The Lapsed Player Initiative

Discussion in 'Adult League & Tournament Talk' started by Cindysphinx, Apr 18, 2013.

  1. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    I got an interesting email from a USTA administrator. She said USTA is trying to determine why players stop playing USTA, calling it the "Lapsed Player Initiative." She asked me why a specific player I had captained no longer plays.

    I responded with the lady's reasons (due to a bad back, she cannot play on hard courts and so plays only for her country club team).

    How about it? What are the specific reasons that specific teammates have stopped playing USTA entirely?

    **Note: Let's not have yet another gripe session about "Why I hate USTA!" or "Every Bad Thing That Has Ever Happened To Me Playing USTA!"** Let's limit ourselves to specific people and why they stopped USTA after having played for a while.

    Here's a list off the top of my head:

    Nancy -- too busy with work

    Nina -- hurt her knee skiing; can't play tennis anymore

    Meg -- got pregnant and can't be away at night

    Cara -- works during the day and doesn't want to play 9 pm matches

    Diana -- tore up her shoulder serving; hasn't played following surgery

    Shelley -- feels pressure to win; doesn't enjoy competition in general

    Rose, Paula, Mary, Jill -- married to foreign service employees; returned to their home countries

    Lola -- lost her job

    Anyone else??
     
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  2. LuckyR

    LuckyR Legend

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    I think that your examples are pretty typical, that is: life happens. The USTA hopfully knows this and is fishing around for the uncommon situations where they can do something to salvage some of the "lapsed" players. The only one that might possibly qualify on your extensive list is Cara, and probably if they accommodated her schedule, two other players would quit because the new times conflicted with it.

    My guess is the things that the USTA could potentially change, don't fall out into the "I'm going to stop playing league" category, rather the eyes rolling, "not that again" category. Stuff that takes a measure of the fun away but not enough to totally ruin competition. Things like not bumping up teams that go to Nationals etc.
     
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  3. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    I see your point. From a management perspective, though, it always makes sense to figure out why your customers have left so you can figure out how to get them back.

    So. What could USTA do to improve player retention?

    Well, one thing they could do is make it easier and more enticing to captain. If someone decides to captain, they are bringing 19 players into the system. If someone stops, the upheaval may mean that a few players drop out.

    I think it is awful that captains don't get free registration fees. That's for starters.

    I also wonder if USTA could start a program that rewards captains who mentor another captain into forming an entirely new team. Like, one time a friend decided to start a senior team but she had never captained. I helped her, which was actually very time-consuming. For my effort, I got nothing from USTA.

    I guess I think the foundation of any effort to increase the pool of players has to start with existing captains. We are the ones with the Roladex (Roladex -- isn't that quaint?) who can reach out to non-USTA folks.

    I also wonder why USTA doesn't do more to reach out to teaching pros who get their students to form teams.
     
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  4. gmatheis

    gmatheis Hall of Fame

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    I know several people that have stopped playnig because they were bumped to 4.5, when they probably should really be 4.0
     
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  5. Sumo

    Sumo Semi-Pro

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    A combination of moving around and the 40+ leagues for me.
     
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  6. Nellie

    Nellie Hall of Fame

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    I stopped playing USTA a couple of years ago:
    1) too many late nights
    2) related to 1, I found that I either had to play a lot or feel like I was losing matches I should be winning because I was not sharp.
    3) I met enough people after playing USTA for a long time to have social matches without committing to league play
    4) related to 3, I had too many uneven, (not fun matches) with players out of level.
    5) also related to 3, I had a couple of experience with people I did not like (people who were unpleasant, cheaters, etc.), so I like to keep control over my opponents.
     
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  7. spot

    spot Hall of Fame

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    In Atlanta people tend to just prefer the ALTA format as it is so much easier to form a team with your friends. Some people play both (and of course some prefer USTA) but many don't want to give up both weekend days to league tennis. The ALTA players who want some singles generally play flex leagues.
     
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  8. NLBwell

    NLBwell Legend

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    A friend got bumped up to 4.5. He played #2 at 4.0 and won every match at #2. Very consistent, but no real weapons other than mental fortitude. He would have lost to about 1/3rd of the #1 guys at 4.0, though, the ones that could overpower him. He got bumped up over those guys. When he got bumped up, he couldn't find a 4.5 team that would take him. He wouldn't have been compeitive playing singles at 4.5, and there was no reason for a captain to bump a #3 doubles guy for a new guy.

    Another friend got bumped up to 5.5 from 5.0 a few years ago. Of course, there was no 5.5 leagues or tournaments around here, so he couldn't play USTA at all. The new rule about higher level guys able to be on the highest level team available is meant to address guys like these - we'll see how it works.
     
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2013
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  9. J_R_B

    J_R_B Hall of Fame

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    This and "don't have time anymore due to family/work obligations" are the most common reasons I've seen.
     
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  10. tennis_ocd

    tennis_ocd Hall of Fame

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    Only common theme is all stopped immediately after you captained? :twisted:
     
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  11. LuckyR

    LuckyR Legend

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    Given my observation, I agree with you that the money is in the Captains and as you point out, helping just one will improve numerous players get access to the USTA.
     
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  12. OrangePower

    OrangePower Hall of Fame

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    Similar to this:

    It can be discouraging for people on the border between two levels. I know several people who are 4.5s but in reality play like very strong 4.0s. They do really well at 4.0, but then can't compete at 4.5 after getting bumped up.

    Some in this situation persevere and get their butts kicked for a season or two and then get bumped back down.
    Some do just barely well enough to avoid getting bumped back down and then continue getting killed season after season until they eventually give up.
    And some get discouraged even sooner after realizing they just can't compete at the new level and give up playing league.

    I think the transition from 4.0 to 4.5 is probably the hardest, for a couple of reasons:
    1. Hard to improve. Meaning, at 3.5 and 4.0 if you get out there and play more, get some lessons, work harder, etc, you can potentially still improve. But the better you get the harder it gets to get better... at 4.5, especially for those who are not young any more, it's sometimes just not realistic to expect improvement.
    2. Range of skill levels. Because numerically there less 4.5s than say 4.0s and 3.5s (and so USTA needs to keep the number of 4.5s up), I think the difference in ability between a top 4.5 and a bottom 4.5 is greater than that between say a top 4.0 and a bottom 4.0. At the bottom end of 4.5 you have players who didn't have a lot of coaching and competitive play when younger, and have just worked their way up over the years. And at the top end, you have ex-D1 players. Just a huge gap.

    Having said all that, I don't see an easy solution for keeping those in between levels engaged in league. Maybe offer a hybrid 'staggered' league like for example 4.0+/4.5- that would include top 4.0s and bottom 4.5s, but exclude top 4.5s (and similar for other levels also).
     
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  13. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    OrangePower,

    You make a lot of good points. I think the change in league structure has made matters much worse.

    It used to be that if you started to fade a bit due to age, you only had to hang on until you were 50. If you were a strong 4.0 who was bumped to 4.5, well . . . if you were in your late 40s or already in your 50s, you would at least have a senior season where you could be competitive.

    Now, you have to hang on until you are 55. Not only that, the age limit for 40+ captures a lot of people who are just way younger and stronger.

    Frankly, I think the easiest way to get more $$$ would be to get more people to join league at the lower levels. When I started playing tennis in 2005, there were nine 2.5 ladies teams in our flight. Nowadays, it is common to have just 2-3 teams. I think just a little bit of outreach and organization would be sufficient to round up several more 2.5 and 3.0 teams, and these players are the most likely to stick with it for a while.
     
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  14. LuckyR

    LuckyR Legend

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    Two things:

    First getting the 4.5s out of 4.0 makes league more enjoyable/competitive for the true 4.0s.

    Second, the lower 4.5s (who got kicked out of 4.0) should be on the lower levels of their 4.5 teams and compete against each other (not the high 4.5s, who played 4.5 the whole time).
     
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  15. dizzlmcwizzl

    dizzlmcwizzl Hall of Fame

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    To be honest I do not know of many folks that have left he USTA at all. The ones that have quit for life reasons or have been bumped away from their friends.

    I think everyone is correct in identifying the captains as the single biggest factor in both directions. Bad captains drives folks away. Good captains make the leagues work.

    I believe the USTA needs to make finding, developing And retaining good captains their goal.
     
    #15
  16. spot

    spot Hall of Fame

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    I'll just point out that this isn't an issue for ALTA. high 4.0 players are prized. Low 4.5 players a prized. There isn't any sort of artificial restraint to try and make sure that all players are the same level there are so many levels for ALTA that you just look for good players and you don't have to worry about whether someone is a great 4.0 player or a bad 4.5 player. If they can play then they are useful.
     
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  17. OrangePower

    OrangePower Hall of Fame

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    I agree. I'm not suggesting letting the low-level 4.5s continue to play in the regular 4.0 league. But when you say "true 4.0s", realize that there is nothing magical about being a 4.5. Many of the lower level 4.5s are only very very marginally stronger than top 4.0s.

    This would be true in an ideal world. If teams in a flight are fairly balanced (so that each has some strong players and some weak players), and then captains play lines in order of strength, then what you're saying is correct. Weaker (for level) players would get to play against other weak players, and all would be good.

    However the reality is that:

    (1) Teams are not balanced. There are some strong teams with playoff aspirations, who are composed mostly of strong players, and then weak teams, which is where the lower level players end up. So when a weak team plays a strong team, there are just not going to be many good matchups.

    (2) Teams often stack. So even when two mediocre teams play against each other, where you could potentially have good matchups, one or both of the captains will often see this as a chance to get a team win with some creative stacking, and as a result ruin the matchups.

    Again, I'm not suggesting that anything should be changed.
    Just pointing out that if you view things from the perspective of a lower-level 4.5 player, league does kinda suck, and I can see why many such players would just give up playing league.
     
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2013
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  18. LuckyR

    LuckyR Legend

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    I completely agree with your observations. My point was that by making a decision move the 4.5s out of 4.0 leagues en mass, it provided appropriate competition (theoretically) for those 4.5s in the 4.5 league. As opposed to the previous regimen of moving up one or two random 4.5s who got "caught" in the 4.0s, all of the issues you point out would be much worse for those same guys (who got moved up) under that situation. Not to mention worse for the true 4.0s in the 4.0 leagues.
     
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  19. beernutz

    beernutz Hall of Fame

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    Ding! I was going to say this too. Our club doesn't have enough 4.5s to regularly field a team so that when players get bumped to this level they either start playing for teams which are organized through our city's public tennis complex (and generally don't renew their club memberships) or they quit USTA altogether and just play 4.0 in our local league.
     
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  20. blakesq

    blakesq Professional

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    it is too expensive in Connecticut, $30 for each match. and the matches are almost always scheduled JUST on the weekends.

     
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  21. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    $30/match? Indoors? Are the matches timed? Is there a registration fee also?

    $30 is a lot. Our fees our $18/match (just went up from $17) for 2 hours. Neighboring VA is $15, but that is for 90 minutes.
     
    #21
  22. dcdoorknob

    dcdoorknob Hall of Fame

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    It's $3/match (for 90 mins) in Mississippi. Of course, it isn't indoors, but outdoor tennis is feasible for a pretty large chunk of the year.
     
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  23. cak

    cak Professional

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    Most I know dropped out for health reasons. A few dropped out because they didn't like the captains at their club.

    The health reasons can't usually be fixed, other than the 50 year old ladies that no longer have the vision to play under the lights. They play tons during the day, but when they moved the senior league to nights and weekends they could no longer play.

    A ladies day league in Nor Cal could bring in quite a few players that aren't available nights and weekends. There are a whole league of social Interclub players that would be willing to play USTA if they could play while the kids are in school.
     
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  24. cak

    cak Professional

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    The other thing that may cut into USTA is other vibrant leagues. The club I play at in Charlotte, the number one choice is to play Interclub. It's all doubles and you are guaranteed to play on clay. My club alone has 200+It is by far the most competitive. Next most popular is Queen City. Again, all doubles, but you might end up on hard courts. USTA comes in third. The singles lines make it a pain.
     
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  25. jmnk

    jmnk Professional

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    ok, that is mean. But funny.....
     
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  26. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

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    Rose, Paula, Mary, Jill -- married to foreign service employees; returned to their home countries


    Doesn't seem to be the typical names you would expect of diplomat wives from abroad
     
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  27. Sumo

    Sumo Semi-Pro

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    English, Irish, South African, Kiwi, Australian, Chinese and those are their American names, or married a guy from there.
    Doesn't seem so far fetched.
     
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  28. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    Those are not the real first names.

    I will resist the temptation to add "Duh!" to my remarks.
     
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  29. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

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    I know they are not real. I was pointing out they are also not realistic.
     
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  30. beernutz

    beernutz Hall of Fame

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    Why would it matter if they were realistic names if you knew they were not real?
     
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  31. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

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    Because Cindy is a writer and we have certain expectations from her.
     
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  32. Topaz

    Topaz Legend

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    If MD doesn't start coming down in their registration fees, I may not play up your way anymore. I can't afford to drop $140+ just to register!

    I do appreciate the 2 hours for matches though, that is nice (though somehow I can still time out a 2 hour match!).
     
    #32
  33. JRstriker12

    JRstriker12 Hall of Fame

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    As LuckyR put it, life happens.

    I took a good year long break from USTA after the birth of our twins. I signed back up for the spring. It should be fun.

    Other reasons are I know some new 4.5 bump ups are having a hard time finding a team. They want to play but captains really only want strong 4.5 players.
     
    #33
  34. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    I have already changed how I approach this.

    I used to play on as many as five teams per season. Now I have cut it back to just the one MD them that I captain. My plan is to play more matches on fewer teams. I will not be incurring almost $200 in administrative fees for a 12-week season.

    I don't want to take my business to VA or DC, though. I refuse to play 90 minute matches. You pay one set, and then the winning team stalls and the losing team rushes. Yuck.
     
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  35. Michaellearningtennis

    Michaellearningtennis New User

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    Heu sureshes!

    It's Mike Morgan ... i ma the guy trying to get my racquets customized from Priority 1. Still have not heard from them. Very serious though! Can you call me at 410-924-5470 with any advice I would be greatly appreciative... maybe you can do my racquets! Thanks Mike
     
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  36. BounceHitBounceHit

    BounceHitBounceHit Legend

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  37. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

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    Have you sent mail to drakulie? Do that again. He is with P1.
     
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  38. Topaz

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    But we do get two hours outdoors in nova! So good to go there.

    I wouldn't want to captain in moco. Just a logistical nightmare! And the same people captain over and over (including you)! I don't know how you do it!
     
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  39. Overdrive

    Overdrive Legend

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    There's timed rec tennis matches?

    This is one of 50,000 reasons why I'm a Southerner. :)
     
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  40. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    Yeah, I am playing the NOVA day league precisely because it is still 2 hours.

    As for captaining MOCO, what makes it a logistical nightmare? I have co-captained in NOVA and phantom-captained in DC, and those leagues have waaaaaay more challenges. There's always money exchanging hands (and someone always forgets their checkbook), you have to collect each match and get the money to the league coordinator, you have to bring balls, there are more outdoor matches so more weather delays and reschedules . . .

    In MOCO, you sign up, your players sign up, and then you only have to do two things: (1) get your players to show up at the right place on time, and (2) do an accounting at the end of the season to refund money to those who played a little and collect from those who played a lot.

    I did my accounting this morning. It took about 15 minutes.

    The other reason I captain MOCO is my teams run like well-oiled machines. My ladies are very responsive and considerate, so I don't have to hunt them down with a pack of dogs to get them to give me their availability or pay their fees. In return, I get the line-ups out in advance and stay on top of things.
     
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  41. Topaz

    Topaz Legend

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    Don't you have to front a lot of fees, or did that change?

    Also, perhaps you are better at accounting than others...still waiting for that check in the mail...
     
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  42. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    Yes, it changed, thank goodness. Now, players pre-pay for 5 matches when they register.

    This is wonderful. No more chasing players at the end of the season, and if you do have to chase anyone it is usually for the cost of 1-2 matches, not a whole season's worth.

    There has been one unanticipated side effect, though. There are people who play on five teams. If they have to pre-pay, they have to cough up about $130 per team, all at once. This has created cash flow problems for some.

    Still, that is better than expecting the captain to front $1200+.
     
    #42
  43. Topaz

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    Yeah, I never would captain if I had to front money like that.

    But it is 140+ to register. That's ridiculous.

    Personally, I much prefer pay as you go. Just my opinion!
     
    #43
  44. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    I co-captained half a season in Virginia, and I got a little tired of this:

    "Oh, wow. I left my wallet at home. Can anyone lend me $11?"

    "I only have a $50 bill. Can anyone break it?"

    "Dang it! I used my last check. Can I pay you the next time I see you?"

    "Wait, Darlene was supposed to cover my share because I paid for her last week. Did she leave already?"

    "Aw, crap. My kids have been in my wallet again. There's an ATM on the corner. Can you follow me up there?"
     
    #44
  45. Topaz

    Topaz Legend

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    Must vary by team...we don't really have issues with that on my teams. Once, one of my singles gals forgot to pay, and she immediately sent me her check. I find that if you are very up front and say fees are expected to be paid before you walk onto the court, then that is what happens.

    Stillll waiting for my refund from two seasons ago in Moco however! (yeah, I've given up!)

    I do usually just write checks because of the odd amounts, $22 for singles, $11 for outdoor. $15 for indoor has a better shot of being paid in cash!
     
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  46. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    Wait. Your league charges singles players more than doubles players?

    I remember that MOCO had a big debate about this a few seasons ago. The facilities charge the league per court. Some felt that the singles players should pay more because they require their own court. Others felt it should be a blended, per-player rate.

    Me, I was in the camp that it should be a blended rate because it is *team* tennis. Also, it is hard enough to get ladies to play singles without also making it more expensive.

    So it's $18/player.
     
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  47. LuckyR

    LuckyR Legend

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    Again, I don't doubt for a second that this post is accurate. But I will say, I have never heard of such nonsense around here...
     
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  48. J_R_B

    J_R_B Hall of Fame

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    My club charges fees this way for indoor courts (that we use when it rains). I split the total team fee into 8 equal shares. I don't charge singles twice as much.
     
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  49. cak

    cak Professional

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    I played on a team out of a club where the fees were automatically charged to your account, which worked out great.

    However, the captains could recruit up to 50% of their team from outside. The outside players had to pay per match to the captain, as the club charged the captains account for their share.

    The captain would beg their captain of the day to ask for money. Most forgot. And the outside players never offered. Often when asked they had similar excuses as above.

    I only captained teams where the club had enough members to fill the roster. Outside players were a pain.
     
    #49
  50. silentkman

    silentkman New User

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    I can relate, I captained a NOVA about a decade ago. The reason why I stopped playing.

    Some teams were getting DIV 1 college players to play at the 4.5 level(before the Dynmaic tennis rating)

    Collecting money was an absolute pain in the @SS.

    Tennis is not a team sport, its an individual sport (excluding doubles of course).


    I would much rather play an USTA tournmanet in my age group.
     
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