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Revamping the USTA rating system

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With the busy summer USTA season officially ending and fall season now in full swing, many players are in the process of getting their ratings set. Whether you’re a brand new player doing this for the first time or you’re returning from a long hiatus, in order to play on the USTA tennis leagues, a rating is needed. Unfortunately, anyone that’s had to endure this test has encountered first hand just how frustrating and sometimes inaccurate it can be.Revamping the USTA rating system

One of the biggest problems with the USTA rating system is their lack of detailed questions. The test begins with several yes or no fill-ins trying to categorize you anywhere from a world class player to a total beginner. The problems occur when you get deeper into these questions. For instance, back when I had to rate for the very first time, I had just committed to playing division II tennis. Long story short I got rated a 5.0. Now granted, I was a decent high school player, but no state champion deserving of a 5.0 rating. Not to mention I had just graduated high school and had never played USTA adult league tennis before.

So why did they rate me as so? Was it solely because I was committing to play in college? The real question is, can the USTA really make a good evaluation of the type of player I am based on that one answer? No. There are many tennis players out there on college teams that couldn’t even compete with the average high school player!

Another example is the classic story of a returning tennis player trying to get back into the USTA leagues. Take a former 5.0 college player who hasn’t touched a racquet in 20 years, has had two knee replacements, and isn’t nearly in as good of shape as she used to be. Should this player still be rated a 5.0? According to the rating system, if that was her last published rating, then yes. Even though the test doesn’t ask her when the last time she played was, or the injuries sustained (injury questions happen during the appeal process).

Now obviously the USTA can’t come and watch everyone play who needs a rating (they tried it for years with people raters). So what’s the solution here? More detailed questions with a little more leeway. The yes or no questionnaire is fine and does cover a lot. A text box discussing dates and severity of injuries sustained or time off from playing would make a significant difference. Also, rather than a computer making an immediate decision, it would help if the USTA could review answers prior to giving out set ratings. This might not work for brand new players but it would be a good system for someone returning from a long break from the game. That way, they don’t even have to worry about going through the appeal process.

It’s safe to say that the USTA doesn’t have the time or the man power to force groups of people to monitor their rating system-but they need to. They would save so much time having to sift through appeals if they would review the tests to begin with. Even just adding a few more text boxes so players can explain their history with the game would make a huge difference. 

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