US Squash has announced that it will incorporate enhancements into its player rating algorithm this month. Already among the leading rating algorithms in any sport worldwide, the changes will further improve the accuracy of player ratings, and better balance the relative ratings between constituent groups. Ratings will also become more balanced between countries including those outside of the U.S. who also use the rating algorithm through Club Locker. The process of evaluating potential enhancements was triggered by analysis of imbalances in the ratings of players between different groups and in large amounts of new match information entering the system as facilities and countries continue to adopt Club Locker to meet their technology needs.
Player ratings, implemented on the Club Locker platform, take into account matches played by all players and include tournament play, accredited team and box leagues, ladders, and club matches entered on player profiles. Player ratings are designed to be a long-term measure of playing ability. The scale operates from 1.0 for a player just learning the sport to above 7.0 for the top playing professionals. The importance of an accurate, global rating system is heightened in the current time as the U.S. and other countries rely on ratings while only local and regional competition is possible due to the ongoing pandemic.
The algorithm changes will be implemented on September 10, 2020 and viewable on Club Locker profiles. The primary adjustment has to do with how results over time are factored into a player’s rating: results from the previous 15 months are weighted on a square root function curve with the most recent matches having a weight of “1” while those 15 months prior weighted at “0.1”. Results from 15 months to 45 months then decline in weight linearly from 0.1 to 0, respectively. Put simply, a player’s recent results are most impactful to their rating, resulting in the algorithm being more responsive to a player’s current level of performance.
Most players in the U.S. will experience a relatively minor adjustment to their rating when the changes are implemented. Furthermore, groups which already have a high amount of cross-competition – for instance, district team leagues or accredited junior tournament participants – will see the relative ratings of players within those groups remain in similar relation to one another.
More substantial adjustments will be seen when comparing different constituent groups. Ratings between groups from which there is limited crossover will be normalized to more accurately reflect levels of play. The enhancements will increase the value that ratings deliver to the squash community, allowing players to measure their own improvement and find opponents at their ability level regardless of age, gender, or where they play – from local to international competition. With the ratings of players from other countries normalized, U.S. players who compete against players from abroad are also protected from disruption of their rating as a result of international competition.
“The changes we are implementing are part of our ongoing commitment to create world-leading technologies that provide direct value to members of the squash community and lower the barriers for new players to engage with the sport,” said Ryan Rayfield, VP of Technology of US Squash. “We are enthusiastic to take this next step in making our rating algorithm even more accurate and relevant to players in the U.S. and around the world.”
The current US Squash algorithm was initially released in 2014 with the generous backing of a major donor and support from third party experts. Since release, periodic improvements and adjustments have been made to the algorithm based on regular rigorous analysis. The algorithm runs an iterative calculation on results from the prior 45 months, looking at both a player’s own results and also those of their opponents. Increased weight is placed on matches played most recently. The calculation assigns an accuracy weight based on the number of matches a player has over the time period.; e.g., if one player has 50 matches in the calculation and their opponent has 3 matches, there is greater “confidence” in the relative rating accuracy of the player with more matches. Whether a result is 3-0, 3-1, or 3-2 is taken into account – a three game win is considered stronger than a four or five game win.
The US Squash rating algorithm is part of the Club Locker software platform. Club Locker was initially developed by US Squash and offers a range of integrated functions including all aspects of tournament and league management as well as a globally relevant rating and ranking system, membership and database management capabilities and facility reservation and program management modules. The investment to create Club Locker was initially funded by private donations and program resources with the goal of creating a sustainable system that provides the infrastructure to support programs and US Squash’s core goals of access, community, excellence and sportsmanship.