Thursday, October 2, 2014

Does the USTA NTRP system discriminate against Seniors?

I create Estimated Dynamic NTRP Rating Reports for lots of USTA League players, and a common question from many is if they'll be able to appeal their rating.  This is sometimes from players that would like to be bumped up and sometimes those that want to be bumped down.

I've written about the rules regarding appeals before and included a mention of some of the special rules regarding players 60 and over, but recently someone shared with me that they thought these rules were actually age discrimination.

First, lets review the rules.  Any player that is 60 years of age or more can have an appeal down automatically granted if they have been at the same or lower NTRP rating level for the three most recent valid year-end ratings without benefit of an appeal.  Further, players that are 65 of age or more will never be bumped up, although they can appeal up.  I believe this rule was new for the 2014 season, and before that older players simply had a larger tolerance for being able to appeal down.

The rule seems to have been put in place to address concerns from older players that may be slowing down that they would be bumped up and be at a level that they can't compete which would not be good a good experience for them or their partners/opponents.  This seems to be a nice concession to these players to ensure a positive league experience, so what is the problem?

The key thing is that not all older players are actually on the decline, and some that are perhaps new to the game may even be improving.  For these, it may actually be a goal to get bumped up to validate their improvement and for a 65 year old that has a great year and has achieved what would normally be a bump up, they'll never know as they are simply kept at the same level next year.  So, in a way, they are being discriminated against as they can't ever have that validation of their improvement.

Additionally, if these players actually improve enough to be bumped up, it is actually unfair to their opponents as well as they are really above level.

If the USTA really did want to change the rule to allow 65 & older to not be bumped up, a better solution may have been to have the players be bumped up at year-end, but allow an auto-appeal down.  This would let those that are concerned about playing at a higher level as their skills and movement decline stay down should they want by appealing, but still let those looking to get bumped up to validate their improvement to accomplish that.

Of course, one could argue that a proper rating system shouldn't have to have these exceptions and if the algorithm says a player should be bumped up, they should play at that level the following year.  There is some merit to this and perhaps the old rule with just a larger tolerance for being bumped down is still appropriate.

What do you think?