10 Mistakes to avoid when running a Tennis Ladder

1. Combining all skill levels into one big ladder

While this sounds good in principle and alleviates quite a few headaches in terms of managing multiple ladders – doing this will kill your ladder participation rate.  Naturally, competitors will lose interest in something very quickly if there they feel there is no way to reach the top.  So placing a player that just started playing among those that are experienced and skilled players will be the quickest way to receive that dreaded withdrawal email.  People naturally want to fit in, not be embarrassed or intimidated.


2. Not removing your stale players

To run a successful ladder, you can’t always be the good guy.  95% of the reason ladders fail is because stale players are allowed to stay in and take up spots.  By “stale”, i’m referring to the player, who never responds to or issues challenges over time.  Be very strict with this and make sure all your ladder participants know that after a given period of time with no activity, they will be dropped and eventually removed from the ladder.


3. Making it too competitive

While competition is what makes successful ladders a blast to play in, if they get over competitive, then your players who are playing for the social and exercise will quickly lose interest.  My advice if you have enough players, is to break your ladders into two categories – Social & Competitive.  The social ladders are great to attract new players to your club or organization without the intimidation factor.  


4. Requiring the same team in a Doubles Ladder

Doubles is obviously played at a higher % than singles at most clubs.  The single most important reason that doubles ladders fail is one word – SCHEDULING. To try to line up schedules with four different players is almost impossible.  A better way to run a fun and competitive doubles ladders is allow players to hook up and play with different partners and then rank everyone individually.  Not only does this take care of the scheduling problem, but allows people to get to meet new playing partners.  


5. Using a Spreadsheet to run your ladder

Really?  You are going to try to keep up with a ladder and all the many results using Excel or Google Sheets?  Not a good idea.  More than 90% of ladder administrators trying to do this will be burned out in less than a month and leave the excited ladder participants hanging like a used towel.  Even though this seems like a great and the easiest way to get started, don’t go down this rabbit hole, unless you want to be sending an email a month from now apologizing to your ladder participants that you are shutting it down.  A great alternative is to invest in some ladder software (www.tennisrungs.com).


6. Never ending Ladders

Imagine if we watched our favorite sports teams play a season that never ended?  What would be the fun in that?  While a never-ending ladder may seems easier for an administrator since there are no end-of-season playoffs or tournament to worry about – this is sheer boredom for your participants.  There has to be an end-game, a light at the end of the tourney, something that a player is playing for.  Even if it’s just a playoff with the top 4 at the end of the season, it’s something to play for.  It also allows a player who had a bad start or is just beginning a chance to “restart” fresh with the promise of a new season.


7. Don’t be a SUPER admin.  

While most ladder admins are control freaks (just kidding), they often are hesitant about giving control over entering match results to the players.  But it goes back to burn-out… Find yourself some nice automated ladder software (www.tennisrungs.com), setup your ladders, and offload the work to them.  They will enjoy it.  They will embrace it.  They will love the fact they are not waiting on you to get off your butt and enter this results so they can challenge someone else.


8. Not Enough Rules

One of the most frustrating components of a ladder for a player, is when there is not enough rules in place to make the ladder fun and enjoyable.  Nothing is worse than winning a match, then before you can issue a challenge, they are challenging you again — or who brings the balls, or what happens if no one responds to a challenge.  Make sure you cover and set these rules up front – your participants will be much happier.


9. Don’t over-complicate your rules

On the flipside of not enough rules – you don’t want to go overboard with your rules either.  Otherwise you will just create complete and utter confusion on what works and doesn’t work.  Your participants will get frustrated because they cannot keep up with all the rules you are trying to enforce.  Keep it fun and keep is simple.


10. Hiding your results

I’ve seen this time and time again.  Ladder administrators who seem like those that play in their ladders are in some private society or something.  Why do this?  Isn’t the idea of creating and running a ladder to promote play and grow?  Publish and publicize those ladders!  Let people see all the fun they are missing out on.  Invite others to join, and make it quick and easy to do so!