Captains being discouraged from stacking in plus flights

schmke

Hall of Fame
#1
I was recently told of an LC sending a note out to captains in a 40+ 4.5+ flight regarding stacking, specifically discouraging it or at least discouraging having 4.0s playing up on court 1 where they may face a 5.0. The reasoning was neither player wants the uncompetitive match and while not against the rules, it violates the goals of USTA League to have competitive/compatible matches. The note even hinted that regulations changes may be forthcoming if captains continue to stack like this.

I wrote many more details on my blog including a poll for you to voice your opinion on keeping the rules for plus flights as-is, or a few options on changing them.
 
#10
I voted for no change in your poll. Is this really a widespread problem? I've been playing the 40s 4.5+ League since it began, and I don't recall seeing very many 4.0s on any of the rosters, much less 4.0s playing at #1 singles. Therefore, I don't see why the rules should be changed to accommodate an outlier scenario.

As you wrote in your blog, what is very common is that one team has an outstanding 5.0 singles player, so the opposition puts two of their 5.0s in doubles, and a "sacrificial lamb" (almost always a 4.5 as far as I can recall) gets put at #1 singles. This happened even at Nationals, including the finals last year, and I don't see how they could craft a rule to change this.

With my teams, when we've paired up our 5.0s in doubles, we've always put our best 4.5 singles guy at #2 singles, but tried to put a decent 4.5 in that #1 singles spot (usually our 2nd or 3rd best 4.5 singles option, if available) because you never know if the other team might not have their 5.0 singles guy, or perhaps they are putting him in doubles for whatever reason. Therefore, if the other team is doing the sacrificial lamb thing, you want a 4.5 singles guy in that spot that has a reasonable chance of winning. I'm a former 5.0 on the downward slide to 4.5, so I've actually been that sacrificial guy at #1 singles in several matches. For me, it's a win-win scenario - I either get a match I can win with some comfort, or I get to play against a 5.0 stud with no pressure, which is fun. Maybe the 5.0 kicks my butt and thinks it wasn't worth his time? So what? The 5.0 stud did his job and got the point for the team... and that's what League is about - the team. In a team format, it's not about the individual's whims - people can play tournaments if they want individual challenges.
 
#14
Ugh. I think half measures like this are counterproductive, and I don't like it.

There are several good solutions to stacking. This is not one of them.

One possible solution is to make the order of lines irrelevant. If there's no expectation that "S1" is better than "S2", if the players can be in any order, there's no stacking - you shuffle your lineup so you're not predictable, but other than that sometimes you get lucky with matchups and sometimes you don't, it's random. Rename them to "A" "B" "C" or something and recommend that captains randomize their lineups.

Another reasonable solution is to make the order of lines required to be according to a certain set of rules. i.e. the USTA can make the order required to be from best to worst (then they must publish a ranking to make this happen), or they can come up with a specific order you're required to play in based on win-loss record, or something. Then there's a "correct" way to assign players to lines, and everything else is illegal/cheating.

A third, worse, but possibly workable solution is to require lines to be in order from best-to-worst, but not publish official rankings and leave it up to the captains. There's more wiggle room for cheating and not getting caught, but in that case stacking is still cheating even if you don't get caught, so at least there's a 'right' way and a 'wrong' way that everyone knows.

But this... this is the worst of all of the options. It's creating the EXPECTATION that lines are from best-to-worst, while not actually REQUIRING it. This is EXACTLY the kind of nonsense that leads to complaints and people feeling slighted. It creates a social expectation mismatched with the rules.
 
#17
Simple solution. Give the courts weighted points. Don’t count them all the same. Stacking problem solved.
I'd prefer that to the current situation. Then who would play where is an actual strategic choice rather than a "how much are you willing to push social norms" choice.

Still, IMO, not as good as publishing rankings and requiring players to play in that order, but better than the status quo.
 
#19
Ugh. I think half measures like this are counterproductive, and I don't like it.

There are several good solutions to stacking. This is not one of them.

One possible solution is to make the order of lines irrelevant. If there's no expectation that "S1" is better than "S2", if the players can be in any order, there's no stacking - you shuffle your lineup so you're not predictable, but other than that sometimes you get lucky with matchups and sometimes you don't, it's random. Rename them to "A" "B" "C" or something and recommend that captains randomize their lineups.

Another reasonable solution is to make the order of lines required to be according to a certain set of rules. i.e. the USTA can make the order required to be from best to worst (then they must publish a ranking to make this happen), or they can come up with a specific order you're required to play in based on win-loss record, or something. Then there's a "correct" way to assign players to lines, and everything else is illegal/cheating.

A third, worse, but possibly workable solution is to require lines to be in order from best-to-worst, but not publish official rankings and leave it up to the captains. There's more wiggle room for cheating and not getting caught, but in that case stacking is still cheating even if you don't get caught, so at least there's a 'right' way and a 'wrong' way that everyone knows.

But this... this is the worst of all of the options. It's creating the EXPECTATION that lines are from best-to-worst, while not actually REQUIRING it. This is EXACTLY the kind of nonsense that leads to complaints and people feeling slighted. It creates a social expectation mismatched with the rules.
I don't quite understand what you're objecting to. Are you responding to the LC note that only discourages stacking without requiring anything? Or are you against requiring the 4.0 players playing up to fill in S2 and D2/D3 first?

And I believe the goal here is to avoid having players who are two full rating levels apart from playing against each other. Randomizing the line up or weighting the courts don't solve that. Requiring the order be from best to worst does but I don't see USTA wanting to publish ratings to solve a problem that's exclusive to one league.
 
#20
Yes, the LC note that discourages stacking without requiring anything. That as part of the general USTA ethos that you're "supposed" to play straight up, except when you really want to win, and then you're allowed to stack.
 

sam_p

Professional
#25
I think that a rule that just says 4.0 players playing 40+ 4.5+ are not allowed to play 1 singles or 1 doubles would solve the problem. If you need bodies and need 4.0's to play, it shouldn't lead to a match where 5.0's are playing 4.0's. This just happened last week in our first match of the season and 1 singles and 1 doubles were both double bagels. The other matches weren't for the most part that competitive either but at least they weren't as bad.
 
#27
Sorry but unless they offer a 4.5(no plus) league as well as a 4.5+ league in the same age group one team that doesn't have a 5.0 should not be forced to sacrifice one of their 4.5's to the other team's 5.0
 

schmke

Hall of Fame
#29
It makes it so that winning 1 singles and 1 doubles and losing 2s, 2d, 3d is a tie instead of a loss. You have to win either 1s or 1d to win outright.
Except in these leagues, there is so "team win" at least for standings purposes. It is just an accumulation of points throughout the season and the team with the most points wins the flight.
 
#30
Sorry but unless they offer a 4.5(no plus) league as well as a 4.5+ league in the same age group one team that doesn't have a 5.0 should not be forced to sacrifice one of their 4.5's to the other team's 5.0
True. A 5.0 will beat a 4.5 and a 4.0 by the same score and its non-competitive both times. There should be a rule that if you are a 5.0 you can only play other 5.0s. So essentially a tri-level format instead of a 4.5+ league.
 

J011yroger

Talk Tennis Guru
#33
True. Maybe 5.0s are just SOL then.
I have to say that I have been on every side of the equation. I've been the throw court, I've played against the throw court, I've stacked and I've counter stacked, I've beaten the stack and I've lost to the stack. I really don't care, it's all part of the strategy and I'm just about the team wins.

I do however feel for the guy who isn't about the team win and just wants a competitive match and to get away from his wife for a little while and ends up with a 40 minute 0&1 match.

J
 

J_R_B

Hall of Fame
#34
Sorry but unless they offer a 4.5(no plus) league as well as a 4.5+ league in the same age group one team that doesn't have a 5.0 should not be forced to sacrifice one of their 4.5's to the other team's 5.0
I disagree. If a team is playing in a 4.5+ league and doesn't have a 5.0 player and is playing 4.0s in their lineup, then, yes, they should have to "sacrifice" a 4.5 on line 1 instead of being allowed to play a 4.0 patsy who is definitely going to be double bageled. Such a team is not a contender anyway. What is the point of lineup shenanigans to start with?
 

Ronaldo

Talk Tennis Guru
#35
I disagree. If a team is playing in a 4.5+ league and doesn't have a 5.0 player and is playing 4.0s in their lineup, then, yes, they should have to "sacrifice" a 4.5 on line 1 instead of being allowed to play a 4.0 patsy who is definitely going to be double bageled. Such a team is not a contender anyway. What is the point of lineup shenanigans to start with?
To win?
 
#37
I disagree. If a team is playing in a 4.5+ league and doesn't have a 5.0 player and is playing 4.0s in their lineup, then, yes, they should have to "sacrifice" a 4.5 on line 1 instead of being allowed to play a 4.0 patsy who is definitely going to be double bageled. Such a team is not a contender anyway. What is the point of lineup shenanigans to start with?
It's not necessarily about the team win or going to state/sectional/national championships.

The 4.5's on the team without a 5.0 signed up for a 4.5 league to get good matches (which supposedly what NTRP is all about) why should they have to play against a 5.0?

At the end of the day The 5.0 is playing in a 4.5 league. If the opposing team doesn't have a 5.0 for them to play against what does it matter if the 5.0 beats up on a 4.5 or a 4.0?

If they want to disallow 4.0's playing in the #1 spot then 5.0's should only be allowed in the lineup if the other team has a 5.0 on their roster (not necessarily available for the match but on the team roster for the season)
 
#38
Use published UTR ratings to drive scheduling for teams. So two highest UTR play the two highest UTR. Then next highest v. next highest. Etc...

That would also fix being a higher level player and having captains pair you with the lowest to average things out.

Yeah...I know that won't work, but just a thought.
 
#39
Use published UTR ratings to drive scheduling for teams. So two highest UTR play the two highest UTR. Then next highest v. next highest. Etc...

That would also fix being a higher level player and having captains pair you with the lowest to average things out.

Yeah...I know that won't work, but just a thought.
Doesn't that make you a blasphemer talking UTR to be used in NTRP stuff?
 
#42
The rules require you to default the lowest line first, which creates an incentive to put the weakest on the lowest line. This undercuts the idea that court assignment is unimportant.

I would love a rule that those playing up cannot be on higher courts.
 
#43
5.0s stacked at 1 doubles was a really annoying problem this year - happened quite a bit in our local league to avoid our 5.0 singles player.
Completely wasted days for our 5.0 and it happened multiple times. Even worse was low 4.5s/4.0s getting dropped in at 1 singles and getting absolutely worked. It sucks watching guys I know for 4.5 hurry up and leave right after the match because they got sacrificed. Totally the captain’s choice and fault but still not fun for anyone.
I’m a bit salty about this but here’s how I think it should be determined
-If you have two 5.0s one has to play 1 singles, one has to play 1 doubles.
-If you only have one 5.0 available they should have to play singles. Ok – maybe a stretch but they’re 5.0s for a reason. Junior training/college/etc. Play singles!
-But the best solution is don’t have 5.0s in a 4.5 league.
 
#44
If there's a rule 5.0s can only play S1 and D1, it seems justified to have a similar rule stating 4.0s can only play S2, D2, and D3.
With a lot teams there will be cases where the 5.0 is unavailable from sickness, personal life, etc. I believe you have to allow the match to be played and not force a default when there would be 4.0 and/or 4.5 guys on the team wanting to play the match.
Maybe you need something like the players at 2 must be the same or higher rating than at 3 and the players at 1 must be the same or higher rating as 2.
 
#45
Yes, the LC note that discourages stacking without requiring anything. That as part of the general USTA ethos that you're "supposed" to play straight up, except when you really want to win, and then you're allowed to stack.
It would be nice, but since the USTA does not release ratings, you don't know for sure what is straight up other than 4.5 vs. 5.0. I think when you get to regionals, sectionals, and nationals, the USTA is present and the captain should submit a singles lineup and a doubles lineup. The USTA should then pair the singles players up in level order and the 3 doubles teams in order based on combined rating. Less stacking at that next level.
 
#46
It would be nice, but since the USTA does not release ratings, you don't know for sure what is straight up other than 4.5 vs. 5.0. I think when you get to regionals, sectionals, and nationals, the USTA is present and the captain should submit a singles lineup and a doubles lineup. The USTA should then pair the singles players up in level order and the 3 doubles teams in order based on combined rating. Less stacking at that next level.
If they only do it at sectionals/nationals, they could do it how Division 1 does it for NCAAs. You submit a lineup in order for singles and doubles pairings. Then a committee takes a look and makes teams change it if they find a fairly blatant stacking job. In college it's based on whether a guy played at the submitted spot a significant amount of times throughout the season. So if a guy played 4 and 5 all year but you suddenly put him at 3 for NCAAs, they'll change it. In USTA it can be based on dynamic ratings. Maybe have a threshold that you can play above someone within 0.1 of your rating. The big catch is that when you sub a guy out for a match everyone else has to slide up a spot in the order of the submitted line up. So if you sub out your singles 1 you can't replace him with singles 3 or 4. Singles 2 would have to slide into the top spot and then you fill in 2nd singles with one of your other guys.
 
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