Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Top Dog

Top Dog is Tennis New Zealand's National ranking system, its been with us for a while.Lets revisit and ask the question is it creating a culture for developing players at elite level or is it just a social ranking system that at the end of the day means nothing.Of course we all know that its taken from New Zealand Squash and modeled from that.I wrote an article as it was being introduced raising some issues.At the end of the day its very hard to get a National ranking system exactly right ,its more the culture that top dog is producing that I have concerns about and those concerns are still there in reviewing what I had written some time ago.

The instigation of Top Dog was very socially weighted and not addressing certain world wide ranking systems and why they are in place.The USTA has this to say about rankings and especially junior ..it believes it is imperative to have a system that our players can readily comprehend and that encourages them to structure their schedules to address the key elements of player development.

After considerable research, the High Performance Division and the Youth Competition and Training Committee have concluded that a version of a points-based ranking system best addresses the specific objectives identified above and the overall goal of helping players reach their potential. By using tiered levels of importance we can weigh our events, assign regulations that help our juniors to compete often, and put the emphasis on advancing through the draw. The simple concept of having a player capable of categorizing an event, determining its level, and understanding the ranking impact of success in that event allows the player to understand what needs to be done. This is an invaluable asset in developing tangible and measurable goals that also help the player’s preparation and motivation.

Now one of the most important points the above addresses and I have highlighted is this "By using tiered levels of importance we can weigh our events, assign regulations that help our juniors to compete often, and put the emphasis on advancing through the draw. "Not with Top Dog! ranking points are determined heavily on a head to head match up and this system has demeaned National Titles as they are no more relevant than a local Interclub game.Roger Federer will be rewarded with points regardless who he beats if he wins the French Open , but not here in fact many of the Top Juniors overlook the importance of playing these tournaments.Two New Zealand juniors picked for World junior Fed Cup etc chose to play tournaments in Australia and bypass their own April National's.By not having the top players compete it does make a farce of the event and that has to be looked at ,and should be a requirement for team selection.

Here are some other relevant points that Top Dog falls a little short on and confirms for the need of a more defined ranking and rating system.The below is targeted for a Tiered Points system recognizing major events such as April Nationals in New Zealand.

· It is aspirational, allowing players to see where they sit within their peer group.

· It supports a simple grading and points structure that remains consistent throughout all age groups. THIS IS A VERY IMPORTANT POINT

· It encourages competitors to play up an age group when they are ready, without it having a negative impact on their ranking within their own age group

· Ranking by age groups supports international practice and the ITF and Tennis Europe age groups.

· Adult competition consists predominantly of non-ranking events.

It is common Knowledge that some clubs and administrators have designed local club competitions to improve certain Junior rankings by playing inflated Adults that have a ranking set by their club Administrator.It also discriminates smaller regions who do not have the players or the regular competition to gain points.

Now work out these latest figures Top Dog has a 5,000 player increase over the last 12 months ,Total players at 35,038 however 14,385 are Inactive...so that means around 50% have left the sport? Where are they?

As a coach it helps to recognise the level and strength of an event and understand the ranking impact of success within any graded tournament. This in turn provides tangible and measurable goals for the player and allows the coach and player to formulate a competitive schedule that reflects the players’ long-term Development Plan.

There are good points with the Top Dog System but its outside the box that needs more thought and reason.Top Dog talk at tournament's sometimes ends in being the joke of the day so its with interest I would like to hear comments and other ideas and shortfalls if you have experienced them.Just leave a comment with this post.

Whilst on the subject of Junior Tennis there are proposed changes to National Teams events.In fact one idea is too scrap the 16s event ...the 16s have allready been reduced.In regions such as Southern its a goal by Junior players to make these teams to play at Nationals, its an incentive to keep a lot of 15 year olds in the sport.One ridiculous thought was that the schools competition fills the void at this age group.I mean again look out side that big city mentality and think of players whose schools don t even submit a team to their local regional event.Cost is a factor some say! Well I have the perfect scenario cut back on some of the administrators and spend more on the core juniors.Grasshoppers are being toted as a great new way to introduce young players to the sport only to take away at the 15 year old age group.Its these players that are the clubs future....ask the juniors do they enjoy teams events and see what the responses are.

There has been a New CEO of New Zealand appointed . comes from a successfull background with Surf Life Saving ( lets hope a rescue package is in place) .One of the 6 regions which covers a big slice of one of the Island's is not in a healthy state in fact it has not had a board meeting for 12 months now.The last 3 years Administrators have tried to Fast Track proposals and changes.More simplistic approaches that can be achieved and not wish in one hand idea's and come up with xxxx in the other hand need to be put in place.In summary Tournament play and doing well at National events need to be rewarded and events such as these need to be distinguished from a club match and a National Junior event.

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