Little Mo Internationals

Before the US Open gets into full swing, I want to focus attention on the “Little Mo” Internationals in Forest Hills. The tournament finished this past weekend with lots of big trophies awarded and the winners of the Sportsmanship Awards and the Shannon Duffy Kindness Awards recognized as well. The West Side Tennis Club, host of the 2017 event, raised the Maureen Connolly banner at the famous stadium court where she completed the Grand Slam in 1953. She was the first woman to win the Grand Slam – winning all 4 majors in one calendar year (1953), and she is still the only American woman and youngest (age 18) to have accomplished this magnificent feat.

What exactly is the “Little Mo”? The “Little Mo” Internationals, put on by the Maureen Connolly Brinker Foundation (MCB), is one of the premier tournaments for boys and girls ages 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12. The “Little Mo” is unique in that it gives young players the opportunity to gauge their ability against others who are the same age. These events are designed to provide good competition for the younger player while also encouraging players to develop new friendships, learn good sportsmanship, and most of all, have fun.

The festivities began on Monday, August 21 with a complimentary clinic for all players on the historic grass courts of The West Side Tennis Club. Following the clinic was the spectacular Player Parade, whereby all players paraded onto the stadium court waving their country flags proudly. Zia Victoria sang the National Anthem and Maureen Connolly’s daughter, Brenda Brinker Bottum, was the guest speaker at the Opening Ceremony. Players competed in singles, doubles, and mixed doubles during the week.

There was a fun player party held at The West Side on Tuesday evening featuring a Beach Tennis tournament on hard court in addition to laser tag, music, a video game trailer with Wii games, and a special dinner on the beautiful patio at The West Side clubhouse overlooking the grass courts and stadium. “Little Mo” Tournament Chairman and MCB Executive Vice-President Carol Weyman presented the trophies. Wilson was the Official Ball and Racquet sponsor, and K-Swiss was the Official Apparel and Footwear sponsor. My Game Solutions was also an Official Sponsor of the event.

Srikar Polisetty from Alpharetta, GA, was a finalist in the Boys 10 division and won the Boys 10 doubles with partner Noah Johnston. Srikar’s coach, Tim Seals, shared that his charge loved playing kids from Japan and Germany (and beating Lindsay Davenport’s son in doubles!). Srikar also loved practicing on the grass courts and wearing all whites, just like at Wimbledon!

Congratulations to all the winners of the 2017 “Little Mo” Internationals tournament:

Boys 12 – Gonzalo Zeitune (Yerba Buena, Argentina)
Boys 11 – Jordan Reznik (Great Neck, New York)
Boys 10 – Dominick Mosejczuk (East Elmhurst, New York)
Boys 9 – Sebastian Bielen (Glen Cove, New York)
Boys 8 – Tadevos Mirijanyan (Palm Coast, Florida)
Boys 8 (green dot) – Drew Hassenbein (Roslyn, New York)
Girls 12 – Stacey Samonte (Whittier, California)
Girls 11 – Christasha McNeil (Massapequa, New York)
Girls 10 – Akasha Urhobo (Lauderhill, Florida)
Girls 9 – Natalie Oliver (Fallston, Maryland)
Girls 8 – Zaire Clarke (Greenacres, Florida)
Girls 8 (green dot) – Luiza Viesi Santoro Pereira (São Paulo, Brazil)

Also, congratulations to Jagger Leach (Newport Beach, California) and Ellie Ross (Port Washington, New York) for receiving the “Little Mo” Sportsmanship Awards. The “Little Mo” Kindness Awards were presented to Noah Johnston (Anderson, South Carolina) and Stacey Samonte (Whittier, California).

MCB is excited to announce that the yellow ball results for all ages from the “Little Mo” Internationals in New York will count towards Universal Tennis Ratings (UTR only accepts yellow ball results). For more information on UTR, please visit their website here. MCB is also excited to announce that the results from the Boys and Girls 12’s divisions in New York will count towards Tennis Recruiting Network (TRN) ratings. For more information on TRN, please visit their website here.

 

How To Use Ratings & Rankings

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I get a lot of emails asking about the various ratings and rankings used in Junior Tennis, so let me try to explain the differences between USTA rankings, Tennis Recruiting Star ratings, Tennis Recruiting rankings, and Universal Tennis ratings and how best to use each one. I have been talking extensively with people at each organization about what their numbers mean, how they are derived, how college coaches use them, and why they are relevant. Since TennisRecruiting.net is in the midst of its Star Rating Period, and since high school juniors and seniors are in the throes of college recruiting, it seems like the right time to present this information again.

First of all, it’s important to understand the difference between a ranking and a rating. A ranking is an ordered list of players from best (#1 or top-ranked) to worst. You can look at a ranking list and see exactly where a particular player falls among his or her peers. Typically, in head-to-head competition, the better-ranked player is expected to win, and it is considered an upset when a player ranked several spots below gets the victory. A rating, on the other hand, identifies and groups together players of similar levels of skill and/or competitiveness. You can use ratings to find practice partners and opponents at a similar level regardless of age or gender, and some tournaments (see the New Balance High School Tennis Championships) are now using ratings as a selection and seeding tool to ensure more competitive matches. Depending on the system, you can predict who will win a particular match based on the range of difference between the players’ ratings.

Let’s start with the Points Per Round (PPR) ranking system since it’s been around the longest and is the one used by USTA (a similar system is used by ITF) to determine selection into sanctioned tournaments. With PPR, a player earns ranking points in his/her current age group (as well as older age groups if the player chooses to “play up”) based on the level of the tournament played as well as which round the player reaches in that tournament. Moving forward in a tournament draw, whether by an actual match win or by a default or walkover, is all that matters in this ranking system. Main draw matches count for more points than do backdraw matches. USTA takes the player’s top 6 singles tournament results plus the top 6 doubles results (doubles only counts at 25%) within the previous 12-month period to determine his/her ranking at the local, sectional, and national level. The only time an opponent’s ranking is considered is in determining whether to award Bonus Points for a particular match win. Rankings are typically updated weekly. The actual points awarded by tournament level and by round changes slightly each year and varies by section, so be sure to look on your section’s website for the latest information.

Tennis Recruiting (TRN) publishes both rankings and Star Ratings based on a player’s high school graduation year. Rankings are updated each Tuesday and Star Ratings are updated twice per year. Unlike PPR, players are not rated or ranked by age group but rather by recruiting class. Head-to-head results definitely factor into both the ratings and the rankings on TRN though the algorithms they use are way too complicated for me to understand or explain (click here for my 2012 article on the intricacies of TRN)! TRN counts only singles matches (doubles are not included) that actually start, even if one player retires during the match. An exception would be a match in which a player plays one (or just a few) points to avoid Suspension Points by USTA. Dallas Oliver of TRN told me, “In our system, winning always helps – although wins over players rated far below do not help much. Losing badly always hurts (close losses can actually help in our predictive rankings which use scores) – although losses to players rated far above do not hurt much. So it’s all about competition – and the back draw gives you the chance to play more matches.” TRN uses both USTA junior tournaments and ITF tournaments to calculate its ratings and rankings. At this time, high school and ITA matches are not included.

Universal Tennis (UTR) publishes ratings based solely on actual matches played. They look at a player’s 30 most recent singles match results (doubles are not included), apply their proprietary algorithm, then rate the player on a scale from 1-16.5 to provide a snapshot of where a particular player is in comparison to other players in a given week. Gender is not a consideration. Neither is age nor country of origin. All players world-wide are rated together on the same scale. Only matches that are actually played are included. Walkovers or defaults are not counted. And, UTR pulls match results from a wide variety of sources including USTA junior tournaments, USTA adult tournaments, high school matches, ITF tournaments, ITA tournaments, and college dual matches among others. According to the UTR guiding principles, any two players within a 1.0 rating differential should have a competitive match, and if a player rated more than 1.0 below the opponent wins the match, that is considered an upset. For more information, click here and here.

Lately, there has been a lot of conversation around “gaming” these various systems, especially in terms of avoiding lower-ranked/rated opponents in order to manipulate the numbers. Rest assured that the brains behind TRN and UTR are constantly on the lookout for the “gamers” as are college coaches. With PPR, it’s a bit easier to get an inflated ranking just by scouring draws and traveling to weaker tournaments to earn points. With UTR and TRN, that simply doesn’t work since each opponent’s rating and ranking are taken into consideration. As Bruce Waschuk at UTR explained to me, “If a player ducks too many matches, they could end up with an unreliable UTR, at which point tournament organizers will no longer use their rating for seedings or selections. Some college coaches do check actual draws to see if a prospective recruit demonstrates chronic match withdrawal characteristics. Being too clever with respect to matches played in an effort to ‘game’ rankings or ratings could hurt a junior in the end, if their goal is to play college tennis.”

Now that you understand how the various numbers are calculated, what’s the best way to use these indicators?

For entry-level players who are just starting to play tournaments, PPR is probably the most important number since it determines your USTA ranking and whether you will be selected for certain tournaments as well as whether you will be seeded in those events (for players just starting on the ITF circuit, PPR is useful there as well). There’s a great website called MyTennisNetwork that allows you to search for tournaments and view the USTA rankings of players who have entered each tournament so you can tell if your ranking will earn you a spot in the draw and/or a seeding. I highly recommend this site for anyone new to tournaments as a way to keep track of entry deadlines and to search for the appropriate level tournaments in your area.

Once a player is entrenched in the junior competition structure and has played close to 30 matches, UTR becomes very valuable as a way to find appropriate tournaments (you can copy and paste the entry list from USTA and ITF tournaments into UTR to determine where your player falls in the field) and practice partners. The free account provides enough basic information to get started. But, for those juniors hoping to play college tennis, a Premium or Premium Plus Account is definitely worth the small cost. UTR is incredibly helpful in choosing schools to contact since you can pull up the UTRs of all the players on a particular team or even a particular conference to figure out whether you would be a desirable addition to the team.UTR

TRN typically starts rating and ranking players beginning in their 6th grade year, so it’s good to go ahead and set up a free account once you hit that point in school. As you enter your sophomore or junior year of high school, it may be worthwhile to sign up for a Recruiting Advantage Account so you can see which college coaches are viewing your profile, add more details like photos and videos, and update your GPA and test scores (click here to find out what college coaches can see on TRN). For a complete description of the various features available on TRN, click here.

Speaking of college coaches, I have heard from many of them that they are using all three of these indicators – USTA, TRN, and UTR – in addition to other more subjective factors when deciding whether or not to recruit a particular player.

Rather than worrying too much about ratings and rankings, a junior player’s best approach is to continue working on his/her game, playing matches against a variety of opponents, and – if college tennis is the goal – making sure to have a high enough GPA and SAT/ACT score to ensure admission into a desirable school. Stressing out over the incremental changes that may occur week to week doesn’t serve anyone. College coaches look at trends – are a player’s ratings and rankings moving up or down over time? – and tend to ignore little hiccups that may show up if a player has a bad week or two on the courts. While it’s nice to have a current picture of where you stand against your peers, I sometimes think the once-per-year rankings we had when I was playing juniors was a saner approach to the game. Regardless, these indicators are here to stay, so please use them in the manner in which they’re intended: to help you reach your highest potential as you go through the Junior Tennis Journey.

USTA & ITF Rankings on TennisRecruiting.net

You may have noticed the recent addition of both USTA and ITF rankings on your child’s TennisRecruiting.net (TRN) profile. I asked TRN’s Dallas Oliver why they decided to add this information, especially given all the confusion over USTA rankings and point tables in 2014. Here is his response:

“Don’t read anything into the timing. Coaches (and others) have asked for us to show USTA and ITF rankings on our profile pages for years. We think this will be good for Tennis Recruiting. Since it is easy to find players on our site, we thought our site would be more valuable as a jumping-off place for people to find all information about a player – not just Tennis Recruiting information. We hope to add Universal Tennis to the list at some point in the near future as well. Hopefully, people will use Tennis Recruiting as their starting point for all junior tennis information – the more information, the better.”

It is now more important than ever for your child to check his/her TRN profile on a regular basis to be sure the information is up to date. College coaches are using TRN as a first-stop, so you want to be sure your child is putting his/her best face forward!

 

 

It’s That Time Again

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I just received notice from TennisRecruitingNetwork that its 2014 Winter Star Rating Period will begin the week of January 6 and run through the week of February 24. That means that your child’s rating for the next 6 months will be based on his/her results over this 8-week period.

For a refresher on how TennisRecruiting calculates rankings and star ratings, I’ve copy-and-pasted my previous piece from June 2012 below. Please read and share with your child and his/her coach. Good luck to all our junior players!

By now, most of my readers are probably very familiar with the TennisRecruiting.net website.  Well, I recently discovered that the creators of the site, Julie and Doug Wrege, live about a mile and half from my house (!), so I figured I would pick their brains a bit about how the site came into existence as well as the way parents and players should be using the information available on the site to their best advantage.

The first thing to note is that Julie and Doug are not now, nor have they ever been, Tennis Parents; that is to say, none of their children played tournament tennis.  However, Julie is a very accomplished player and college coach in her own right – she started the very successful women’s tennis program at Georgia Tech – and Doug is an internet technology guru – he wrote the very first tennis-related software, Tournament Management System, in the 1980s and was the first to put tournament draws on the Web.  As a result of Julie’s extensive college coaching experience, she knew what the coaches needed to see in terms of player records and rankings, and she wanted to create something better for them to use.  In 2004, with Doug’s help, TennisRecruiting.net was born!

Now, the basics of TRN and its Star Rating System . . .

The TRN ratings, done by graduating class, go from Blue Chip (highest) to 1 star (lowest) as follows:

Blue Chip:  top 25 players in the class

5-Star:  players ranked 26-75

4-Star:  players ranked 76-200

3-Star:  players ranked 201-400

2-Star:  players ranked 401 up to a number based on a percentage of the size of that class

1-Star:  a player with any qualifying ranking

TRN looks at 6th graders through 12th graders and ranks 16,000 boys each year out of the approximately 34,000 male junior players currently playing and competing.  They rank about the same number of girls.  Therefore, even a 1-Star player is better than more than half the juniors currently playing tournaments.  Ratings are based solely upon a player’s position within his own high school graduating class year; for example, a 14-year-old high school freshman would be rated independently of a 14-year-old 8th grader even though they are both eligible to play in the 14-and-under age division.

In order to be ranked on TRN, a junior must play in a minimum of 3 TRN-eligible tournaments and win a minimum of 3 matches (2 of which must be over other eligible players). Ratings happen twice a year – at the end of February and the Tuesday after Labor Day in September. Ratings are preceded by an 8-week rating period. The player’s highest ranking during the 8-week rating period will determine that player’s Star Rating per the chart above.

All matches from TRN-eligible events in a one year window are used to compute a player’s ranking, independent of age division or class of the players. In addition, TRN looks at a player’s 8 best wins during that period, averages them, then uses that as one of several complicated (understatement of the year!) mathematical components to determine the final ranking. Ratings, age, and graduation year of a player’s opponents are not used in the calculation. Previous rankings are not used to determine current rankings – TRN starts from scratch for each week’s ranking. It is important to note that wins never hurt a player’s ranking and losses never help it.  Also, “retirement” of a match counts as a loss but a “walkover” does not.

Matches are weighed according to when they were played.  A win today counts more than a win against the same opponent six months ago.  This is one way that TRN makes it very difficult to “play” their rating system or “buy” rankings.  For your player to improve his ranking on TRN, he should be sure to enter tournaments where he can win some matches but NOT where he is, by far, the best player in the draw.  As Doug says, “Winning makes you feel good.  Losing makes you learn something.”  Because of the extensive analysis that goes into the TRN rankings, college coaches consider them to be a better predictor of player quality and who’s going to beat whom in head-to-head competition.

How should players and parents use TRN?  During the Middle School years, TRN is just another tool at players’ fingertips to track their progress and that of their peers.  Parents should check their child’s profile using the Free Account option and make sure all the information is correct – if it’s not, then you can either make the corrections yourself or contact TRN if you have any questions or problems.  There are also some very useful articles on the TRN site written by experts in the junior tennis world – take advantage of this free tool to educate yourself and your child during these important developmental years.

Once a player enters High School, you might want to consider buying a TRN Recruiting Advantage membership so you can see which college coaches are looking at your child’s Player Profile.  The membership also allows you to upload gallery photos, videos, and article references mentioning your child.  It is well worth the $49.95 annual fee!  But, here’s a great tip from Doug:  if you have multiple tennis players in your family or are on a limited budget, pay only for a membership for your oldest child then use that account to do everything on the website for all of your children except see the coach visits and upload the photos, videos, and articles.  Once the oldest graduates high school, cancel the account and get one for the next child.  Another great tip from Doug is that you can buy a monthly membership (which renews automatically), load all the information you want during that first month, then cancel the account.  The information will stay on your child’s profile, but you will no longer be paying the monthly membership fee.  To cancel the account, simply click on the Member Services link at the top of the page then un-check the “Auto Renew” option.  Voila!

Given that Doug is giving away these money-saving tips, let me share how TennisRecruiting.net generates its revenue.  Initially, TRN’s biggest source of income came from players signing up for an enriched profile with the Recruiting Advantage membership.  On top of that, the college coaches pay TRN to have access to the player information.  Very recently, however, TRN started selling advertising on its website, which has now become its largest source of revenue.  If you’re a user of TRN, please consider using the advertiser links on the site in order to help TRN continue to offer its free services!

I want to emphasize that TRN is about much more than player rankings.  Doug and Julie are working tirelessly in the junior tennis community to ensure that more kids have the opportunity for cross-sectional play and that they have the opportunity to play college tennis if that’s their goal.  With the recent changes in the USTA National Tournament Schedule and smaller draw sizes, the Wreges have their work cut out for them.  They are currently working with tournament directors around the US to encourage more open events, even if it won’t impact the player’s USTA ranking, by designating tournaments as “Historically Strong” so that the players have an opportunity to improve their TRN ranking and become a TRN “National Player” (one who has won a match in a USTA National Level 1-3 event or other event that counts toward a USTA national ranking).  The upcoming Georgia State Junior Open will be the first of these tournaments – information on that tourney is online here.

This is a lot of information to digest – I know! – but please do yourself and your child a favor and do some poking around on the TRN site.  Familiarize yourself with their ratings and rankings.  Read the articles, especially the Q&As with the different college coaches if that’s your child’s goal.  Make sure your child’s information and player record are correct.  If your child is in high school, upgrade to the paid membership, at least for a period of time.  It will be time and money well-spent.

TRN’s National Showcase Series

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As I’ve been posting on Facebook and Tweeting this week, TennisRecruiting.net recently announced its National Showcase Series for 2013.

Per the email I received yesterday from TRN, the National Showcase Tournaments are designed to give players a chance to compete outside of their districts and sections.  They are seeking to fill the gap left by USTA’s 2013 and 2014 junior competition calendar changes, some of which limit players to competing within their own section or region.  While the TRN events will NOT count toward USTA national rankings, they WILL count toward USTA sectional or district ranking (if the player is competing in one of these events held in his/her own section or district of residence) as well as a player’s ranking and star rating on TennisRecruiting.net.  It’s important to note that players who choose to compete in National Showcase events held OUTSIDE their section or district of residence will not receive USTA ranking points but will still get credit toward their TRN ranking and star rating.

TRN’s Dallas Oliver says, “The idea of these National Showcase tournaments is to provide meaningful cross-play between different areas that will provide more data for meaningful national rankings. We have gotten a lot of positive feedback so far – players and parents appreciate having more choices. And the tournament directors we have on board so far have great reputations for running quality tournaments.  We think that this tournament series has a lot of positive qualities. These are USTA-sanctioned events, so players and their families will get a familiar experience. But the tournaments will not be on the USTA national schedule, which obviates the concerns many had about ‘point-chasing’. At the same time, these tournaments will count for Tennis Recruiting rankings, and so there are rewards for players to compete in them.”

Tournaments in the National Showcase are “open” tournaments. Entries for these tournaments will be open to all USTA players, regardless of residence. The bulk of these tournaments are scheduled during the summer or on long holiday weekends to accommodate travel and reduce missed school days.  Players and parents need to look at their section’s 2013 tournament schedule to find out the level of those Showcase events held within their section. In the Southern section, for example, some of the Showcases are Southern Level 3s and some are Southern Level 4s, and USTA ranking points will be awarded accordingly.

I asked TRN’s founder, Julie Wrege, why they decided to get USTA sanctioning for the Showcases.  She told me that a USTA sanction insures that the rules of tennis will be followed, certified officials will be used at the tournament, scheduling will be done according to the rules, and results will be published on TennisLink.  I expressed my concern that USTA would see the Showcases as filling in the gap left by the elimination of several national events and use them to justify the 2013 and 2014 changes.  Julie feels that the Showcases will not take the place of anything that is proposed or is going on now.  These tournaments carry no USTA points at the national level – and only at the section level if sanctioned by a section – and only at a district level if sanctioned by a district.  She went on to say that the sections need to have a lot more sectional play – and these few events scattered across the country will not fill that gap.

It is important to note:

  • All events in a National Showcase tournaments will count for Tennis Recruiting national rankings.
  • A player who competes in one of these events and has a win – in the main draw or a consolation event – will become a Tennis Recruiting National Player.
  • Entry into these events is open to all USTA players, regardless of residence.
  • Acceptance will start with the USTA National Rankings – followed by the USTA sectional and district rankings.

Here is the current schedule of National Showcase tournaments. Several more tournaments will be added to this 2013 schedule as their USTA sanctions are finalized:

StartsTournamentEventsContact
12/26COSTA MESA OPEN CLASSIC
Costa Mesa, CA
BG18H. Lloyd
3/30GEORGIA/ALABAMA OPEN
Dothan, AL
BG18-16D. Bryan
3/30GEORGIA/ALABAMA OPEN
Bainbridge, GA
BG14-12T. Thompson
4/06BLUEGRASS SPRING JR. OPEN
Louisville, KY
BG18-12C. Mather
4/26OJAI JR. TENNIS TOURNAMENT
Ojai, CA
G18, BG16-14C. Fugle
5/25NORTH GEORGIA OPEN
Rome, GA
BG18-12R. Sasseville
6/25NEWPORT NEWS OPEN
Newport News, VA
BG18-12S. Dearth
6/24LA JOLLA JR. CHAMPIONSHIPS
La Jolla, CA
BG18-12B. Davis
6/29JACKSONVILLE OPEN
Jacksonville, FL
BG18-12R. Jenks
7/01WILBUR FOLSON MEMORIAL OPEN
San Diego, CA
BG18-12A. Podney
7/13GEORGIA JUNIOR OPEN
Rome, GA
BG18-12R. Sasseville
7/15COSTA MESA SUMMER CLASSIC
Costa Mesa, CA
BG18-12H. Lloyd
8/03HUDLOW JR. OPEN
Norcross, GA
BG18-14C. Chapin
8/04SANTA CLARA BRONCO OPEN
Santa Clara, CA
BG18-16J. Scalese
8/11SANTA CLARA BRONCO OPEN
Santa Clara, CA
BG14-12J. Scalese
8/16ST. LOUIS JR. SUMMER OPEN
St. Louis, MO
BG18-12J. Dippold
9/21BLUEGRASS FALL JR. OPEN
Louisville, KY
BG18-12C. Mather
9/28ST. LOUIS JR. FALL OPEN
St. Louis, MO
B18-12J. Dippold
11/22ATLANTA THANKSGIVING OPEN
Norcross, GA
BG18-16C. Chapin
11/22ATLANTA THANKSGIVING OPEN
Norcross, GA
BG14-12T. Berne
11/29WESTERN STATES JR. OPEN
Tucson, AZ
BG18-12M. Houk

Again, according to Dallas Oliver, “We are excited to have 20 tournaments on the schedule so far, and we are reasonably pleased with how they are spread around the country. There are clearly some areas – like New England and the mid-Atlantic region – where we need to do better. Hopefully players and parents can talk to their favorite tournament directors about running a National Showcase tournament – we would love to hear from them!”

As you can see above, the first Showcase Tournament is the Costa Mesa Open – an 18s event that takes place the week before New Year’s in Costa Mesa, Calif. If you are interested in that one, register now at their tournament page on TennisLink or contact Hank Lloyd at hltcm@sbcglobal.net. But hurry – entries close next Thursday, December 20!  For TRN’s FAQ on the National Showcase Series, click here.

One last note from the folks at TRN: “At the end of the day, we feel that the more choices there are, the better. These National Showcase tournaments should provide more of these choices without interfering with the goals that the USTA has put forward for earned advancement.”