A defense for the (presumed) sandbagger

Discussion in 'Adult League & Tournament Talk' started by penpal, Apr 10, 2007.

  1. penpal

    penpal Rookie

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    It doesn't take much reading in this forum to understand that most tennis players look upon sandbaggers in USTA league play with about the same level of loathing as they would upon a person who steals purses from elderly women.

    FWIW, I agree with this sentiment. But I've recently discovered that I myself am being viewed as a sandbagger by some in my league, and this has caused me to reconsider this harsh judgement.

    My background: I've been a 3.5 rated player for about 6 years now. For 5 of these years I have played mostly singles and won probably somewhere around 85-90% of my matches. At the end of every season I think, "Hmmmm, I think I might get bumped up this year," but so far, no go.

    Several players whom I've beaten have been moved to 4.0 over those years -- sometimes in the year I beat them.

    My team has made it to Districts every year for the past 5 years. Whereas my winning percentage is probably somewhere around 95% in my town, against the tougher competition at the district level my winning percentage is closer to 50%. I don't try to lose at Districts, these players are simply of a higher quality and I have a more difficult time winning.

    Here, in my opinion, is the rub ... and the reason we all might want to cut some of these presumed sandbaggers some slack. Several players in my town have been bumped to 4.0 after they had a great winning percentage locally, but their teams did not advance to Districts. It seems that the algorithm used by the USTA to calculate ratings doesn't accurately weight matches, and so my losses at Districts cause me to remain a 3.5, even as I consistently beat players locally who are bumped to 4.0 based on their local record.

    I'm not saying all sandbaggers are legitimately trying to win and are being kept at a lower rating (perhaps unfairly) by a faulty computer system, but based on my experience it does happen.

    And to those of you who might ask why I don't just play up, rather than continue beating up on 3.5s my answer is simple ... no one has asked me to play on their 4.0 team. My option appears to be play 3.5 or don't play USTA league tennis at all, which would be a shame because I do enjoy the team aspect of it.
     
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  2. oldguysrule

    oldguysrule Semi-Pro

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    I think everyone who has been at the top of their level, about to bump up, has been accused of sandbagging at least once. To me, a true sand-bagger is someone who self rates too low or someone who sits out and comes back in at a lower level. If you have been computer rated for 5-6 years, you are not sandbagging. However, I would make more of an effort to play at the 4.0 level as well as 3.5.

    Do you play any tournaments? Playing up in bigger tournaments can put you in situations where your true ability will be reflected.

    In my area, if someone wants to play USTA league, it is not uncommon for them to contact captains to try to get on a team. You might only get a few matches at the higher level, but that would get you in the door.

    Also, how many matches per year do you play that are reflected in the system? (USTA league or USTA sanctioned tournament matches)
     
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  3. ohplease

    ohplease Professional

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    I have no insider knowledge about the USTA's algorithm, but in my own experience I've seen quite a few players that aren't very good singles players at one level bumped up to the next. The key seems to be regardless of wins or loses at either level, the matches are kept close enough to be considered "competitive." Additionally, these players are almost always playing doubles, not singles, and they're playing up at the next level above their current rating.

    In other words, it appears to me at least that it's not about winning or losing, but rather whether or not you can compete at that level. You'd have to have pretty lopsided scores, either way, for that not to be true - especially when most league players will slack towards a 6-4, 6-4 result when they could have buried the other guy.
     
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  4. Swissv2

    Swissv2 Hall of Fame

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    Something important has been noted here.

    Those people who are at a particular level but do not truely deserve to be there (a low level that has been moved up in NTRP) may have a tendency to call out "sandbaggers".

    Case and point: The level of play for a particular rating in one state is and entirely different level of play for the same rating in another state. There have been many 3.5s that play strong in locals, but once they go to nationals they get spanked left and right by other 3.5s.

    Is this to say that the local 3.5s should be lowered on the NTRP scale to adhere to national standards? That would be an entire discussion in itself.

    True sandbaggers, IMO, are those who have played at an entirely higher level and are able to compete (i.e. Old D1 College players), only to "rate" themselves lower on the NTRP scale (i.e. Going from D1 and rating themselves as a 4.0) so they can get easy wins.
     
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  5. JLyon

    JLyon Hall of Fame

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    well Southern just took a hard stance on players by bumping a former college player (02-06) to 5.5 that self-rated 4.5. Texas has done this several times also with former players rating 4.5 or 5.0 and bumping them to 5.5 and even 6.0.
    If you have been a 3.5 in the computer for 5-6 years then that is pretty accurate. No computer is perfect and the USTA is far from perfect.
     
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  6. kevhen

    kevhen Hall of Fame

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    It's hard to get bumped up unless you really dominate at your level. Play some 4.0 tournies and if you win some 4.0 matches you will get bumped up sooner than later. The USTA uses a tragically flawed system that has way too much overlap which allows inadvertant sandbagging to happen as in your case. I have lost some 4.0 matches this year to guys who were better than some 4.5 guys that I beat. The USTA formula is really messed up and they won't explain it.

    I remember when I first joined the USTA 5 years ago and a guy pointing out to me that it was hard to tell the difference between the 3.5 final, the 4.0 final, and the 4.5 final as they were all playing next to each other. The 3.5 guys were like solid-strong 4.0s. The 4.0s were like strong 4.0-weak 4.5 and the 4.5s were like weak-solid 4.5s (most of the stronger 4.5s play Open level).
     
    Last edited: Apr 10, 2007
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  7. penpal

    penpal Rookie

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    Actually, up until this year I wasn't all that concerned with getting bumped ... I tend to just go out and do my best, and let the chips fall where they may. Over the past couple of years especially, I thought it was odd that some of my competition was moved up while I was not, but I honestly assumed the good people at the USTA had probably put a lot more time into thinking about the rating algorithm than I had, so I'd trust their judgement.

    Not wanting to be saddled with a bad reputation, however, I think I'll take your advice and the advice of oldguysrule and will probably play some 4.0 tournies and make a concerted run at a 4.0 rating.

    I think the "real" solution is probably a tweaking of the algorithm, but who has time to wait around for that to occur :p
     
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  8. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    Hey, if you're going out and playing to win every match, you're not a sandbagger IMHO.

    Somebody has to be the best 3.5 guy in town, right?
     
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  9. Topaz

    Topaz Legend

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    A woman I know actually appealed up...can you do the same?
     
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  10. Caswell

    Caswell Semi-Pro

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    If you play league tennis at your computer-designated NTRP, I don't think playing up in tournaments will help.

    I did the same thing last year in an attempt to have my 3.0 self-rate turn into a 3.5 year-end (benchmark) rating. Didn't lose more than two games a set at 3.0 until I got to regionals, where I went 2-1. The loss was against another self-rated 3.0 that was bumped to 3.5 at year-end, and included a tiebreak set.

    My tournament results at 3.5 were 2-2. Both wins were against computer rated 3.5 players, and both losses were against players without ratings (one of whom was rated 4.0 at year-end and is now winning every 4.0 tournment he enters).

    I still play tournaments, but it's only for fun now. I honestly believe that as a league player all I'm doing in tournaments is helping establish the NTRP of the the guys that don't play leagues.
     
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  11. flash9

    flash9 Semi-Pro

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    Something Else to Consider

    You state that some of the guys you have beaten over the last couple of years were moved up, while you did not. Something else to consider or potentially look into, is if they were also playing on 4.0 teams. A surefire way to get bumped up is to play above your level and to play competitively.
    Two years ago, about half of the better players on the 3.5 team I was playing on decided to try to play up at the 4.0 level. We lost every match last year but everyone got bumped up and none of us won our appeals except me. I can only think it was because I had shoulder surgery and only played 3 matches and lost all but one pretty badly. This season we are 4-1 with basically the same team and I have a 5-0 record. I am pretty sure this will be my last season as with a 3.5 rating.
    If you are curious why we even wanted to keep our 3.5 ratings, here in the Fall we play what is called 7.5 combo, where you play three courts of doubles, and the total of the two players can not exceed 7.5. Now with all but two players (I added a new 3.5 who wanted to play with us) we will be unable to play in the 7.5 Combo, and if we choose to play 8.5 Combo we will have a lot of fun losing! :p
     
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  12. Caswell

    Caswell Semi-Pro

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    Not in my case.

    The self-rated 3.0 I lost to who was bumped to 3.5 in the early start ratings only played 3.0 league tennis and combo 6.5, at least according to Tennislink.

    The unrated player I lost to in a 3.5 tournament does not play in leagues, and won every 3.5 tournament he entered last year. So far he's won every 4.0 tournament he's entered this year.

    I've given up on rigid definitions of NTRP. There's far more overlap than the USTA would have us believe. Look at the numerical seperation for a match score of 6-0, 6-0. It's around 0.30, isn't it? I've been on the giving and receiving end of a double bagel in the past year, and I can tell you there's a lot more than one NTRP level seperating that kind of score.

    It'll be interesting if my serve is on at 3.0 regionals this year. I doubt they're going to take kindly to a high percentage 110-120mph first serve (and yes, I was radared as a junior so I know what 110mph serves feel like).
     
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  13. flash9

    flash9 Semi-Pro

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    100mph Plus Serves

    Are you playing on a 3.5 Team? If so, what is your record? Singles and Doubles.

    If you truly have a first serve that exceeds 100mph, then that alone would make you deadly at the 3.0 level in NC! I have a very accurate serve and if my partner signals me to serve down the middle, body, or wide. I am able to hit it to that spot 90% of the time, but at best my serve is 60 to 65mph. :D
     
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  14. Caswell

    Caswell Semi-Pro

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    Singles:
    (W) 6-4, 4-6, 6-4; self-rated opponent who's 2-2 in 3.5 play this season
    (L) 6-3, 3-6, 6-1; self-rated opponent who's 4-0 in 3.5 play this season

    Doubles:
    (L) 6-4, 6-1; playing with a 3.0 partner, opponents have not dropped a set in two seasons of 3.5 play

    My serve is my primary weapon, but any (and I do mean any) return in play neutralizes it. My midcourt game is still suffering from a nine-year layoff from tennis, and putting away or even hitting a deep approach off of a midcourt sitter is still a task for me.

    I've got no illusions about being a 4.0 player. I've played 4.0 players recently, and I can pull a couple games per set off of them but I'm not putting them in any danger of losing. I'm competitive at 3.5, but having a 3.0 rating means my captain expects me to play on the 3.0 team as well, which is time I'd rather spend on more competitive matches.
     
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  15. flash9

    flash9 Semi-Pro

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    I understand where you are coming from!

    This is exactly why eight other guys and I decided to create a 4.0 team a couple of years ago. Even though the team we were on at the 3.5 level was just doing OK, we wanted to raise our level of playing to a more competitive level. That being said, none of us were already playing on a 4.0 team, so no feelings were hurt, and in fact I helped the caption of the 3.5 team we were leaving find additional player to fill some of his new open spots.

    Find, or create, a 3.5 team that you feel comfortable with and play with them. :D
     
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  16. burosky

    burosky Professional

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    I think everyone will agree there is no such thing as a perfect system. This includes the USTA NTRP system. It is never a good feeling to be accused of sandbagging. Unfortunately, this happens more often than we think specially for those players who are in the cusp of being bumped up to the next higher level. Those who make the accusation should really do a little bit of research. As flawed as the USTA NTRP system is, a player who has a computer rating over a period of a few years (perhaps 2 - 3 years at least?) should really not be looked at as a sandbagger regardless of how well they do in their level. Aside from those who are able to manage their scores to protect ratings, I think players who have a long track record for the most part are pretty much playing at the level their computer rating gives them.

    The beauty of this NTRP rating is you can always play up. Heck, you can even captain a 5.5 team composed of 3.5 players to get a taste of 5.5 competition if you wanted to. Of course that would be extreme. Just trying to make a point. My advise? Just enjoy your 3.5 rating. Let the chips fall where they may. If you intend to play up, make sure it is because that is what you want and not because you want to appease your accusers. You don't even need to defend yourself. I won't be surprised if your accusers are those who you beat but got bumped up to 4.0. To me, all that suggest is jealousy. Maybe they should appeal to get their old rating back. They might be torn though because they might be enjoying the idea that they are at a higher level now.
     
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  17. kevhen

    kevhen Hall of Fame

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    A 4.0 lady in my area has a 79-19 record over the last 4 years and hasn't been bumped up yet. She was 3-3 against 4.5 rated players last year and also won all 3 of her district matches and hasn't played any sectional matches. 79-19 is a very good record not to get bumped and she wins by a large margin in most of her matches like 6-2, 6-1. The USTA's NTRP formula is f'ed up.
     
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  18. North

    North Professional

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    I dealt with the USTA about the sandbagging issue a few years ago - spoke to a number of people at the national level. (What can I say - I'm just an activist at heart :)). They kept pointing out that people purposely don't do their best on visual ratings and even came close to admitting that the sandbagging screws up the formula they use to calculate ratings.

    A suggestion that has been repeatedly made to USTA is to bring back visual ratings only for people who want to appeal up. Ie - people who feel they have not been bumped up when they should be or even bumped down when they should not be. So far, USTA has not been able to give me (or anyone else I know) a good reason not to do this. Seems like that sort of rating might be more of a true benchmark than with the current system. I've always wondered if a petition on just that suggestion would have any effect....
     
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  19. penpal

    penpal Rookie

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    You made me curious to see what my record was over the past 4 years. FWIW, I'm 72-21 in singles and men's doubles - most of it singles (I didn't include mixed doubles and only included USTA league and tournament matches).

    So, not as good a record as the woman you mention.
     
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  20. penpal

    penpal Rookie

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    Very wise advice, thank you.
     
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  21. Raiden.Kaminari

    Raiden.Kaminari Semi-Pro

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    Like the original poster, she most likely has too much data on her keeping her at her current NTRP level. To move up, she must play higher NTRP players, and stop playing at the lower NTRP level.
     
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  22. Raiden.Kaminari

    Raiden.Kaminari Semi-Pro

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    There's been a proposal floating around to have verifiers go out to Districts + and start doing instant DQs ... where you will see the bulk of the sandbaggers. Unfortunately, most sections consider the cost too high.
     
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  23. Raiden.Kaminari

    Raiden.Kaminari Semi-Pro

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    Oldguysrule nailed it.

    Besides NTRP tournaments, you should consider playing Open tournaments. That should give your NTRP rating a needed boost :)
     
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  24. tcjackson

    tcjackson New User

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    An insight

    You are on the right track Penpal. I am involved with the USTA and know some interesting tidbits of information regarding the dynamic rating system.
    I was lucky enough to got to 4.0 National last year. In all of 2006 I played approximately 85 matches. A mixture of singles, doubles, tournaments and leagues.

    When I got to Nationals I got walloped by a kid who had no business being in the 4.0 division (another thread, Rants & Raves). I also lost another singles match and a doubles match while at Nationals. I was able to win one singles match.

    I have been told on several occasions by USTA officials that the 4 matches I played at Nationals had the same weight as my other 81 matches throughout the year!

    Now thinking logically about this, it stands to reason that Sectional and District results would also weigh heavier than "normal" matches during the year.

    When I asked why these matches weigh more I was given this explanation:

    Since the District, Section and National events are being competed with the best of each division, those matches should weigh more than the other matches through the year. The "other" matches might be against a particularly weak group in you local area. The District, Sectional and National matches supposedly are played with an increasing "cream of the crop" competition. My two cents. Hope this helps.
     
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2007
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  25. North

    North Professional

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    Yeah, I know about that. When the executive at National USTA told me about that, that's when I made the suggestion about visual ratings only for people who believe they should move up. USTA could potentially even charge a fee for it, to offset some (or all) of the cost and to assure that anyone requesting the visual rating would be serious about it. He thought it was a great idea, cost-effective and all, but couldn't give a good reason not to do it.

    The other thing some people at the regional level in my area have said is that people get to know who the verifiers (for instant DQs) are. Even if the process was affordable, there is only a limited supply of unrecognisable people who could actually carry the process out.
     
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  26. penpal

    penpal Rookie

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    tcjackson - you had me and then you lost me.

    Are you saying that you were told the sectional, district and national matches ARE assigned a greater weight than local league matches, or they ARE NOT assigned a greater weight?
     
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  27. tcjackson

    tcjackson New User

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    Sorry about that penpal

    I didn't mean to confuse things further. This rating system is confusing enough already!

    To clarify it: National matches weigh more than Sectionals. Sectional matches weigh more than Districts. Districts weigh more than the garden variety league match or tournament matches.

    Again, I've been told on several occasions (by USTA people who know) that my 4 National matches played in Hawaii last October weighed as much as my other 81 matches for all of 2006. 50% of my dynamic year end rating came from those 4 matches. In fact, before I went to National's I had gotten bumped to 4.5. We have leagues that start in October so there are "Early Start" ratings publishe in the Missouri Valley section.

    After my 4 matches at National's my rating was bumped back down to 4.0 for the year end ratings.
     
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  28. penpal

    penpal Rookie

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    Ok, I see what you're saying now ... you explained it perfectly both times, I'm just a little slow on the uptake :p

    So theoretically, a person could go 10-0 in local league play, go 0-2 at the district tournament and those two losses might count for as many as 5-7 losses, or something like that? Very interesting if that is true.

    I'm not actually sure what the solution is in my particular case. I don't know that I necessarily should be bumped to 4.0, as my record against some of the best 3.5 players at districts has only been so-so. It seems it might have made more sense not to bump the guys who had good local records, but didn't have the opportunity to play at districts. Obviously, that can be problematic as well, as it's not fair to only bump people who are on teams that make it to districts.

    I guess there is no easy answer, and things like this will happen. Again though, this experience has made me less critical of supposed sandbaggers.
     
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  29. vllockhart

    vllockhart Rookie

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    Since when do you have to be asked to join a team? You join a 4.0 team the same way you join a 4.0, don't you? How would the 4.0 captain know to ask you to join? Find out who the 4.0 captains and coordinators in your area are, find a team and join it. Playing at 3.5 for 6 years is nonsensical to me. You're in your comfort level and YOU don't want to move up into new territory. But don't blame it on someone not inviting you.
     
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  30. 10sfreak

    10sfreak Semi-Pro

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    Uh, I'm not sure what you mean by this. How do you just join a team, if they don't want you? I've been captaining for 3 years now, and believe me, no one has joined any of my teams except by my invitation!
     
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  31. Raiden.Kaminari

    Raiden.Kaminari Semi-Pro

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    You can always join a team uninvited. But that doesn't mean you will be played ;)
     
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  32. 10sfreak

    10sfreak Semi-Pro

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    LOL! True enough!
     
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  33. sunsetwhitney

    sunsetwhitney New User

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    Step Up and Buck Up!

    Wow. I guess you can justify anything. Why does a team need to ask you to play? The simple fact is this, you are a sandbagger, accept it... You must enjoy beating up on people since you seem to keep track of your wins, I always enjoy competetion, so I play at a level commemserate with my skill level, if you can win 75-80% of your matches at a given level then you are playing at too low of a level, this is the simple truth. The right theing to do is to find a team on your own (yes it might take some effort, but it is the right thing to do).Buck up and play up.. Maybe your team needs to play up? Hell, if your team is getting to Districts every year then maybe they should all play up.. Unless winning is more important than comp? If so continue your journey as the best of the lower ranks, After 6 years of playing USTA you're still at the entry level? No love here be a man and do the right thing.
     
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  34. penpal

    penpal Rookie

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    Have you ever played on a USTA team before?

    And as for the nonsensical part, why is it nonsensical to play at the level I've been assigned? Actually, until all my best competition began getting bumped, I was enjoying some good matches.
     
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  35. 10sfreak

    10sfreak Semi-Pro

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    I really don't see where Penpal is a sandbagger. He's playing at the level the computer rates him, and apparently hasn't won enough of the matches that matter (I have NO idea how the computer decides that, but I'm sure someone on here does know...), so he hasn't been bumped up yet. So many posters on here seem to think that everyone should always be playing at a level or two above what their rating is...
     
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  36. tennisguy2121

    tennisguy2121 Rookie

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    Do you want to get better?? Then play where you will be challenged in your league. If you would just like to win all the time, then stay with what you've been doing. I myself would rather get beat then play at a lower level. I play in a 4.5 league, and there are multiple 5.0's that are in the 4.5 league unfortunately. I am not complaining too much though because it is great experience for me.
    Like I said before, if you want to get better, challenge yourself. I dont understand why anyone would want to do anythng other than that, but to each his own i suppose.
     
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  37. johnkidd

    johnkidd Semi-Pro

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    1. Pen Pal is not sandbagging because he has an established record and is not throwing sets or matches to keep his rating.

    2. I have also heard your playoff record is assigned a higher value then your local matches. More then likely Penpal is a benchmark 3.5 becuase he's winning roughly 3/4 local matches and 50% of his district matches. If the results at districts were better he'd get bumped.
     
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  38. Raiden.Kaminari

    Raiden.Kaminari Semi-Pro

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    The problem is PenPal has too much data sticking him to the 3.5 level. If he played more matches at a higher level (including tournaments), this would start improving his DNTRP towards his true level. However, by playing at the 3.5 level and facing 3.0 to high 3.5 players, he will remain 3.5.

    For the opponents got moved up, they may have played at a higher NTRP level while not having many matches in the system.
     
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  39. goober

    goober Legend

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    I don't consider PenPal to be a sandbagger. The computer rating formula may be at fault but as long as he is trying his best in every match, he is not sandbagging IMO.

    However, the excuse that the reason that he hasn't moved to 4.0 because nobody has invited him is probably the lamest excuse I have ever heard. There are plenty of ways to play up. You can find a 4.0 team that will take you with a little effort if you are proactive in your approach. If you are just sitting around for a captain to call you of course it is not going to happen. Heck just start your own 4.0 team and captain it yourself. Play some 4.0 tourneys.
     
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  40. penpal

    penpal Rookie

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    That's interesting Raiden. I believe you're probably correct, though I also think something is a little askew with the current system if players are essentially required to play above their level in order to get bumped.

    FWIW, and for all those who consider me a sandbagger, for most of the past six years I honestly thought I was doing the proper thing by playing at my rated level. I've seen several players play above their level, and more often than not they get beaten badly and don't provide good competition at the higher level. I assumed most of them had also done well at their rated level and they each probably thought they were ready to play up. I didn't want to jump ahead of myself and dilute the competition at the higher level.

    Anyway, lots of good feedback in this thread. Though I guess I haven't offered a good enough defense for the (presumed) sandbagger for some :p
     
    #40
  41. 10sfreak

    10sfreak Semi-Pro

    Joined:
    Oct 17, 2006
    Messages:
    698
    Location:
    Georgia
    Nah, you don't have to play up in order to get bumped up. I will be bumped up in August to 3.5, and I've never played at that level. I've played 6.5 combo, but never 3.5.
    And yes, there is something DEFINITELY wrong with the USTA rating system!
     
    #41
  42. Raiden.Kaminari

    Raiden.Kaminari Semi-Pro

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    744
    The too much data also works the opposite way too.

    What's really bad is there are some players who have too much data sticking them to a particular level, and they can't move down. So the newer players (with less data) get moved up, despite the other player losing some abilities due to injury, loss of mobility, etc.
     
    #42

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