SOUTHERN OREGON PICKLEBALL ASSOCIATION
A pickleball ladder is organized play with an open or static group of players in a similar skill range who play on a regular basis and track their win/lose or points won results and create a finer level of stratification. Or in the simplest terms, if you win, you go up the "ladder, otherwise you stay where you are or go down the ladder. Eventually you are consistently playing with people of a very close skill level range.
For a good example, there is a very successful women's ladder that plays each Wednesday at Don Jones Park in the mornings. Lisa M. organizes that group as a volunteer and it's participant list is open to any women of the correct skill rating.
The short version of how it's run:
Your ranking on a ladder is based mainly upon your winning percentage (essentially, the ratio of points won to total points possible). This format of play is suitable for all skill levels, but the spirit of play may be a bit more “competitive” as players vie to move up the ladder. Play is still intended to be fun and conducted with good-sportsmanship and appropriate pickleball etiquette.
For ladder play on four courts, the ideal number of players is between 16 and 20.
Each week, players will be placed on pre-assigned courts in groups of 4 or 5 in the order of their ranking on the ladder, with Court 1 being the top rung and Court 4 the bottom rung. If there are 5 players assigned to a court, a bye will be built into the round robin play. Games go to 21 points (with no two-point difference) for 4-player courts and to 15 points (with no two-point difference) for the 5-player courts. Players on 4-player courts play 3 games each, while players on 5-player courts play 4 games each – so hopefully the actual playing time evens out. Rally scoring will be used. There is no second server in rally scoring. This helps the games move faster and take a more predictable amount of time to finish.
All players will play doubles games with the other three or four players on their court according to the round robin format on the scorecard and keep track of their scores on the sheet. Once the round robin is completed, a total score will be recorded. Then, on each court, the top player will switch “up a court” and the bottom player “down a court”. This means that in the second round, courts 2 and 3 will lose two players and gain two new players. But because Court 1 can only move down, and Court 4 can only move up, those courts will only lose and gain one player.
Then a second round robin will be played and scores recorded.
At the end of the day, the score sheets from each court are submitted to the coordinator, who will recalculate the ladder standings, based on the day's results. Over the weeks, your scores from each week are averaged to give you a cumulative ladder score. The formula to create the ladder assigns scores to people based on how many points they won out of the number of points available, so a player who loses every game by 13 to 15 will be scored higher than a player who consistently loses 2 to 15. There are also small bonuses built in for winning games and for playing on higher ranked courts.
The next time, players will be assigned to each court based on the new ladder standings and the available players.
Once a few weeks have been played and the ladder sorts itself out, regardless of which court you are playing on, you should end up playing with players at roughly the same level as yourself.
How will SOPA run their ladder differently?
Our ladder will be based on a static pool of participants. Depending on which venue is used, we will take sign-ups for 5 players per court. If a participant cannot make a weekly session, it will be their responsibility to find a suitable substitute. The sub's scores will be used for the registered player with possible modifiers applied.
SOPA will charge a fee for each six week session. It will be roughly $30 per session for members to cover the cost of reserving the courts and providing consistent quality balls. We are also considering awarding prizes at the end of each play day based on various criteria. The fee will be substantially higher for non-members. Because we are going to work with the Parks and Recreation departments to reserve courts, we will avoid one of the biggest risks, that others are using the court on schedule play days.
How will SOPA take sign-ups?
We will run a survey with a link from our homepage (or here). The survey will determine people who are interested in a specific ladder session. If we get more players than the available slots, which will vary each time depending on which venue we choose to use, we will find a fair way to fill the slots, which will most like involve a random draw from all available "pre-registrants." The key to making a static group ladder work is commitment to attending as many of the sessions as possible.
What if the current ladders don't match my skill or gender?
As we get the system for running a static group ladder worked out, we will be expanding our offerings to include more level ranges for both men, women, mixed, and open. The open category would allow sign-ups for any gender and ladder ranking would not be determine by anything other than the average points.