Each new tennis season is another opportunity for league and tournament play. It's a chance to improve your game, compete against different players, and most of all, have fun. Well, recreational tennis is supposed to be just that. But in practice, there are different reasons for playing tennis. It could be for fun of playing at the level that is challenging, or it could be all about winning, at the level that enables winning most of the players. Those players who are playing at the wrong level to benefit from the easy wins are called sandbaggers.
Although "sandbagging" can be interpreted wherever the imagination wants to take you, the term is generally thought to derive from old English gangs, who used rolled-up bags of sand to physically knock out rivals. Poker used the expression before sports, to describe a betting strategy in which a player with a strong hand lures opponents into wagering ever-bigger sums by acting as if he has nothing to work with. Then he knocks them out. In poker, however, ploys like that are the essence of the game. In tennis, they're cheating. The word itself “sandbagger”, could easily been replaced by a stronger word, "cheater," because it carries heavy implications and goes against the gentlemanly spirit of the game.
This playing strategy must be nearly as old as a game itself but it has become a growing problem in league and tournament play nowadays. Sandbaggers probably have numerous reasons why they do what they do. Some of them really enjoy in easy, constant winnings, while the others might be unaware that they're doing something wrong. Launching of tennis league that offers money prizes brings another reason for sandbagging, probably stronger than all others we've mentioned.
There is no perfect system that can stop sandbagging, but every league determines its own rules against that. Most of them, prohibited changes of skill level before a time period that is supposed to be necessary for improving playing technique. Besides that, eTennis League implemented a Sportsmanship Rating system that is a very simple - one to five star system that rates player's sportsmanship. After match is completed, while submitting score, players will be asked to rate sportsmanship for their opponents. This is a mandatory field and it is required for every match including friendly matches and it is calculated throughout the year and seasons. If a player is below three stars his account will be suspended. Imperfection of Sportsmanship Rating refers to necessary time period for detecting sandbaggers, but it is still far ahead of all other defending rules.
Play at the level of your game, not lower. Let that be your contribution to fight against this. Think about all the lessons you’ve been taking, number of matches that you’ve played, and number of matches that you’ve lost recently. If you're on the border of a rating, at any level, and you're winning your matches easily, move up to where you belong. It's not fun for your opponent to lose, and it's not fair for you to take the spot from a player who truly is ranked at that level.