Ernie Soczka: Our wicked Tournament Director

Rod Hayward

If there is no rest for the wicked, tournament directors must be a wicked lot. In addition to a fall Bradshaw Tournament, both Gender and Mixed Doubles Championships, in-house competitions and annual special events, the Cottonwood Tennis Club hosts as many as four ‘Socials,’ where members can test their skills against other clubs in a friendly day-long competition; all this organized by Ernie Soczka, our returning Tournament Director, and his hard-working committee.

Putting together a social can be daunting. First, you meet with other clubs in the region to draw up a master schedule. Sign-up sheets go up well in advance of each event hosted by the club. By the time they come down, as many as 70 members may have expressed a desire to play, some twice and with different partners. Soon, a list of players from the visiting team arrives, indicating the relative skills of the players, as well as their preferences for gender or mixed doubles matches.

Now comes the difficult task. You factor players’ availability, preferences for partners and a wide variety of skill levels into a schedule of 35 matches on only five courts, running from early morning to late afternoon. With 265 active members and a larger number of women players than most clubs, ensuring that everyone has a chance to play poses a challenge. No wonder building the schedule for a social can take many hours.

Time to send an email to the membership, informing everyone that the schedule has been posted on the bulletin board and on the club website. During the next week, you make changes to accommodate players whose personal activities interfere with their scheduled times. In a cascading domino effect, these changes cause other matches to be shifted, often generating new conflicts for the players in that time slot. Personal preferences surface – some don’t want to play two matches back to back; others want to avoid the heat of the midday sun.

On the day of the social, you arrive by 7:00 a.m. The sound system is set up, and the scoreboard is erected in a central area. Players begin to arrive. They are checked in. Game balls are passed out. Rules are interpreted. While play continues, you wander the grounds, ensuring that everything is going smoothly. On the hour, you start the music to signal the end of the current matches and the beginning of the next ones. Players turn in their scores. Those who forget are pursued – after all, this information is vital for the final results. At the end of the day, those results are compiled and cleanup of the grounds begins. The following day, you send out another email with a heads-up for the next event.

Thanks Ernie – for your long hours, for your patience and especially for your sense of humor that always brings smiles to our faces.

To be part of these fun-packed socials, contact Al Wagner at 480-802-7142 and inquire about membership in the Cottonwood Tennis Club.