Why Pickleball Ratings are Overrated

When you first stepped on a pickleball court and before you made your first dink or first serve, you are assigned a rating. As a new player, you are generally rated from a range of 1.0-2.0. Your rating will increase as you improve and match the criteria established by USA Pickleball’s Definition of Playing Skills Rating.

Ratings are useful for organizing tournament brackets and they can serve as a guide for recreational players seeking comparable competition and venues to play. But some players get wrapped up in ratings like some school kids obsess about getting “A’s” on their report cards.

Listed below are five observations (and reservations) about player ratings:
1. For most recreational players, ratings represent their own subjective judgement as to how they perform. Not surprising, some (not many) players may over exaggerate their skills. Part of it may stem from ego; part of it may stem from a misunderstanding of what the rating entails. It’s similar to when employees and managers complete their yearly personal evaluations—they tend to exaggerate their skills and results.

2. Ratings are a moving target. Some players have been known to rate their skill levels higher on Meet-up profiles but lower it when they register for tournaments. Ratings are based on performance—it literally can move up and down based on how one plays within a day or time period. Ratings may not account for slumps or jumps in improved play.

3. There aren’t enough metrics behind the ratings. In football, a Quarterback receives his rating based on pass attempts, completions, yards passing and interceptions. In pickleball, it’s based on wins and losses on what some competitive players complain is an uneven playing field at times. At a competitive level, your doubles rating may be influenced by the performance of your partner, for better or worse. There really are no metrics for recreational players—-moving up is based on the player’s comfort and competitive levels.

4.The ratings criteria established by the USA Pickleball’s Definition of Playing Skills Rating is not definitive or clear and is subject to interpretation. For example: what constitutes a “high majority of serves/returns” to achieve 4.0 status? 60%? 75? 90%? What does “understands fundamentals,” or “fundamental rules” as cited for 3.0s mean? The term “consistency” is used throughout all the ratings but that really is very subjective term and needs clarification.

5. The USA Pickleball’s Definition of Playing Skills Rating does not include the following for ranking: player’s fitness, mobility (court coverage) court awareness, hand speed, reaction time, athleticism etc. It has a very modest benchmark for footwork for a 4.5 rating…“Has good footwork and moves laterally, backward, and forward well.” I think the footwork criteria cited for 4.5 is an appropriate criteria at 3.5 and certainly no later than 4.0. In other sports, a player’s ranking (or draft status) is based primarily on physical attributes. Pickleball needs to consider adding those criteria.

Final Thoughts:
USA Pickleball has initiated a project to improve the players rating system. However I think this project is more intended for tournament players as opposed to social or recreational play. The sport is young and as part of the growing pains, needs to add metrics for professional and tournament play as well as developing improved tracking of tournament player performance.

Ratings can be used to segregate players and venues. In some cases, it serves as a firewall to prevent a crossover of advanced beginners to intermediate play and advanced intermediate to advanced play. At some recreational meet-ups, organizers are creating their own rating system to discourage participants to play at their venues.

Pickleball is changing dramatically in terms of participants, exposure, and opportunities. Hopefully the “open” culture survives and that hubris, ego and greed does not change it.

Winter Ponderings

Stupidity has spread faster than omicron in this country. Omicron is transmitted by air, stupidity spreads generally by social media and right wing blogs and networks.

Omicron’s ill effects are mild and short term (for the vaccinated). Stupid’s effects are long term and spur many and various variants, most uncontrolled and impervious for remedy.

January 6, 2021 is a metaphorical “Fort Sumter” on the current civil war in the United States.

Does anyone think long-term today? Companies and their shareholders don’t. Politicians don’t. Sports franchises don’t. We live in an era of instant gratification. Many if not most of the public demand instant results. A first year coach in any sport gets critical comments from his team’s fanbase if the wins and losses aren’t to their exaggerated expectations.

My description of a woman I know: “She is as cold as a blizzardly blustery late January sundown in Buffalo…”

At age 69, I should have developed an immunity towards being disappointed and hurt. I have not. While I am more philosophical about experiencing those emotions, I have not developed an antibody for the sadness I feel.

Observations that I have read and found worthy of repeat…

Having been retired for about three years, I look back on my “career” in various positions as defining a job as an inconvenient interruption between weekends. Phil from Philadelphia (comment on NYT article Public Displays of Resignation: Saying ‘I Quit’ Loud and Proud)

“It is simple: depending on others is misery; depending on yourself is power.”
—Robert Greene, The Daily Laws

“To keep Trump and his epigones away from high office, it isn’t enough to have the moral high ground. It’s like something Adlai Stevenson supposedly said once when a voter told him that every thinking person was on his side. “I’m afraid that won’t do,” he replied. “I need a majority.” Democracy needs a majority.” (Bret Stephens NYT Covid 3.0, Biden 2.0 and Trump Number …1/10/22)

Take Five

Here are five brief observations swirling in my head waiting to get out:

  1. There was a time in our recent past when just one ill-advised comment could cause a politician or celebrity to lose their job or status. I’m thinking of Jimmy the Greek, George Romney and Ed Muskie to name a few. Today we have a number of politicians, pundits and journalists who make their livelihoods and careers based on almost daily ill-advised comments, reporting and opinions.
  2. Remember when the best way to judge a person was based on what they do, not necessarily what they say. So many people today are more impressed with empty hype than performance. A well delivered promise that may or may not come to fruition carries more weight than actual results.
  3. The day when we all signed up for AOL decades ago was the day that we forfeited our rights of privacy.
  4. The sole criterion for many Americans on the status and success of the US presidency is that the current officeholder is not named Trump.
  5. My grandmother died in 1971. She had tens of thousands of dollars representing her life savings in a mattress. She never had a bank account. I suspect that given she lived through the bank failures of the 1930s that she feared putting her money in a bank. Interestingly enough, if she was alive today, she would be earning about the same amount of interest income from putting her money in a mattress than putting her money in a bank.

Think, not Dink Pickleballs

Since I could not play pickleball this weekend, I chose to write about it…

The Association of Pickleball Professionals (APP), and Professional Pickleball Association (PPA), similar to the the battle between the American Football Conference vs. the National Football Conference in the 1960s are trying to “poach” players for their respective organizations. The PPA is offering three year contracts to various pro players. This may provide the financial opportunities for many pickleball players to leave their day jobs and focus on their sport. The expectation, is that like football, these organizations will find both business and financial reasons to merge at some point.

Commercialization of pickleball will continue to expand. There will be more playing venues, tournaments, clinics, clothing lines, paddles, magazines and podcasts to attract an affluent and receptive customer base. I don’t doubt that we will soon see $300 pickleball paddles…

On that note, I wonder when there will be online gambling on professional pickleball tournaments?

Recommended pickleball podcast: Dink Pickleball

Recommended YouTube pickleball instruction videos: anything by Morgan Evans. He has this crazy serve that is almost unreturnable. He is also the best commentator on pickleball.

I hope that Simone Jardim has a successful 2022. She announced that she would retire at the end of this year. She has been beset with injuries, personal difficulties and former tournament partners abandoning her. I remember the verbal online abuse when she withdrew from parts of tournaments last year. Turns out she had to withdraw from all her injuries, not from sandbagging.

Personal Thoughts and Reflections:

My 2022 Resolution: Invest time in drilling and practice. I have witnessed players who probably have increased their ratings by .25 to .50 by participating in weekly pickleball drills.

Presents I wish I found under my Xmas Pickleball Tree:

Willie Palm’s lobs
Linda Zarrilli’s temperament
Liz TE’s energy
Sean McCloskey’s serve
Jay Doskis drop shot
Manny Lai’s forehand drive
Troy Clemmer’s court coverage
Lee Collins’s backhand volley
Julie Close’s angled shots
Reuven Cohen’s spin shots
Lucy Kovalova

The local game is changing exponentially. On the plus side, we have more places to play, increased opportunities for clinics and training, more tournaments and membership in South Jersey Pickleball continues to grow. However with the growth comes challenges. Even with the additional venues, there are still sizable waitlists at various Meet-ups frustrating many. The wide community of South Jersey pickleball is slowly being re-organized into smaller units of informal pickleball groups where you can only play or participate by invitation only. In some cases, the criteria is not how you play, but how you fit in. I understand the exclusivity, up to a point, if it is based on competitive criteria. I just hope that South Jersey Pickleball does not become a group of smaller locked communities.

Career Advice from the Middle of the Org Chart

I wrote this essay about 10 years or more about corporate life and getting ahead. The ideas and comments are more appropriate for someone entering the corporate life in their 20s but there are some universal truths for workers of all ages. To be honest, I wish I took some of this advice early in my career.

  1. Don’t accept a “maintenance” job. We’re not talking cleaning or janitorial services but a position that requires you to maintain the status quo. If a position cannot be improved or reinvented, it’s not worth pursuing.
  2. Within one hour of starting your new job, generally a new employee will know if they have made a mistake in accepting the job offer.
  3. Within one hour of a new employee starting a new job, their boss and co-workers will know if the new employee’s hiring was a mistake.
  4. Bringing in “new blood” to a company does not necessarily stop the bleeding.
  5. The number of people is not as important as the character and reputation of people in your social network.
  6. Results, recommendations and reputation always trump the best written resume.
  7. Too often a company truly understands the value of an employee not by their presence but when they are gone.
  8. It’s not the size of a business document with ideas that counts, it’s the feasibility of the ideas within the document that matter.
  9. Good work alone won’t get you a raise or promotion; good work that gets noticed and appreciated by others will. People who get promotions are excellent at promoting themselves.
  10. If you are seeking a promotion inside your company, promote yourself well outside it.
  11. The desire for principal generally overcomes the need for principle in most business decisions.
  12. Many corporate refugees finally find the boss of their dreams when they become self employed.
  13. Companies can find managers fairly easily, leaders not so easily.
  14. Employee recognition awards make great consolation prizes when a company won’t or can’t deliver on a promised promotion or merit raise.
  15. Be very skeptical when listening to other people’s career advice or about getting ahead in business, including this list.

“Hello,” I Must Be Going

There are two kinds of “Hello.” The first is a friendly one that invites further conversation or introduction. The second one is a clipped insouciant greeting that indicates no interest in any conversation or introduction. A one word message that communicates far beyond its brevity depending on the tone and intent of its delivery.

Why I Dislike Watching NFL Football

Total TV Time to Watch Game: 200 Minutes

Total plays 100 (e.g. Eagles vs. Washington)

Average Time of each play: 05 seconds

Action viewed: 100 x 05 seconds = 20 minutes

10% of watching the game relates to action on the field

Average 25 commercials or more per quarter or over 100 commercials per game (many sponsoring gambling)

“Old” Lang Syne

I have celebrated 70 New Years Days. I have outgrown resolutions as most of them were simply wishful thinking on my part. It’s a bit of a somber day as I reflect upon family members, friends, acquaintances and places that no longer exist. I wonder how many “Time Square Ball Drops” are left in my life?

This was a somber New Year’s Day for most of the people in the United States. Omicron limited travel, family reunions, parties, hugs and handshakes. The celebrations and crowds at Times Square last night were very subdued. Hopefully next year life will return to a more routine existence. Maybe this can be a resolution for the CDC and other government agencies?

I remember looking forward to the football bowl games on New Year’s Day. The Orange, Rose and Sugar Bowls had the best games with the best competition. Bowl competition today has been severely diluted. Even a Rutgers team with a 5-7 record managed to play in a bowl game, though they were a substitute for a more qualified team that was going through Covid.

It’s time to get rid of the ice or Gatorade baths that winning coaches suffer at the end of games.

No one seems to get excited about the Mummers parade in Philadelphia or the Tournament of Roses Parade any more. When I was a young kid, I remember fighting with my mom at not being able to watch football as she chose to watch the parades. Of course this was a time (1960s) when most families only had one television.

Betty White passed away yesterday at age 99. She was a very skillful comedienne who was also very attractive. Comediennes currently who combine talent for humor and great looks include Aisley Bea, Tina Fey, Cecily Strong, Amy Poehler, Kristen Wiig, Katherine Ryan and Kate McKinnon.

A lot of prognosticators and people with crystal balls thought the 2021 was going to be a much better year than 2020. They were disappointed. Covid did not go away. People continued to die and be hospitalized with the pandemic. Despite a new president, the political divide got worse. While the stock market did very well, most of the country suffered from inflated prices from houses, cars, gasoline, clothes and in particular, food. I think it’s more prudent to hope than predict future events for 2022.