Thursday, September 8, 2011

ALTA vs. USTA - a further analysis

In my first article on this topic, I wrote about some of the differences between ALTA and USTA as they relate to tennis players in Atlanta. It may have come across as a bit one-sided, so I thought that a more balanced approach was warranted.

Besides having more players, ALTA is also a great value financially; it’s a lot less expensive to play ALTA during the year than USTA. For all the years that I’ve played ALTA, the annual dues have been $20 (except for that one year when they were $18). Last year, ALTA raised the fee to $25, but if you paid it early, 2011 also cost $20. Next year will be the first time that I will pay $25, which I will do so happily. For just $25, I can play four seasons of ALTA tennis. In fact, I’ll be on 6 teams if I play both senior mixed doubles this winter and senior men’s doubles next summer (to go with my two regular mixed doubles and two regular men’s doubles seasons). That means it will cost me between four and six dollars each season for no more than $1 per match (plus a can of balls, but only when I lose)!

On the other hand, an annual USTA membership costs $42/year (unless you pay for multiple years, or a lifetime membership – if these are still available) just to have the opportunity to pay $15/season which are 6 instead of 7 (ALTA) matches/weeks in length plus playoffs, if applicable (for either). For the past 2 years, I’ve played fall and spring mixed doubles seasons and also in two state championships, which cost me an additional $25. I believe that USTA’s annual fee was $35 two years ago and that the seasonal fee was $12 until this fall so, adding it all up, I’ve paid $175 to play 19 matches, which is more than 9 times as much per match as ALTA. Excluding the state championships, I paid $125 for 15 matches which is still 8 times more than ALTA, which is the price performer! Of course, these expenses are somewhat skewed by the fact that I play virtually every week on my ALTA teams, twice as frequently as on my USTA teams.

Two other differences between ALTA and USTA: in USTA mixed doubles, the largest difference between players in a pairing is 1 level (e.g. 4.0 and 3.0) but in ALTA mixed, one frequently encounters teams that are a combination of a higher level men’s and a lower level women’s team (or vice versa), meaning that – at the extreme – there are C-level women playing with A-level men in some high B level divisions. This makes for the mismatches (which are no fun for anyone) that I’ve written about previously, which could be the reason for the second difference: USTA matches (and players) seem friendlier than ALTA’s. It’s possible that being on the losing end of a mismatch is the primary reason for the nastier attitude that one experiences more frequently in ALTA than at a USTA match. Plus, because of these inherent “rating” issues, there’s a lot more gamesmanship on the part of ALTA captains, who might “sacrifice” a line (or two) to be more competitive at the other lines and possibly with the match. Given USTA’s individual rating system, there is much less opportunity to intentionally create mismatches.

Don't get me wrong, I love playing both in both ALTA's & USTA's tennis leagues. These are just my observations to date (and your mileage may vary;-)

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