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A look back at NTRP, and what it means to you now

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December 18, 2014 03:56 PM
By Marilyn Sherman, special to USTA.com
 
As the 2014 USTA League year concludes and the program proudly celebrates its 35th anniversary, let’s reflect on the history surrounding one of the program’s integral and sport-changing aspects: the National Tennis Rating Program – better known as NTRP.
 
Previously, local leagues across the country used varying types of rating systems, ranging from the simple “A-B-C” to the more creative color-coding method, to evaluate a player’s level. By 1980, tennis reached a point where a national system was needed to get players across the country speaking the same language. And so the USTA adopted NTRP, with many experts helped fine tune the guidelines surrounding the 2.5, 3.0, 3.5, 4.0, 4.5, 5.0, 5.5 and Open levels.
In the early years, the program initiated a verification system, including expert observers to validate a player’s self-rating when first entering league tennis – with the goal of ensuring competitive and compatible play.
 
In 2003, self-rate guidelines were established to improve the entry process for new players to USTA League, from beginners to former college and professional players.  In addition, a three-strike disqualification system was initiated that utilizes dynamic ratings from match results throughout the year.
 
Regulations and computer methodology has changed each year to reflect improvements in the NTRP rating system. As a result, in 2014 an astounding 302,479 players received a year-end rating. Of those, 80 percent with a computer rating remained at the same NTRP skill level. Of the computer-rated players, 13.5 percent were promoted and 6.5 percent were moved down an NTRP level. The self-rating process showed that just over 64 percent of players remained at the same skill level they provided to the USTA, with 23 percent promoted after 2014 and 13 percent moved down a level.
 
Fair competition, according to Darcy Cobb, USTA League National Manager, is top priority for the country’s largest recreational tennis outfit and its 320,000-player constituency. Shifts in ratings, both promotion and demotion, are made based on algorithm. The constitution of a team should change if players progress in skill – but that should not be viewed as a punishment if it means longtime partners can’t play in every level of competition together.
 
“Players should look it as a reward for working hard on their game, that they improved,” said Cobb. “Congratulations are in order for those who move up a level.
 
“Those who have moved down can always play up. Sections also have combination levels, where you can still play with your core group, whether it’s Mixed, Combo or Tri-Level. We do provide opportunities to keep groups together while also keeping a competitive balance.”
 
Other figures of note relating to the 2014 year-end NTRP findings:
  • There were 44,885 players that did not publish (receive a rating)
  • 19,074 players were mixed doubles exclusives
  • 5,611 players were issued tournament ratings
  • 1,029 players were dynamically disqualified
Larry Jones, National Coordinator for NTRP explains a change in this year’s ratings publication: “Originally, the ‘B’ rating type was used to indicate those ratings determined by the observers and section rating committees. Over the years human involvement has significantly decreased and now the ‘C’ rating type indicates ratings calculated by computer.
Championship players are allowed to appeal their ratings up but cannot appeal their ratings down for one year.
 
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While constant improvements are made in the NTRP process, USTA League invites players who wish to dispute their ratings to appeal online. If further issues or questions about NTRP persist, the next step is to contact a local league coordinator for the most expedient response. For a list of coordinators by state, please click here.
 

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