obtain a German Ranking. Sprechen Sie Deutsch? Sprechen Sie clay court tennis? I hope so. Season runs year round indoors and outdoors. German Prize Money Circuit

4. Play the French Prize Money Circuit
The Calendar of over 2000 prize money events in France year round (500 - 10000 Euros) are played on indoor carpet, outdoor hardcourt, clay and grass. Before sending an email to Marie-Laure Sakalakis requesting the 200 page pdf calendar to be emailed to you, please be sure and read How to Play Tournaments in France

5. Play the 128 ITF Satellite $10,000 Qualifyings (girls only)
The best series of 128 Women's ITF Qualies are in Europe, Belgium, Croatia and Spain. The US also has some in May - June. If you have no WTA ranking, players need to start here, unless they are the beneficiary of the USTA wild card, as those players do not even need to start at this level, to obtain an opening ranking but think about how much better a player you would be if you truly start at the bottom with no wild cards. To view the calendar go to ITF Women's Tennis Be sure to obtain the IPIN number or you will not be able to play.

6. Play the ITF Junior Circuit down to Grade 5 of Grades 1 - 5 in Eastern Europe
Many Americans do not even realize that they could be playing the Grade 3, 4 and 5's of the ITF World Juniors. Europeans playing these circuits are seriously considering pro tennis. Players that are 12, 13 and 14 year olds are participating on these circuits. There are many tournaments in Eastern Europe and play over there for the American is very reasonable. And, they have Open Qualifyings so no one would be left out. There is also housing available much of the time and the tournaments are 6 to 10 hours apart. So rent a car from a dealer and off you go! Go to ITF Juniors to get the tournament schedules.

7. Try to get into the more obscure 128 Draw Men's ITF Satellite Circuits
They are in Israel, Nigeria and places like that. So it is no picnic but some players will do what they have to do to get those first points. But you just need to go to a 128 Qualie and show up to sign in to see if you can get in but you can view your chances online as well to see your status before trying to go. To view the calendar go to ITF Men's Tennis

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