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May 1, 2012
SANDBAGGING CALLED 'FATAL FLAW' IN POOL PLAY SYSTEMTerry Hennessy CEO
We would like to thank all of the managers who took the time to respond to the on-line Pool Play System survey.
Some 36.4 percent of managers responded, which was an exceptional response! Thank you!
Managers are the key leaders in senior softball and we take your comments very seriously in making decisions that we hope will improve the sport.
We will summarize the findings of the survey in a minute, but first we would like to explain why we asked for your input on the Pool Play System.
For the past few years, there has been much debate about the fairness of all players on a team receiving a rating based on the team rating. Players on the same team, as you know, have a variety of skill levels. For example, on a AAA team, there are usually a collection of a few AA and Major players along with the AAA players.
In an attempt to find out if it were possible to rate players individually, rather than as a team, we asked Rainer and Julie Martens to study the possibility. The Martens are retired university professors who have done many similar studies in other sports, and, importantly, Rainer and Julie manage the 65 Major-Plus Florida Legends team.
After thorough research of the issue, the Martens listed three possible ways to rate players: Skills testing, observer ratings and self-ratings.
Unfortunately they concluded that “A lack of reliability and validity would make the Player Skill Ratings no better than - and possibly worse than - the current team rating system.”
The Martens looked further into alternatives and suggested a Pool Play System and a National Team Ranking System.
The purpose of the Team Ranking System is to provide an incentive for teams to improve in the rankings and play at the highest possible level.
The Pool Play System is designed to more accurately measure team performance as it competes in tournaments, rather than rely on the historical strength of the team.
The Pool Play System was introduced at the SSUSA Convention in Florida in December and the Rules Committee recommended that the SSUSA staff explore the idea.
The success of any fundamental change in the sport depends heavily on the acceptance of the system by you, the managers. Therefore, we decided it was essential to get feedback from managers before we proceeded.
This was the reason for the survey.
As you can see from the charts below, most managers have reservations, but were willing to give the system a try. However, there was a major reservation: the issue of sandbagging.
The Pool Play System relies largely on a team’s performance in pool play to determine in which bracket it competes.
There were two types of sandbagging mentioned.
The first was intentionally playing weaker players (or players out of position) to end up in a weaker bracket.
The second type of sandbagging is really team management. A team with a large roster normally plays weaker players in seeding games to give them playing time and saves stronger players for the bracket games. If all teams did this, it would not necessarily be a problem, but in brackets where some teams have 11-12 players (and everyone plays every game) and some have 15-18 players, it can skew the result.
Two other National Senior Softball Associations have tried versions of the Pool Play, or Play-Down system and they failed largely because of the sandbagging issue.
There were a number of suggestions from managers on how to address sandbagging, including kicking teams out of a tournament, and placing them in a higher skilled bracket despite the results. While these suggestions may work, they are an extremely negative – and possibly arbitrary – action that can undermine a tournament.
After several discussions on implementing the Pool Play System, it became obvious that it could not be implemented piece-meal over time; it would have to replace the current ratings system at one time. Effectively, this could not be an “evolution,” it would have to be a “revolution.”
Therefore, we will not be able to implement the Pool Play System until we resolve the sandbagging issue, which we currently view as a fatal flaw in the system.
(These will be in chart form)
Here are the results of the survey:
Pool Play survey: 36.4% of Managers Responded
How many years have you participated in senior softball?
How satisfied are you with the current system where teams are classified into 4 skill levels based on the past record of the team?
From the brief description above do you understand how the Pool Play System would work?
What is your opinion about the Pool Play System?
Are there changes you would make to the Pool Play System as described herein?
Would you enter your team into a tournament where the Pool Play System is used?
If the Pool Play System were adopted, would you be in favor of continuing or dropping the run-limit rule?
How serious do you think [sandbagging] would be if the Pool Play System is adopted
Is the potential for sandbagging a sufficiently big problem that you would not adopt the Pool Play System?