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Chuck Coleman started tennis at age 13, after 4 or 5 years of baseball and basketball. He played on an NAIA runner-up in 1976, the University of Redlands.  


Chuck was ranked only once, in 1980:  #6 is NorCal’s Class A, one step below Open.  He had five years of college-level coaching, three as head coach and joined USPTA in 2008, MTMCA in 2009. Chuck received a patent (#9,998,352) for a tennis concept, using light to create target areas on a real tennis court, for helping players with target-area visualization.  

HEAD Gravity Tennis Racquet


By Chuck Colman, USPTA, MTMCA

If you’re reading this, then you surely know about all tennis’ cheating problems here in the USA. It’s no secret. It’s been going on for decades. It is much too easy to cheat, win, and get away with it. So, what should we do about it?

In matches without officials, our rule book’s section called The Code is a wonderful document, but sadly, it’s just not strong enough to keep players honest. We need something better.

This remedy, which I learned about a long time ago in a Satellite Circuit (Futures, today), is to use
amateur umpires, including the players themselves, so sit up in the elevated chair. There is a night-and-day difference between having a solo chair umpire, and having no officials on the court whatsoever. This is a lowtech, low-cost way to bring some sanity to our amateur tennis here in this country.

samuel-elias-nadler--JzHSIzNYnU-unsplash (1).jpg

Photo by Samuel Elias Nadler on Unsplash

If your facility doesn’t have an umpire’s chair on every court, then you need should fix that ahead of time. If it’s a dual team event, then you cannot use players, since they will have a bias. Do your homework and ask around at your local clubs or other facilities. Perhaps you can reward them with a nice, but not too expensive tennis-related gift.

If you’re directing a large tournament, then you should probably find someone who has a lot of experience to be in charge of all your new player-umpires. If you have a junior tournament with several age divisions, use the older players to help out umpiring matches for younger players.

Neuro Tennis

Before your tournament begins, you tell all the players that they must sign a paper promising to help out with solo chair umpiring for at least one match. If a player is not willing to help out, that’s fine, but he/she will not be in the draw for this tournament. If a player wants to do several matches and earn something from the pro shop, I think that should be an option.

One detail you must cover is: Players must only umpire for other players with whom they have no prior relationship. I think there should be an award for the best player-umpire, and the hardest-working player-umpire. Rewards are better than punishments!

About 2 months or more before the first round, you send out or make available on your website, guidelines for being a good chair umpire. The night before play starts, you hold a meeting for all players, parents, and coaches. If it’s a junior tournament, food and non-alcoholic beverages should be available.

During the meeting, your Chief Umpire spends some time explaining, in very basic terms, how to be a good solo chair umpire. To be as thorough as possible, send out a little mini-course on how to be a solo umpire to all players, parents and coaches, so that everybody is on the same page.

Before the first round, all of your new solo player-umpires need to have been notified when they are scheduled to go on. As the tournament goes on, the logistics of getting umpires to the correct court with each successive round, will be something new.

I used to use what I call Hybrid-Umpiring, where I called out the score, the players called almost all the lines, except when there was a dispute, or if I could see that an obvious mistake had been made. In that case, I would make a decision, including replaying the point. Maybe not according to the “book,” but it worked pretty well, believe it or not.

Please consider writing a journal about your experiences, so we can help those who run similar tournaments in the future. I hope somebody will try out this idea, and make it work. The players, coaches, and their families will surely be grateful that you did.


Play well, everybody,

Chuck Coleman USPTA MTMCA


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