As you may recall, the USTA is not publishing Early Start Ratings this year. Since there will still be Early Start Leagues, players will simply register for these teams using their current year-end rating. The question then becomes, do these players remain eligible to play at that level if they are bumped up at year-end?
From the newsletter, the PNW has decided no, bumped up players will not be able to continue playing at their lower level, specifically, they will not be able to play at their lower level at Sectionals. Here is the specific language:
Players and captains need to be very mindful when a player is suspected of being very strong at the current rating. If the player bumps up in rating at year-end, s/he is not eligible to continue to Sectionals at that rating. The player may play on the team if there is a partner available at the appropriate rating.What does this mean? Say a 4.0 lady is playing on an 8.0 Mixed team (league starts in August/September) and is bumped up to 4.5 at year-end. Should her team qualify to go to Sectionals, she would not be eligible to play as a 4.0 but could play as a 4.5, meaning she could continue to play but only if she now played with a 3.5 man instead of the 4.0 men she could play with during the regular season.
Why does the restriction to play at the new year-end level only kick in at Sectionals? What about earlier rounds of playoffs or league play? I think the reason is that most, perhaps all, Early Start Leagues in the PNW will complete their regular season during 2016, and those that have local playoffs will have those in November or early December. Since year-end ratings are usually published after Thanksgiving, all or the majority of league play is complete before someone knows they are bumped up so that is a moot point. And while local playoffs may be a week or two after ratings come out, I believe the logistics of informing teams who is/isn't eligible was considered difficult to do in the short period of time.
While I'd personally like to see the bumped up players have to play at their new level immediately, that is what is fair to the competing teams in my opinion, this approach seems reasonable. It at least keeps players that would not be eligible at the lower level at Nationals from playing at that lower level at Sectionals.
Note that this approach is different, and in my opinion far better, than what the Southern section decided to do, which is to allow players to play at their lower level through Sectionals. That means a team could win Sectionals and not be able to field a team at Nationals. That is not fair to their competition at Sectionals that in effect had to play against an ineligible team and perhaps missed out on their chance at Nationals because of it.
What do you think?