Understanding Ratings-Based Junior Rankings

In October, US Squash resumed junior rankings after the suspension of the system in March of 2020. The new rankings are now based on a player’s US Squash player rating, replacing, on an interim basis, the previous points-based ranking system.

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to localized youth sports guidelines which differ by state; interstate travel is also restricted in many regions. This has resulted in US Squash releasing return-to-competition plans focused on local and regional play. The tournament points-based rankings active until March 2020 relied on consistent levels of competition for accuracy, as well as national travel for players gaining entry into the higher tiers of tournament play. A ratings-based system, however, supports regionalized and cross-divisional play and allows families to engage in competition only to the extent they deem appropriate for their personal circumstances during this challenging time.

There are embedded benefits to both ranking systems along with differing incentive structures for each. US Squash continually reviews all ranking and ratings policies and algorithms in concert with community feedback to create improvements, and will continue to do so during the interim period of rating-based rankings and the transition back to updated rankings methodologies in the future.

Both points-based and ratings-based systems order players by relative ability, yet they are fundamentally different in how each use match results to create rankings. A tournament points-based system is specific to junior tournament play within a specific gender and age division, and reacts relatively quickly to recent results. A ratings-based system includes all players in the same pool of play and accounts for all matches – not only tournament matches – to provide an accurate measure of a player’s general long-term level of play. Ranking points give an accurate reflection of performance in tournament play by accounting for the level of tournament and finishing position, while ratings uses results only based on the individual opponent to whom a player won or lost.

The current US Squash rating algorithm was developed between 2012-2014 by Elder Research, a data mining and predictive analytics firm based in Charlottesville, VA known for their expertise in data science and advanced analytics. The rating algorithm, already a worldwide leader, continues to increase in accuracy as changes are implemented based on research and improvements in predictive accuracy. Ready more about recent updates here: US Squash Rating Algorithm Enhancements.

While all junior community players have had a player rating up through this point, ratings have not been used as a basis for junior rankings since the 2009-2010 season. Ultimately, whatever the ranking system, the best way for players to reach their highest level of performance over time is to stay focused on improvement and to challenge themselves against other players, win or lose. During this interim period, US Squash encourages players to focus on positive competitive experiences and development as a player and individual on court.

Below, players and families can find helpful resources to better understand the differences between points-based and ratings-based ranking systems, and more details on the ratings algorithm itself.

Please note that due to the impact of Covid-19 on accredited competitions between March and October, and the shift in ranking approach, the display of Highest Ranking Achieved is undergoing review and these values are likely to change as a result of this review.

Tournament Points Rankings Ratings-based Rankings
Types of Competition Tournaments only All recorded matches: tournaments, leagues, ladders, friendlies
Divisions Specific to an age division and gender Integrates all players across gender and age, including junior and adult players
Methodology Points assigned based on tournament level, size, and player finishing position. Rankings are determined based on an average of the player’s point totals from their best events based on a divisor that starts at the best 4 tournaments and increases as players compete in greater numbers of tournaments. Minimum of 3 tournaments required to receive a ranking Algorithm produces a rating for each player adjusted based on results against individual opponents, creating a standardized scale. Only requirement to receive a player rating is at least one win and one loss recorded on a player account.
Wins, Losses and Games Won Only wins and losses matter in as far as they determine finishing position Rating adjustments take into account wins and losses, whether a match was won in 3, 4, or 5 games, and the relative rating of the opponent
Time Period Tournaments remain active on a player’s profile for 11 months Matches from the prior 45 months influence a player’s rating, though recent matches are weighted more heavily than those further in the past
Responsiveness Designed to rapidly reflect player performance in recent tournament play Designed as a long-term measure of player ability
Extended Absence or Injury Players need to work their way through the entry levels of tournaments in order to rebuild ranking points and qualify for higher-level tournaments Players retain their rating if a match has been played in prior 45 months; however, rating volatility can occur when new matches are entered after an extended lack of recorded matches

Improving Your Rating

In order to improve their rating, a player needs to participate, achieve good results, and be patient as the algorithm collects and recognizes their improvement over time.

The rating algorithm is applied to each match independently. To calculate appropriate ratings adjustments, the algorithm considers the rating differential between each player, the actual match result, and the “reliability” of each player’s rating. “Reliability” is determined by the the amount of recent match results a player has in the system; a player with more recent results is assumed to have a more accurate rating and therefore that player’s rating will be less reactive to a single new result. A player with few or older match results will frequently see a new result have a greater effect on their rating. Therefore, regular play will add stability to a player’s rating and an occassional adverse result will not have as significant an impact.

The rating differential between opponents prior to a match creates an “expected” outcome – what the algorithm determines the probable result to be based on that rating differential. When a player meets that expected outcome (e.g., a player rated .4 lower than their opponent losing 3-0), their rating will mostly remain stable, especially if that player’s rating is considered “reliable” as described above. Exceeding or falling short of the expected outcome generally will have a positive or negative impact, respectively, on a player’s rating.

Achieving positive results relative to expectation are the easiest way for a player to improve their rating. Winning an extra game in a tough match against a higher-rated player can help, as will not having tight results with lower-rated players. Winning in itself may not always result in rating improvement, nor will losing always yield the opposite effect. As a player continues to achieve positive results, their rating will adjust over time to reflect this improvement in play accordingly.

In order to be accurate a player’s rating should include wins and losses, and therefore players are incentivized to play opponents both above and below their level.

General Information
More information about the US Squash ratings algorithm is available here:

Frequently Asked Questions about player ratings are available here: US Squash Rating FAQs. Questions include but are not limited to:
• How often are updates made to my rating?
• Can my rating change if I don’t play?
• What happens to my rating if I take a break from competition or can’t play due to injury?
• How can I increase my rating?
• How do I view my rating?
• Do the match scores or individual game scores matter?

Information on interim return-to-competition plans:

All information on US Squash’s COVID-19 response, including resources for players and facilities: