League Format - Just a thought


New User
I had a thought. Because this is fairly unusual for me, I decided I better write it down. My thought involves the current rating system and how I think it could be changed to mimic that of the most European sports. I think that this principle could be used to make things simple and fair.

What I am referring to is the concept of promotions and relegations. Take the local league level divisions and change them to the following:

4.5 and higher - Premier League
4.0 – 1st Division
3.5 – 2nd Division
3.0 and below – 3rd Division

The idea is to promote a certain percentage of the teams to the next higher level and relegate a percentage to the lower level. For a 10 team league, let’s say, the top two teams would be promoted to the next level starting next season and the bottom two teams are relegated back a level. Those two teams that are promoted have the honor of partaking in the state tourney at the level they participated, just like usual.

Ok, so I know what you’re all saying… how can this work? I have thought of a few questions… and provided what I think are ok answers. I would like to use this forum to get more questions, answers, and general opinions about this concept. I understand it’s not perfect, will likely never be implemented, etc… but I want to see what everyone thinks, if only to spark an interesting discussion. If the discussion ends up being uninteresting, well I apologize :).

This is basically an individual sport, how can a team based promotion scheme be fair?

I agree that tennis is basically an individual sport, or at least a very small team sport in doubles. However, the USTA leagues are composed of teams. Teams, not individuals, go to state tournaments in league play. Teams win trophies, awards, and pats on the back. In my opinion, members of winning teams should be promoted, and those that had a hard time relegated.

How can you promote or relegate all people on a team to a different division when it’s quite likely they are all not at that level of play?

If your team was good enough to be promoted, then so are you. Even if you’re a 3.0 player on a successful 3.5 team, you still were part of a really good team that has proven its time to move up to good ole 4.0. What I like about this format is that if a team truly doesn’t belong in a division, they will be quickly relegated back to the lower division after ONE SEASON. Note that a season is more frequent than a year, which is when rating adjustments are currently made (barring the dreaded DQ). Here in the Southern division we have two state qualifying seasons, spring and fall.

What if I want to change teams to avoid promotion? What if my team conveniently dissolves after being promoted?

When a team is promoted, all players on that team are promoted, not the ‘team’ per say. Yes, the team is encouraged to stay together and promote as one unit. However if my team has been promoted, my personal ‘rating’ has been bumped to reflect this. You can’t play down, so you can’t just jump teams to avoid promotion. You are free to move teams within the division you qualify for and above, just not below.

What is to stop a clearly underrated player from remaining in a division he or she dominates if they remain on a team that is never promoted?

Nothing, but if the team as a whole is not able to win enough matches to go to the state tournament and then promote, then the one player isn’t really affecting the league. On the flip side, if the underrated player is unhappy, he or she has the option playing on a different team, or in a higher division, just like today.

What if I don’t like my team… maybe they smell or something?
The option to change teams or create your own team would still be available. The same rules would apply as today, you can play up if you so choose, but you can’t play down.

How would state/regional/national tournaments be handled if there is no real ‘rating’ system?

The tournament would be practically identical to the current format. The same basic level groupings would exist, they would just have different names (and that isn’t even a real requirement) So, if your team qualifies to go to state locally as a 2nd Division (3.5) team, it would compete against other 2nd division level teams right up to Nationals. The only difference is that all teams that qualify for state are promoted to the next division.

Ok, so what if SoCal’s 2nd division teams are all better than Southern 2nd division teams because of better competition?

That is the nature of sport. The goal of this format is not to make everyone equal nationally, as most players will never compete nationally. The goal is to ensure the fairest division of team play on the local level, where EVERYONE plays. The biggest disconnect with the current system is that most players can’t see why they are ranked what they are ranked. This format makes it quite clear where you rank and why. The championships would pit the best teams from each local division the same way it does now, which is all you can ask for in the end.

What is to stop a team from purposely tanking their matches in a higher division just so they can be relegated to the lower division and beat the pants off everyone?

Nothing. If a team actively pursues this, then there is little anyone can do about it. In today’s system people just appeal all the time, or tank individual matches, or do any number of other questionable things to remain at a lower level than they should be at. People cheat, or more to the point, people use the rules to their advantage. What this does do, however, is at least force a team to tank a season in order to achieve their false accomplishments the next season. I’d like to think there are very few teams that would purposely tank a season just for a chance to qualify for state the next season. Getting relegated is supposed to be an unwanted thing for a team, not a desired goal.

What is to stop the same two teams from promoting and regulating every season?

Competition. While it is true that the worst of the higher division may be quite better than the average players of a lower division (and vice versa), teams should strive to improve over time. The goal is to avoid relegation and strive for promotion (a.k.a. the state tournament). Teams are also fairly dynamic in nature, potentially losing and gaining players quite frequently. Eventually a team that is on the fence every year will either improve enough to avoid relegation, or another team come along that is better and overtake them for promotion.

What if there are not enough teams for a higher division to promote to?

My opinion is that if a league exists currently for a level of play, then it could be easily converted to this format. If, in the future, a level becomes fairly large, you could consider creating the higher league out of half the lower league. This brings up a problem; of course, as the point of this format is to essentially phase out skill levels except for initial placement…

If there aren’t any skill levels, how can you ever know if a higher division should be formed?

If a division has too many teams, you would need to bump the best teams up to the next higher division, thusly creating the new division. So if there are 20+ teams in your Division 1 league and you don’t have a “Premier” League, then create one out of the top ten Division 1 teams. Now, there is no guarantee that the new Premier league would be nationally competitive, however it would be guaranteed to be locally competitive, which I think should really be the focus.

Could I play in multiple levels, like 3.5 players playing on 3.5 and 4.0 leagues now?

Yes. The only catch that I can see is, what if both teams get promoted at the end of the year? You would have to accept the highest rating and play at that level the next season.

So how would new players fit into this scheme?

I purpose using the auto rating system (that we all love so much :?) to place new players into the current rating groups. The idea is to get close, then allow your team play to dictate where you end up. Again, if a clearly underrated player is dominating a particular division, but isn’t contributing to his teams’ ultimate success, I think that’s ok. Yeah, it might suck to get killed by the guy, but if your team still wins, it’s not really a big deal… remember this is a quasi-team sport now . And if he does help the team advance to state, then he gets promoted along with everyone else, as it should be.

What does this fix, exactly… assuming, of course, that something is actually broken?

- Instead of using complex secret formulas, automatic appeals, and the like to figure out where you should be playing, you would let your results on a team dictate where you’re to play.
- Since your whole team is promoted or relegated, it seems reasonable to think an individual would have an easier time finding a team to play on at a particular level.
- Teams that qualify for the state tournament one season are promoted to the next higher division the next season. This would reduce the ability for a group of dominate players to hang around season after season, year after year in the same division.
- Being promoted to higher divisions of tennis is actually good for your tennis game, especially for those teams ready for the challenge of the next level.
- Removes the appeal process. Teams cannot appeal their results for the year. Players cannot appeal how their team did during the year. This greatly simplifies the rating process.
- Improves competitive level of local league play; in my opinion the most important level as all players compete at the local level.

Alright, that’s all I got. What do you think? Sound silly, or in the back of your mind does at least some of this have merit? Talk amongst yourselves, I’m tired… no more thoughts for me .


New User
I like the idea of not having rankings necessarily nationalized. I agree that the level of competition should be focused and divided based on results at the local level. The local level is where most people play, very few individuals go onto to divisional/national levels.

I don't however think the whole team should necessarily be promoted as frequently the top 10 players out of a team of 20 are what brings the team it's success. I think who every is played in the playoffs or beyond should definitely be bumped, everyone else based solely on record.

I also think that ranking for individual should be to the hundredth place with the rule that you can only play up above a certain hundredth place. There is quite a wide spread in the hundredth ranking at all levels. I would even think about bringing in a college rule that the top player play the top players. I think that would encourage true equal competition.



New User
Ok, I can go along with most of that... however the point of this fictional league format is to do away with personal records, so I would argue the last point about all other players being bumped 'solely on record'. I would say bump those players that compete at state to the next level, and if the others on the team wish to follow, they can.. but to your point they don't have to.

The biggest point of confusion with the current system, at least to me, is that it tries way to hard to rank each player nationally based primarily on local, individual results. My concept is to do away with that and just accept that USTA leagues are LOCAL team events. Your success and failure is ultimately tied to the team, why not what level you play at?

Thanks for the feedback.

Oh, and just a sanity check for someone like me who is new to the USTA thing, has something like this been tried? Is something similar being used elsewhere? I'm thinking that info would be somewhat relevant :)


Oh, and just a sanity check for someone like me who is new to the USTA thing, has something like this been tried? Is something similar being used elsewhere? I'm thinking that info would be somewhat relevant :)

I met ladies at a camp who played some non-USTA neighborhood league in the San Diego area. In that league, if you had a winning record of over 66% you moved up, if you had a winning record of less than 33% you moved down. Otherwise you stayed the same. The season ran 4 months, 3 times a year, and people moved up and down at the end of each season. Note, you only played at you own level, on one team, so playing up would mess this up.


New User
I play on league that also move up or down based on the seasons results. You can not play up. What is interesting about this team is that the ratings are pretty broad on each team. There are 3 levels; the top level NTRP rating range from high 4.0 to 5.0; level 4 high 3.5 to 4.0, the third 3.0 to 3.5. When teams play matches there are 6 matches. A given player can only play postition 1,2,3 or 2,3,4 or 3,4,5 etc. It makes for consistently competitive tennis.


New User
The league does sound fun, and simple. Can you explain the position concept you described above? I think I get it, but I want to make sure.

The idea is that you play your team based on the skill level; the top players play the top players. So your best player is say number 1 next number 2 on down the roster. On match day you are expected to play your top players in position in the top positions. As we all know from leagues etc. your top player is not always available for a given match, so you might player your second best in postion 1. Once you have done so that person can not play in a position lower than 3. This is to prevent on even competition, sacrifice line-up and sandbagging in the low positions.

I hope that makes sense.


New User
Ok, that makes sense. I am guessing that the team captain is ultimately responsible for placing players in the most fair spot, which I like. If I ever get rich and famous I'll add that little rule to my crazy cool league :).

Thanks for the input.