Originally Posted by asimple
My particular case is probably somewhat common. I was a mid 5.0 when I was young, but took many years off and put on 70 pounds. I self rated as a 4.5 last year and had a winning record but got bumped down to 4.0 which was probably a mistake based on the way I was playing. Over the year I decided to get my game back into shape and lost 40 pounds. At this point I am nowhere near a 4.0 and improving. I've played a few matches so far this year, and based on the results I'm pretty sure my rating is nowhere near the 4.0 level anymore. I'm playing both 4.5 and 4.0, but mainly focusing on 4.5, but I guess as lame as it is I too am continuing the 4.0 play.
This is the challenge for any rating system and especially those like NTRP where there are levels a player plays at. Ignoring any gaming that may go on, player's games may be getting better or worse based on age, practice, physical condition, and so on. So a rating will always be moving one way or another to some degree, for some, that movement may be very significant. The result is that someone may be at the "wrong" level at some point in time during a year until their level is reset at the end of the year.
Your situation sounds like this is occurring "naturally", not through any gaming and this is to be expected, and may result in your 4.0 team having a better chance of doing well. IMHO, this is the natural ebb and flow that results in teams at a given level being better or worse.
But you raised a good point about the incentive for someone to be rated lower than they should be which leads to gaming the system to accomplish that. As long as individuals get a rating and that dictates what level they can play at and teams can be formed more or less from any collection rated at the same level, you are going to have this problem.
One idea (that I have not fully thought through, so just throwing it out for discussion) would be to have a system more like English Soccer (and other similar leagues) where it is a team that is "rated" and plays at a given level and may be promoted up or relegated down based on win/loss performance.
Individuals would still have to have ratings and there would have to be rules about what level team new players can join and to the degree possible these would need to err on the side of having a player on a team at higher level rather than lower, and you'd want to limit roster turnover so a team at a lower level couldn't recruit too many ringers, or force a team to play at a higher level if a roster is a certain percentage new.
Yes, the USTA has the move up or break up rule, but perhaps this needs to be revisited or tightened up.
This may not work with USTA League tennis where teams are less formal than a soccer league, and I'm sure there are other issues, but it is something to think about.