Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The USTA does away with Early Start Ratings for 2017

In the past couple of days, I have learned and confirmed that for 2017 the USTA will not be publishing/using Early Start Ratings for Early Start Leagues.  Instead, a player's current NTRP level from 2015 year-end (or current self-rating) will be used for these leagues.

But let's back up for a minute for those who are wondering what Early Start Ratings and Leagues are.  See this post I wrote detailing them, but the quick summary is as follows.

In some sections there are leagues that start early for the following year due to court availability, avoiding overlapping seasons, or just to provide more playing opportunities for players.  The challenge with this is what level should a player register at?  A player that has improved and will be bumped up from say a 3.5 to 4.0 at year-end probably shouldn't be able to still play as a 3.5 for a "next year" league when they will be a 4.0, but year-end ratings aren't out yet.

So Early Start Ratings were published to try to reflect these improved (or going down) player's ratings so they would be playing in this "next year" league at the right level.  In some districts, specifically Georgia in the Southern section, they have Early Start Leagues for 2017 starting in the next month or so, while most other sections that have early start leagues start in the Fall.

And what happened is that Georgia, because their early start leagues are starting right away, just published information about this regulation change, stating "Early Start League Ratings will no longer be published (March and/or August), which means players will always register with their most recent valid computer year-end rating or their current self-rating".  I subsequently confirmed from someone who attended the recent USTA Annual Meeting that this is in fact a change for all sections and there will not be Early Start Ratings at all for 2017 Early Start Leagues.

So what does this mean to you?

If you play in a section/district where you have an Early Start League, and there are a bunch of them, you will register for team in this league at your current (2015 year-end) rating.  No more waiting for Early Start Ratings to come out and the rapid assembling of teams that take into account who was early start bumped up or down.  This simplifies things and lets teams plan farther in advance and not have to react in just a few weeks, but it also means players in these leagues may be at an advantage or disadvantage that they weren't before.

For example, a player that is improving and is well on their way to being bumped up from 3.5 to 4.0 and would have had an Early Start Rating of 4.0 will no longer have to play as a 4.0 but can continue to play as a 3.5 in a 2017 Early Start League.  Similarly, a player that has had a bad year and is on their way down from 4.0 to 3.5 will no longer get to play as a 3.5 but must continue to play as a 4.0 in the 2017 Early Start League.

Some will argue this isn't fair in either case, but I'm sure there were complaints or concerns about Early Start Ratings.  Or perhaps players and captains were simply confused by Early Start Ratings and that is why the USTA has elected to discontinue them.

So what happens to the protection Early Start Ratings gave us against clearly out of level players that are bumped up at year-end getting to continue to play as a lower level player?  There are a few things.

First, each section is given the option of whether to allow these players to continue to play at the lower level in playoffs/Districts/States/Sectionals or if they must play at their new year-end level.  This is more or less the same as it has been in the past, but some sections may elect to change which option they choose to implement.  Sectionals that want to focus on "fair play" at the expense of disrupting rosters can elect to not allow these players to advance.

However, and this has been the existing regulation as well, if a player exceeds the "clearly above level" threshold, my understanding is that even if the section chooses to let the player continue into playoffs, reaching this threshold will preclude them from doing so.  This does keep players that are way too good for the lower level from being able to play there.

Second, I've been told that even if a section allows a player to advance through playoffs/Sectionals playing at the lower level, they will not be able to play at Nationals at the lower level.  Nationals players must play at their 2016 year-end level.

I'm sure there will be more to come as the other sections review the new regulation and options and decide how they will implement it and communicate that, and I'll try to keep everyone up to date on what I hear, but I have to say I'll kind of miss Early Start Ratings and the excitement of getting a preview of what player's year-end levels might be.

But if you are still wanting to get a preview, my Estimated Dynamic NTRP Rating Reports are a good way to get an idea of where you stand.  Contact me to learn more or request a report.