Do you need to game the system to qualify for nationals?

jservoss

Rookie
This may be a brag post, but I want to shed some light on the topic of players that qualify for nationals. It seems every time a team qualifies for nationals there are so many accusations of gamesmanship and sandbagging. In the last 3 years I have had 4 out of my 8 teams qualify for nationals, and also a fifth team with a match point to get to nationals that did not go our way.

Does it require sandbagging?
No. In my case, I simply fall into the upper area of an NTRP rating, but not high enough to get bumped up. I have never even once not given my best effort on the tennis court. I have certainly had many bad days, but have never even thrown a single point. If the NTRP scale shifted 0.25 in either direction my results would be completely different. I'm not going to apologize to anybody for being lucky enough for my NTRP rating to stabilize where it does.

Does it require gamesmanship?
I don't think so, but you be the judge. Is it gamesmanship to recruit teams with the intentions of winning? I am very familiar with the local players and recruit heavily in order to create or join the strongest teams possible. A lot of times this means recruiting people who have been legitimately bumped down, or grabbing players who are improving but have yet to get bumped up. Also, I take advantage of the split up rules and several times I have recruited the strongest people off of teams that qualified for nationals when I haven't. On years that I make it to nationals, I try and join the next strongest team.

Morale of the story:
To make it to nationals it requires a little bit of luck and a lot of networking.
 

goober

Legend
I am not sure how you can make meaningful generalizations based on your personal example of not sandbagging.

How do you define gaming the system? I would define it as manipulating rules and procedures meant to protect the system in order to get a desired outcome. To me everything you write in 3rd paragraph sounds like you are trying to game the system.
 

jservoss

Rookie
I am not sure how you can make meaningful generalizations based on your personal example of not sandbagging.

How do you define gaming the system? I would define it as manipulating rules and procedures meant to protect the system in order to get a desired outcome. To me everything you write in 3rd paragraph sounds like you are trying to game the system.
I figured a lot of people would see it that way. Does that make it wrong?

Why is recruiting considered gaming the system in a competitive environment?
 

goober

Legend
I figured a lot of people would see it that way. Does that make it wrong?

Why is recruiting considered gaming the system in a competitive environment?
You asked whether or not you were gaming the system, not whether it is right or wrong. That is up for you decide. Some people might consider unsporting others may say it is fine because it is what you need to do to win or others are doing it so why shouldn't we? You have your own moral compass.
 

BMRSNR27

Rookie
I figured a lot of people would see it that way. Does that make it wrong?

Why is recruiting considered gaming the system in a competitive environment?
Sounds to me like you do it the way I do it. There are people that don't like it and there are people who have a lot of respect for it. At this point, though, my guys recruit for me and players want to come play for me.

This is my first trip to nationals. I built this team eight years ago, struggled for four and then won the league four years in a row, coming tiebreakers from nationals the last two. I'm excited for our first trip!
 

BMRSNR27

Rookie
In a team sport isn't recruiting part of the game, not part of the system?
Frankly, I see it as my duty as a captain to put together the best possible team. It's not fair to the players on my team if I don't.

There's no coincidence that I have people calling me for lineup help, asking me to form mixed teams and teams not at my age level, etc. People don't like it when my team is beating theirs, but they want to be a part of it.
 

schmke

Hall of Fame
I would agree with jservoss and BMRSNR27 on this one.

I agree it is wrong to throw games/matches to manipulate one's rating. I would like to see the "system" have checks to throw matches out that are detected as likely to have been thrown. And this is what I would consider "gaming the system", the system in this case being the NTRP rating system/algorithm.

But I have no problem with a captain recruiting players and doing their best to form a competitive team. People do play USTA League for the competition, it isn't little league where everyone wins and goes out for ice cream afterwards, and when there is competition, some will want to be on the winning side of that and recruiting a team that gives the greatest chance of winning seems reasonable.

Can the desire to win go too far? Sure, if it leads to blatant incorrect self-rating and/or gaming the ratings system as I described above, that is clearly too far. But I don't think you can say that a captain recruiting the best players (s)he can find is going to far.

goober, what would you suggest is the way to limit recruiting? Only members of a club can be on a team? What if it isn't a club where there are members? Only players within a 10 mile radius of the home courts can be on a team? I'm really open to what you are thinking is the solution here, but find it hard to come up with a way to draw the line on what is/isn't acceptable recruiting or team formation.
 

Joeyg

Semi-Pro
If it's a private club, only members. If it's a public facility, only players from that city.

Personally, I quit playing USTA leagues when they allowed a player to play on more than one team in a season as it allowed people to pick and choose which team they played on during play offs.

Very little sense of camaraderie any longer and that is what I truly enjoyed the last time I went to 4.5 sectionals in 1999.
 

BMRSNR27

Rookie
Can the desire to win go too far? Sure, if it leads to blatant incorrect self-rating and/or gaming the ratings system as I described above, that is clearly too far. But I don't think you can say that a captain recruiting the best players (s)he can find is going to far.
I'm VERY careful about the self-rates I select. I can't afford to add someone who is blatantly cheating. You get caught, you get suspended. I get suspended, I get no exercise and gain 30 lbs!
 

schmke

Hall of Fame
If it's a private club, only members. If it's a public facility, only players from that city.
I think this is a nice idea, but it can fall apart pretty quickly.

Say a private club has a limited number of 4.5s and/or 5.0s that are members. So they simply can't form a team? Why shouldn't they be able to recruit a few players to fill out the team so they can field one and play?

Similarly, what constitutes a "city"? An address in that city? This then penalizes anyone in a suburb that is a 4.5 or 5.0 as their address is in that suburb and they may be the only 4.5 or 5.0 so they are left out.
 

jservoss

Rookie
I think this is a nice idea, but it can fall apart pretty quickly.

Say a private club has a limited number of 4.5s and/or 5.0s that are members. So they simply can't form a team? Why shouldn't they be able to recruit a few players to fill out the team so they can field one and play?

Similarly, what constitutes a "city"? An address in that city? This then penalizes anyone in a suburb that is a 4.5 or 5.0 as their address is in that suburb and they may be the only 4.5 or 5.0 so they are left out.
Also, any club that qualified for nationals wouldn't even be able to have a team at all the following year.

That idea would be a nightmare.
 

robert

Rookie
The simplest solution is any player played at National should be banned from National for 2 years.

This solves all the problems. No more sandbagging.
 

OrangePower

Legend
jservoss, I think what you're describing is legitimate within the rules, and if your goal is to assemble the strongest possible team, then go for it. In the past I've been on teams like this and you're right, it takes a lot of networking skills to put together. Well done.

On the flip side, I think you lose out on some of the camaraderie that you get when the team is comprised of 'local' players who are friends, and play together regularly.

I do think the USTA needs to change the rule about players joining multiple teams, as someone else mentioned. The way it is now (in my area at least), many strong players will join several teams - a 'local' team, so that they can play a lot of matches without traveling far, and then maybe one or two 'superteams', where they play just a couple of matches to qualify for playoffs. And then at the end of the season they pick and choose who to play for in the postseason.

Probably USTA will never restrict players to just one team (multiple teams = more $$$), but perhaps require a player to identify prior to the season even starting which is the 'primary' team, and then that's the only one the player can be on for playoffs. At least that way the player has to commit up front rather than picking and choosing later on, and also the captain of the 'local' team knows up front not to rely on that player for playoffs.
 

jservoss

Rookie
I am not sure how you can make meaningful generalizations based on your personal example of not sandbagging.
The reason I created this thread is mostly in response to a deleted witch hunt thread started yesterday that frustrated me. A couple of people who were winning a lot were illegitimately accused of foul play.

I know how the people on this forum are. If someone posted my 2012 results, people here would grab their torches and pitchforks and throw accusations my way. The people on this forum almost always scream foul play with hardly any information. It's rather pathetic.
 

LuckyR

Legend
Well, by definition, if there is a single cheater (sandbagger etc), then to be the "winner" in a competition, in this case to go to Nationals, you either have to be a cheater or be better than the cheater.

How are you going to be better than a cheater?

Of course if there is not a single cheater then the above doesn't apply.
 

BMRSNR27

Rookie
Well, by definition, if there is a single cheater (sandbagger etc), then to be the "winner" in a competition, in this case to go to Nationals, you either have to be a cheater or be better than the cheater.

How are you going to be better than a cheater?

Of course if there is not a single cheater then the above doesn't apply.
We have a few guys on our team that should have been bumped up skill-wise and haven't been. They continue to get better, and are beating legitimate mid-range 4.0 players at this point. They beat some cheaters at sectionals.

The NTRP system is screwy. We've certainly recruited guys that should have gotten bumped and didn't, but we're beating cheaters with legitimate 3.5 players. I only have two self-rated players on my team and one of them rarely plays. The other is on my #4 doubles team. My starting eight has one appeal and seven computer rated guys.
 

LuckyR

Legend
I'm not sure how, but I'm certainly doing a good job of it.
Well, logic says that if you are routinely "better" than cheaters, then either the cheater is bad at cheating, ie they are not improving from their actions to take their performance level beyond that of the group of "honest" players, or you are "cheating" yourself.

I do not mean to imply that you (or anyone) is actively doing anything dirty, it may be a totally innocent (and legal) situation. For example, a player could be 5.0, have an permanent injury that takes them to 4.0 in singles where they compete legitimately, then get pulled into a team to play doubles where their play quality is 4.5 to 5.0. Totally legit according to the rules, but the two 4.0s who get creamed by the 4.0 paired with the "5.0" may use other wording to describe their experience...
 

goober

Legend
In a team sport isn't recruiting part of the game, not part of the system?
Of course recruiting is part of the system. Someone who is gaming the system is taking players that are technically legal to take but pushing the boundaries of the rules. For example would you have any problems with any of the following recruiting scenarios:

1. Taking a player that lives 2 hours away who shows up for 2 regular season matches and then is involved in every playoff match.

2. A captain actively recruiting the best players off other teams in the league by telling them all the negatives of the captain and team they are currently on.

3. A captain recruiting the best players off teams in another district whose seasons finished before yours did and did not make sectionals. They join your team and play that last two matches of the season so they can play in districts.

4. Recruiting a player that is definitely underrated but through some quirk (intentional or not) received a C rating. Real examples I know are mid 20s D1 player, former Davis Cup player foreign country, multiple open tourney winner, all playing 4.0.

These are not against the rules, but would be gaming the system. I know captains that would have no problem do any of this. Actually I don't have any problem with this. If winning at all costs for rec league tennis is what turns you on, go for it. We all play for our own reasons.
 

Gut4Tennis

Hall of Fame
The most important thing is to have your best players on the team be able to play at districts and at sectionals. Having this happen for each match and not having injuries to the top line players is very difficult.
 

BMRSNR27

Rookie
Of course recruiting is part of the system. Someone who is gaming the system is taking players that are technically legal to take but pushing the boundaries of the rules. For example would you have any problems with any of the following recruiting scenarios:

1. Taking a player that lives 2 hours away who shows up for 2 regular season matches and then is involved in every playoff match. - I've done it. I have two guys from out of state on my team. They have become good friends and were required to get qualified for nationals during the regular season in order to be on the team. I did not actively recruit the guys, though. They called me.

2. A captain actively recruiting the best players off other teams in the league by telling them all the negatives of the captain and team they are currently on.This is BS. I would not do this.

3. A captain recruiting the best players off teams in another district whose seasons finished before yours did and did not make sectionals. They join your team and play that last two matches of the season so they can play in districts.I've seen this done. I likely wouldn't do this.

4. Recruiting a player that is definitely underrated but through some quirk (intentional or not) received a C rating. Real examples I know are mid 20s D1 player, former Davis Cup player foreign country, multiple open tourney winner, all playing 4.0. I would absolutely do this. Every captain I know would.

These are not against the rules, but would be gaming the system. I know captains that would have no problem do any of this. Actually I don't have any problem with this. If winning at all costs for rec league tennis is what turns you on, go for it. We all play for our own reasons.
My answers in red. Some of what you mention has ethical implications, in my opinion. I like to build teams that are cohesive and will travel well together. I do not add guys that won't fit in. I have guys wanting to be on my team that I won't add because they won't fit. That's part of being a good captain, in my opinion. You're stronger down the road with cohesion.

I also have a 4.0 team that, when my 3.5 guys move up, they all have the option to play on that team. Because I've built it that way, it's starting to compete as well (3 years in). It took me four years to build my 3.5 team into a perennial district champ.
 

BMRSNR27

Rookie
The most important thing is to have your best players on the team be able to play at districts and at sectionals. Having this happen for each match and not having injuries to the top line players is very difficult.
Managing adult lives and injuries is probably the hardest part of captaining. Heck, my doubles partner may be out for nationals. That would suck, because I likely wouldn't play if that happens.
 

Gut4Tennis

Hall of Fame
Well, logic says that if you are routinely "better" than cheaters, then either the cheater is bad at cheating, ie they are not improving from their actions to take their performance level beyond that of the group of "honest" players, or you are "cheating" yourself.

I do not mean to imply that you (or anyone) is actively doing anything dirty, it may be a totally innocent (and legal) situation. For example, a player could be 5.0, have an permanent injury that takes them to 4.0 in singles where they compete legitimately, then get pulled into a team to play doubles where their play quality is 4.5 to 5.0. Totally legit according to the rules, but the two 4.0s who get creamed by the 4.0 paired with the "5.0" may use other wording to describe their experience...
If the ball is not close to the line then the cheater can't cheat. Hitting winners 1-2 feet inside the lines is not hard for a better player. At the sectionals or nationals there is an umpire that can stay and watch if you need them, so then you dont have to be well inside the lines.

got it?
 

dizzlmcwizzl

Hall of Fame
Anything resembling recruiting of legitimately rated players is fair game in my opinion. There are lots of ways to do it ... and while it may frustrate me if another team adds a good player at the end of the season because their real team missed the playoffs .... well, good on them.

Where I get frustrated however, is when captains outright ask players to lie.

3 years in a row we went to sectionals at 18+ and an over whelming majority of teams that qualified for sectionals had many self rated players on the roster. It become obvious during that time that to path to nationals involves finding unrated players and convincing them to rate down.

The really unscrupulous coaches then convince the same players to throw games during the season to keep them eligible.

Recruiting is fine .... lying to win league tennis glory is pathetic.
 

Ronaldo

Bionic Poster
Anything resembling recruiting of legitimately rated players is fair game in my opinion. There are lots of ways to do it ... and while it may frustrate me if another team adds a good player at the end of the season because their real team missed the playoffs .... well, good on them.

Where I get frustrated however, is when captains outright ask players to lie.

3 years in a row we went to sectionals at 18+ and an over whelming majority of teams that qualified for sectionals had many self rated players on the roster. It become obvious during that time that to path to nationals involves finding unrated players and convincing them to rate down.

The really unscrupulous coaches then convince the same players to throw games during the season to keep them eligible.

Recruiting is fine .... lying to win league tennis glory is pathetic.
Win if you can, lose if you must. But always................cheat, cheat, cheat.
 

LuckyR

Legend
If the ball is not close to the line then the cheater can't cheat. Hitting winners 1-2 feet inside the lines is not hard for a better player. At the sectionals or nationals there is an umpire that can stay and watch if you need them, so then you dont have to be well inside the lines.

got it?
I don't think you "got it?" The OP was talking about sandbagging teams seeking to get to Nationals, in simpler terms putting out of level players on a team, nothing to do with calling lines...
 
This may be a brag post, but I want to shed some light on the topic of players that qualify for nationals. It seems every time a team qualifies for nationals there are so many accusations of gamesmanship and sandbagging. In the last 3 years I have had 4 out of my 8 teams qualify for nationals, and also a fifth team with a match point to get to nationals that did not go our way.

Does it require sandbagging?
No. In my case, I simply fall into the upper area of an NTRP rating, but not high enough to get bumped up. I have never even once not given my best effort on the tennis court. I have certainly had many bad days, but have never even thrown a single point. If the NTRP scale shifted 0.25 in either direction my results would be completely different. I'm not going to apologize to anybody for being lucky enough for my NTRP rating to stabilize where it does.

Does it require gamesmanship?
I don't think so, but you be the judge. Is it gamesmanship to recruit teams with the intentions of winning? I am very familiar with the local players and recruit heavily in order to create or join the strongest teams possible. A lot of times this means recruiting people who have been legitimately bumped down, or grabbing players who are improving but have yet to get bumped up. Also, I take advantage of the split up rules and several times I have recruited the strongest people off of teams that qualified for nationals when I haven't. On years that I make it to nationals, I try and join the next strongest team.

Morale of the story:
To make it to nationals it requires a little bit of luck and a lot of networking.
In my opinion the teams like you describe are certainly not illegal or against the rules in any way, but some people feel that they suck the fun out of the local league.

I would say that a lot of league players just want to form a group with their friends/neighbors/local club and play in a local league and have some competitive matches but still have some sort of reasonable chance of winning if things go their way. Heavily recruited and carefully selected teams like you describe often lead to lopsided matches in the local league and most teams feeling they have no chance to win. This makes the league less fun for them, so they vent their frustration by calling the recruited teams cheaters.
 
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