Problems with how the USTA Rates Players and Possible Solutions

Moon Shooter

Semi-Pro
This is intended as a discussion where we can talk about all the pros and cons of how USTA uses its rating system and what some solutions might be. I started it as a response in a thread but it is clear this topic is much broader and I don’t want to hijack the other persons thread more than I have already.

First I would like to thank Schmke for his latest charitable comments. I was afraid that we were losing patience with each other. I will try to do the same.

Lets me start with I think an important point he made:

We should perhaps clarify what "these issues" are.
I think this is important because there are many different problems and how potential solutions may or may not effect these different problems will vary depending on what the problem is.

Here are the problems I see with the how USTA uses it's rating system:

1) Exclusion: It rigs the level based national championship so the majority of tennis players have no real chance to win. This is because it favors very densely packed tennis communities that will happen to have several players right below the bubble cut off. This makes it difficult for smaller communities to even form teams.

2) The rating system is widely considered bunk. No one knows what it even is supposed to mean to be a 4.0 so no one cares.

3) It gives the appearance of corruption. They allow some appeals and deny others and no one knows why.

4) The only actual use for the rating system is to disqualify people from playing with their friends so it greatly encourages sandbagging. For example if you just made it into the 4.5 level congratulations no one will want you on their team! Why? Because you are likely dynamically rated about 4.0X and so you no longer qualify for any 4.0 teams and no 4.5 team will want you because you will lose to all the other 4.5 players who are 4.4X. So if you want to be on a team without killing their chances at nationals your only options are to appeal or sandbag.



I will refer to these problems in my post below. Notice I do not claim that the USTA algorithm is faulty. The actual algorithm that they use to get the dynamic ratings seems ok. It is rather how they use this algorithm that is the problem.

My proposed solution to these 4 problems is to have USTA publish the full dynamic ratings and take the average of the players that actually play for a team instead of requiring every single player to be below a certain line. The next post is why I think this will greatly reduce these problems and also address concerns that this solution would create other problems.
 
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Moon Shooter

Semi-Pro
The average rating idea is interesting. But as @Creighton mentioned, it does complicate things. What rating is used in the averaging? At the time of team sign-up? At the end of the previous calendar year? At the time of first team match? Regardless of which you choose, there are issues.
Note leagues in different areas and sections all start at different times of the year, so you can't standardize when this start occurs across all play.
And what happens if a team's average changes dramatically?
It could work exactly the same as it currently does for C rated players now in the current system. There would be no appeal players as there wouldn't be as much reason to appeal. Now the reason to appeal is obvious - no one wants someone who just barely got into their level of player. Now no one wants a 3.02 player on their 3.5 team. So the 3.02 player will appeal so that they can participate on a team without ruining its chances to be competitive. But if you take the average of those that play on a team, then going from 2.98 to 3.02 is no different than going from 3.02 to 3.06. And it really shouldn't be any different. In both cases you improved by 4 hundredths of a point that shouldn't mean your presence kills the teams chances at nationals.

Yes your dynamic rating changes throughout the year but for purposes of nationals they say your rating on this date is what counts. Exactly like they do now with c rated players. The advantage of publishing these dynamic ratings is you will also see if someone starts out at 2.98 and goes up to 3.25 during nationals but then right after nationals they start losing ratings so they end up at 2.98 right before the qualifier date! I mean this sort of thing would be open for everyone to see. So it could be a deterrent for actual cheaters throwing games in order to sandbag because people would see this behavior.

After someone gets matches under their belt I would say the rating stands. If you have a condition that hurts your play then just play some rated matches as best you can and your rating will drop pursuant to the actual algorithm. If the algorithm is not working well then tweak it to make it better. And by better I mean it predicts the results of future matches.

And what do you do with self-rated players who don't contribute to the average?
I think there are various options. I am not wed to any particular way to go about it. But personally I would do away with self rating. You would have to play at least one rated match doubles or singles. And you could use that match to base a rating on. I don't think that is too onerous. If you wanted to say someone has to play more than one match ok - I don't claim to know how much information you would need. Maybe you would need a match where the score is closer than say 6-2 6-2 or something. I would leave that for others to decide.

Or you could keep self rating and start them out in the middle of the level. So if someone self rates at 3.5 you could use the number 3.25.

I think the important thing is to see what works best and if something is a problem then you can adjust.

And won't players/captains still have the incentive to self-rate too low and/or sandbag to bring the average down to be in range for the level the team wants to play?
The problem with the current system is gaining rating only disqualifies you from playing in leagues if you hit some arbitrary number. So the incentive to sand bag to keep your rating just below a certain number is very high right now. That incentive would be greatly lessened if they gave the full rating and took a team average instead.

But IMO the most important benefit is that the rating system would primarily be a legitimate measure of tennis strength. Right now it fails in this most basic function because 2 people with exactly the same published ratings can be dramatically different skill levels but someone a level up can basically be just as good as someone a level down. When someone says "Im a 4.0 tennis player" that really means nothing. Are they really just as good as this 3.5 player? Are they really just as good as this other 4.0 player or this other 4.5 player? Who knows? And that is even if they use computer ratings. When you add in self rating where someone read the rules and decided they are going to rate themselves as high as they possibly could based on these videos USTA puts out that makes it even more unclear what we are supposed to learn from the statement "I'm a 4.0 player"

Now if someone says "I'm a 3.85 tennis player" and someone else says they are a 3.55 tennis player etc. Well that actually means something.
 

Moon Shooter

Semi-Pro
Character limits for each post so I have to do another reply or two:

So still lots of issues that do complicate it, and I'm not sure what is solved.
I think these issues are either worse in the current system and or very easy to deal with. And it solves or greatly reduces the 4 problems I mention above.
1) you make competing in nationals something the other 85% of tennis players can reasonably try to do instead of just a few densely populated tennis communities. You make it so smaller areas can actually have a team. More people playing tennis and more people paying to play in nationals etc.
2) you give amateur tennis players a real measure of their tennis skill so they can see how they are improving even though they may not recognize it because they people they are playing with are improving as well.
3)You make the ratings transparent and thereby add legitimacy to USTA which seems to be cutting certain teams deals by allowing appeals for unknown reasons while denying others for unknown reasons. Why keep the appearance of corruption in an organization?
4) you make it so people can compete on a team without killing their chances at nationals just because they went a few points over an arbitrary bubble. Therefore you remove a huge incentive to sandbag to reduce your rating by a few hundredths of a point.
You, and others, mistake what "3.5" means. It means at the end of the last rating period, the player's rating fell in the range of 3.01-3.50. That is all. It doesn't mean they will lose to every 4.0. It doesn't mean they will beat ever 3.0. It doesn't mean a match with another 3.5 will be more or less competitive than a match with a 3.0 or a 4.0. Trying to read more into it than there is is what causes problems.
I understand this. (I may have gotten the cut offs wrong but I understand your point) But I think it is a problem that no one cares about the USTA rating because it is in fact so meaningless as you describe. If you want people to care about their rating it should offer a legitimate measure of a players strength . A usta rating is one of the services that USTA provides for a fee. But if it is meaningless then no one will want to pay for it.

It is not that I don't understand the system. It is because I understand it that I know how bad it is.
 
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Moon Shooter

Semi-Pro
I thought we were talking about sandbagging and managing ratings and other related shenanigans players and captains do. My point was that it isn't the rating system itself, but the use of it to do level based play, that causes these issues. And that UTR doesn't have these issues because they don't have level based play with the lure of Nationals creating the incentive for the bad behavior.
You seem to be saying that if the USTA simply published ratings to the hundredth on a nightly basis, all would be solved.
Not quite. I am not saying that everything will be solved if you only publish full ratings. I think if they did publish the full ratings some problems would be lessened but not solved. The first problem would not be lessened unless they also adopted an average rating for a team approach - as opposed to the rule that every player on a team must be below a set rating. The third problem (appearance of corruption) would not necessarily be solved but it is hard to see what would be appealed. Lets say you are rated as a 3.34. Are you going to appeal and say actually I am a 3.28? I mean yes if they continued to say every single member of a team must be below a certain arbitrary number ok you would still have appeals of that nature. But with the full rating known it would be silly to continue to require every single player on a team to be below an arbitrary thresh hold instead of averaging it out. It just doesn't make any sense to do that when you know the fuller ratings and you see how arbitrary those cut offs can be.

My main point is that the first problem can not be fixed unless USTA gives us fuller information on our ratings. So I am saying giving fuller information about ratings is a necessary first step to having a much more inclusive system. As long as you maintain these arbitrary cut offs you are going to exclude huge numbers of American tennis players from competing in nationals. As long as you keep these huge arbitrary cliff cut offs you are going to amplify the incentive to sand bag and keep just under the cut off so you can continue to play with your teammates.

You have to publish the full rating before you can make any real headway on these issues. For example if you don't publish the full ratings then taking the average of a team is not really going to solve these issues at all. If you allow 3.5s to counter a 4.5 on a team that needs to average say 4.0 you are still going to have people trying to keep just below 3.5 or 4.5 maximums. You need to give the full information or else you still have these arbitrary cliffs that make people undesirable to a team because they went a few hundredths of a point to high.

It would also add benefits to being a USTA member in that the person would gain a rating regarding their strength of play that is widely accepted as legitimate. This is pretty much all UTR has to sell and it seems they don't even have a very good product because their rating system seems to have many flaws causing people to reasonably doubt it is legitimate. Yet they are still getting many members (although obviously you can do that for free) Chess has a rating that is widely considered legitimate because it is transparent and actually works well at predicting outcomes. Basically that was the main selling point for the US chess federation.

It seems based on your research that the ntrp algorithm actually works pretty well at predicting outcomes. USTA already calculates the dynamic ratings why not give the fruit of that labor to its members? Hiding that work product from their members does nothing but harm to their national championships and the value of a USTA membership generally.
I'm pretty sure that isn't the case, and then you suggested using average ratings for teams which again, introduces a whole other set of issues as noted above.
No it does not add any problems that the current system does not already have. They already use a set time to fix someone's rating for the yearly event though they may improve during the year. You could do the same thing if you published the full ratings and used average team ratings.
It does add some math in that someone on the team would need to be able to add the rating of everyone that is going to play and dived that sum by the number of players playing to get the average. But that is not hard math.
The "solution" to the bad behavior is to get rid of Nationals, or get rid of level based play as a format. The USTA is not going to do that.
The bad behavior is only one of the problems with how USTA uses ratings now. (I don't even think it is the biggest problem. I think problems 1 and 2 above are larger problems.) But there are other solutions beyond getting rid of level based nationals. The solution I offer is pretty straightforward.

And you know even where I live, where no one even considers playing in nationals, I have heard some captains want people to lie on their self rate sheets. They apparently want to beat the neighboring town really bad or something I don't know. So even getting rid of level nationals wouldn't completely solve that bad behavior problem. But I don't think either of us wants to get rid of nationals. If people enjoy that event or series of events and it is not a huge economic drain on the organization I would say keep it even in its current form. I just think it could very easily be so much better.

I've never argued the USTA shouldn't publish the full rating. While I'd lose some business if they did so, and I do understand their reluctance to do it, I wouldn't say it is the wrong thing to do.
Again, I'm arguing that UTR would have the same problems if they had level based play leading to Nationals. I'm also arguing that publishing ratings (like UTR does) won't magically solve the problems that level based play leading to Nationals causes.
I think I prefer the NTPR algorithm to the UTR one. I think the UTR algorithm has some problems so I am not saying UTR is necessarily the solution. But again I would like to see some actual data as to whether UTR or NTRP more accurately predicts results. I think you have offered some good data that NTRP accurately predicts results I have never seen anything like that on UTR. Again there should be parity on the number of data points etc. But if what people are saying is correct about how their UTR rating seems to be dramatically changing one day to the next it seems to me it is unlikely to be as good as ntrp. But I admit that is just a theory that needs data at this point.

I agree UTR would have the same problems as USTA if they set up their national tournament where every player on the team must be below say 3.99 for one level and below 5.99 for another level etc. Again they would have the same big arbitrary cliffs that would disqualify people from playing with their friends for the crime of gaining a few hundredths of a rating point. So yes that would create the same sandbagging issues and exclusion issues. But there would be absolutely no reason for UTR to have such a silly rule. They could just say the players playing at an event have to *average* below these amounts. That would mean that the chance of being disqualified from playing with the team you want just because you gained a few hundredths of a rating points is much much lower. Therefore the incentive to sandbag just went down as well. And of course more smaller tennis communities could put together a competitive team even though they do not have 7 players rated between 3.97 and 3.99 etc.

And just to be clear I do not have any negative view of what you do. In fact it is the opposite. I have great respect for your ability to reverse engineer these numbers and give captains helpful information. I also do not mean to imply or suggest that your views on this are shaped because you are afraid you will lose business. I do not believe that at all.
 

S&V-not_dead_yet

Talk Tennis Guru
@Moon Shooter,

Your posts seem directed towards teams and post-season play. I play on middling teams with no post-season emphasis [if it happens, it happens].

NTRP has worked fine for me and for the teams I've played on: for the most part, we get competitive matches, and blowouts in one direction are usually compensated by blowouts in the other direction; overall, they are rare. I have never entered a tournament or league at-level and found myself too high or low.

I don't see a huge benefit in knowing my NTRP down to the 2nd decimal, apart from being a data junkie, while I do see the strong possibility of people using that to game the system even more than they do now.

As to the "averaging" idea, that just seems to open new avenues for gaming the system and creates other problems.
 

Max G.

Legend
Doesn't "averaging" just lead to even weirder sandbagging?

Register a team with a bunch of 5.0s (who play almost all of the matches) and a bunch of 3.0s (who play the minimum amount required to count) to get an average of 4.0 or something. The people gaming the system would still have an incentive to underrate/sandbag.

And it would still give the situation where someone might be disqualified because they got too good (if their rating would now bump the whole team over the threshold)!

I mean, I don't know that I'm really opposed to seeing more detailed ratings, but I also don't see how it would really help anything, so I'm pretty ambivalent.
 

Moon Shooter

Semi-Pro
Doesn't "averaging" just lead to even weirder sandbagging?

Register a team with a bunch of 5.0s (who play almost all of the matches) and a bunch of 3.0s (who play the minimum amount required to count) to get an average of 4.0 or something. The people gaming the system would still have an incentive to underrate/sandbag.
It would be the average of the players that play. If someone plays twice such as in singles and doubles then they would be treated as 2 people at their rating.


And it would still give the situation where someone might be disqualified because they got too good (if their rating would now bump the whole team over the threshold)!
The ratings could be treated just like computer ratings are treated now. If your computer rating allows you to play on a team when they decide to rate people it doesn't matter how your dynamic rating changes during the year in the current system. So this change makes that no worse.

I mean, I don't know that I'm really opposed to seeing more detailed ratings, but I also don't see how it would really help anything, so I'm pretty ambivalent.
These changes would:
1) Make competing in nationals something the other 85% of tennis players can reasonably try to do instead of just a few densely populated tennis communities. More people playing tennis and more people paying to play in nationals etc.
2) Give amateur tennis players a real measure of their tennis skill so they can see how they are improving even though they may not recognize it because they people they are playing with are improving as well.
3)Make the ratings transparent and thereby add legitimacy to USTA which now can have the appearance of corruptions since they cut allow some players appeals and deny others for unknown reasons.
4) Make it so people can compete on a team without killing their chances at nationals just because they went a few points over an arbitrary bubble. Therefore you remove a huge incentive to sandbag to reduce your rating by a few hundredths of a point.


I think those benefits are worth it.
 

Moon Shooter

Semi-Pro
@Moon Shooter,

Your posts seem directed towards teams and post-season play. I play on middling teams with no post-season emphasis [if it happens, it happens].
Yes arguably 3 of the 4 problems deal with post season issues. Although people sandbag and appeal their rating down for other reasons as well. (E.g., No one to play against after they get above a certain level or they jus want to beat those surrounding towns) Post season play is not all that important to me either. I guess teams in my area know full way that the current system is rigged against them so it is not even on our radar here either. Personally my biggest issue is problem 2.

NTRP has worked fine for me and for the teams I've played on: for the most part, we get competitive matches, and blowouts in one direction are usually compensated by blowouts in the other direction; overall, they are rare. I have never entered a tournament or league at-level and found myself too high or low.

I don't see a huge benefit in knowing my NTRP down to the 2nd decimal, apart from being a data junkie,
I know many people that get frustrated because they feel they are not improving - when in fact they are improving they are just not beating the people they play with more than before. But the people they play with are also improving. I am not saying every hundredth of a point is so important but 2 tenths of a point is considerable improvement. It would mean you improved so much you would beat your former self 75% of the time according to Schmke's data. You have to do that over 2xs over before your published rating shows any improvement. People might be improving over years and their published ratings never shows a thing.

while I do see the strong possibility of people using that to game the system even more than they do now.

As to the "averaging" idea, that just seems to open new avenues for gaming the system and creates other problems.
Schmke talked about some problems that I quoted above. Are you thinking there may be other ones as well?
 

Moveforwardalways

Hall of Fame
Sandbagging is really not that big of a problem. There is no reason to redesign the entire rating and competition system to account for it. Yes, occasional players will be out of level. The current system accounts and corrects for this. Yes, some players and captains will game the system. But those people will game any system.

All in all, playing a true sandbagger that just wants easy trophies is pretty uncommon. It is way more common that players at the top of a level easily beat players at the bottom of a level. That is not sandbagging. It is common that adult rec players often have off nights because of poor sleep the night before, alcohol the night before, home life or work stress, nagging injuries, or hormonal issues. Sometimes players over 40 can’t track the ball at night under the lights because of eyesight. When they play a 25 year old who has none of these issues, “the kid is a sandbagger”. But that is not sandbagging.
 

S&V-not_dead_yet

Talk Tennis Guru
I know many people that get frustrated because they feel they are not improving - when in fact they are improving they are just not beating the people they play with more than before. But the people they play with are also improving. I am not saying every hundredth of a point is so important but 2 tenths of a point is considerable improvement. It would mean you improved so much you would beat your former self 75% of the time according to Schmke's data. You have to do that over 2xs over before your published rating shows any improvement. People might be improving over years and their published ratings never shows a thing.
That's one possibility. Another is that they aren't improving. That might be the more common answer. If so, why revamp the system?

Ultimately, I'm not that concerned about the rating as a standalone entity but merely as a way to get competitive matches and on that metric, it's done fine.

Schmke talked about some problems that I quoted above. Are you thinking there may be other ones as well?
I stopped paying attention because it was way more detailed than I cared to get. I agree with @schmke about it making things [perhaps a lot] more complicated.
 

Moon Shooter

Semi-Pro

Fair point.

But if you add up all the posts where we repeatedly get the same vague complaints about sandbagging and rating issues in USTA (and UTR) you are going to be reading much more than this.

I am just trying to identify the problems, list them, and then have one thread where we can actually offer something constructive instead of repetitively reading the same comments over and over.

TLDR
Other threads on this topic are a complete waste of time. This one is going to be 3xs better.
 

Max G.

Legend
It would be the average of the players that play. If someone plays twice such as in singles and doubles then they would be treated as 2 people at their rating.
Wait, do you mean that would be calculated on a per-match basis? So, if today these 8 guys are the ones in the lineup, they have to have some average? Rather than counting for the whole team?

Man, THAT would be a captain's nightmare. It's hard enough trying to get a team of 8 to show up each weekend, but now you have to take into account that of the players on your team, not all combinations are match-legal because some of them would be over the average?


1) Make competing in nationals something the other 85% of tennis players can reasonably try to do instead of just a few densely populated tennis communities. More people playing tennis and more people paying to play in nationals etc.
I don't see how this changes the fact that nationals are a tiny fraction of people. ~100 people go to nationals out of whatever the total population of USTA is. It's a level-based system so it's not that the BEST people go to nationals, it's still the ones that are right near the top of some arbitrary level boundary. If there is a "3.5 nationals", however you define it, you're going to get the people that are bad enough to play on a "3.5" team, but better than most people who are at 3.5.
 

S&V-not_dead_yet

Talk Tennis Guru
Man, THAT would be a captain's nightmare. It's hard enough trying to get a team of 8 to show up each weekend, but now you have to take into account that of the players on your team, not all combinations are match-legal because some of them would be over the average?
In a bad way, this would be akin to someone getting a device that gave 24x7 feedback on every vital sign, bodily function, brain wave activity, electrolyte level, neuron firing, cell mitosis, etc. A hypochondriac's dream but a nightmare for the doctor.
 

Moon Shooter

Semi-Pro
That's one possibility. Another is that they aren't improving. That might be the more common answer. If so, why revamp the system?

Ultimately, I'm not that concerned about the rating as a standalone entity but merely as a way to get competitive matches and on that metric, it's done fine.



I stopped paying attention because it was way more detailed than I cared to get. I agree with @schmke about it making things [perhaps a lot] more complicated.
Of course you are doing fine or you wouldn't be in USTA right? But the vast majority of tennis players see no value in USTA and its rating system. The vast majority of adult amateur tennis players are not in USTA.

What would you need to see before you would finally agree that ok yes this rating system needs some tweaks?

UTR sprang into existence and pretty much the only reason they exist is to try to offer a good tennis rating system. Is that not evidence the USTA rating system could use a tweak or two?

Just as an example, Essential Tennis has been running one of the most popular amateur tennis youtube channels for over a decade. They focus on and feature amateur tennis. The guy who runs it didn't even have a USTA rating in so long he had to self rate. I mean if a guy that involved in amateur tennis had no reason to join usta and had no interest in getting a rating from them is that some evidence that maybe they need to up their game?

And just to be clear I am not asking for a big change. They already calculate everything I am just saying publish the product of the labor they already do. And take the average of the players that play as opposed to forcing every player to be below a certain level or they can't participate.
 

Moon Shooter

Semi-Pro
Wait, do you mean that would be calculated on a per-match basis? So, if today these 8 guys are the ones in the lineup, they have to have some average? Rather than counting for the whole team?

Man, THAT would be a captain's nightmare. It's hard enough trying to get a team of 8 to show up each weekend, but now you have to take into account that of the players on your team, not all combinations are match-legal because some of them would be over the average?

I don't see how this changes the fact that nationals are a tiny fraction of people. ~100 people go to nationals out of whatever the total population of USTA is. It's a level-based system so it's not that the BEST people go to nationals, it's still the ones that are right near the top of some arbitrary level boundary. If there is a "3.5 nationals", however you define it, you're going to get the people that are bad enough to play on a "3.5" team, but better than most people who are at 3.5.

You could just do the same thing you do now. You could just make sure every single player on your team is below the average cut off and you could have the same team you do now.

But just to be clear. You would not have to keep track of changing rating like you do under the current system for s and a rated players. Everyone would be treated like c rated players. That is they get their rating at one point in the year and that is what you use for the whole year. So for each of the 15 or whatever players on your team they would have the same rating for the whole season. So if you are putting together 8 people to play in a match you would just look to make sure their average is under the threshold and you are good.

Im assuming you do not think it is a nightmare to make sure the average of 8 players ratings is below a set amount. If it is then ok, just do like you have been and make sure every player on your team is below that 4.00 or whatever level your team is. It adds options for captains to create teams, (which is key for smaller communities to be competitive) it doesn't force them to do anything more challenging then they already do.

@Moveforwardalways

This addresses many more problems than sandbagging. Sandbagging and dishonesty in self rating is only one of 4 problems.
 

S&V-not_dead_yet

Talk Tennis Guru
Of course you are doing fine or you wouldn't be in USTA right?
I don't have to be in USTA: my tennis circle is large enough that I could get plenty of matches without being in the USTA. But it does all of the organizing and provides a venue and that's worth it to me.

But the vast majority of tennis players see no value in USTA and its rating system. The vast majority of adult amateur tennis players are not in USTA.
No, the vast majority of tennis players are ignorant of USTA. I played for 15+ years before I joined and that was only because some people I met wanted me to join their team. If not for them, I'd probably still be outside the USTA.


What would you need to see before you would finally agree that ok yes this rating system needs some tweaks?
It's an imperfect system for sure. I'm certainly not arguing that it's perfect. But every rating system is imperfect and they all could potentially use some tweaks. It's a cost/benefit issue: how much extra work would it be and how many would benefit and by how much?

UTR sprang into existence and pretty much the only reason they exist is to try to offer a good tennis rating system. Is that not evidence the USTA rating system could use a tweak or two?
I think it's evidence of the ego of Larry Ellison. However, to UTR's credit, it's used by juniors and colleges; pros have a UTR but I don't know if any weight is given to it.

Just as an example, Essential Tennis has been running one of the most popular amateur tennis youtube channels for over a decade. They focus on and feature amateur tennis. The guy who runs it didn't even have a USTA rating in so long he had to self rate. I mean if a guy that involved in amateur tennis had no reason to join usta and had no interest in getting a rating from them is that some evidence that maybe they need to up their game?
Not necessarily. He is involved in the instruction side of things. I know instructors who are not USTA members because they aren't competing; they are teaching. If they want to play a competitive match, they know plenty of people to call.

And just to be clear I am not asking for a big change. They already calculate everything I am just saying publish the product of the labor they already do. And take the average of the players that play as opposed to forcing every player to be below a certain level or they can't participate.
I'm not saying your ideas are invalid. I am saying from my own perspective, they won't make any difference to me for the better and might complicate my or my captain's life with another variable to worry about.
 

Moon Shooter

Semi-Pro
I'm not saying your ideas are invalid. I am saying from my own perspective, they won't make any difference to me for the better and might complicate my or my captain's life with another variable to worry about.
Your captain could do everything the same way he or she did before. Nothing I recommend would prevent that.

I agree it wouldn;t change much for those people who are already in USTA. The thing is it would also potentially offer something of value for tennis players, the majority of which are not in (or may even never have heard of) usta.
 

schmke

Hall of Fame
You've written a lot, I'll try to address a few items.
Here are the problems I see with the how USTA uses it's rating system:

1) Exclusion: It rigs the level based national championship so the majority of tennis players have no real chance to win. This is because it favors very densely packed tennis communities that will happen to have several players right below the bubble cut off.
I agree larger tennis communities have an advantage for the reason you describe. But you seem to imply players/teams outside of these areas have no shot. I don't think that is the case.

If we look at 2019 Nationals, specifically the 18+ and 40+ leagues, and look at what areas made it there, e.g. won Sectionals, if your hypothesis is true, we'd expect to see the vast majority of areas represented to be the larger population areas. In fact, you make it sound like only those areas would be represented. Well, that isn't really the case.

In Southern, Atlanta is the hotbed for tennis with a vibrant tennis community, so you might expect that area to lead the way, and they do, but not by that much and a lot of other areas had teams make it to Nationals:

Atlanta - 4
Baton Rouge - 2
Knoxville - 2
Lake Norman, NC - 2
Birmingham - 1
Little Rock - 1
Jonesboro, AR - 1
Louisville - 1
Monroe, LA - 1
New Orleans - 1
North Central, MS - 1
Rock Hill, SC - 1
Nashville - 1

That is pretty broad representation and is not exclusively major/large cities.

Let's pick another section, Intermountain:

Salt Lake City - 8
Vegas - 5
Denver - 4
Boise - 2

Note of course there is virtually no league tennis outside of these cities, but even a small area like Boise is represented, and the largest area, Denver, is 3rd of the 4 areas.

In Mid-Atlantic, the same players play in many different counties in MD, Virginia, and D.C., and those collectively do lead the way, but smaller areas like Richmond (4), Shenandoah (3), and Virginia Beach (1) all sent teams to Nationals. These smaller areas certainly weren't excluded.

In Middle States, you might expect NJ/Philly to hog all the teams making it to Nationals, and they do lead the way, but Delaware (2), Central PA (1), and Allegheny Mtn (3) are all represented, so again, smaller areas not excluded.

So, when you look at who actually makes it, teams from all over have a real shot and do make it.

2) The rating system is widely considered bunk. No one knows what it even is supposed to mean to be a 4.0 so no one cares.
You think it is bunk, I'm not sure the majority of league players would agree with you. 250K+ league players continue to play so either don't think it is bunk or play despite it being bunk.

A forum like this pulls in those wanting to complain about things they see and experience in league play. Virtually no one who has a good experience is coming here and posting, so the sentiment one might get from reading posts here is not representative of the league as a whole.

3) It gives the appearance of corruption. They allow some appeals and deny others and no one knows why.
You have a point here, but again, we hear about the problem cases in this forum and get riled up about them, but the majority of leagues are run well and don't have rampant inappropriate appeals being granted. That doesn't forgive the bad appeals or favoritism or cronyism that occurs, but the problem is not what you make it out to be I don't think.
 

schmke

Hall of Fame
It could work exactly the same as it currently does for C rated players now in the current system. There would be no appeal players as there wouldn't be as much reason to appeal. Now the reason to appeal is obvious - no one wants someone who just barely got into their level of player. Now no one wants a 3.02 player on their 3.5 team. So the 3.02 player will appeal so that they can participate on a team without ruining its chances to be competitive. But if you take the average of those that play on a team, then going from 2.98 to 3.02 is no different than going from 3.02 to 3.06. And it really shouldn't be any different. In both cases you improved by 4 hundredths of a point that shouldn't mean your presence kills the teams chances at nationals.

Yes your dynamic rating changes throughout the year but for purposes of nationals they say your rating on this date is what counts. Exactly like they do now with c rated players. The advantage of publishing these dynamic ratings is you will also see if someone starts out at 2.98 and goes up to 3.25 during nationals but then right after nationals they start losing ratings so they end up at 2.98 right before the qualifier date! I mean this sort of thing would be open for everyone to see. So it could be a deterrent for actual cheaters throwing games in order to sandbag because people would see this behavior.
You don't need to see dynamic ratings to know when players are tanking matches. It is clear just looking at results. The USTA just chooses to say they can't tell and do nothing about it. And clearly, they have access to the dynamic ratings so could look for strange movement and they aren't doing so, publishing wouldn't change that.

I think there are various options. I am not wed to any particular way to go about it. But personally I would do away with self rating. You would have to play at least one rated match doubles or singles. And you could use that match to base a rating on. I don't think that is too onerous. If you wanted to say someone has to play more than one match ok - I don't claim to know how much information you would need. Maybe you would need a match where the score is closer than say 6-2 6-2 or something. I would leave that for others to decide.

Or you could keep self rating and start them out in the middle of the level. So if someone self rates at 3.5 you could use the number 3.25.
This makes no sense. How does a self-rate player sign up for a team? A new player hasn't played a match (you really need more than one, but let's say one is enough) so they have no rating, and it is not uncommon for teams to have a number of these players. How are they factored in to the average? Or are you suggesting something happens after they play a match if the rating they get moves the team's average?

You say you'd leave it for others to decide, but you are the one proposing this and explaining how it would be better, so we need you to offer how it would work.
 

schmke

Hall of Fame
You could just do the same thing you do now. You could just make sure every single player on your team is below the average cut off and you could have the same team you do now.
What? This also makes no sense.

Earlier you stated to use player's ratings at some established date like is done now, I assume meaning the average of these ratings can't exceed a number defined for each level, let's say 3.25 for a "3.5" flight.

So a team forms that adheres to this 3.25 max average. Now, for a given match, the only players available have an average of 3.30. Can the team play?

And what do you mean make sure every player is below the average cut off? By its very nature, some players will be above and below, so now you are saying those that are above are ineligible? Why'd they join the team then?

But just to be clear. You would not have to keep track of changing rating like you do under the current system for s and a rated players. Everyone would be treated like c rated players. That is they get their rating at one point in the year and that is what you use for the whole year. So for each of the 15 or whatever players on your team they would have the same rating for the whole season. So if you are putting together 8 people to play in a match you would just look to make sure their average is under the threshold and you are good.
And if the 8 available don't have an average below the cut off? They can't play? They have to default courts?

Im assuming you do not think it is a nightmare to make sure the average of 8 players ratings is below a set amount. If it is then ok, just do like you have been and make sure every player on your team is below that 4.00 or whatever level your team is. It adds options for captains to create teams, (which is key for smaller communities to be competitive) it doesn't force them to do anything more challenging then they already do.
Note, what you describe with the "averaging" is akin to Combo leagues where the NTRP levels of partners in a match can't exceed a number. For example, there are Combo leagues played in some areas at 7.5, 8.5, 9.5 combinations. These leagues are sometimes complained about as farcical as a 7.5 flight might have a 5.0 playing with a 2.5. What you are describing with a team average could lead to similar strange pairings.

It just seems like having an average based team opens the door to lots of issues and the need for even more regulations, and could similarly be gamed and manipulated.
 

S&V-not_dead_yet

Talk Tennis Guru
@Moon Shooter,

Based on your tags

rating sandbagger usta usta league usta nationals

you obviously have different concerns than I do; I'm mainly concerned with getting competitive matches and NTRP provides that; a huge side benefit is the team camaraderie and all of the great people I've met through USTA. I'm not concerned about nationals and sandbaggers; they don't play a role in my tennis experience.

I don't think making changes in NTRP will draw the vast majority of non-USTA players into the fold; a massive advertising and incentive campaign would. But again, cost/benefit: I'm sure the folks at USTA think about this stuff all of the time.
 

Moveforwardalways

Hall of Fame
I also don’t think that nationals is a big enough draw to cause significant problems. Most players want to win their local league, sure. So do I - it’s fun to compete against local teams and players. But nationals (and probably even sectionals) doesn’t really come up as a motivating factor. The few times that teams have made it that far, no one wants to use vacation days or pay $$ to travel to some random place in Alabama or Arizona for a few tennis matches against players you’ll never see again, work gets in the way, it’s too late in the year and interest has faded, family obligations, etc. Essentially, no one cares.
 

Moon Shooter

Semi-Pro
What? This also makes no sense.

Earlier you stated to use player's ratings at some established date like is done now, I assume meaning the average of these ratings can't exceed a number defined for each level, let's say 3.25 for a "3.5" flight.

So a team forms that adheres to this 3.25 max average. Now, for a given match, the only players available have an average of 3.30. Can the team play?

And what do you mean make sure every player is below the average cut off? By its very nature, some players will be above and below, so now you are saying those that are above are ineligible? Why'd they join the team then?


And if the 8 available don't have an average below the cut off? They can't play? They have to default courts?


Note, what you describe with the "averaging" is akin to Combo leagues where the NTRP levels of partners in a match can't exceed a number. For example, there are Combo leagues played in some areas at 7.5, 8.5, 9.5 combinations. These leagues are sometimes complained about as farcical as a 7.5 flight might have a 5.0 playing with a 2.5. What you are describing with a team average could lead to similar strange pairings.

It just seems like having an average based team opens the door to lots of issues and the need for even more regulations, and could similarly be gamed and manipulated.
Ok let me fill in some gaps and then I think what I said will make more sense and you will see this only allows captains more flexibility not less.

First lets take a 4.0 and under team as it is now. Lets also only look at computer rated players for simplicity sake. I talk about a and s rated players in my original posts but I don't want to digress here.

So right now for C rated players USTA takes some day of the year (lets call "rating day") and if a persons dynamic rating is 4.0 or less on rating day they are going to be considered 4.0 or under for purposes of qualifying for tournaments the whole year. So someone who is rated 4.00 to 3.51 on rating day is going to be rated 4.0 for the purpose of qualifying for tournaments regardless of how their dynamic rating changes during the year. Someone with a dynamic rating of 3.50 to 3.01 on rating day will be 3.5 for the whole year regardless of how their dynamic rating changes during the year.

Under what I am proposing a persons dynamic rating can change through the year and that would be published but we could still lock in the rating on "rating day" for purposes of nationals. We would not however lock in the rating by rounding up to the nearest half point. If someone was rated 3.89 on rating day they would be rated 3.89 for the entire years for purposes of qualifying for nationals. That way captains would not have to follow a team members ratings fluctuations throughout the year. The "rating day" rating is the only number they would need for their purposes.

So right now if you are a captain and lets say people who want to be on your 4.0 and under team includes Bob who had a dynamic rating of 4.07 on rating day so he is locked in as a 4.5 in our current system but would be locked in as a 4.07 in my system. Buddy who is 4.17 would be locked in as 4.5 in the current system and would be locked in at 4.17 in my system. And lets just say you have other players going up about a tenth of a point onward so 4.27 4.37 etc. Lets say you also have potential team members that whose dynamic rating on rating day are 4.00, 3.90, 3.80 and lets just say on average each one is about a tenth of point worse than the next. So right now your 4.0 and under team could not include Bob or Buddy or any of the potential teammates that are higher than them. You would have to take the 15 players whose dynamic rating on rating day went from from 4.0 to 2.6 In nationals you will face teams that might have all there team mates that are at least as good your top 3 team mates. Their worst team mate would beat your average team mate over 90 percent of the time.

Under my system you could pick the exact same players you do now. You could still pick that same team if you want. You would never have to calculate the average rating of your team that is playing that day because you know they are all 4.0 and under and so of course the average of their rating will be 4.0 and under. So if what I propose sounds like a nightmare to some captain then ok just keep picking your team the same way. Make sure everyone is at or under the limit and you never have to calculate the average rating of those who are playing against another team.

However my system would also give this captain the option of taking say Bob and Buddy on his team and leaving off the 2.6 and 2.7 rated player. Could that captain start to also pick up players whose rating on game day was 4.27 4.37 and 4.47 and also leave off the players that were 2.8 2.9 and 3.0? Yes but against any team they play the average "rating day" rating of the players that play against that team has to be below 4.00. So the 8 players that are going to play against the opposing team would have to average below 4.00. So if you have too many players too high you might not be able to field a team. A captain would be taking more risk the more higher rated players they include. It would be up to them how easy or difficult they would want to make it. I think any captain could add Buddy or Bob without difficulty and that alone would help many teams. (it would also remove the need for Bob or Buddy to try to appeal or sandbag their rating) This proposal gives captains more flexibility and allows smaller areas a better shot of getting something close to competitive but no you cant field a team whose average rating is higher than 4.0 in a 4.0 and below competition.

Does that make sense?
 

S&V-not_dead_yet

Talk Tennis Guru
Ok let me fill in some gaps and then I think what I said will make more sense and you will see this only allows captains more flexibility not less.
Sometimes more flexibility is bad because I then end up spending time making a decision on things I previously just accepted.

Ever go to a restaurant with a phone-book sized menu and full color pictures? It's a lot more difficult and time-consuming to make a choice. Some might just order the same thing every time and thus not be burdened but I bet the majority might experience the downside of more flexibility.

So if what I propose sounds like a nightmare to some captain then ok just keep picking your team the same way.
Have you captained before? Some of the time it's a struggle just to get everyone to show up on time. It's very unlikely that I'd opt for more flexibility which now limits even further who I can play on any given day [above and beyond the usual like A won't play with B or C can only play home matches or D must play line 1, etc].

The nearest example I can think of that shows these limitations is MXDs: on my 9.0 team, the captain can only pair a 5.0 with a 4.0; if no 4.0 is available, the 5.0 can't play. If everyone was a 4.5, that would maximize the possibility of filling the lineup. However, being able to have 4.0s and 5.0s on the team makes it easier to get players.

What you're suggesting takes this to the next level of limitations. Now, rather than worry about the gross rating combo being correct, the captain has to worry about 2 decimal points.

Yes, I see how technically it would work. I just don't see realistically wanting to use it.

I'm interested to hear what other captains think. The complaints I see are overwhelmingly on the side of logistics not on lack of flexibility of forming a roster.
 

schmke

Hall of Fame
This also creates the incentive to micro manage one's rating as being a 3.8 is better than a 3.9 as it allows higher rated teammates to be rostered and play. Similarly, better to be 4.1 than 4.2.

In essence, today, just those near the threshold have reason to manage their rating. Your system would create the incentive for everyone and give them the actual info to do it more effectively.

It would be different and interesting, but like I've been saying may just trade one set of issues for another.
 

S&V-not_dead_yet

Talk Tennis Guru
As I said in the other thread, injuries and availability would make this a nightmare for captains (based on what I've observed about vacations, injuries and other such things)

I do understand the appeal, however IMO this introduces more problems than it solves.
Agreed, especially the bolded part.
 

am1899

Hall of Fame
TLDR
Other threads on this topic are a complete waste of time. This one is going to be 3xs better.
1. While I agree that high population areas have an advantage on paper, it doesn’t always translate. I play in a small town, and even we made nationals a few years ago.

2. “The rating system is widely considered bunk.” Sorry, but unless you have real polling data to look at, this is classic confirmation bias.

3. “It gives the appearance of corruption.” There is corruption in USTA, no doubt about it. But that’s no different than any other sporting organization - which all involve human participants, some of which don’t mind bending the rules (or outright cheating) to get an edge.

4. “The only actual use for the rating system is to disqualify people from playing with their friends so it greatly encourages sandbagging.”

Of course, the above is your opinion and you’re entitled to it. I personally disagree. However imperfect, the NTRP rating system does put people in different defined “buckets.” How USTA uses NTRP to facilitate league play, also however imperfect, for me largely and in most cases, has the desired effect. Sure, there are sand baggers and some crooked captains out there. But in the grand scheme of things, they are rare.

Beyond all this, USTA does not seem to me that they are necessarily dying to make wholesale changes to league. But they’re not mind readers, either - the only way they know something is wrong is via feedback. If you really want to facilitate change within USTA, ask your LLC how you can provide some suggestions, or better yet, get yourself involved in the organization. Don’t really see the point of starting another thread about it here. (Speaking of which, I don’t see how this thread is any different than the others that came before it).
 
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S&V-not_dead_yet

Talk Tennis Guru
2) The rating system is widely considered bunk. No one knows what it even is supposed to mean to be a 4.0 so no one cares.
"Widely considered" by whom? I don't consider it bunk. Most people I know don't consider it bunk. Who else in this forum, for example, considers it bunk?

We all think there are flaws; no argument there. But that doesn't mean it's useless.

Everyone who plays USTA has some familiarity with the different NTRP levels because they see it with their own eyes whenever they play.

And of course they care because it defines them to some extent. If they were to get bumped, they'd have to rearrange things.

3) It gives the appearance of corruption. They allow some appeals and deny others and no one knows why.
I don't see how your variation would make transparent the appeals process. That seems to be a different issue altogether.

4) The only actual use for the rating system is to disqualify people from playing with their friends so it greatly encourages sandbagging. For example if you just made it into the 4.5 level congratulations no one will want you on their team! Why? Because you are likely dynamically rated about 4.0X and so you no longer qualify for any 4.0 teams and no 4.5 team will want you because you will lose to all the other 4.5 players who are 4.4X. So if you want to be on a team without killing their chances at nationals your only options are to appeal or sandbag.
The use of the rating system is so members can get competitive matches. An effect of it might be to disqualify people from playing with their friends but it certainly wasn't the intent.

When I got bumped up to 4.5, I found a team within a few days due to some networking, which is how it works for most people. The captain saw me play and offered me a spot. He made his decision based on my play but also on how well I'd fit with the rest of the team. I doubt Nationals played any role in his thinking.

Your proposed solution is to address a very small segment of the population. I think the great majority would not opt in to your system.
 

Max G.

Legend
I will say, around here, I wouldn't expect newly bumped up players to have any trouble finding a team. A lot of the teams i've been on have had at least a few people "playing up" anyway, and it's only the teams that are intending to be super competitive that really care that much and won't take people at the bottom of their level. Most teams are not like that, and someone who has just been bumped up would be perfectly fine.
 

ACTG

New User
I had another thread on this and this one is light years more involved. I will say this, yes if you play on a team of buds that is just out there for fun, probably no issue with the USTA algorithm/rating system as currently constructed.

But if your team even sniffs the post season, you will see it on full display. People are usually waved away as being sour grapes or are told to just win more matches which I get, but the deck is stacked with teams comprised of self rates, appeal downs and people that are intent on never getting bumped up. I guess they like the people they are playing with, or paying for their trip to some “exotic” location annually.

Same people from my section are going to regionals/sectionals annually it seems. These people also play on 10-20 teams annually, so the appetite to level the playing field is small given their contribution to the kitty $$ wise. Tennis is their life and main social outlet would appear.

Seems like playing tourneys and hitting with buds is the much better way to go than USTA leagues.
 
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Moon Shooter

Semi-Pro
You've written a lot, I'll try to address a few items.

I agree larger tennis communities have an advantage for the reason you describe. But you seem to imply players/teams outside of these areas have no shot. I don't think that is the case.

If we look at 2019 Nationals, specifically the 18+ and 40+ leagues, and look at what areas made it there, e.g. won Sectionals, if your hypothesis is true, we'd expect to see the vast majority of areas represented to be the larger population areas. In fact, you make it sound like only those areas would be represented. Well, that isn't really the case.

In Southern, Atlanta is the hotbed for tennis with a vibrant tennis community, so you might expect that area to lead the way, and they do, but not by that much and a lot of other areas had teams make it to Nationals:

Atlanta - 4
Baton Rouge - 2
Knoxville - 2
Lake Norman, NC - 2
Birmingham - 1
Little Rock - 1
Jonesboro, AR - 1
Louisville - 1
Monroe, LA - 1
New Orleans - 1
North Central, MS - 1
Rock Hill, SC - 1
Nashville - 1

That is pretty broad representation and is not exclusively major/large cities.

Let's pick another section, Intermountain:

Salt Lake City - 8
Vegas - 5
Denver - 4
Boise - 2

Note of course there is virtually no league tennis outside of these cities, but even a small area like Boise is represented, and the largest area, Denver, is 3rd of the 4 areas.

In Mid-Atlantic, the same players play in many different counties in MD, Virginia, and D.C., and those collectively do lead the way, but smaller areas like Richmond (4), Shenandoah (3), and Virginia Beach (1) all sent teams to Nationals. These smaller areas certainly weren't excluded.

In Middle States, you might expect NJ/Philly to hog all the teams making it to Nationals, and they do lead the way, but Delaware (2), Central PA (1), and Allegheny Mtn (3) are all represented, so again, smaller areas not excluded.

So, when you look at who actually makes it, teams from all over have a real shot and do make it.


You think it is bunk, I'm not sure the majority of league players would agree with you. 250K+ league players continue to play so either don't think it is bunk or play despite it being bunk.

A forum like this pulls in those wanting to complain about things they see and experience in league play. Virtually no one who has a good experience is coming here and posting, so the sentiment one might get from reading posts here is not representative of the league as a whole.


You have a point here, but again, we hear about the problem cases in this forum and get riled up about them, but the majority of leagues are run well and don't have rampant inappropriate appeals being granted. That doesn't forgive the bad appeals or favoritism or cronyism that occurs, but the problem is not what you make it out to be I don't think.

Schmke

I think there are issues in smaller communities like mine where I can not find any men's USTA team within 50 miles so I can't play at all, and yours where there are lots of players involved. It is your sort of community that has the most USTA members and are the most active in USTA and so it is understandable that your perspective is the one the leadership shares.

I realize many of you guys have teams and you are happy with them. And you are concerned that some of the ideas here would disrupt nationals or sectionals or whatever.

So what if USTA allowed people to make teams that would not qualify for nationals or state or any of that. It is really not anything anyone in smaller communities cares about. I know you tried to suggest differently but I think we draw different lines about what qualifies as a "smaller tennis community." All of the places you list would be able to play people no less than a tenth of a point under the threshold. That just isn't going to happen for many areas of the country.

My wife is on a smaller USTA 2.5 and under league with some friends. One of her friends got bumped up and she appealed. Her appeal was granted, but she is indeed better than 2.5 and will likely be bounced if she plays enough matches. She is not going to play on some other league without her friends if she gets kicked off this team. If she gets kicked off she is done with USTA. But you know if they published the full ratings and allowed us smaller communities to have teams with a range of players I bet the captains of other small communities could look at those ratings and make a good competitive line up. The other communities 2.5 team could take on a few people slightly above 2.5 that could play her etc. Everyone would know the scoop and the matches would be competitive and fun.

Instead what will happen is she is going to cream someone in singles they will see she is a 2.5a and things will get a bit sour. She will eventually get bumped and stop playing and the entire team will soon be a bust. Because even though they are all going to roughly improve about the same some people will cross the arbitrary threshold too early and they will get kicked off due to the inflexible USTA rules. Why are the rules so inflexible? Nationals and sectionals and all that stuff that most players couldn't care less about.

You did a blog on a townhall. I listened to it and I agree you fairly summarized what was said. I agree with 90% of what they say but there are some real problems that show this disconnect.

"Another popular question is about publishing ratings more frequently. The response is that since the NTRP was created for league play which is seasonal and played at different times of the year in different areas, but culminates in Nationals in the Fall, publishing more often would disrupt team play and there is no way to do it that would work across all sections."

Did they ever think they could publish the dynamic ratings but lock in the ratings for purposes of qualifying for these tournaments based on your rating at a certain time? I mean they do this for birthdays in the over 40 division. People are having birthdays throughout the year, but that doesn't mean no one who plays tennis can announce their age except once a year. What was your age and rating at time X? That is what we will use to qualify you. What is wrong with that.

another:
"A common complaint is that the difference in ability between the top and bottom of an NTRP level range is too large, and the matches are not competitive. The discussion here introduces the distinction between "competitive" and "compatible", the USTA saying that two players of the same level should be "compatible" but not necessarily every match will be "competitive"."

Oh I see calling it a different word solves the problem. The solution is so easy - match players by their dynamic rating instead of these arbitrary .5 differences. They already calculate this why not let players use them?

Here is their answer:
"A very popular question is why there isn't more transparency and publishing of dynamic ratings. The USTA response is that they feel there is an over-emphasis on the rating, leading to ratings management and degradation in the league program and they are concerned that publishing ratings would make this worse. It isn't a hard no however, they are always looking at ways to engage the player with more information."

So again the first concern mentioned is over sandbagging which shows their emphasis on leveled nationals. The rest was just a vague claim that fuller ratings will degrade the program. What is the actual evidence to support this? She doesn't say what program she was talking about that degraded due to people knowing their full rating so I can't say if the program degraded due to people knowing their full rating as opposed to something else. Does anyone have a guess what she was talking about?
 

CosmosMpower

Hall of Fame
Sandbagging is really not that big of a problem. There is no reason to redesign the entire rating and competition system to account for it. Yes, occasional players will be out of level. The current system accounts and corrects for this. Yes, some players and captains will game the system. But those people will game any system.

All in all, playing a true sandbagger that just wants easy trophies is pretty uncommon. It is way more common that players at the top of a level easily beat players at the bottom of a level. That is not sandbagging. It is common that adult rec players often have off nights because of poor sleep the night before, alcohol the night before, home life or work stress, nagging injuries, or hormonal issues. Sometimes players over 40 can’t track the ball at night under the lights because of eyesight. When they play a 25 year old who has none of these issues, “the kid is a sandbagger”. But that is not sandbagging.
LOL you clearly don't play USTA league tennis in TX.
 

Moon Shooter

Semi-Pro
I will say, around here, I wouldn't expect newly bumped up players to have any trouble finding a team. A lot of the teams i've been on have had at least a few people "playing up" anyway, and it's only the teams that are intending to be super competitive that really care that much and won't take people at the bottom of their level. Most teams are not like that, and someone who has just been bumped up would be perfectly fine.
Where is "around here"? I am unaware of any men's team that I can join within 40 miles of me. However, I am waiting to hear back from USTA district person to see if she knows of any teams that I may be able to join. So we will see.
 

nyta2

Professional
i used to make the mistake of thinking that my ntrp was absolute measure of my skill (akin to measuring with a ruler, 1ft or 1meter is always the same).
but then i realized that the NTRP is just a moving bell curve based on the current participants, meant to more easily distribute across ntrp buckets (likely making scheduling & club court reservations easier (eg. 3.0 on monday, 3.5 on tuesday, etc...)
Here are the problems I see with the how USTA uses it's rating system:

1) Exclusion: It rigs the level based national championship so the majority of tennis players have no real chance to win. This is because it favors very densely packed tennis communities that will happen to have several players right below the bubble cut off. This makes it difficult for smaller communities to even form teams.
that goes for the pros, right?
that said, dense communities will often have more chances of better players, and i'd guess more competition (a better environment for improvement)
2) The rating system is widely considered bunk. No one knows what it even is supposed to mean to be a 4.0 so no one cares.
agreed,... but just like thes skill measure of rod laver can't be compared to any of the big 3.
3) It gives the appearance of corruption. They allow some appeals and deny others and no one knows why.
i thought i read somewhere that it's based on your decimal ntrp... if you're close, you're more likely able to appeal down..
4) The only actual use for the rating system is to disqualify people from playing with their friends so it greatly encourages sandbagging. For example if you just made it into the 4.5 level congratulations no one will want you on their team! Why? Because you are likely dynamically rated about 4.0X and so you no longer qualify for any 4.0 teams and no 4.5 team will want you because you will lose to all the other 4.5 players who are 4.4X. So if you want to be on a team without killing their chances at nationals your only options are to appeal or sandbag.
i was always a fan of making teams forming with whoever, and your team progresses through tiers as a team (stolen from the platform tennis leagues format).
con: a team can have a 3.0 player and a guy with atp points... which makes for a seriously unbalanced matchup for the opposing team... but in reality i didn't see that happening much (except at the lower tiers)
...

My proposed solution to these 4 problems is to have USTA publish the full dynamic ratings and take the average of the players that actually play for a team instead of requiring every single player to be below a certain line. The next post is why I think this will greatly reduce these problems and also address concerns that this solution would create other problems.
 

Max G.

Legend
Where is "around here"? I am unaware of any men's team that I can join within 40 miles of me. However, I am waiting to hear back from USTA district person to see if she knows of any teams that I may be able to join. So we will see.
Out of the 6 teams in our 4.5 flight (a particular norcal section), 4 of them have computer-rated 4.0 players on the team. So a recently bumped up 4.5 would certainly be able to be on a team, if computer-rated 4.0 players could be.
 

am1899

Hall of Fame
I realize many of you guys have teams and you are happy with them. And you are concerned that some of the ideas here would disrupt nationals or sectionals or whatever.
I’m happy enough to keep playing for the most part. Hasn’t been without issue though, nothing is perfect. But, USTA league is the only game in town for me to play organized league tennis. (I doubt I’m in the minority on that front).

So what if USTA allowed people to make teams that would not qualify for nationals or state or any of that.
There’s lots of “non advancing” leagues already in existence within USTA.

My wife is on a smaller USTA 2.5 and under league with some friends. One of her friends got bumped up and she appealed. Her appeal was granted, but she is indeed better than 2.5 and will likely be bounced if she plays enough matches. She is not going to play on some other league without her friends if she gets kicked off this team. If she gets kicked off she is done with USTA. But you know if they published the full ratings and allowed us smaller communities to have teams with a range of players I bet the captains of other small communities could look at those ratings and make a good competitive line up. The other communities 2.5 team could take on a few people slightly above 2.5 that could play her etc. Everyone would know the scoop and the matches would be competitive and fun.

Instead what will happen is she is going to cream someone in singles they will see she is a 2.5a and things will get a bit sour. She will eventually get bumped and stop playing and the entire team will soon be a bust. Because even though they are all going to roughly improve about the same some people will cross the arbitrary threshold too early and they will get kicked off due to the inflexible USTA rules. Why are the rules so inflexible? Nationals and sectionals and all that stuff that most players couldn't care less about.
I find it strange how on one hand, it is objectionable to you that, there are sand baggers out there (I do agree with you on that by the way, although I think the amount of them is overblown). But on the other hand, in telling us this story about your wife, it’s also objectionable to you that your wife could be bumped up to 3.0. This is in spite of the fact that, by your own admission, she is probably not a 2.5 player. Those two concepts seem completely incongruous to me.

As I’ve said above, “the system” is far from perfect. But frankly, the solutions you have offered thus far are far away from feasible (if not impossible) to implement. And in many cases, your solutions will trade one problem for another.

Be that as it may, have you approached USTA with your ideas?
 

am1899

Hall of Fame
And don’t get me wrong - I get some of what you’re saying about your wife - that its a shame she would potentially get bumped up and have to leave all her buddies to play on another team. But that’s the rub. People improve. Some of them such that they shouldn’t be playing at the current level. I just don’t see how your solutions are a) going to eliminate that problem b) be feasible enough to implement and c) not create other problems.
 

Moon Shooter

Semi-Pro
Out of the 6 teams in our 4.5 flight (a particular norcal section), 4 of them have computer-rated 4.0 players on the team. So a recently bumped up 4.5 would certainly be able to be on a team, if computer-rated 4.0 players could be.
You have 6 4.5 men's teams in your area? According to tennisrecord we have a total of 3 men's teams in our entire district area.


Some towns in our district area are over 2 hours away. They are all men's 18 and over 3.5 teams. I don't know if we have *any* teams that a male 4.0 or above could play on.

I am just saying maybe USTA should allow some flexibility so there might be a few other teams as well.
 

schmke

Hall of Fame
I think there are issues in smaller communities like mine where I can not find any men's USTA team within 50 miles so I can't play at all, and yours where there are lots of players involved. It is your sort of community that has the most USTA members and are the most active in USTA and so it is understandable that your perspective is the one the leadership shares.
No doubt, truly smaller communities (vs smaller metro areas) have challenges when it come to fielding competitive teams (although they do find their way to Sectionals and Nationals on occasion), but what you seem to be describing are areas so small that they don't even have leagues at all? That is a separate, although perhaps related issue as the area is simply lacking critical mass to forms teams, at least at certain levels. This is a somewhat unavoidable situation given the smaller number of players at the ends of the recreational tennis "bell curve" and I'm not sure changing the rating system solves this in any way.

Note that the USTA gives sections/districts/areas some autonomy to determine how they want to form their teams and leagues and I've seen situations where a team is formed and doesn't play any local matches but does advance to area/district playoffs directly. I believe waivers need to be applied for and approved for this, but the avenue is available.

Local areas can also use alternate/smaller team/match formats for local league play, for example playing fewer courts so as to allow team rosters to be smaller and more teams formed so there are a sufficient number of teams. I've also seen local areas run their league as a one or two weekend "league tournament" where the whole season is played in a condensed period of time so that players just have to commit to a weekend or two for whatever travel that may be required.

All of these options are available to your local league coordinator, so it is probably worth contacting them to ask how many of these have been pursued or suggest some of them if it would encourage more play. Have you tried this?

And if I may ask, what area do you live in?

So what if USTA allowed people to make teams that would not qualify for nationals or state or any of that. It is really not anything anyone in smaller communities cares about. I know you tried to suggest differently but I think we draw different lines about what qualifies as a "smaller tennis community." All of the places you list would be able to play people no less than a tenth of a point under the threshold. That just isn't going to happen for many areas of the country.
As soon as you open the door to non-advancing play and leagues, your area has even more autonomy on how to configure leagues, or what leagues to offer. "Combo" leagues existing in many sections and are fairly popular as these do allow friends from different levels to play together as long as their combined NTRP level does not exceed the level of the flight. So a 7.5 Combo flight can have 3.5s and 4.0s playing together, or some even allow 4.5s and 3.0s as well. If players simply want organized recreational tennis to play locally with other teams, no reason this can't be done.

There are likely other variations that could be done too, it is really only those leagues that advance on to some level of championships/playoffs that must adhere to the rules for advancing. So do contact your LC to pursue these ideas.

And as @am1899 mentioned, there is a balance between being flexible so friends can continue to play together, and having a league structure that helps ensure competitive and compatible play. While it may seem like no big deal to let a bumped up 3.0 keep playing on a 2.5 team, is that really fair to the other 2.5 teams that have to play this 3.0? You can say it is only one person and they are just over the threshold so the gap is not that large, but where do you draw the line on what the allowed gap is or how many of these players can be rostered?

The USTA has had "plus" flights in the past where for 40+ 4.5 and 18+ 5.0 a team was allowed to roster and play several 5.0/5.5 players. The had rules in place to try to make sure competitive matches were still played (the "plus" players had to play on court 1 singles or doubles), but even with these rules, there were lopsided matches where the plus player had to play a very weak opponent on court 1 that was perhaps sacrificed, and there were enough complaints that the USTA did away with them.

Similarly, with the combo leagues I mentioned above, there have been complaints about them and some sections have tightened up their rules regarding the range of ratings that can be on a roster and play together.
 

Purestriker

Professional
No doubt, truly smaller communities (vs smaller metro areas) have challenges when it come to fielding competitive teams (although they do find their way to Sectionals and Nationals on occasion), but what you seem to be describing are areas so small that they don't even have leagues at all? That is a separate, although perhaps related issue as the area is simply lacking critical mass to forms teams, at least at certain levels. This is a somewhat unavoidable situation given the smaller number of players at the ends of the recreational tennis "bell curve" and I'm not sure changing the rating system solves this in any way.

Note that the USTA gives sections/districts/areas some autonomy to determine how they want to form their teams and leagues and I've seen situations where a team is formed and doesn't play any local matches but does advance to area/district playoffs directly. I believe waivers need to be applied for and approved for this, but the avenue is available.

Local areas can also use alternate/smaller team/match formats for local league play, for example playing fewer courts so as to allow team rosters to be smaller and more teams formed so there are a sufficient number of teams. I've also seen local areas run their league as a one or two weekend "league tournament" where the whole season is played in a condensed period of time so that players just have to commit to a weekend or two for whatever travel that may be required.

All of these options are available to your local league coordinator, so it is probably worth contacting them to ask how many of these have been pursued or suggest some of them if it would encourage more play. Have you tried this?

And if I may ask, what area do you live in?



As soon as you open the door to non-advancing play and leagues, your area has even more autonomy on how to configure leagues, or what leagues to offer. "Combo" leagues existing in many sections and are fairly popular as these do allow friends from different levels to play together as long as their combined NTRP level does not exceed the level of the flight. So a 7.5 Combo flight can have 3.5s and 4.0s playing together, or some even allow 4.5s and 3.0s as well. If players simply want organized recreational tennis to play locally with other teams, no reason this can't be done.

There are likely other variations that could be done too, it is really only those leagues that advance on to some level of championships/playoffs that must adhere to the rules for advancing. So do contact your LC to pursue these ideas.

And as @am1899 mentioned, there is a balance between being flexible so friends can continue to play together, and having a league structure that helps ensure competitive and compatible play. While it may seem like no big deal to let a bumped up 3.0 keep playing on a 2.5 team, is that really fair to the other 2.5 teams that have to play this 3.0? You can say it is only one person and they are just over the threshold so the gap is not that large, but where do you draw the line on what the allowed gap is or how many of these players can be rostered?

The USTA has had "plus" flights in the past where for 40+ 4.5 and 18+ 5.0 a team was allowed to roster and play several 5.0/5.5 players. The had rules in place to try to make sure competitive matches were still played (the "plus" players had to play on court 1 singles or doubles), but even with these rules, there were lopsided matches where the plus player had to play a very weak opponent on court 1 that was perhaps sacrificed, and there were enough complaints that the USTA did away with them.

Similarly, with the combo leagues I mentioned above, there have been complaints about them and some sections have tightened up their rules regarding the range of ratings that can be on a roster and play together.
Yes, in our section you cannot be more than one level above for a combo team. But they do have tri-level leagues, a 3.5, 4.0 and 4.5 level are all on the same team and play one line of doubles against each level. Maybe they could push for this league in their area and it does advance.
 

am1899

Hall of Fame
You have 6 4.5 men's teams in your area? According to tennisrecord we have a total of 3 men's teams in our entire district area.


Some towns in our district area are over 2 hours away. They are all men's 18 and over 3.5 teams. I don't know if we have *any* teams that a male 4.0 or above could play on.

I am just saying maybe USTA should allow some flexibility so there might be a few other teams as well.
In my case there’s zero 4.5 men’s teams in my home town. So I drive an hour both ways to play 4.5 men’s in another, bigger city. I don’t love doing that, but I’d rather do it than not play. Don’t really think USTA is to blame here. Rather, it’s an unfortunate side effect of living in a small tennis community and a reflection that participation in this sport has been on the decline.

On the flip side, there are people who live in a different part of the state, where the population is through the roof. 4 out of the 6 regions in our section are in that area, such that participants often play on several teams in different regions, all within an hour or so drive from each other. Must be nice. But again, not really sure how that’s USTA’s fault.
 

Moon Shooter

Semi-Pro
No doubt, truly smaller communities (vs smaller metro areas) have challenges when it come to fielding competitive teams (although they do find their way to Sectionals and Nationals on occasion), but what you seem to be describing are areas so small that they don't even have leagues at all? That is a separate, although perhaps related issue as the area is simply lacking critical mass to forms teams, at least at certain levels. This is a somewhat unavoidable situation given the smaller number of players at the ends of the recreational tennis "bell curve" and I'm not sure changing the rating system solves this in any way.
So the district area I listed and live in has Springfield Illinois Peoria Illinois and Bloomington/Normal Illinois. Not huge cities but it is not all farmhouses either.

The lack of leagues and teams is directly related to the lack of flexibility.

My proposals do not really change the rating system as in how the ratings are calculated.

Rather I am just suggesting USTA give members and captains the information *USTA already calculates* about the strength of their teammates so they can have better match events. I also propose the captains have more flexibility in forming their teams. This would directly make it easier to have more teams and leagues where the players can have competitive matches.

But you and others here are too worried someone may sandbag the adult 3.5 nationals or something. Thats why I am saying if teams want to average their rating they can agree they won't compete for nationals. We don't care! Many of us just want to play tennis on a team with our friends or play matches so we can get a rating and measure our improvement etc.
 

Moon Shooter

Semi-Pro
In my case there’s zero 4.5 men’s teams in my home town. So I drive an hour both ways to play 4.5 men’s in another, bigger city. I don’t love doing that, but I’d rather do it than not play. Don’t really think USTA is to blame here. Rather, it’s an unfortunate side effect of living in a small tennis community and a reflection that participation in this sport has been on the decline.

On the flip side, there are people who live in a different part of the state, where the population is through the roof. 4 out of the 6 regions in our section are in that area, such that participants often play on several teams in different regions, all within an hour or so drive from each other. Must be nice. But again, not really sure how that’s USTA’s fault.
I don't think you understood.

There are no 4.5 or 4.0 men's teams in our entire district area according to tennis record.

USTA is to blame because they have arbitrary and restrictive policies based on the assumption that everyone wants to play for their level based nationals.

Again this is why I asked people what would be some evidence that maybe USTA is not doing a good job?

"Tennis is dying in central Illinois. Is this a sign USTA is not doing a good job for them?"

"No not at all! The problem is those people that live there!"

Anyway I am not sure tennis is dying in central Illinois. USTA is not doing well but I doubt that has to do with tennis generally around here. We have plenty of courts that are packed with people in my town. USTA is doing poorly but hey they can either explore ways to change that or continue to insist everything they are doing is fine.
 

am1899

Hall of Fame
I don't think you understood.

There are no 4.5 or 4.0 men's teams in our entire district area according to tennis record.

USTA is to blame because they have arbitrary and restrictive policies based on the assumption that everyone wants to play for their level based nationals.

Again this is why I asked people what would be some evidence that maybe USTA is not doing a good job?

"Tennis is dying in central Illinois. Is this a sign USTA is not doing a good job for them?"

"No not at all! The problem is those people that live there!"

Anyway I am not sure tennis is dying in central Illinois. USTA is not doing well but I doubt that has to do with tennis generally around here. We have plenty of courts that are packed with people in my town. USTA is doing poorly but hey they can either explore ways to change that or continue to insist everything they are doing is fine.
I understood just fine. I was simply sharing my experience to illustrate to you that yours is not an outlier.

We can certainly have a debate about whether or not it’s USTA’s fault that, for example, some lower population communities don’t offer much, if any, playing opportunities. Me, I don’t think it’s fair to say that’s entirely USTA’s fault. And unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last 30 years, participation in the sport of tennis, on the whole, has been steadily declining. True, some areas around the country are healthier than others in that aspect. Is USTA entirely to blame for this decline? Doubtful. Do they share some of the blame? Probably, yes.

Where I do think there is an opportunity for USTA to do some work is on the subset of people who play tennis, but who refuse to play USTA. In my view USTA could do better at understanding what about USTA turns those people off, and then try to do something about it.

What I don’t understand are the specifics of your solution(s). So far what I’m reading is, USTA is potentially to allow everyone to access their DNTRP at any point in time. In conjunction with that, USTA ditches the current separation of leagues (3.5, 4.0, 4.5, 8.0 mixed, etc.). For me that’s where it becomes unclear how this would then work. How is USTA then going to divide the leagues? For example, how is one league of beginner players going to be kept separate from another of advanced level players (or is it)? How do you propose USTA deals with an obvious onslaught of sand bagging and managing of scores - once everyone knows what theirs and everyone else’s DNTRP is?
 
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Moveforwardalways

Hall of Fame
So the district area I listed and live in has Springfield Illinois Peoria Illinois and Bloomington/Normal Illinois. Not huge cities but it is not all farmhouses either.
No fewer than 6 universities in that metro, a medical school, and Springfield is the state capitol… but there is no 4.0 league tennis? Seems doubtful.
 

am1899

Hall of Fame
USTA is to blame because they have arbitrary and restrictive policies based on the assumption that everyone wants to play for their level based nationals.
Says who? I don’t speak for USTA. But I have serious doubts that that is their assumption - that everyone who plays league wants to play nationals.

Again this is why I asked people what would be some evidence that maybe USTA is not doing a good job?
Maybe do a survey to get some polling data?

"Tennis is dying in central Illinois. Is this a sign USTA is not doing a good job for them?"

"No not at all! The problem is those people that live there!"
So it’s all USTA’s fault?

Anyway I am not sure tennis is dying in central Illinois. USTA is not doing well but I doubt that has to do with tennis generally around here. We have plenty of courts that are packed with people in my town. USTA is doing poorly but hey they can either explore ways to change that or continue to insist everything they are doing is fine.
Obviously, you would know your community better than me. But I don’t know that it’s fair to blame USTA entirely for yours and your community’s woes. To pivot back to my example, if I shared your viewpoint, it would be USTA’s fault that there’s no 4.5 here for me to play, right? But I don’t see it that way. It’s complicated. It’s a small community here. Some people here don’t want to be bothered with USTA. So the pool of potential players is small. Securing courts, particularly during Covid isnt easy. And me, I’m not dying to take on the work myself of putting 2 teams together to force 4.5 to happen here. Maybe i would if I had another captain who would share the burden with me. But I already captain 2 other leagues. So for now, I drive to play instead. Could USTA do more? Perhaps. Is it all USTA’s fault I have to drive to play 4.5? Hardly.
 
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