Monday, January 14, 2019

2019 USTA League Nationals Dates and Locations

We are nearly half a month into 2019 and people want to know when and where Nationals will be this year.  The page on the main USTA site still has the 2018 dates/locations, but details are beginning to show up elsewhere, and below is a summary of what I've found.

In the list below, the significant changes from last year are no more Mobile and Surprise is back in the rotation.  Arlington remains in the mix as does Las Vegas.

The National Campus in Orlando is hosting the most events and six weekends, Surprise is next with four weekends, then Arlington with three and Las Vegas with two.

It is good to see Mobile no longer being used given the rain issues of past years.  It is interesting that Arlington is being given another shot despite the significant rain issues from last year.  From all reports Vegas and Surprise events always go well so good to see them listed.  And you'd expect the National Campus to be used a lot and it is.  Still no return to California though, but the Southwest is represented, although still a bias towards the east due to the National Campus.

Here is the full list.

Adult 18 & Over
  • 2.5 - October 18-20 - Orlando, FL
  • 3.0 - October 11-13 - Arlington, TX
  • 3.5 - October 4-6 - Arlington, TX
  • 4.0 - October 11-13 - Las Vegas, NV
  • 4.5 - October 18-20 - Arlington, TX
  • 5.0+ - October 4-6 - Las Vegas, NV

Adult 40 & Over
  • 3.0 - October 18-20 - Surprise, AZ
  • 3.5 - October 11-13 - Surprise, AZ
  • 4.0 - October 18-20 - Orlando, FL
  • 4.5+ - October 25-27 - Orlando, FL

Adult 55 & Over
  • 6.0 - October 25-27 - Surprise, AZ
  • 7.0 - November 1-3 - Surprise, AZ
  • 8.0 - October 25-27 - Surprise, AZ
  • 9.0 - November 1-3 - Surprise, AZ

Mixed 18 & Over
  • 6.0 - November 1-3 - Orlando, FL
  • 7.0 - November 8-10 - Orlando, FL
  • 8.0 - November 1-3 - Orlando, FL
  • 9.0 - November 8-10 - Orlando, FL
  • 10.0 - November 1-3 - Orlando, FL

Mixed 40 & Over
  • All Levels - November 15-17 - Orlando, FL

What do you think?

Friday, January 11, 2019

Poll: USTA League teams in plus leagues being discouraged from stacking - New regulations on their way?

It is reasonably well understood that in USTA League play, there is no special meaning to court 1 vs 2 vs 3 (except for plus leagues, see below), and captains are not obligated to play their best players on the lower numbered courts.  Even with that understanding, many captains do play relatively straight-up with stronger players on court 1 and/or weaker players on court 3.

What this leads to though is some captains to stack their line-ups to try and get the 3 court wins necessary for a team win even if it is at the expense of a near guaranteed loss of the other 2 courts.  They reason it is better to get their best players on say singles 2, and doubles 2 and 3 where they can win, than play straight-up and risk any of those players losing a court resulting in a 3-2 loss.

Some find stacking distasteful, others see it just as part of the strategy of team sports.  After all, in football don't you try to identify your strengths and opponent's weaknesses and maximize the situations were you have an advantage?

Despite some not liking stacking, it is accepted that it is allowed and part of the game.  But when the plus leagues were introduced several years ago, the problem got worse.

Plus leagues, or more correctly plus flights/levels, are where a team is allowed to have a few next level players on their roster.  This generally happens in 40 & Over at the 4.5 level and 18 & Over at the 5.0 level.

For example, a 40 & Over 4.5+ team can have three 5.0's on the roster, and two can play in a given match.  There is a further restriction though, the 5.0's must play on court 1, either both in doubles or one in doubles and the other in singles.  The idea being that you want to try to have competitive matches for all players so requiring the 5.0's to be on court 1 helps ensure they play each other.

The problem is, if team A plays their 5.0's together in doubles and team B has one in singles and one in doubles, what is the incentive for team A to play their best available singles player on court 1 if they think or know they'll face a 5.0 there?  From a strategy standpoint, if they play that strong singles player on court 2 they can't face a 5.0 there and have a better chance of winning a court.

The problem gets worse if a team doesn't have 5.0's on the roster or available for a match.  Again team A has no reason to put their best 4.5's on court 1 to potentially face 5.0's, they'd be better off playing them on court 2 so they don't "waste" their best players in a likely to lose scenario.  Some captains have gone so far as to play 4.0's playing up on court 1 to sacrifice those courts.  This is generally not done out of spite or anything, it may just be that due to availability a 4.0 has to be in the line-up, and if they are likely to lose anyway, it might as well be against the opponent's best giving the other courts a better chance to win.

While stacking can make sense from a team strategy standpoint, it also means that a court or two is likely not going to have a competitive match.  Since a key reason for level based play is to try to have competitive matches, this can leave a bad taste in one's mouth, especially if someone had to drive an hour each way for a match and is paying a guest/away team fee to play what may be a 30 minute 6-0,6-0 win.

Apparently, in at least one area of the country, there have been enough complaints about these uncompetitive matches that a notice was sent out to captains saying that the intent of the plus leagues is for the plus players to play each other, and stacking with players playing up on court 1 goes against the spirit of the league.  It ended asking that captains stop the practice of putting 4.0 players on court 1 in a 4.5+ flight.

The notice even hinted that this was something being looked at by USTA National and that changes to the regulations may be forthcoming if the issue continued or got worse.

I can see both sides of the argument.  A team without 5.0's is already at a disadvantage, so any rule that forces them to not sacrifice on court 1 just increases that disadvantage.  But this is "just" recreational tennis and the goal is competitive matches so it isn't fair to someone to make the trip for an away match that isn't competitive.

I think there are probably a couple options to fix it.

One is to acknowledge that plus leagues do bring meaning to the court number, and make a simple change that not only must plus players play on court 1, but players playing up cannot play on court 1.  This doesn't completely remove the stacking arrow from a captain's quiver, but would help avoid the gross mismatches that can occur.  And certainly a team isn't going to have more than five players playing up.

A second solution is to remove court 1 rule entirely, and let a captain play their 5.0's on whatever court they want.  This would introduce more strategy to line-ups, but would likely result in 5.0's playing each other less of the time.  But a team that is stacking would have a harder time matching up their 4.0 against the opponent's 5.0 so it would be an improvement.

A third option is a hybrid of the two, and more complicated so I'm sure the USTA would never do it, but bear with me a minute.  Keep the rule that requires 5.0's to play on court 1, but also require that both captains declare before exchanging line-ups if they are playing two, one, or zero 5.0's that day.  If the teams are not playing the same number of 5.0's, the team playing more of them is allowed to play the difference on a court other than 1.

For example, team A has two 5.0's but team B has one.  Team B must play their 5.0 on a court 1, but team A only has to play one of their 5.0's on a court 1, the other may play on any court.  If team B had no 5.0's, then team A could play both their 5.0's on any court.

This third option still gives captains the ability to strategically stack, but give the other captain the ability to adapt with their plus players to try to avoid uncompetitive matches.

What do you think?  Is this a problem?  If so, what is the best solution?  Vote in the poll below.  Or leave a comment here or on Facebook.

Should the rules be changed regarding stacking in plus leagues?

No, it is fine as-is, let captains stack even if it results in uncompetitive matches
Yes, change it so players cannot play up on court 1
Yes, remove the rule requiring plus players to play on court 1
Yes, change it so plus players can play on any court if the opponent doesn't have a plus player
Created with PollMaker

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Unhappy with a USTA League regulation? Submit a change proposal!

Those that are regular readers of my blog know that USTA League Nationals introduced a new format in 2018.  It was well received and for the most part a success from everything I heard, but I had noted there were what I considered some shortcomings with the tie-breakers in the regulations when applied to this new format and they did come into play a few times.

I wrote about my concerns several times before and during the events, and along the way learned there is a process to get regulations changed.  So rather than just be a bystander complaining about something that I thought was wrong, I decided to try to help fix the problem and submit a proposal to change the regulations as it relates to the tie-breakers.  For others that may be interested, I'll outline the process and key dates.

As you can imagine, regulations changes have a well thought out process to ensure proposals are complete and meaningful, there is adequate time for review and input, and then the responsible committee can weigh all the input and make a decision.

It all starts with the proposal itself, and in fact anyone can submit a proposal with one caveat.  Proposals must have the support of a section.  So I went about contacting Adam Hutchinson, the Director of Adult Competition in my section, and floated the idea of a regulations change proposal.  It turns out he'd seen a case or two within the section where he thought the current tie-breakers got things wrong, so he was supportive of the effort and I got the thumbs up to proceed.  I also learned the deadline to submit a proposal was November 1st, and since I was doing this in October as Nationals were being played, I had to get busy.

There is a standard form to fill out that asks for a description of the current regulation, proposed change to the regulation, and rationale for the change.  There are then a number of questions asking how the change would affect participation, positively impact league players, and a request for empirical information supporting the need for the proposed change.

I completed this form, reviewing most of the 2018 Nationals events and discussing how my proposed changes would have affected the standings and been more equitable, and coordinated with Adam on reviewing it and tightening a few things up, and got it submitted in time.

What happens after this is all proposals are collected and then distributed to the Section League Coordinators in each section, the NTRP Oversight Group, and League Committee for their review and comment, their comments going to the Regulations Sub-Committee.  The latter committee goes through all the proposals and comments, potentially making edits to create final proposals which are then voted on at the Annual meeting, typically held in March of each year.  Those proposals that are approved then go into the new regulations for the following year, although there are provisions for changes to go into effect sooner with approval.

So, the proposal I helped submit has been or will soon be distributed for review and ultimately voted on in March of this year.  If approved and adopted, it would go into the 2020 USTA League Regulations document.

If you have a burning desire to submit a regulations change proposal, you can do it too!  I should say though that I was cautioned that frivolous changes are not well received, and having to work with your section to get support is a filter on that.  But if you have a reasonable idea for something to improve league play with a regulations change, there is a process to follow and I encourage you to do it if you feel so inclined.  You should start by contacting your Section League Coordinator and running the idea by them, then getting the appropriate forms to fill out.

My thanks to Adam for the support, and to Darcy Cobb at National for pointing me in the right direction and assisting with getting the proposal submitted.  I hope my proposal is approved, but regardless I'll know I made an effort and it was considered and reviewed.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Happy New Year! On what day is the most USTA League tennis played?

Happy New Year!

As we start 2019, I thought it would be interesting to look back at 2018 and see on what date the most USTA League matches are played.  Here is what I found.

In 2018, there were 9 days on which more than five thousand matches were played, the dates ranging from late April to August, but the months with the most busy days were May and June with May 5th leading with 5,793 matches.  Second with 5,628 was June 2nd.

To see how what the trend has been, here are some past years.

  • 2017 - 12 days over five thousand, one day May 20th at a whopping 6,169
  • 2016 - 11 days over five thousand, May 14th at 6,440
  • 2015 - 16 days over five thousand, six over six thousand, May 16th at 6,772
  • 2014 - 17 days over five thousand, five over six thousand, May 17th at 6.894
  • 2013 - 23 days over five thousand, seven over six thousand, May 18th at 6,840
  • 2012 - 21 days over five thousand, two over seven thousand, May 12th at 7,459
  • 2011 - 33 days over five thousand, three over seven thousand, May 7th at 7,469
Obviously, a lot of this has to do with scheduling and how it changes year to year.  Some leagues are weekend leagues while others are weekday leagues.  Even with this variability though, there appears to be a clear decline which is consistent with the decline in league play I've written about before.

What the clear trend is though is that May, and specifically mid-May, seems to be when the most league tennis is played.  Also, the top day has always been a Saturday which is probably no surprise.

Is May when you play the most tennis?

Monday, December 31, 2018

Seattle area 2019 40 & Over starts this coming weekend!

Happy New Year!

My district of the Pacific Northwest section of the USTA started the 2019 season back in the Fall with some Mixed and Senior leagues played as early start leagues, but like many other sections and districts, the season really gets going this coming Friday the 4th when the 40 & Over league commences.

I am all set to do pre-season flight reports to give teams an idea of how they stack up vs the competition, but as a little preview, here is who my top-8 averages say the favorite is for each flight.

2.5 Women - TCSP-Davis
3.0 Men - CP-Bad Aces-Doyle
3.0 Women - CAC/SL-D'Terminettors-Smith
3.5 Men - STC-Overserved-Ashcraft
3.5 Women - NTC-Werk-Wolson
4.0 Men - HBSQ-Guzzling Connoisseurs-Little
4.0 Women - CP-Causin' a Racquet-Laun
4.5+ Men - STC-Freeman
4.5+ Women - STC-Suver

Now, keep in mind a few things.  First, top-8 averages don't represent who will actually play.  Second, this doesn't factor in self-rated players, nor does it factor in the risk of players being DQ'd.  But it is still fun to look at.

If you want more details on your flight and who the top teams are, let me know!

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Tennis Channel to broadcast USTA League Nationals!

Ok, I may be making a bit of a leap, at least on how much may be broadcast, but a reader shared with me a news story that Tennis Channel is constructing a permanent broadcast facility at the National Campus in Orlando.

From the story though (bold/underline by me):
Tennis Channel will air matches and additional programming from USTA Pro Circuit tournaments, College MatchDays and USTA League

This doesn't say how much or what specific events, nor if it what they air will be on the main channel or TC-Plus, but USTA League is clearly listed as part of what is included.

The story also says the agreement gives Tennis Channel the rights to broadcast events held at locations other than the National Campus, and while my guess is USTA League Nationals held in Vegas or Arizona aren't on the top of that list, I think the agreement would allow them to air these.

In any case, I think this is good news as it should mean more coverage of USTA events.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Seattle area 40 & Over league schedule has been published

It is almost Christmas and as our little gift from the USTA, the schedules for our 40 & Over league starting the first weekend in January have been published.

A few stats on the league.  Last year, there were 29 sub-flights, 247 teams, and 3,502 unique players rostered.  This year, there are 30 sub-flights, 257 teams, and as of now, 3,070 unique players rostered.  That player count will certainly go up as captains finish getting players signed up and teams add a player or two as the season goes along.

So it appears the league is still growing, continuing the trend of the past few years.  Here is hoping for another competitive and fun league season!