Benefit in "Playing Down"?

Discussion in 'Adult League & Tournament Talk' started by Cindysphinx, Jun 28, 2009.

  1. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    I told my 6.5 team that I wouldn't captain at that level again and would instead captain a new 7.5 team. So far, no one has stepped up to captain the 6.5 team.

    Yesterday, two of the 3.5 players and I were talking about this. One of them is thinking of stepping up to captain and keeping the team together. The subject turned to the question of whether there is any benefit to us as 3.5s in continuing to play 6.5 level.

    The one lady was saying that if you want to improve, you have to play up. She isn't interested in playing 6.5 anymore.

    I was making the argument that there is benefit in playing 6.5. My feeling is that all of us have shots that we are afraid to use in a competitive match at a high level. If the pace is slower (as in 6.5), this is the ideal way to work on our "B" game. If I play that level again, I would use the time to work on elements of my game I am not comfortable with at a higher level. Those things would be receiving on the deuce court, service return variety (lobs, slices, drop shots), approach volleys, S&V. The very reason those things are not part of my "A" game is that I don't feel comfortable with them with the faster pace you see at higher levels.

    How come the prevailing wisdom is that the only way to improve is to play against the highest level possible?
     
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  2. raiden031

    raiden031 Legend

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    I think the ideal situation is to play with players who range from a little bit worse than you to a little bit better than you. That way you get to learn to handle being up in score, being down in score, fear of losing to an inferior opponent, playing with nothing to lose (against better opponent), etc.

    I think if you are winning 1 and 0 every match at 6.5, then its a waste of time. But if you have some reasonably tough matches, its worth it. Plus its good to get experience being both the stronger and weaker partner in a doubles pair.
     
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  3. cghipp

    cghipp Professional

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    I think it's good to play at your level and the next one up. I guess in combo that means playing as the higher rated player at 6.5 and the lower one at 7.5. Playing at the lower level - especially in singles - helps you learn how to win, how to finish. And you can work on techniques - such as poaching - that you might not be comfortable trying at the higher level. You can play more from a point of confidence, though you also have a responsibility (in doubles) to be the team leader of sorts. That takes some getting used to, too. I had been used to always having partners who were better than me (especially since I was once almost exclusively a singles player). When you're the higher-rated player in combo, you really need to step up, and that can take some time to get used to.
     
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  4. jrod

    jrod Hall of Fame

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    For what it's worth, I play up about 30% of the time and play down about 30% of the time. The rest I play at my level. This provides a nice mix and allows me to be pushed, try integrating new stuff into my game, and simply play to win.
     
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  5. Nellie

    Nellie Hall of Fame

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    My problem with combo leagues (.5's) is that everyone seems to be playing "up," for example with most players in the 6.5 league being 3.0's. I think that it is good for a person to learn how to be the best player on a court by moving to get shots when the other team is hitting everything to the partner and by putting away the ball. It is a hard task.
     
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  6. Jim A

    Jim A Professional

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    I try to play akin to JRod, play people above/below and at my level.

    It allows me to work on things (lower), compete (at level) and learn (play up)
     
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  7. larry10s

    larry10s Hall of Fame

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    ^^^^"How come the prevailing wisdom is that the only way to improve is to play against the highest level possible?" the way you get comfortable to the pace and control is to see it regularly so it becomes the norm. you have to prepare quicker , you have to move your feet ,etc. you are MUCH less often let off the hook by an unforced error when you leave a sitter or short ball. often you have to win the point by a SEQUENCE of shots because your "good shot" comes back and forces you to hit another one. thats why playing up helps as long as its not a complete mismatch wher you never get a ball you can hit. playing down to practice your "b" game or strokes is helpful also if the player can get the ball back enough to let you hit balls. imho
     
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  8. jc4.0

    jc4.0 Professional

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    Up or down?

    I would like to better understand your ratings. You have said that you play 3.5 and also 6.5 and 7.5. How is that allowed? In my league you play at your level (in my case 4.0) and you can "sub up" to 4.5 or so. If you regularly play at a higher level you're not allowed to play down because it's not fair - you'd be considered a "ringer". Our 3.5 players would never play higher than 4.0, they'd be blown off the court and nobody would want them in the game.

    That being said, the reason people play up is because if you play opponents who are at your level or a little higher it does force you to improve. If you play people who are at or lower than your level only, you will never get better. If you want to win a lot to feed your ego, play down. If you want to improve, play up at least some of the time. Depends on your personal goals.
     
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  9. BounceHitBounceHit

    BounceHitBounceHit Legend

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    I know nothing about USTA, but two of my best friends are very successful high level DI coaches. Both agree on this matter: you need BOTH! Yes, both. You need to learn to 'win against people you should defeat AND 'press' upwards to foster better skills'. Ideally, an adult player would be winning just over 50% of their matches (assuming they are looking to improve). Juniors may benefit from a bit more gawdy records, say 65% of their matches. If you are winning 75-80% of the time you need to start looking for tougher opponents (unless of course your initials are either RF or RN) :) BHBH
     
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  10. raiden031

    raiden031 Legend

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    6.5 and 7.5 are combo ratings (ie. 6.5 doubles = 3.0 player + 3.5 player). In USTA leagues you have a rating within the system such as 3.5, and you can play in any division that is at your level or higher. If you are playing in a 6.5 combo league as a 3.5, then your partner must be a maximum of a 3.0 player, otherwise you would exceed the 6.5 cap if you had two 3.5 players.

    Also what Nellie added, is that I think everyone wants a stronger partner than themselves, so with these combo leagues, they tend to play up. The 3.5 players all want to play 7.5 to have a 4.0 partner instead of a 3.0 partner at 6.5, so the 6.5 leagues end up with two 3.0s pairing together, and so the quality of the 6.5 division goes down.
     
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  11. SlapShot

    SlapShot Hall of Fame

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    I think that this is pretty much dead-on, but sadly in my case, I'm playing at the highest level that the Northern section will let me play at right now (computer rated 3.5 playing 4.0) and I've gone 13-4 in the past 2 seasons.

    - SlapShot (who is patiently waiting for the bump to 4.0 so that he can play 4.5 and go back to getting his tail kicked again)
     
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  12. BounceHitBounceHit

    BounceHitBounceHit Legend

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    Too bad. I will never understand USTA. :confused:

    BTW, one of my practice partners was recently rated 5.5. He had been asked to play 4.5 the day before. ;) BHBH
     
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  13. Atown

    Atown Rookie

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    Ditto. In addition playing down allows a player to develop his or her confidence in general (i.e., belief that he or she can win, belief in his or her strokes, game, etc., the ability to play more offensively, etc.).
     
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  14. Tarboro

    Tarboro Rookie

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    In your case specifically, I would think that playing "down" (though you're really not, you'll just be the higher-rated player on your side of the net) would be of benefit for mental strength as much as anything. I've seen a lot of players (myself included) who would benefit greatly from learning how to win (i.e. how to put away opponents and capitalize on weaknesses). Learning that stuff is at least as important as polishing your strokes, and is applicable at every level.
     
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  15. TennisND

    TennisND Rookie

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    If you only have 1 option: play up or down, which option will you choose? I am thinking of playing up but it seems harder to find a captain to let me in the team.
     
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  16. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    That's a complicated question, actually. I'm mulling it myself.

    I'm a middle-of-the-pack 3.5. There are certain shots I still struggle with. I am no threat to be bumped to 4.0 this season, that's for sure.

    I will definitely play 7.5 combo. I will probably play 7.0 mixed. What should my third team be?

    There are three options. I could play down at 6.5 ladies combo, I could play up at 8.5 ladies combo, and I could play up at 8.0 mixed.

    Even though the conventional wisdom is that playing up is the best way to develop your game, I don't think that would be true in my case. If I play 6.5 combo, I can work on my weaknesses. If I play 8.5 combo or 8.0 mixed, I will have to continue to try to hide my weaknesses.

    I don't see how hiding weaknesses will get me anywhere in the long run . . .
     
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  17. cghipp

    cghipp Professional

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    I wouldn't play 8.5 unless you're a VERY strong 3.5. I think you should do the 6.5 combo.
     
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  18. larry10s

    larry10s Hall of Fame

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    trust your instincts. may the force be with you:)
     
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  19. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    Yeah, that's my sense also. I mean, me taking the court against a 4.0 and a 4.5? That's insane. 8.0 mixed might make more sense, but there aren't enough 4.5 partners to go around.

    So that leaves 6.5 combo or nothing . . . .
     
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  20. kylebarendrick

    kylebarendrick Professional

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    To me the benefit of playing combo as the stronger player (the 3.5 on a 6.5 team for example) is that you get to work on dictating play. It is very easy to be passive while your opponents pick on your partner. This is your chance to learn how to protect a weaker partner, dominate when you can create an opportunity to, and get used to winning matches when the burden is on you rather than on your partner.
     
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  21. momwendy

    momwendy New User

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    Played down and loved it

    Hey Cindy--
    The past couple of years I have bounced between 3.5 & 4.0. Last year (when I was a 3.5 again) I played 6.5 combo and loved it. I was able to meet a new set of players coming up in the ratings, work on my power and putaways, and know that however much my family life intruded on that day's activities, I would still be okay for match-level play.

    Also, now being bumped up again to 4.0...I can no longer play 6.5 (they changed the rules to 1.0 differential this year), so was glad I was able to grab the opportunity when I could. It's nice to be on top of the pack while you can -- you can always be on the bottom by playing up.
     
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  22. Tennisman912

    Tennisman912 Semi-Pro

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    Cindy,

    You said” Even though the conventional wisdom is that playing up is the best way to develop your game, I don't think that would be true in my case. If I play 6.5 combo, I can work on my weaknesses. If I play 8.5 combo or 8.0 mixed, I will have to continue to try to hide my weaknesses.” With all due respect, you can try to hide weaknesses but the better players will be getting many more or the majority of their shots to your weaknesses so I would argue you will get more practice with your weaknesses with better players than inferior players.

    Why? Because the weaker player shots are hit much more slowly (and to the wrong place more frequently) making it much easier to run around your weakness and thump your strengths. Having said that, I think it is best to play with both. The better players make you improve all aspects of your game, especially your weaknesses that will surely be exploited (greatly helping your improvement potential here), learning how to deal with more pace, better court management and positions, as well as improving your teamwork. While playing with weaker players teaches you how to deal with being expected to always win as learning to play with some pressure is very good for you. It also teaches you not to lose your concentration and how to finish out matches and dictate play. You can also work on aspects of your game if you have the discipline to run around your strength to hit your weaker shots, work on you weaker volley, or whatever the case may be.

    Given the choice, I would always choose to play the better players. Playing down takes more discipline because it is too easy to take it too easy or get lazy when playing with players who don’t test you and you can get away with lazy footwork and inferior shots and still win without much trouble. I prefer the challenge of performing at ever-higher levels. The more opportunity you have to see higher levels, the more you will improve and adapt to the faster pace and learn very quickly what you need to work on.

    I also wouldn’t suggest 8.5 or combo/mixed leagues where facing good 4.5s or above is likely. Always being afraid of being hit or the extra pace will hurt you in the long run. If playing to win, you will get a lot of balls and much more pace than you are used to (as you know). You standing at the net and getting a return from a powder puff serve will not be fun at all (and not teach you anything but duck or turn for protection).

    Best of luck

    TM
     
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2009
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