If you never played in a sanctioned tournament here is the information about this type of tournament.  

When a tournament is sanctioned by USATT it means that it meets certain minimum requirements.

  • Only USATT approved rackets, balls, tables and nets are used
  • It has to be overseen by a USATT certified referee
  • It has USATT certified umpires available for officiating matches.  Not all matches can be officiated because of shortage of certified umpires but at least one or more will be available.  If you suspect your opponent is cheating or not playing by the USATT rules, you can request an umpire for your match.
  • The courts have to have some minimum of size. 19 x 38 or 23 x 46 is preferred but not always possible due to limited space in most venues.  The courts have to be surrounded by barriers at least in the back but preferably all around to minimize interruptions caused by stray balls.
  • Play is conducted according to USATT rules

Who Can Play?

In order to play in a sanctioned tournament you need to be a member of USATT or join USATT when you are signing up for the tournament.  The cost is $45 for annual membership for children 17 and under and college students. Adults 18 and over pay $75.  The membership includes access to a USA Table Tennis weekly email newsletter.  There are also multiple year and household memberships.  The cost is outlined on the form used for entering the tournament or you can read about it on USATT website.  If you don’t want to spend that much, you can buy a single Tournament Pass which costs $20.

How We Play?

There are 3 most common formats of the tournament:  Rated Events, Giant Round Robin and Team Events. 

In a Rated Events tournament players sign up for events based on their rating.  Events have names such as U-1000, U-1200, U-1400 etc.  The ‘U’ stands for ‘Under’.  The number stands for maximum USATT rating that a player must have in order to be eligible for entering this event.  So if your rating is 1034 you can enter U-1200 or U-1400 but you can’t enter U-1000 because your rating is too high for this event.  There are also events named ‘Open’.  These events are open to everyone regardless of their rating.

In Giant Round Robin tournaments, players are sorted by their USATT rating from highest to lowest and divided into groups of 6, 7, 8 or more.  They play in round robin fashion in their group and the winner of this group gets 1st place award/prize, 2nd gets second and so on.  Again check the blank entry form for awards and prizes.

In teams tournaments players form teams of 4 or 5 players and play against other teams.  Usually a team against team match-up will be 7 individual matches so which ever team wins the first 4 matches wins this team match-up.  Teams are treated like individual players and are put into groups based on the collective USATT ratings of players on the team.   These tournaments usually take 2 days to play out so you play a lot of matches.

Your First Sanctioned Tournament

If you are just joining USATT you will have no rating so you will be referred to as ‘unrated player’ and your rating will be shown as 0 or N/R.  Because you are unrated you can enter any event.  You can enter multiple events as long as they don’t start at the same time.  However, in any rating restricted events (Open and age restricted events like Under 18 or Over 40 are an exception) you will not be allowed to advance out of the round robin phase in this first tournament even if you beat all players in your group.  Each event has two phases: round robin and single elimination. In a tournament with a giant round robin format, which has only one round, you will not be able to win a trophy or a prize money even if you beat everyone in your group. This rule is designed so that player of unknown skill (i.e. rating) doesn’t enter a lower rated event and wins all prize money or trophy.

During round robin phase all players who entered this event are divided into groups of 4.  They play each other – i.e. each player will play every other player – which means that in a group of 4 each player will play 3 matches.  The player who wins this group advances to the single elimination phase.  This is the phase where if you loose you are out of the event.  This phase is played until the final event match is played out to determine 1st and 2nd place.  Sometimes players also play for 3rd place.  Simply check the tournament blank entry form to see if there are awards/prizes given for 3rd and lower places to see if that is the case.

The cost of entering your first tournament is as follows:

  • USATT membership fee – $45 or $75
  • Registration fee (some large tournaments) – $8
  • Events e.g. U-1000 is $18, Open is $24.

If you entered these tournament events and you are 15 years old the cost would be: 45 + 5 + 18 + 24 = 92.

Why should you enter multiple events?  If you drive for an hour or more play 3 matches in 2 hours and then drive back home that is a lot of driving and little playing.  Unless you just can’t fit it in your schedule, it is recommended to enter 2 events or more if you can afford it, as long as they don’t start at the same time.  Not only will you play additional 3 or more matches but your initial rating will be more accurate as you play many different rated players.

In a Giant Round Robin type of tournament there is usually one fee for entering it.  Typically it is between $30 – $40.  So for this type of tournament you would pay 45 + 35 = 80.

Team tournaments are more expensive still.  Typically $400 or more per team of 4 – 5 players.  So if you form a team with 3 of your buddies the cost will be 45 + (400/4) = 132.

Tournament Rules and Regulations

The blank entry form should have spelled out these and other rules that the tournament will govern itself by.  Please see the second page of this blank entry form for example of these rules.  If you never played in a tournament you may also read this page which gives you basic match rules.  I would especially recommend reading the document describing how to serve legally.  This is by far the most frequent complaint against opponents which forces players to ask for an umpire.

Tournament Results

Based on results of your matches against other rated players you will be assigned a USATT rating, which reflects your skill level.

After the tournament the Tournament Director sends all match results to USATT for processing.  Shortly after submitting, the computer program calculates the rating and publishes it along with results of your individual matches on the USATT website .  The rating is calculated in the following manner.

You should check the results of the matches online carefully by entering your last name clicking on the Last Played date.  This will take you directly to the tournament results.  Sometimes there is a mistake in match result (it is reversed, or has wrong number of games) which would impact your rating negatively.  You should then contact Tournament Director to who will confirm the correct result with your opponent in this match.  If the opponent agrees, the Tournament Director will submit the corrected results to USATT which will then update them and recalculate the rating in several days.

Your Next Sanctioned Tournament

Here is the list of Midwest tournaments if you are curious where to play next.  Now that you have your rating, you enter a second tournament and this time you only pay for your events and processing fee.  You are eligible to enter events above your rating and Open event.  This time if you win you will advance out of round robin phase.

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