When this article was due, I was having a lot of nasty and inaccurate accusations thrown at me for doing nothing more than my job of coordinating this League. I told David Sickmen, publisher of Long Island Tennis Magazine, that for the first time since the publication started, I cannot submit an article. At that point, every time I sat down to write it, the piece kept going into a personal direction with all the nonsense I was dealing with on one particular weekend. A couple of days have passed and there are some things that need to be addressed on as much of a “non-personal” level as possible.
This League has more than 250 teams and more than 3,000 players. There is a Long Island League Committee that meets at the end of every season to go over rules that worked, rules that didn’t work, what the grievances were and how to make better rules to deal with those situations. This committee is comprised of seven people who all have their own opinions, thoughts and is 100 percent not controlled by me!
Rules are given a lot of thought, are discussed and voted on. Many times, we end up trying to come up with rules to curtail some of the nonsense and cheating that goes on. There are times that these rules can make it difficult for innocent teams. Regardless of that, whether you agree or not, rules are rules and they need to be respected and followed. There are rules we’ve discussed where I have been on the losing end of a vote and may not agree with it, but it does not mean I won’t enforce it. That’s what they are there for.
Many things get questioned every year and that’s a healthy thing. Its food for thought when going into our committee meetings. With the understanding that we cannot go against sectional or national rules, if it is something we can attempt to do something about, we discuss and vote, trying to make the League the best it can be.
There have been two issues this year that have come up over and over again. The first is the 75 Percent Rule. A couple of players have told me that they think it’s a terrible rule, asking: “What’s the big deal to have many people ‘playing up’ on a team?” Here’s the answer: First of all, it’s in the sectional rules, but even if it wasn’t, it would be a rule on Long Island as we had it as a rule before the Section adopted it. Before the rule, on level teams were not happy to travel to a match, pay to play and to then be off the court in under an hour. Having a small percentage of the team being below level, that doesn’t happen as much. When we had a level that had all teams with many below level players, the team that advanced to Sectionals got their butts kicked, something no one enjoys, especially after travelling, paying for hotels, etc.
The bigger issue has been The 30 Percent Rule. This really only applies to the 18 & Over and 40 & Over Ladies (and 4.0 Men) teams as there are night divisions and day divisions, and Nassau Divisions and Suffolk Divisions. Teams at the same level but different divisions (day/night, etc.) may not share more than 30 percent of the same players. This is a rule that was made a couple of years ago when we had quite a few teams that made it to playoffs, and had to play each other … and basically, they had to play themselves! It created watered down teams, last minute offers to the second place team and possibly third place team, and it was resented by many. There were other reasons as well, but this was the main one.
The 75 Percent Rule is time-consuming to check and the 30 percent shared player rule is difficult to check and also extremely time-consuming. I count on captains to point out teams not in compliance. Doing this doesn’t make the captains seem petty, only caring about winning and a host of other things they have very nastily been told. They respect the rules and want to see all teams playing by the same rules. There is nothing wrong with that!
It is difficult to check the 30 percent rules before the roster deadline since I have let teams know before the deadline that a player had to be removed, and after they took care of the removal, they just went to add another one again putting them over the 30 percent. There isn’t enough time in the day to check all these teams over and over, so again, I welcome hearing about it from other captains and there are many that let me know these things. I thank each and every one of them.
The argument has been made, “But my team is just a friendly team, we are not a competitive team.” Really? We have to have so many rules as it is. Do we now have to have different degrees of rules? Okay, if you’re a competitive team, these are your strict rules you must follow. If you are a middle of the road team, your rules will be a little more laid back and if you’re just a “for fun” team, you don’t have any rules, do whatever you want. Oh, and you all have to play each other and follow your different rules. A League can never run like that.
The League Committee tries really hard every year, but I am beginning to wonder why. We had so many grievances and problems last season with people watching matches from cat walks on adjacent courts and alleys between courts. It’s something we discuss year after year. After a men’s match almost becoming physical between a spectator and player last season, along with other grievances and complaints on the subject, the Committee decided it was time to put a rule in there for this! The rules now state that there must be a barrier between spectators and players. A tough one? Absolutely! All it takes is the home team speaking to the visiting team before the match and showing respect in recognizing the rule and asking if they mind if both teams have the ability to watch from the cat walk, alleys, etc. Most teams will go along with it. The one or two that may not, it should be respected without making them feel guilty about it. The worst part of this is some of the people making a mockery of the rule are the people who should be setting an example.
That’s it. The bottom line is that rules are needed and yes, it’s my job to enforce them. It is never personal on my part and the consistency in how I handle rules shows that. Not all of the rules will be agreed with by all, but they have to be followed. If you feel strongly about one, send me an e-mail “nicely” expressing your feelings and I will respond letting you know it’s a Section or National rule we have to follow and cannot change, or I will tell you that I will present your e-mail to the committee and it will be discussed and voted on by seven people. A League this large has to be policed by the other players and those who are fair, show sportsmanship and the ones whose help I appreciate.
Good luck to all teams, and I hope things run smoothly the rest of the season!