I wrote a week and a half ago that the USTA is apparently doing away with early start ratings for 2017 early start leagues. Each section/district must now decide how to apply the rule, specifically when players that are bumped at at year-end become ineligible. But regardless of what each section decides, bumped up players will not be eligible for Nationals.
So I thought it would be interesting to look at some statistics on how many players played early start leagues and were bumped up, as these players and the teams these players play on would be affected by the new rule.
To start, I looked at the 18 & over and 40 & over divisions. Specifically, I looked at how many players played in 2016 early start leagues and were bumped up from 2014 year-end to 2015 year-end. Under the new rule, unless the players were playing up in the early start league, they would become ineligible to play on their team at some point.
The total number of players affected would be 3,536 and the total number of teams would be 3,396. Keep in mind that not all sections/areas have early start leagues, or don't have them in the 18 & over and/or 40 & over divisions. So what if we look at it by section?
Here Southern leads the way:
- Southern - 1,597 players / 1,889 teams
- Texas - 685 / 587
- Midwest - 336 / 268
- New England - 269 / 219
- Missouri Valley - 203 / 151
- Southwest - 188 / 143
- Florida - 118 / 89
- Northern - 88 / 66
- Eastern - 46 / 23
- NorCal - 10 / 11
Note that in some areas, notably in Southern, there are multiple early start seasons so that is why there can be more teams affected than there are players. Note also that I'm not sure all of the Texas teams here play in advancing leagues, some may be Fall leagues that don't advance.
The next question is, how does Southern break out into states?
- Georgia - 1,238 players / 1,601 teams
- Alabama - 186 / 185
- Tennessee - 174 / 103
Georgia is the king of early start with 2017 leagues starting soon and another set in the Summer and Fall, and so they will clearly be affected by the new rule. And the same happened in 2015 for 2016 championship year teams.
For reference, I count the following number of teams for the above states that played 2016 early start leagues in 2015:
- Georgia - 2,680 - 60% of teams affected
- Alabama - 325 - 57%
- Tennessee - 157 - 66%
Those are some significant percentages of teams affected. Since the players affected are those being bumped up, there is even a higher chance that a team winning States or Sectionals will have one of these players, perhaps multiple, and be affected.
With early start, players on their way up might be early start bumped so they are on a team at the "right" level. With the new rule though, they will be able to play on these early start teams at the lower level, but then if/when they get bumped up at year-end, these players are no longer eligible for Nationals and potentially not for State or Sectional playoffs. This could be a significant impact to a team's ability to field a competitive line-up, or a line-up at all. How Southern and/or Georgia decide to handle this will determine when/where that impact is.
I always thought early start ratings served a purpose and did a reasonable job at getting players at the right level rather than allowing players to play at a level too low based on their results. But apparently enough of the sections of the USTA thought they were confusing or too hard to managed and decided to do away with them.
We'll see how it works. But what do you think? Will it be better or worse with the new rule?