Being a captain for a USTA League team is not an easy job. One of the first things they have to do is assemble a roster, and a common question from new and even experienced captains is how large a roster they need to have.
On one hand, you want to have a large roster to make sure you have enough players and never have to default a court. And depending on the time of year, work schedules, vacations, kids, etc. this can be tricky.
On the other hand, you want a small enough roster so that every player can get a reasonable number of matches. If you happen to have a schedule with a lot of matches, that eases this burden, but some leagues will only have 8 or 9 matches on a schedule which isn't a lot.
Then the captain has to balance trying to field a strong team and playing the best players vs getting the weaker players ,who are needed to fill out the roster, enough matches to make it worth their while to be on the team.
Some basic math tells us that for a standard 5 court match (2 singles and 3 doubles) there are 8 players required, so an 8 match season would require 64 player spots. A roster of 16 would allow each player to play 4 matches if evenly distributed. If a team has a 12 match schedule, that is 96 player spots and then the same 16 player roster would allow 6 matches per person. But if a team with an 8 match season had 20 players, that is barely 3 matches per player.
So what is the right size? It really depends on a lot of variables noted above, but we can look back at 2015 to see what sort of statistics we can find on typical and exceptional roster sizes.
What I did was to look at the 2015 18 & over league to look at both the size of rosters but also the number of players that actually got in a match during the year. Here is what I found.
First, here is a chart showing the number of teams at each roster/played count.
So it appears the sweet spot for roster sizes is 15, that is the most common size, but the most common number of players that play in a match is 14. The average roster size was 15.0 while the average number of players that play is 14.5. But you can see it is not uncommon to have rosters in the high teens and even a fair number of teams have rosters in the low 20s.
Looking at some averages and extremes, the smallest roster was 8 players and there was a team that only had 6 play, so they were always defaulting a court.
On the other end of the spectrum, there was a team with a roster of 38! There was also a team with 33, a couple with 32 and 31 each, and the frequency becomes greater as you continue to get smaller. The 38 player team somehow had 36 players play as well! The next highest number of players playing was 29.
This 38 player team did have 12 matches, so that helped, but the majority of players played just 2 or 3 matches. Four players played 4 and just one player played in 5.
What do you think the right roster size is for a normal 2 singles and 3 doubles league?