Saturday, July 28, 2018

Pacific Northwest 2018 USTA League 18 & Over Sectionals - Schedule is available

The 40 & Over Sectionals for PNW will be played in the Portland area in two weeks, August 10-12.  And for those playing or following, the flights and schedule are out.

The format is the same as before, generally two flights of four teams, each team playing three round-robin matches and the flight winners playing a final.  It is often the case that the flight winners are undefeated so four wins and Nationals here you go!  But if you lose early, don't give up hope, you could get into a 2-1 tie and win the tie-breaker.

For more information, see the 40 & Over Sectionals site.

And if any team is interested in doing some scouting to enhance your chances of winning, my flight and team reports are a great resource.  Contact me if interested.

Good luck to everyone playing!

Thursday, July 26, 2018

It is the end of July, more 2018 USTA League playoffs underway, and 2019 too?

Last weekend had Southern hold their 18 & Over Sectionals, and they are back at it this weekend in Mobile again for 40 & Over.  Lets hope the weather is not as brutal this week!

But that is not the only place playoffs are going on.  Others include:

  • 18 & Over Districts in Southern Cal
  • 18 & Over Regionals in Maryland
  • 18 & Over Districts in parts of Middle States
  • 55 & Over Sectionals in New England
  • 18 & Over Districts in Idaho
  • A bunch of Districts in Midwest across 18 & Over, 40 & Over, and 55 & Over

But while some areas are just getting started with their 2018 playoffs, Georgia is already about to hold their 2019 early start league local playoffs next weekend!

Good luck to all playing this weekend.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Southern USTA League 18 & Over Sectionals are complete, teams headed to Nationals - Issues with ESL bumped up players yet again

Southern held their Sectionals for 18 & Over this past weekend in Mobile, and I hear it was hot and humid so a trying test of tennis for those involved.  But with the completion, we have a another Section's representatives for Nationals determined.

I've looked at how many Nationals teams have been sent by state in the past few years, so thought it would be interesting to see where this year's winners were from.

For the women:
  • 2.5 - Georgia*
  • 3.0 - Tennessee*
  • 3.5 - Arkansas
  • 4.0 - Mississippi
  • 4.5 - North Carolina

And for the men:
  • 3.0 - Alabama*
  • 3.5 - Georgia *
  • 4.0 - Kentucky
  • 4.5 - North Carolina
  • 5.0+ - South Carolina

Congratulations to all the teams.  And with 8 of the 9 states represented, all showed well.  Just Georgia and North Carolina had multiple winners.

You see I have an asterisk by several teams above.   This is to denote the team came from an Early Start League (ESL) meaning they played their regular season during 2017.  The reason this is interesting is that these teams may have players that were bumped up at 2017 year-end, and with the demise of Early Start Ratings, Southern has elected to allow these players to continue to play on these teams at their rostered level even though their 2017 year-end level is now a level higher.

This more or less gives these teams an advantage over their opposition that has only at-level players, and we see that at the lower levels, 2.5 and 3.0 for the women and 3.0 and 3.5 for the men, this advantage was apparent with these teams winning the sectional title.

Now, this sort of makes sense that the lower levels would benefit the most.  This is where there are the most new players that are naturally improving, and likely where the rosters are more likely to have bumped up players and have an advantage.  Once players get to the 4.0 and above levels, the improvement year to year is not typically as large and so there are likely fewer situations there are year-end bumped up players on these rosters, and even when there are they are likely not as clearly above level as at the lower levels.

The other interesting thing is that these now above level players are eligible to play at Southern Sectionals, but will not be eligible at Nationals (with one caveat).  This means the teams as constructed for Sectionals may not be the team that goes to Nationals, they will invariably be a weaker team with their best players missing.

For example, the Georgia 2.5 women's team is nearly entirely comprised of now 3.0 level players.  Given this, it isn't a big surprise they won 2.5 Sectionals and given what I said above, you'd think this team couldn't even field a team at Nationals.  They should be able to as there is a caveat in the National rule allowing 2.5 teams to have 3.0 level players on their National roster as long as a player is not "clearly above level", and it appears they have only one of these perhaps.  It appears that player is most definitely going to be a 3.5 next year and is perhaps even a borderline 4.0!  That would be something to see, play at 2.5 and 3.0 States and 3.0 Sectionals (she played on a 3.0 team too) in 2018, and get a 4.0 year-end rating a few months later.  That would be a rare progression.

But even without this player, the other 2.5 teams at Nationals are going to be facing mostly computer rated 3.0s which doesn't seem entirely fair, even if other teams likely have players that are going to be bumped up to 3.0 at 2018 year-end.

But the Tennessee 3.0 women's team does not have the clause allowing any now 3.5s to play at Nationals as 3.0s, and they have a whopping 8 of these players that won't be Nationals eligible.  That leaves just 9 players rostered that are 3.0s, and one of these doesn't appear to have gotten enough matches in to be eligible, so they have only 8 eligible players which is the minimum to send a team and is a difficult row to hoe with 4 matches in 2 days with a small roster.   But it appears there is a player who had only one regular season match that was allowed to play in local playoffs and had they not been allowed to, would not have the matches to be eligible.  Most areas require two regular season matches to be eligible so curious what happened here, as without this player they may not be able to send a team to Nationals.  This happened last year with a men's team, a Sectionals winning team that couldn't go to Nationals.

The men's 3.0 team from Alabama is also going to be impacted.  They have 7 now 3.5s that won't be playing at Nationals, but do appear to have 9 3.0s that are eligible so won't be forced to not go, but will certainly be a far weaker team with just their 3.0s and be playing 4 matches in 2 days with a small roster.

The Georgia 3.5 team won't be affected by this rule, but that is only because it is an entire roster of self-rated players and none played enough in the 2017 rating year to get a year-end rating so none of them are now a level higher.

I have to say that Southern's rule allowing these bumped up players to play doesn't seem fair to the competition they faced which is limited to having at-level players on the roster, both the other teams at Sectionals and the opponents of the Georgia 2.5 team at Nationals.

What do you think?  Do you prefer allowing teams to stay together through Sectionals even with now bumped up players?  Or should these players become ineligible soon to be more fair to the competition?

Sunday, July 22, 2018

How competitive are USTA League matches? Interesting tennis league stats

USTA League tennis is level based using the NTRP (National Tennis Rating Program) system and is design to promote competitive play for recreational players.  That begs the question, how competitive is the play?

I've looked at the competitiveness of matches before in writing about playing up and its effect on scores, that analysis looking at how close scores are.  That showed that 60-80% of matches were close depending on your definition.

But another measure is a player's individual record and this is a statistic more people are familiar with and tend to track.  In an ideal world, one might expect that every player would have a winning percentage right around 50% since everyone winning and losing half their matches would indicate the matches must have been competitive.  We know in reality that isn't going to happen, and to be honest, being competitive doesn't mean you are winning and losing the same amount, as while it is fairly unlikely this would happen, you could have competitive matches (say 6-4,6-4 scores) and lose every match or win every match.

I couldn't just leave this one alone though, I had to do some analysis.  Below is a chart showing the distribution of winning percentages from 18 & Over and 40 & Over play for 2017 for players that played at least 5 matches.

We see that nearly half of the players do win between 35% and 65% of their matches.  If you extend it out to 25% to 75%, the number jump up to 70% of players.  So if your measure of competitiveness is match winning percentage, 70% of players appear to have a competitive experience.

It is interesting that the number of players in the ~40% and ~60% bands is larger than those in the ~50%.  I'm not sure a good explanation for this other than any player playing 5, 7, or 9 matches in the year cannot fall in the ~50% band, so perhaps that is it.

Note that with a fair number of players playing up, the handful of players with very poor/excellent records is perhaps not surprising.  You would expect some number of uncompetitive matches from these matches.

But even with the range for each NTRP level, when at-level higher rated players play lower rated ones, you will see lopsided results quite often and this is somewhat expected.

It is always interesting to see how the different genders fare with these sort of stats, so here are the women.

And the men.

There are slight variations, but really, no significant differences for men vs women.

What do you think?  Is the distribution of winning percentages what you would expect?  Do you think USTA League matches are generally competitive?  Or are the ranges for the NTRP levels too large?

Monday, July 16, 2018

New USTA Tennis Centers in the Pacific Northwest

I just received an e-mail from my section about a new initiative to revitalize and manage indoor and outdoor tennis centers, starting with a few facilities in Vancouver and Tacoma.

You can visit to see more and learn about the Galbraith Tennis Center in Tacoma and Vancouver Tennis Center.

The Tacoma facility used to be a Bally's Fitness and had been in the news a year ago about becoming a USTA facility, but now it is official.

It appears VTC is undergoing some renovations in a month and will reopen in September.

It is always great to hear about new or renovated facilities.  Thanks to the USTA and others involved for making this happen!

How about we get a new facility in Seattle now where we are court constrained in the Winter and Spring? :)

If you win the second set, are you more likely to win the match tie-break? Interesting tennis league stats

In USTA League tennis, the majority of matches are played with a 3-set format where a match tie-break (first to 10 win by 2) is played in lieu of a full third set.

I've often wondered, and sometimes been asked, if the player/pair winning the second set has a better chance of winning the tie-break because they have the momentum, or if the player/pair winning the first rests up in the second and they come back, or if anything really can happen in a tie-break and it is a toss-up.  Well it is time to do some research and find out!

For this analysis I'm going to look at matches played in 2017 in the 18 & Over leagues and just look at the percentage of time the winner of the first/second set win the tie-break.

First, just looking at all matches played, the data tells us that 49.4 percent of first set winners win the tie-break, while 50.6 percent of second set winners do.  Statistically, this says it is a toss-up, although one might argue a slight bias towards the second set winners.

But what if we slice the data different ways?  First, by gender:

  • Male - 49.1% for first set winners, 50.9% for second set winners
  • Female - 49.%% vs 50.5%

So there is the same general toss-up but perhaps slight bias for the women.

Then by level:
  • 2.5 - 52.9 vs 47.1
  • 3.0 - 49.6 vs 50.4
  • 3.5 - 49.3 vs 50.7
  • 4.0 - 49.1 vs 50.9
  • 4.5 - 49.3 vs 50.7
  • 5.0 - 46.9 vs 53.1

Only at the extremes of 2.5 and 5.0 do we see the data stray from the general averages, and there are far fewer matches at these levels so there is a greater chance for some outlier data the skew things.  But even at these levels, there is not a dramatic advantage to either set winner, although interestingly at 2.5 the second set winner wins the match less often!

I did also look at the data by gender and level but nothing stood out, it was consistent with the above.

So it appears there is certainly not a dramatic advantage to the second set winner in a match tie-break, but perhaps an ever so slight one.  Like they say, anything can happen in a tie-break!

Thursday, July 12, 2018

2018 USTA League playoffs continue - Florida and Mid-Atlantic in action this weekend, Southern Sectionals soon

It is July and that means more Districts and Sectionals are being played on the road to Nationals.

Florida has 40 & Over Sectionals taking place for the 3.5 and 4.5+ levels at the National Campus in Orlando.  This follows the 3.0 and 4.0 levels having been played last weekend also at the National Campus.  The 18 & Over Sectionals will be played in August over two weekends, the 11th-13th and then 18th-20th.

In Mid-Atlantic, Virginia 18 & Over 3.0, 4,0, and 5.0 Regionals were played last weekend July 6-8, and 2.5, 3.5, and 4.5 will be played next weekend the 20th-22nd.  Their 40 & Over will be played August 24-26.

Maryland gets going with 18 & Over 2.5, 3.5, and 4.5 this weekend, and 3.0, 4.0, and 5.0 in two weeks July 27-29.  Their 40 & Over will be August 17-19.

Sectionals in Mid-Atlantic will be August 10-12 for 18 & Over and September 14-16 for 40 & Over.

In Southern, leagues are played a bit earlier and States have all been played and 18 & Over Sectionals is next weekend July 20-23 in Mobile and 40 & Over is the following weekend also in Mobile.  So by the end of the month we'll have quite a few more teams selected for Nationals.

The new Nationals invitees will join those from NorCal, SoCal, and Southwest that have already played Sectionals.

As always, if you are headed to any playoff event and want to scout teams, my flight and team reports are great resources to assist with that, and there are already teams that have used reports to qualify for Nationals this year.

And if you've already played your last playoff matches and want to get a report estimating where your rating is and details on all your played matches, individual reports will fit the bill.

For any report, contact me for more details.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Video from USTA NTRP meeting in Seattle now available

Those of us in the Seattle area were fortunate to have Heather Hawkes from USTA National visit us a couple months ago to hold an information meeting on NTRP ratings.  I wrote up a summary of my takeaways from it, but what could be better than seeing/hearing for yourself?

Well, now you can!  Jill Borgida, our League Coordinator in the Seattle area has made a video available so now anyone that missed the meeting can see Heather's presentation and the answers to folk's questions for yourself.  Thanks Jill!  You can see/download the video here (link was removed, see below).

For those not from Seattle, the majority of the subject matter applies to all USTA League players so it applies to you too, so give it a view if you are interested.

Note that the recording is 90 minutes so allocate a chunk of time if you want to listen to the whole thing.  But the presentation part is only about 35 minutes so a reasonably quick view.

For those that don't have that time, here is a brief table of contents should you wish to jump to a certain part or topic of interest:

  • 1:15 - Introduction
  • 8:10 - NTRP description, history, purpose
  • 12:10 - Why players move up or down
  • 15:35 - 3-strike disqualifications
  • 18:10 - Appeals
  • 19:55 - Myths about NTRP
  • 21:50 - Third party sites (pay close attention to what is said at 24:30 😀)
  • 25:20 - UTR
  • 26:30 - Senior appeals
  • 28:45 - Common questions
  • 31:00 - Playing up
  • 32:25 - Early start ratings
  • 37:30 - Q&A begins

Does this answer questions you have?  Or raise more?  Regardless, let me know if you have others as I may have answers.

Update: The link to the Seattle video is no longer available, but a similar meeting was held in Portland the day before and here is the link to that video.

Friday, July 6, 2018

USTA NTRP Nationals 2019 schedule published - How can you get a rating to qualify?

Those of you that regularly read my musings here know that the USTA introduced an NTRP National Championships event held earlier this year.  This is a Nationals for NTRP tournament players, as opposed to USTA League players, and gives tournament players an opportunity to advance and compete against players of the same level from other sections of the country.  Read what I wrote last year for more details.

The 2018 events were held in April and each section determined how players advanced, but in most if not all cases advancement was based on NTRP tournament results from 2017 and perhaps a Sectionals tournament for those that qualified.  Two Nationals events were held, one for 18 & Over singles and doubles and another for 50 & Over singles and doubles.

The schedule for 2019 has been published and is now four events.  The singles and doubles at each age level have been split into separate events leaving us with this schedule:
  • March 29-31 - 18 & Over 3.0 thru 5.0 singles at Academia Sanchez-Casal in Naples, FL
  • March 29-31 - 50 & Over 3.0 thru 4.5 singles at Surprise Tennis & Racquet Complex in Surprise, AZ
  • April 5-7 - 18 & Over 3.0 thru 5.0 doubles at Academia Sanchez-Casal in Naples, FL
  • April 5-7 - 50 & Over 3.0 thru 4.5 doubles at Surprise Tennis & Racquet Complex in Surprise, AZ

One new thing is the addition of the 3.0 level for both age groups and the 5.0 level for 18 & Over.  This will give more players an opportunity to experience Nationals which is great.

Another change is the splitting of singles and doubles, perhaps due to expanding the levels and the additional court requirements.  This split is nice in that it gives a player a more reasonable chance to compete in both singles and doubles, but having the 18 & Over and 50 & Over events on the same dates means a 50+ player has to pick one or the other if they happen to qualify for both.

On one hand, that gives the under-50 crowd more of their own event as you might expect those over-50 to focus on their event, but it also takes away an opportunity for those older players that can still play with and like to test themselves against younger players at a Nationals event.  In general, I like the changes though, but perhaps the events won't go head to head on the calendar in the future.

The format appears to be remaining basically the same.  It will use the Fast Four format and each player will play in one of eight 4-player round robin groups that advance to four 8-player compass draws.  From what I heard, the format had mixed reviews as it is different than normal play and what most play in tournaments.  The plus is that it allows more matches to be fit into a 3-day weekend, the minus is that you can't start slow or get behind in a set as it goes quick.

The event in Surprise will certainly be on hard courts, but Academia Sanchez-Casal has a lot of clay courts so my guess is that event may be primarily or entirely on clay.  That is great for those players that play year-round on clay, but I'm guessing the majority of tournament players play predominantly on hard courts so we'll see how that goes.

So how do you qualify to go to NTRP Nationals?

First, you have to play in NTRP tournaments!  For each event you play, you accumulate points and each section then determines how they will pick the players to advance.

Some sections will hold a Sectional tournament where players qualify for it based on tournament play during the year.  Others will just use the tournament rankings from the accumulated points to determine the representatives directly.  Check with your Section Coordinator with the format your section will use.

Second, as I understand it, self-rated players cannot advance to Nationals so you must have a year-end NTRP rating.  It may seem like this is a given, you play tournaments and you'll get a rating, but not all sections have included tournament results in year-end ratings, and some players that play just tournaments continue to be self-rated.

This means that a tournament player would also have to play USTA League to get a year-end rating and thus be qualified.  This is certainly doable for most players, and many already play League, but there are some that prefer tournaments to league play and do not play both.

In order to get tournament only players eligible for NTRP Nationals, more sections are considering including tournaments in year-end ratings.  Which sections do/don't include them is somewhat fluid, but as I write this my research shows the following do or plan to for 2018:

  • Eastern
  • Intermountain
  • Mid-Atlantic
  • Middle States
  • Northern California
  • Northern
  • Pacific Northwest
  • Southern California
  • Texas

That is just over half, so as of now, a lot of players that play only tournaments would continue to remain ineligible for NTRP Nationals.  But more sections may elect to include tournaments before year-end ratings are calculated though.

Checking some statistics, it appears less than 2K players ended 2017 with a tournament exclusive (T) rating.  I'll have to do some more research to see how many played tournaments and not league and didn't get a rating, but I'd say there is a good chance there are at least 2K more since only about half the sections include tournament matches.

What do you think?  Do you play NTRP tournaments?  Is qualifying for NTRP Nationals one of your goals for this year?

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

The path to USTA League Nationals: How it varies by section

We are getting to the time of the year when playoffs are being played, be they local playoffs, Districts, or Sectionals, all in the pursuit of making it to Nationals.  I sometimes get asked about the path to Nationals or how one can get there, so I thought I'd write on the subject.

I've written bits and pieces before including how short the journey can be in Hawaii, but also how other rural areas can have similarly short paths to Nationals.  But I hadn't taken a comprehensive look across all the sections to compare them so thought I would.

First, I thought I'd take a look at one of the league type/level that is most played across the country, 18 & Over 3.5 women.

Here is a table with several stats for the teams from each section that went to Nationals.  It shows the team matches played in the regular season and playoffs, the number of championships (e.g. local playoffs, States/Districts, Sectionals) that had to be played, and the number of flights played at championships.  The latter stat tells you if a team for example had to play both a round-robin flight and then a semis and/or final flight at a championship.


The Northern California team had to play a whopping 26 matches to get to Nationals!  Several others had to play 20 or more and there are a lot in the upper teens.  Hawaii almost made it playing just single digits!

For comparison, here are the 3.5 men.


We see that four sections had to play over 20 matches to get to Nationals, while some were in the low to mid-teens, Caribbean having the easiest path with just 11 matches and one championship played.  Interestingly Eastern had three championships to play, but only got to 17 total matches to qualify for Nationals.

What about at a level where there are fewer players and teams like 5.0 men?


The Midwest appears to be very competitive for 5.0 men, they are the only section with over 20 matches and well ahead of the rest.  We see three sections not even having to play double digits to get there.

What about 40 & Over?  Here are the 4.0 women.


Northern Cal is over 20 and in the lead again.  Note that they classified their local playoffs as a championship this once (they normally just treat it as an extension of the regular season) so they also show three championships played.  And we see another single digit matches played, this one from the Pacific Northwest which seems odd.  But this is a case of a team from a small/rural area where the regular season is just four matches played over a weekend.

And to round things out, here are the 4.0 men for 40 & Over.


Northern Cal again in the lead.

What can we learn from this?  The path to Nationals can be very different based on where a team is from.  The longest path is usually over twice as long as the shortest path.  There is a fair amount of consistency in which sections have the longest path, but still some variability there if a team from a small area manages to advance.

If there is interest, I can look at other league types and levels, let me know by leaving a comment.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Poll: Changing a USTA League season schedule - What went into the decision making process for Southwest Washington

I wrote about the 2019 schedule for Northwest Washington (Seattle), and other areas in the Pacific Northwest section have some similar changes with the addition of the 18-39 league for example.

What I learned in the past week is that in Southwest Washington (Tacoma/Olympia) has not only added the 18-39 league, but has moved some other leagues around.  Specifically, this year, 40 & Over was played January thru March (Winter), and 18 & Over April thru June (Spring) as normal leagues.  The 55 & Over league was played in the Fall as an early start league.

TLDR: I go on for a bit below, and please do read it if you have time, but the short story is the schedule change has been made to try and increase participation, and while I hope participation does increase, I'm skeptical it will as it seems there are some factors that are going to make that difficult that may not have been considered or given enough weight.

Now, on to the details!

For 2019, Southwest Washington is swapping the slots for 55 & Over and 40 & Over, the latter becoming an early start league played this Fall and 55 & Over moving to the January thru March slot as a regular league.

Why was this change made?  The main reason appears to be that there has been a drop in participation in the Winter/Spring leagues and they are looking to try to do things to reverse this trend.  Here is the chart that was provided in a document on the schedule changes from the coordinator.

We can see that 18 & Over has dropped a bit each year, down 89 registrations or 8% from 2015 to 2018.  The 40 & Over also dropped, 5% from 2015 to 2017 but came up a bit for 2018 to make the 3-year drop just 41 or 4%.  Regardless, the decline appears to be real in both leagues, a total decline of 130 or 6%.

So what might be causing the decline?  The schedule change document mentioned that players had made comments that having the two different leagues played back to back caused them to decide to play just one or the other and not both like they had in the past.  It also said a survey was done, where some of the comments presumably were made, that indicated support for 40 & Over to be played in either Winter or Fall, although it did indicate there was more support for leaving it in the Winter (3.34 vs 2.48 weighted score).

If this is all true, one can see how a change might be a worthwhile thing to try to see if it helps participation.  But is there other data to consider?  Does the data support this conclusion?  Or what are the implications of a change like this?

First, what is missing from the above chart is the 55 & Over participation numbers.  By my calculations, those have gone up each year since 2015 from 460 to 524, an increase of 64 or 14%.  The increase of 64 does not completely offset the loss of 130 from the other two leagues, but still gives reason to believe there may be something else going on.

What that something else might be is that players are simply getting older.  In the three years from 2015 to 2018, all those age 52-54 turned 55 and became eligible to play 55 & Over, and common sense says they will have decided to play in that league and may decide to drop 18 & Over as they no longer need to play the "youngsters" to get a second league in.  And some of those 55+ players may have reached retirement age and/or decide to spend some of the Winter in the desert which makes them unavailable for the 40 & Over season.

If both of these factors are significant contributors to the decline, it may be that the 40 & Over and 18 & Over leagues being back to back is not as big a factor as the comments indicate, and instead the real issue is that the void created by some players getting older is not being filled with new players under 40.

Second, are the players playing in multiple leagues declining?  Or are the individual leagues declining on their own?

My analysis shows that 655 players were rostered on both an 18 & Over and 40 & Over team in 2015.  This declined to 591, or down 64, in 2018 so yes, fewer players are playing in both leagues.  But we can also look at other combinations.

The count of those playing both 55 & Over and 18 & Over went 227, 215, 249, and 227 in the four years ending 2018.  So on average, this has stayed pretty flat.

The count of those playing both 55 & Over and 40 & Over went 261, 313, 316, and 335, an increase of 84, so a pretty dramatic increase.  In fact, this increase was more than the 18/40 decrease.

So what does this tell us?  The decline in 18/40 but flat in 18/55 would seem to support the notion that players prefer to play both leagues when there is a gap between them.  However, the increase in 40/55 would seem to support what I wrote above, that the player population is growing older and is just more comfortable doubling up in 40/55 than with 18 & Over.  It is likely that both are a factor, but the increase in 40/55 being larger tells me the age factor is larger.

Third, what are the implications of this change?  It may seem simple, but given the nature of each league and the early start league rules, it is actually quite significant.

As an early start league, players in the 2019 40 & Over league will now register with their 2017 year-end rating.  These players will be eligible at that level on their teams through local playoffs in December, but if they are bumped up at 2018 year-end will be ineligible to continue playing on their team at Sectionals at their rostered level.  In fact, a team could have enough players bumped up that they win local playoffs and can't even field a team at Sectionals.  Correspondingly, if a player is bumped down at year-end, the 40 & Over season will already have been played and these players won't be able to play 40 & Over at their new level until the 2020 season.

Note that it is the demise or early start ratings that makes both of these issues worse than they would be otherwise.

Both of these early start implications are going to put the Southwest Washington teams at Sectionals at a disadvantage.  On the first point, they could lose their best players to bump ups while teams from other areas playing 40 & Over in the Winter or Spring won't be affected.  On the second point, all of the other areas will have been able to include bumped down players to their rosters.  Now, admittedly, this is only going to impact the one or two teams at each level that advance to Sectionals, but it is going to make it a lot tougher for those teams to compete with the other areas, particularly those from Portland and Seattle that already had an advantage of having many more players to draw from.

Now, you might argue that when 55 & Over was an early start league the same issues existed.  That is true, but just sort of.  First, most other areas run their 55 & Over as an early start league so no one was disadvantaged by doing it differently.  Also, 55 & Over is a combination league, that means a 7.0 team for example can have 3.0, 3.5, and 4.0 players on the roster, so there is more flexibility to absorb a player being bumped up at year-end that 40 & Over does not have.

One advantage Southwest Washington will have with 55 & Over is that they will be able to have the just bumped down players on their rosters where the other areas won't.  But there are fewer levels/teams/players in 55 & Over so the advantage will benefit far fewer players and teams, and it is a smaller advantage and less likely to come into play given the combination nature of the league and fewer levels played.

So, IMHO, 55 & Over seems much more well suited to being the early start league than 40 & Over.

Another dynamic with leagues in the Northwest is when players may migrate south for the Winter or vacations.  The typical time for this is January thru March which is smack dab during the 55 & Over season now.  The gotcha here is that the players most likely to do a Winter migration are probably those age 55+.  So that growth I noted above in the 55 & Over league may turn around as players may be out of town during that season now.

I've written a lot, hopefully it all made sense, but what do you think, particularly if you play in Southwest Washington?  Is this schedule change for the better?  Is it worth trying something different to try to increase participation?  Or is it going to make it more challenging for older players to play league and is ignoring the real issue which is the lack of new under 40 players?

I think there are some challenges to this schedule working out for the better, but I do hope it does and participation goes up, and teams that go to Sectionals feel they can compete.

If you are so inclined, please leave a comment here or on Facebook, and vote in the poll below if you are from Southwest Washington.

Do you like the Southwest Washington schedule change?

Yes, it will increase participation
Yes, it is better for my schedule
Yes, it gives SWW 55 & Over teams an advantage at Sectionals
Don't care, I'll play the same leagues regardless
No, it puts SWW 40 & Over teams at a disadvantage at Sectionals
No, it doesn't address the real reason for the decline in participation
No, it is worse for my schedule
You may vote for multiple selections.
See this blog for details on the changes to the schedule.
Create a Poll with PollMaker