Refereeing‎ > ‎

Refereeing a Tournament

Refereeing a Tournament


Now let’s look at the process of refereeing a tournament from the beginning to end (for specific details on any particular aspect of operating a tournament, consult Friend at Court (FAC) or the Referee Manual available online at


The Early Stages:


Generally the first thing that happens is for a Tournament Director to contact you seeking your help as Referee for his tournament. Hopefully, this is at least a couple of months in advance, giving you the time to organize properly and recruit officials. This is the time to get things started right so as to avoid future problems. DO NOT accept any assignment as Referee until you are in complete agreement with the Tournament Director about his duties, your duties and working conditions. Obviously you need to know the scope of the tournaments (dates, site, level, age groups, draw size, etc.), as well as local District and Sectional Regulations covering pricing, draw size, matches per day, rest periods and number of Officials Guidance.

Beyond that, the Referee needs to discuss and negotiate items such as officiating staffing levels, provision of food for Officials and volunteers, compensation and non-certified assistance (i.e., tournament desk help). Get these ironed out early. An understaffed, under organized tournament is unfair to participants and officials alike. In determining staffing needs, pay particular attention to the number of courts being used each day and the number of matches you will need to play each day.

NB. Providing lunch is part of the working conditions that the Referee needs to set in place with the Tournament Director along with the pay rate, overtime, etc. 

If the tournament does not want to provide lunch, it needs to be relayed to the official before hiring them. Any official that accepts that condition should be provided enough time, no less than an hour, to leave the tournament premises to get lunch. 
Tournament Directors would not normally be happy with officials leaving in the middle of a tournament hence, it is more cost effective for them to provide lunch.

Be particularly reluctant to accept an assignment in which you are the only certified official and the Tournament Director expects you to be at the desk full-time. Except in the case of extremely small tournaments (i.e. one or two courts), this is tantamount to having an un-officiated tournament.


Tournament Regulations (see Friend at Court) lay out the pre-tournament processes for such things as appointing a Tournament Committee (you are on it) and a Tournament Appeals committee (you’re not on this). Creating and Distributing entry blanks, handling those entries, seeding and making the draw. While much of this is second nature for experienced referees, you cannot go wrong if you simple follow the procedures in FAC.

Confirm the format of the Tournament by checking information from USTA Florida (attached to this page). The format will depend on the color of the ball being used; red, orange, yellow, and the Level of the tournament.

Find out if any 60ft courts are to be used and how to mark them out if they aren't already.


A   Few Pre-Tournament Pointers:


  • Learn to use the TDM computer program from USTA; while a member of the tournament staff may have the duty to input data, it remains your responsibility. Also, the program is quite extensive and can make your job so much easier if you know how to take advantage of its capabilities.
  • Using TDM in association with online entry streamlines that process considerable.
  • Develop your plan for operating the Tournament Desk, check-in procedures, ball handling (new and used), posting matches in progress, draws, match times. Make sure there is a clear chain of command and that your assistants, both certified and non-certified, know the limits of their authority. Posting first-match times online is a great recent development.
  •  Develop your plan for court coverage by officials. At which stage will you rove? Will you be using solo chairs? Line umpires? Do you have a communications plan (e.g., walkie-talkies)? If you have more that a handful of officials, you will probably want to appoint a Chief Umpire and discuss with them their duties and responsibilities.
  •  In scheduling your tournament, start with the finals and work backward. Schedule heaviest on your first days to give yourself some wiggle room in the event of inclement weather or a spate of long matches. Have a master scheduling plan for the entire tournament. Sure, you will have to adapt and modify, but it helps immensely to have the basic roadmap. The Garman System, when used with TDM, takes much of the mystery out of scheduling and can help your tournament run smoothly, keep waiting time to a minimum and keep you players, parents and coaches happy. TDM is able to accommodate the diverse rest requirements of various junior and senior age divisions.

 · The Cardinal Rules of Scheduling are:

  1. Never post a time of a match unless there is certainty that the time being posted is correct.
  2. Once posted, never change the time, unless weather or darkness causes a change to be made.

 Once Play Begins:

 Tournament Regulations cover procedures for handling a number of problems that may arise as your tournament gets under way, including such things as players omitted from the draw and defaulting players for lateness. Do not hesitate to consult your Friend at Court when such situations arise. Remember that as referee you must always balance the two goals of fostering play and being fair to all parties (thus, you may accept into the draw a late entry who would be unseeded, but not one who would be).

Daily Routine:

 Get to the tournament in plenty of time each day to: 

*Make sure courts are clean and set up properly (nets measured, singles sticks, water, etc.). 

*Post updated draw sheets and match schedules.


*Ball supply is adequate

*Meet with tournament desk staff to discuss the day’s plan.


*Meet with officials to discuss coverage plan and review any issues that arose the previous day.

*Have a plan if inclement weather strikes: collect ball from court, note the score, who is serving and from which end. Put a note in the ball can and put the court number on the lid. Use the same balls when resuming play.

During the Day:


*Don’t get trapped behind the tournament desk, Spend time roving the courts. 

*Monitor progress of matches and adjust scheduling as needed.

*Oversee the Medical Timeout or Bleeding Timeout. 

*Be prepared to rule on the appeal of a default issued by one of your officials. 

*Post match results and ensure that next-match times are made available.


*Make decision with regard to suspending matches for inclement weather or darkness.


*At the end of the day, make your official match schedule for the following day and post it.

Closing out the tournament:

  • Make sure all draw sheets are complete and forwarded to the proper sanctioning body.
  • Post results online, if possible, within 30 minutes of the match ending
  • Make sure your officials are paid promptly.
  • Forward to the proper authority Point Penalty reports that may result in suspension system action.
  • Restock your Referee’s Survival Kit for your next tournament.
Allan Thompson,
Apr 22, 2015, 6:38 PM