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View Full Version : When Does It Become Unethical To Play Up?


Cindysphinx
02-18-2007, 01:40 PM
In our league, there used to be a rule limiting the extent to which teams could play up. I can't recall what it was, but I think maybe only 40% or fewer of your players could be playing up.

Last spring was the first season that this rule was scrapped around here. Now an entire team of 3.0s can play up to 3.5. Or 4.0. Or 4.5, I think.

Last season's experience with the new rule was interesting. The old rule was in place when registration started, so there was one team that registered as 2.5. The minute the new rule was enacted, the team moved up to 3.0. They got absolutely murdered; they lost all the team matches and went 3-56 (plus one default win) on individual matches. They had nine 2.5s and five 3.0s (one of whom was self-rated and had her rating dropped by the computer to 2.5 in November).

I also played on a team that was chock-a-block full of 2.5 players playing up. We had five 2.5s on a 16-player team and two 3.0s who were dropped to 2.5 by the computer this year -- meaning half the team was playing up. We got killed too. We lost all 12 team matches, but we managed 9 individual wins.

The question: What was the reason for the rule change? Should this sort of playing up be allowed? Was the old rule better? Is it "fair" to the opponents who are choosing to play their level yet find the team across the net to be far inferior? Does it create any weird incentives to manipulate a rating?

North
02-18-2007, 01:57 PM
Since the sandbagging (at least in my area) is so rampant and the USTA rating system so bogus, I think the whole question of playing up is moot. Even without the new rule, there was no real reliability that you would be playing people at your actual level. Perhaps the rule change is a concession to this, without the USTA having to admit the whole system is as screwed up as it is.

10sfreak
02-18-2007, 02:10 PM
Hmm, not really sure of your question. How could it possibly be unethical to play up? I'd say most people play up for the purpose of getting better by playing better people, not to try to screw the ratings system up. It does have the possibility of screwing things up, as I outlined in one of my posts in one of the other threads.
This question came up in our last captain's meeting, and the vast majority voted to keep allowing people to play up.

moonshine
02-18-2007, 05:12 PM
NOVA has rules like this in order to allow people who are usually paying for court time indoors late at night to have matches that are more competitive. At least that is the explanation I received from a frequent NOVA player when I told her that the idea was BS. I can see her point, but I don't agree with it. If a team is attempting to compete at a higher level, and is willing to take the losses while paying the same amount for court time as the opposing team, I say let them do it.

cmartin
02-18-2007, 05:20 PM
It may not be unethical but it is very annoying to people in their correct level. Wasted match. It happens alot in our area (NC). Mostly women. They play in their correct level and play up for practice.

cak
02-18-2007, 05:35 PM
I don't think it's unethical. If the differential between the players is too much, I've read the scores are not even factored in. So a 4.0 winning 6-0, 6-1 over a 2.5 won't affect either's rating. I do think for the lower rated player playing up is a no lose situation. You win, it's a plus, you lose, well that's expected. For the higher rated player it's a no win situation, and I know some are annoyed they have to go out and slaughter folks to keep their rating. But that's the way it goes. I do think it takes more concentration to play at your own level, as a loss means something.

OrangeOne
02-18-2007, 05:47 PM
Hmm, not really sure of your question. How could it possibly be unethical to play up? I'd say most people play up for the purpose of getting better by playing better people,

Which makes it pretty selfish! Comp tennis is comp tennis, and is meant to challenge everyone. If teams of too low a grade 'play up', then it takes the fun, the challenge, the competition out of it for the higher (correctly)-graded team.

It's really annoying to know that you're there just for the work-out & training purposes of a weaker team.

DANMAN
02-18-2007, 06:40 PM
Which makes it pretty selfish! Comp tennis is comp tennis, and is meant to challenge everyone. If teams of too low a grade 'play up', then it takes the fun, the challenge, the competition out of it for the higher (correctly)-graded team.

It's really annoying to know that you're there just for the work-out & training purposes of a weaker team.

I tend to agree. I think .5 level up is the max that should be allowed.

Cindysphinx
02-18-2007, 07:33 PM
I'm on the fence.

I honestly don't know how much "practice" my hapless team got from playing up last year. If you're in that far over your head, you aren't learning much and the paltry skills you do have can leave you under relentless pressure.

Then again, say the shoe were on the other foot and a team of 2.5s decided to play up against us at 3.0. This would be annoying. We aren't playing 5.5 combo largely because it was so annoying playing 2.5/3.0 combos. And now we're supposed to play a whole bunch of 2.5s?

I'm starting to think the old rule was a good rule. Limit the number of people playing up. This means the few who can find spots on high-end teams will really be at the high end of their level, as no captain would take a low-end 3.0 to play 3.5 when there are so many high-end 3.0s hunting for teams. If levels are to mean anything, people really should be encouraged to play their level.

Cruzer
02-18-2007, 08:48 PM
There is nothing unethical about playing up. There are often players that are underrated and the fact that they are playing up is transparent to their opponents. Playing up can be a turn off to your opponents but as long as you are not playing up more than one level the level of competition is usuually not grossly unbalanced. In our area there is a 4.0 womens team that has a lot of 3.0 players on it. I think that is unfair to the other teams as who wants to play someone that is two levels below them. Especially if you have to drive 30+ miles to play a team that you can beat in 40 minutes

tennis-n-sc
02-19-2007, 03:19 AM
Playing up more than .5 level dilutes the competition and does nothing to prepare the eventual winner of the league for championship playoffs. For the team moving up more than .5, nothing is gained either in experience or confidence. Having said all that, nothing unethical about it. If a team or player is winning most of the matches at one level, nothing wrong with moving up a half level. However, a team or player struggling to win at one level will not help themselves by moving up. Become a consistent winner where you are and then consider moving up.

PBODY99
02-19-2007, 05:05 AM
By the rules, never. People play this game for many reasons, and if they play"too far over their level", trust me they have a reason. If they are willing to pay their money to take their lumps, you have the duty to beat them as cleanly as possible.

Supernatural_Serve
02-19-2007, 05:28 AM
Totally valid to play up.

Some people self rate incorrectly (too low), so they figure it out after a season and "move" themselves up by playing higher regardless what the NTRP computer thinks.


Another reason people play up is so that their rating can be moved up based on their performance. If you play .5 to 1.0 level up and you have success, the computer will bump you up.

So, ask yourself a question: If I want to be rated higher, how can I get that idiotic computer to rate me higher?

Answer: Play and hold your own/win at a higher level.

If I self rated low, and don't want to be bored pounding people, how do I get better competition:

Answer: play up and ignore the computer.

lefty10s
02-19-2007, 05:57 AM
Thought all sections of USTA, except Southern, had rule in place to limit number of players playing "up" on a particular team. Some type of percentage. Think it is fair rule for league play. Messes with whole system, and can throw validity of numbers off. Even though lower player may get beaten, if their scores are somewhat competitive, for whatever reason, then their rating number goes up slightly. If players want to play up, try a tournament where you know anything goes.
Even though there is lot griping about present NTRP system(including me, a former verifier) it is the best system we have to work with. At some point, the USTA in all their wisdom will come up with something more improved.

SB
02-19-2007, 10:06 AM
I agree with the rules to limit the number of players who are competing at a higher level. Eventually it dilutes the leagues at the higher NTRP level ... most people don't want to spend a lot of time and money playing folks who are below them. So they quit playing league and just arrange their own matches with people who can give them a match.

That said, there are definitely times that it's okay. Often there aren't enough players to fill out a team, a higher-level team, especially. And if you belong to a private club, some don't allow nonmembers to play on their teams, so you have to fill your team with whomever you can find.

I struggled with it for a while, because I was winning almost everything at one level, but didn't move up. (I was winning, but I wasn't killing people. I suppose I could have creamed people, but my objective is to win, however it happens. I'm not good at killing people.) I finally was tired of being accused of sandbagging, which I wasn't; I was trying to play within the system.

So, after going to playoffs in every league I played and winning all three tournaments I entered, AND not moving up, I just moved myself up.

The computer then moved me up after a season playing at the higher level.

I find that this is a much more prevalent issue in women's leagues. Men have the problem of sandbagging and playing levels below their ability. A generalization, but I think it's pretty accurate.

Anyway, limiting the percentage of players who are out of level is a good compromise, IMO.

cak
02-19-2007, 04:02 PM
There is no limit in the NorCal section on how many people can play up on a team.

Geezer Guy
02-20-2007, 07:08 AM
I'm not exactly sure of the facts, but I think a women's team from my club comprised of all 3.0 players played in a 3.0 league AND a 3.5 league at the same time. They lost most of their 3.5 matches, but playing up helped them improve to the point that they won sectionals at 3.0 and and advanced to nationals (where they came in last).

They got twice as many competitive matches, and they played against a lot of good players. No wonder they improved.

Supernatural_Serve
02-20-2007, 08:06 AM
I'm not exactly sure of the facts, but I think a women's team from my club comprised of all 3.0 players played in a 3.0 league AND a 3.5 league at the same time.That's a very impressive move by the captain. In many ways that's an ideal situation.

SB
02-20-2007, 03:17 PM
That's a very impressive move by the captain. In many ways that's an ideal situation.

Our section won't allow it, though. Or at least our district won't. Only in mixed can we play two levels (8.0 and 9.0, for example) in the same league.

10sfreak
02-20-2007, 03:36 PM
I'm not exactly sure of the facts, but I think a women's team from my club comprised of all 3.0 players played in a 3.0 league AND a 3.5 league at the same time. They lost most of their 3.5 matches, but playing up helped them improve to the point that they won sectionals at 3.0 and and advanced to nationals (where they came in last).

They got twice as many competitive matches, and they played against a lot of good players. No wonder they improved.

That's what I was suggesting to Cindysphinx. It has helped a lot of the girls that play on my mixed-doubles team.

Cindysphinx
02-20-2007, 03:55 PM
Our section does allow this. It would be interesting to see how many of my players would agree to play up (in addition to playing on level). I'd predict single digits.