By Rob Scott
Why we don’t play up.
As you know, the CVTA promotes a philosophy of playing “at level” in Adult NTRP League competition. To many, this is obvious and no explanation is necessary. To others, however, there are shades of grey. I felt it would be appropriate to state some myths and facts herein to help players better understand the rationale behind our policy.
Myth “I’m really stronger than my rating”.
Fact Ratings are derived directly from match results using a computer algorithm that factors in the rating of all players involved in the match (singles and doubles) and the score of the match. Players in the match are tied to a national database of players, hence in the name NTRP the “N” stands for National. The more matches a player has played, the more accurate their rating is. Your published rating is a factual representation of how your skills compare to many thousands of players nationwide. It is not subjective.
Myth “I just want to challenge myself.” I hear this a lot when a player is trying to justify playing up. This is a self-centered way to look at the world of tennis. If a player plays up “to challenge themselves”, they do so at the expense of their higher but correctly-rated opponent. For example, the 3.5 woman who plays 4.0 to “challenge herself” gets beat fairly handily by the correctly-rated 4.0 woman who is correctly playing at level. The 4.0 player isn’t challenged and in fact may have a bad taste in her mouth after the match because of the easy (not challenging) victory. This player might only play once a week and she views the match she just played as a “waste of her time”. She has a valid complaint. She then chooses to “play up” next year to “challenge herself” and the situation snowballs.
Fact “Challenge yourself” to win handily at level so that you move up legitimately and correctly through actual match results instead of just saying (wishing) you are a higher level. Prove it to yourself and others through actual match play and results.
Myth “My friends say that level is weak and I should ‘play up’”.
Fact That level is the right level unless one proves through competitive results that they are stronger.
Myth “All my friends play at the higher level.”
Fact When a player first moves between levels, they may not know as many people socially as they did before. However, most tennis players are a gregarious and friendly lot. If this player makes a sincere effort, they will find many new friends and will enjoy the game more playing at the correct level than playing out of level. This player then has the bonus of two sets of friends instead of one!
Myth “I play 4.5 tournaments, therefore I am a 4.5 player.”
Fact Unfortunately, many players choose to “play up” in tournaments. Therefore it is possible for a player to advance several rounds in a tournament at a higher NTRP level but actually be rated lower that that level. Example: The 4.0 woman who “plays up” in a 4.5 tournament advances several rounds and is finally beaten in the semifinals by a 4.5 player. Upon closer inspection we find that every opponent she defeated was actually rated 3.5 or 4.0 but were also “playing up” in the same tournament. That player then perceives herself a “4.5” player just because she played in a 4.5 event. However, her correct rating is 4.0.
Myth “I moved here from Seattle and the level of play there is much stronger than it is here.”
Fact The NTRP system is a national system. The level of play in any one of the 17 sections of the United States is very similar to all the others.
The USTA has spent significant time and money to develop the system that is now called the NTRP system of player classification. Millions of matches have been enjoyable and competitive through correct implementation of this system. We strongly suggest that players take the high road and compete at level. When they do so, they become part of the solution and not part of the problem.
Rob Scott, USPTA, is Chairman of the Adult Recreation and Competition Committee for the Intermountain Section. He also serves on the Sectional NTRP Oversight Committee and was an NTRP Verifier for 16 years. Rob has traveled to 6 different Sections throughout the US to observe play at various Sectional Championships as an out-of-section verifier. Rob has been a USPTA teaching professional for 30 years. Currently, he is Director of Tennis at the Ranch Country Club and the President of the Centennial Valley Tennis Association. He can be reached at (303)665-0903 or firstname.lastname@example.org.