Interesting points, AQ. And you and Cindy are spot on in that the structure in DC allows players from both MD and VA to form 'all star' teams with the goal of making it to sectionals. I'm not going to lie, I've been parts of those efforts in the past, and possibly in the future. Any small league presents people with the same opportunity. For everyone. So, when people have complained that my outdoor team (which usually goes to districts after winning the league...a league that at times has had a total of two teams in it) gets to go to districts, I point out that others have the ability to take advantage of the same opportunities we do. Form a team and do it. And then I also point out that we do well at districts...it isn't like we don't belong.
But as AQ knows, VA districts is insanely hard. A ton of matches, $$$ for overnights at hotels, and unbelievable heat. This past year was a bit of an exception in that the format actually made it easier to advance, since three VA teams went through (and personally, I think that is fair given the huge number of players and teams in VA). So, when the opportunity to advance without having to do that comes up, of course people are going to jump on it.
I used to disagree with the idea of not letting self-rates advance to post season play, but I have to say...I'm definitely coming around to that idea. Sure, there are a few legit self-rates out there, but these days...they are a tiny, tiny minority. Gotta earn your stripes for one year!
What would you do if you knew you could not fail?