A major change has come this year for those playing in United States Tennis Association (USTA) leagues. New age group divisions have been formed within each skill level, offering more opportunities for play, but also creating confusion and scheduling challenges.
USTA adult league players formerly played either at or above their skill rating (generally 2.5-5.5) as determined by computer or self-rating. So a player age 18-49 and rated 4.0 could play on just one 4.0 or higher team. A player 50 and older could also play on a Senior team, and a player 60 and over could join a Super Senior team.
This year the USTA restructured leagues into more age groups in order to give players the opportunity to play on a team with those closer to their own age. Now that player who is 18-49 can play 18 & Over and 40 & Over. The senior designation has been replaced by 55 & Over, and districts are encouraged to add 65 or 70 & Over to their local leagues.
There are both advantages and disadvantages to this restructuring. For the player 40 and over who loves league play, the opportunity to play on more teams is wonderful, and older players appreciate playing with those in their age group without being overwhelmed by the athletic ability of a much younger player. A 3.5 player age 57 could conceivably play 3.5 18 & Over, 40 & Over, and 55 & Over, and if he or she wanted to play up, those same age groups could be played at the 4.0 level. Now that one player has a choice of six adult teams, and he might also be interested in 18 & Over and 40 & Over mixed doubles!
While this scenario sounds like a dream to a dedicated league player, as with any new programming, there were some problems. Although the Central Indiana Tennis Association (CITA) did a great job of spreading the word about the league restructuring, confusion was common, and scheduling courts for all these new age groups was challenging. The CITA staff, especially new District League Coordinator Toby Gaynor, found creative ways to handle all the teams, including staggering the starting dates for various age groups and dividing the summer league season into two sessions to accommodate more offerings. This will allow many mixed doubles players to play 18 & Over the first summer session and 40 & Over the second session.
Captains had to decide what age levels to have teams for, and players had more decisions to make too. Each league team registration was $49.50 per person, so players who qualified for several age divisions had to determine how much they could afford and what day(s) they could play. There was some overlap; for example, a 55 & Over team played the same night as a 40 & Over team, and some women were on both teams, so there were problems with their availability. Players who were turning 50 this year had looked forward to playing Senior tennis, but now they must wait another five years.
Players are still adjusting, and the first year of a new system always brings challenges. Indy-area players will have a better understanding of their options after a full year under the restructuring. At least there will be no shortage of league opportunities!