I have been asked to write this article by a tennis parent following a recent conversation regarding entering tennis competitions. In Great Britain currently, there are two systems that exist to support junior tennis competitions, namely Ratings and Rankings. There are advantages and disadvantages to both systems but, from the conversations I have had with tennis parents recently, the existence of both is causing problems.
The British Tennis Rankings are very similar to the rankings you see on the WTA and ATP World Tour where players gain points for progressing through the different rounds of tournaments and their best six singles and doubles performances give them a number of points and then a ranking position for their county, region and nationally. At the same time a Player Rating rewards wins against opponents of the same level or higher and players climb a ladder from 10.2 all the way up to 1.1. However, losses against lower rated players can prevent a player from improving their Rating and so a win:loss ratio of 60% is required to progress. Ratings seem to have been around for a very long time whereas Rankings were only introduced in 2005. At that time, it was said that Ratings would be phased out but, whilst Ranking now takes priority in regional and national competitions, Ratings are still very much alive in 2017.
Rankings do give you a very clear placement against your peers and you are rewarded for your successes in county level competitions and higher. The fact that only your best six results count does take some pressure off a player as it allows you to have a bad day without your standing being affected. Unfortunately, one of the downsides of Ratings is that every loss can affect you and I know many juniors fear playing lower rated players for fear of losing a season of hard work in one afternoon, which can sometimes happen. One advantage though of Ratings is that it cannot be taken away from you, however Ranking points only last twelve months before they disappear. The biggest problem with Ratings comes towards the end of a season when players sometimes stop playing to protect their win:loss ratio and when this happens Ratings are basically discouraging players from competing. However, at the same time, Rankings are encouraging younger players to enter older age-groups where there are more points to be won and seeing 11 year olds competing against 16 year olds isn’t uncommon.
To understand why these systems exist and what the future could hold, we need to go back to the very beginning and think about why these systems were introduced in the first place. Tennis is the reason that children compete, not Ratings or Rankings. Unfortunately, I do think this has been forgotten and we do need to remind ourselves of this. Children should have enjoyable and safe environments in which they can compete and improve. Any systems that exist should support this and not increase stress or discourage players from competing altogether. If there are to be further changes to the competition structure, then I hope that the benefits to children are considered as much as possible. One positive change was the recent inclusion of doubles results in Rankings and this has seen more juniors enjoying competing with a partner and starting to experience the social side of the sport, which is very important to keep children actively involved in tennis long-term.
What is not in dispute is that we do have two systems and many players and their parents are trying to do both at the same time, which is causing confusion and possibly causing some players to over compete. Clarity going forwards and a more streamlined system that positively supports children’s involvement it tennis is certainly what parents are asking for when I speak to them. Let’s see what the future holds.
What do you think? Let me know your thoughts and views on Ratings and Rankings. What do you think children want and what do we maybe need to change?