Jak Beardsworth Tennis logo
e-mail Jak
Jak Beardsworth Tennis

JAK'S MONTHLY ESSAY SERIES: Achieving Your Personal Best

State of the Club Game: The Growing Death of Sportsmanship

By Jak Beardsworth

As someone just shy of six decades in the game as a player, coach and administrator, I've seen it all, including a disturbing slow decline of sportsmanship and fair play, particularly in league tennis, one of the USTA's premier components with over 300,000 participants, many of whom are newish players. After all, their mission statement is: "To promote and develop the growth of the game."

Sounds admirable, but at what cost to the game's long standing traditions? I wish that mission statement included, and should, the health of the game as well. Shouldn't quality of growth take precedent over quantitative growth? Sure, we live in very different times compared to the shamateur days of wooden rackets, all white attire, and under the table payments to "pro" players. Yet that was also a time when society enjoyed a greater general sense of civility, both in and out of the game.

It's fair to point out that this can be construed as, at least, part of the reason for some of the on-court boorishness and line-up tom foolery that takes place today in club team tennis. But make no mistake, that doesn't make it excusable.

Let's start with the USTA's admirable introduction of the NTRP (National Tennis Rating Program) rating system, first conceived in 1978 and then methodically implemented throughout the 80's. It was tennis' effort to replicate golf's long standing handicapping, in order to create a level, competitive playing field at the club level; one that today relies on computer algorithms to interpret match play data to place players in the correct skill category.

Sounds good, at least in theory.

Previously, for eons, clubs utilized a simpler (computers and algorithms were a distant reality) A, B, C system of rating their own members, who then competed with other area clubs doing the same. It was Club X's A team vs Club Y's A team, B vs B, and C vs C. A nationalized standardization of this A, B, C method did not exist. That's when club pride and bragging rights held sway with no effort to create egalitarian playing fields. Survival of the tennis' fittest. Team captains, predictably in good faith, placed their top doubles team at the #1 position, 2nd best team on paper at the #2 position, and so on, letting the chips fall where they may. They did not view their A players, for example, as absolutely interchangeable pieces, such as putting their #1 team at #3 to sacrifice first position and insure a win at #3 - a practice that has grown without any apparent meaningful consequences or correction in today's NTRP driven club game.

I'm trying to figure out exactly when and who decided that all 3.5's on a given team are perfectly equal in playing ability and therefore interchangeable – nonsense - and that captains can therefore "strategize" their line-ups to gain an unfair advantage over a team that's, shall we say, old school in their honor system based line-up. Just because "everyone does it," the common often repeated rationale, doesn't make it right.

This is not playing to one's strength and in the spirit of a game with worthy long-standing traditions. It's sand-bagging, stacking, etc. Call it what you will... I call it willful cheating and prioritizing winning above all else!

Katrina Adams, USTA CEO and President, states on their website: "We are doing our utmost to inspire fair play and sportsmanship at every level of play."

Yet, on the same site, I could find only one brief article by one Jackie Finn on the subject. Yes, "there are numerous USTA designated sportsmanship awards handed out throughout the year", but do they trickle down to the masses playing local club tennis and have a positive impact?

I most definitely think not from my vantage point. Lip service at best.

So, since the USTA and also any local independent leagues basically maintain a blind eye, it falls on you, your team members and your team captains to communicate both individually and en masse with both local league administrators and USTA National in order to voice your concerns about undermining line-up manipulation. I know you have them because I hear about it constantly from disgruntled, frustrated players. Be proactive by challenging those opponents clearly inserting players out of position, looking to cheat the system, you, and your teammates.

Now there's a New Year's tennis resolution that is, at the very least, part of a solution.

Copyright© 2017 by Jak Beardsworth Tennis. All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form.

COMMENTS WELCOME: JB1tennis@comcast.net

Jak Beardsworth Tennis Home Page

Past Essays

  • March 2023 - Classic finish line failure
    [read more]
  • February 2023 - Defending the lob over your net partner – The "Switch"
    [read more]
  • December 2022 - E. I. D. - Extended Impact Duration
    [read more]
  • November 2022 - Movement Enhancement to Stay Better In-Point Connected
    [read more]
  • September 2022 - Advanced Visualization 301
    [read more]
  • August 2022 - Tennis' uniqueness: warming-up the enemy
    [read more]
  • July 2022 - Extracting Double Faults Through Receiving Positions... and more
    [read more]
  • June 2022 - Consider Serve and Volley
    [read more]
  • May 2022 - How the Toss Primes the Serve Relaxation Pump
    [read more]
  • April 2022 - Ball Watching and Science
    [read more]
  • March 2022 - Caving
    [read more]
  • February 2022 - Kenny G and Emmo
    [read more]
  • January 2022 - The Knees
    [read more]

Essay Archives

Click a year to view more essays


  • December 2021 - The Match is with You
    [read more]
  • November 2021 - The Backup Racket in Your Bag
    [read more]
  • October 2021 - Every Tennis Player Can and Should Have a Weapon
    [read more]
  • September 2021 - LEARNING NEW SKILLS: First the Process, Then the Results
    [read more]
  • August 2021 - The Challenge of Visualizing… For Some
    [read more]
  • July 2021 - Playing with both your feet and your hands
    [read more]
  • June 2021 - Finding the Range
    [read more]
  • May 2021 - The Focus
    [read more]
  • April 2021 - About Your Butt Cap
    [read more]
  • March 2021 - The Essential Forehand and Backhand
    [read more]
  • February 2021 - On Being a Doubles All-Courter
    [read more]
  • January 2021 - Same Grip Volleying Myths
    [read more]


  • December 2020 - On mechanics and style
    [read more]
  • November 2020 - THE BIG 3: The Glue That Keeps Your Best Game Together
    [read more]
  • September 2020 - Protocol and Game Tradition Revisited
    [read more]
  • August 2020 - As Good as Your 2nd Serve
    [read more]
  • July 2020 - Shot Shaping
    [read more]
  • June 2020 - Getting a Point in Jeopardy Back to Neutral
    [read more]
  • May 2020 - A Positive Mind-Set: On and Off the Court in Today's C-19 Reality
    [read more]
  • April 2020 - The Zombie Tennis Creed – Top Ten
    [read more]
  • March 2020 - A Roadmap Into "The Zone"
    [read more]
  • February 2020 - The service toss: myths and realities
    [read more]
  • January 2020 - Shot Gazing
    [read more]


  • December 2019 - The Dreaded High Bouncing Moonball Dilemma
    [read more]
  • November 2019 - Chalk Flew: Troublesome Line Calling without Hawkeye in Clubland [read more]
  • October 2019 - In the Spirit of Don't Drink and Drive… Don't Think and Hit [read more]
  • September 2019 - Old School vs New School [read more]
  • August 2019 - Getting the Ball Where You Want It [read more]
  • July 2019 - Taking Points Off…What? [read more]
  • June 2019 - Confidence Is Confidence: Take It Wherever You Can Get It [read more]
  • May 2019 - TENNIS INNOVATION IMPLODES [read more]
  • April 2019 - Defending the Court with Older Bones: A Club Player's Guide to Saying "Nice Shot" Less [read more]
  • March 2019 - Do You Have Doubles Rally Tolerance? [read more]
  • February 2019 - I Knew Jimy Van Alen: A Historical Look Back [read more]
  • January 2019 - The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste: Mental Toughness Skills [read more]


  • December 2018 - Less Bling is the Thing [read more]
  • November 2018 - Anatomy of a Doubles Serve Return…from the Inside Out [read more]
  • October 2018 - Older Dogs and New Tricks: Still Improving at Any Age [read more]
  • September 2018 - The All-Important Dynamic of Gripping [read more]
  • August 2018 - The Cinemascope Syndrome: Undermining Your Ball Watching [read more]
  • June 2018 - Serving and Returning Better with a Quiet Eye [read more]
  • May 2018 - The Man Who Breathed for Two [read more]
  • January 2018 - Rituals Anyone? [read more]


  • December 2017 - Why Serving is so Difficult in Clubland [read more]
  • October 2017 - Managing your body and mind in tennis space [read more]
  • August 2017 - Why Bother Breathing to Improve Your Game [read more]
  • May 2017 - The "Maintaining" One's Game as One Ages Fallacy [read more]
  • February 2017 - Punta Gorda Tennis Clubs: Setting the Bar [read more]
  • January 2017 - State of the Club Game: The Growing Death of Sportsmanship [read more]

Check back often for more essays.