Ultimate Tennis

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First Season Theory

The "First Season Player" rule was instituted to protect existing members from new players whose initial skill level or verification match did not represent their true ability. In the past we found that 80% of the tournament winners at each skill level were new first time members. Without the rule in place, the entire league membership who are working hard season after season, were consistently being eliminated in the playoffs by a very small percentage of underrated new members. Past members said "Why compete if you know that an underrated new member is always going to win". We listened to our members and agreed that it was in the best interest of the league to institute the rule.

We understand that many players have worked very hard to achieve such a high rating and would probably like to compete in the playoffs; however this would be unfair to the existing members. Over 25 years of player match results have proven that singles players with a "move-up rating" of +7.0 and doubles/mixed teams with a move up rating of +9.0 will be competitive at the next highest skill level and thus shouldn't be eligible to compete in the playoffs at their current level. It should be noted that even though ineligible players are unable to compete in the playoffs in their first season, their hard work has earned them the right to move up 1-2 skill levels and receive better competition that will truly challenge their game.

Ultimate Tennis more than any other league strives to provide fair and equitable competition for it's members. Ultimately the reason this rule is in place is to make sure we maintain the integrity of our playoffs. We have seen many other leagues where sandbagging is the rule and not the exception. When people feel that there is not an even playing field, they lose the interest in competing. This hurts the league and the sport.

We have chosen to use player ratings that are statistically very accurate and backed by over 25 years of proven results to determine whether a 1st time player should be eligible for the playoffs or not. All first time players are governed by this rule until one season of play is complete and a player's true level is determined. Even with this rule in place, we know that some people may have illegally attempted to manipulate their scores to qualify for the playoffs . We treat sandbagging very seriously and when we find these players they will be expelled from the league.

If you have visited your "League Standings" page, you may notice non first time players in the playoffs with ratings higher than yours. The reason past members are allowed to compete in the playoffs with high ratings is they have already gone through the first season rating process and have worked their way to the top of their group. This is their break out season and the high rating is the result of their hard work. In many cases, players have played numerous seasons in the league before having their breakout season that has earned them a high seed in the playoffs. Players earning their way to the top of their division is the way a playoff system should work.

"First Season Player Rule" History

In the past, we attempted to let ineligible players compete in the playoffs at the next highest skill level so they could still enjoy the playoff tournament. This proved to be a bad plan as numerous players moved up a skill level and still beat the top seeds. This only proved that they were too good for that level as well. Because first season members were still establishing their skill level, the only fair thing to do was to develop a cut off point which new players could not exceed in their first season.

We always listen to our players and implement new ideas that will improve the overall league service. This rule, as with many other league rules came straight from our members.

Comments from first season members

  • I fully understand and support the Ultimate Tennis and the rules it has established. I have to admit that I played extremely well in my first season, though I do believe I was under-rated. I look forward to participating in the higher leagues in future. Stephen
  • Understandable and you are doing the right thing by not allowing over qualified players to advance to the playoffs. Thanks for running Ultimate Tennis professionally. I really enjoyed my first season and will be looking forward to the next season. Regards, Matt
  • Thanks for the email. I fully understand that I can't play in the playoffs and support the rule. Coming off a 2 1/2 year layoff from tennis, I didn't think I was still competitive, but I was underrated for this level. I look forward to moving up next season to see if I can do as well at the next level. Thanks for running a great league. Mark
  • Thanks for all the information about the Playoffs. I totally understand why I've been pulled from the playoff this season and I agree 100%. Mery
  • Thanks for the explanation, I agree, that is a good cencept. By the way, this is one time, I felt very good being kicked out! Thanks for running the program and doing such a great job. Tony
  • I'm in total agreement with your first season player rule and understand completely why you disqualified me for the playoffs. I have not played singles in probably 25 years and was unsure if I could cover the singles courts and last for an entire match. I was pleasantly surprised that I could still move at 61! These kind of rules are probably why this league has become such a success. Thanks, Debbie
  • I completely understand your logic and have no problem missing the playoffs. I look forward to moving up to a division more competitive. Thank you for all you do. Tripp
  • Thank you for a thorough and professional explanation. I look forward to participating next season. Elliot
  • I thought I should respond to your email. I think this is a TERRIFIC RULE!!!!! Makes perfect sense. Thanks for trying to keep it competitive. I do believe I have improved a lot since my verification match. I look forward to competing at a higher level next season. Denise
  • No problem, I understand completely. When I decided to try playing singles for the first time in my life at 59 years old I was scared to death - I actually thought I would get tromped, so to be able to win was a bonus, and now I am ready to move up. This is the only fair way to do the playoffs and I appreciate it! Best Regards, Connie
  • I understand and agree with the rule. Thanks for a great season and I look forward to the next. Ed
  • I also agree with the outcome - having returned to tennis after surgery and not having played since 2001 the lower level did help me adjust, but my play ultimately exceeded that level. I totally concur with the rule. Tom
  • Thank you for your letter and information regarding playoffs. I totally agree with this concept and am very happy to understand and appreciate it. It was my sole purpose in playing Ultimate Tennis to have a competitive and regular scheduled singles match as it is hard for me to find anyone other than doubles players. This league provided it for me as well as meeting some very nice girls and "games". Thank you for the opportunity. Cheryl

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