Monday, October 31, 2011

Playing competitive (e.g. league) tennis below one's level

While I can think of one legitimate reason to play competitive (e.g. league) tennis below your skill level – you live in a neighborhood where it’s a hard to find enough players to form a team, and you want to play with your neighbors (or spouse) – I can’t think of many others that are honorable.

I do know that most people want to win; but what does it say about someone that wants to win so badly that they have to enter a league below their skill level in order to do so? The great thing about tennis is – especially here in Atlanta – that there are (tens of) thousands of players at one’s same relative ability with whom to play. So many, in fact, that not only does the city support large team leagues like ALTA and USTA, but there are at least half a dozen flexible tennis leagues as well, each of which is organized by skill level.

It’s unfortunate that sand-bagging has become the norm instead of the exception throughout all of these leagues. While USTA will almost always (eventually) rectify situations in which someone has entered the league at a skill level below their own, ALTA has no means to do so and the flex leagues can be manipulated: a higher skilled player can intentionally lose games (or even sets) in order to remain at a level below their skill (and still win their match).

I don’t know why – what motivation there is – for someone to want to play below their skill level. Is it really that fun to overmatch your opponent such that you can throw games and still not be danger of losing the match? Where’s the challenge in that? Is winning that important? One doesn't see players from the professional tour competing against high school players just to pad their statistics or winning percentages.

I don’t know about you but, while I love to win matches, I love to improve my game to become a better tennis player even more, and would love to make it to the next higher USTA NTRP rating level. Is it possible to improve one’s game while playing opponents below one’s level? I don't think so.

1 comment:

  1. I am a new tennis player. Learned last year so I'm competing on Alta C8. I find that many of the women I am playing against are far better than beginners and should probably be moved to a higher skill level. I think their desire for a more relaxed pace drives them to play down. Unfortunately, they still want to win. This is frustrating for the "true" beginner.

    I am thinking of quitting altogether.