USTA League Nationals for 2014 get started tomorrow with the 3.0 level playing in Tucson and 5.0+ in Indian Wells. And following close behind are 2.5 and 4.0 next weekend, also in Indian Wells and Tucson.
Having had the opportunity to go to Nationals once, I know this is an exciting time. Whether you are traveling today or flew in a day early yesterday, the anticipation is building. For some, this is a repeat of what has been done before, and perhaps there are goals set to do better than last time. But for others this is a brand new experience. For both, a few tips and reminders:
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate
Tucson and Indian Wells are dry desert climates and it will be hot and you will need more water than you think. And hanging out in the sun all day will sap your strength if you aren't used to it. That said, Tucson's forecast is for mid/upper 80s which isn't bad, but Indian Wells is supposed to be in the upper 90s.
Have a plan as a team
Do you have aspirations of winning it all? Or have the goals been met by just getting there? In either case, have a plan for the weekend.
If you are trying to win it all, trust your scouting reports (you did get team reports on the opposition right?) and know who you plan to play in which matches in order to both give yourself the best chance at winning the team match but keeping guys fresh enough to make it to the end. But be ready to adapt as you learn more about the opponents or based on the results of the matches. And even though you've done your homework, getting updated reports during the event can be useful so contact me if you are interested in that.
If you have accomplished the goal already, then make sure everyone has the best experience. Have the rotation figured out that will get everyone in a few matches but don't just throw players out there, you never know what might happen and you could advance out of your flight, so still give line-ups some thought.
And balancing playing time can be tricky, especially if you are trying to win it all or find yourself with a chance to advance. Most teams bring more than the minimum number of players, but there may be a pecking order to who should play to have the best chance of winning. Regardless of it you are going to even out playing time or not, make sure the players understand their role and what to expect.
Relax and have fun
This is probably the most important thing. Is winning fun? Sure, but only a few teams will even make the semis and only one team wins, so if having fun is contingent on being the champs, a lot of folks won't have fun. And more most people, they play their best when they are relaxed. So play your best, be good sportsmen/sportswomen and play fair, but have fun and enjoy the experience. While some are fortunate to go to Nationals more than once, for many it may be a once in lifetime experience so enjoy it.
And to those that belittle Nationals as meaningless, that being the "best 3.5" just means there are thousands of players better than you, the same can be said for most any job or accomplishment so don't mind them. Goals and accomplishments are personal, so set them for yourself and strive to achieve them.
And I'm pleased to say I have a number of report customers that are headed to Nationals over the next month so I'll be following all of their progress with a close eye and continuing to help several teams through the event. Good luck to all the teams though, have fun and play your best.