One of the core principles of the Charleston Public Courts tennis tournament is to be available for anyone who wishes to compete in a tennis tournament. Hundreds of players enter into dozens of categories each year to enjoy that.
Yet with such an open invitation, sometimes time conflicts arise, whether they come from work, out-of-town trips or caring for children. That’s where another core principle of the Public Courts tournament comes in.
Tournament officials call them “avoidances.” They’re the concessions those officials make to tournament participants to make sure their Public Courts matches can fit around their schedules. That’s not always the case in tennis tournaments. Sometimes it’s the other way around, with the competitor have to work his or her schedule to fit the tournament’s.
It’s not always an easy juggling act, but it’s one tournament participants appreciate and one that tournament officials feel is one of the big reasons competitors keep coming back.
“I think they’ve always tried to do the avoidance concept,” said Kim Isaac, a former co-director for the tournament who continues to handle the scheduling of its matches. “Originally, it was to promote Public Courts play, so you wanted people to come back year after year. So you try to make it a friendly tournament.
“It’s just kind of grown through the years as parents get more busy,” she continued. “You try to be understanding.”
Tournament director Dana Eddy said one of the first questions he always gets from people interested in playing the Public Courts tournament is whether they can still play if their family reunion or other event conflicts with a couple of the days. Eddy said the answer always is “yes.”
The only limit the tournament places on avoidances is that no competitor in the men’s open singles draw can take an avoidance on the tournament’s first weekend. Otherwise, players can email tournament officials ahead of time if certain days of the week or times of the day are too busy. Then those officials know to stay away from those certain days or times.
Such accommodations do take time to work with. Avoidances need put into the tournament’s system by hand, a process that takes two to three hours. To put together the first schedule for the tournament, accounting for all the avoidances, takes between six to eight hours.
More avoidance requests may come after the first weekend, some the tournament can accommodate, some it can’t. But the officials try to help as much as they can.
Isaac said the key is avoid a domino effect in avoidances as much as possible.
“You have to try to look in advance at who all does have avoidances, to make sure you’re not going to run into a roadblock mid-week. Somebody might not be available that first weekend, and then their opponent has an avoidance mid-week. So then you’re landlocked.”
It may take more time to set up the tournament’s schedule, but Isaac said it’s worth it when a participant comes up to one of the tournament officials with gratitude, telling them that, if it weren’t for those avoidances, it would be nearly impossible to participate.
“We do get the appreciation,” Issac said. “And that’s what re-energizes you for the next year. I think it’s the charm of the tournament. You try to make it where people can come and play, enjoy themselves and not have it be a hindrance to their work schedule or family schedule.”
Eddy said the practice is part of the spirit of the Public Courts tournament, and has been for years. It’s a way for the Kanawha Valley’s tennis community to embrace a wider group of players and help them enjoy the sport.
“It’s the one time, one event that they want to come play … and because of the days of the week they’re offered, it’s something they can do that maybe they can’t otherwise do,” Eddy said. “So we’ve become sort of a family that meets every year for this reunion known as Public Courts, and the fact we’re willing to accommodate them fosters that familial feeling.”