The grading of players within UK polocrosse is always a hotly debated topic but during the 2013 season we have heard various people at various levels disparage the grading system and comment on its lack of accuracy. So we thought we would have a bit of closer look at it. Essentially, gradings are never going to be a completely exact art that works every time but in theory the highest graded team in a division should win that division most of the time. Does that happen in practice?

We look at the results from the first seven tournaments of the year and discovered that in just 49% of the senior grades (A to E) the top graded team won the division (editor’s note: Junior and Primary Juniors divisions were excluded as technically these are not run by gradings but by age restrictions and often players gradings are fairly inaccurate and uninformative in their younger days). In a further 16% of grades the team graded second finished first so in total 65% of times either the top or second team finished first.

However, in just 19% of grades in total did the top two graded teams finished as first and second and a further 3% of times the top two teams finished in a reverse one-two (editor’s note: a reverse one-two is when the top team finishes second and the second team finishes first). The most accurate grades seem to be the top two grades, the A and B grades. In both these grades the winners were the top graded team 57% of the time and in the A grade the second graded team finished second 29% of the time, in the B grade this figure was 43%. Overall the A and B grade contributed a third of all the one-twos that accurately reflected the gradings.

In comparison the C and D grades were fairly inaccurate, the top teams won just 29% of the time. In the fifteen times these grades have run this year there has only been three one-twos that accurately reflected the gradings of the teams, that’s just 20%. The C grade was the only grade which has seen a reverse one-two so far this season.

The E grade was better with again a 57% figure for top graded teams finishing first and 43% of the second highest graded teams finishing second. There has been two one-twos this year in E Grade that accurately reflected the gradings (29%).

As we said at the start gradings are never going to be completely accurate all the time and it’s hard to know exactly what sort of figures we would expect to see. However, on balance the figures feel low, particularly in the lower grades. There is probably a number of reasons for this, not least the fact that re grading players regularly takes time and as an organisation run by volunteers the UKPA undoubtedly struggles for the time to make the gradings as accurate as it would like. However, there would potentially be changes it could make to make its life easier and to make gradings more accurate.

Below we highlight what we consider to be three key reasons for the grading inaccuracies and suggest some possible changes that could improve the system.

1) There is no regular consideration given to results or regular re grading of players and teams to reflect results. After Nationals a number of years ago all teams were regraded to reflect their final positions in their grades at Nationals. This might been a little extreme to regrade teams based purely on the results of a single tournaments but it did accurately make teams reflect the results they had achieved.

Tournament results could be looked at more regularly and taken into account to regrade the teams and therefore influence the re grading of individual players within those teams.

2) A lot of grading is left up to the clubs themselves, particularly in the lower grades. This leads to a number of problems. For example, firstly different people have different opinions on what exactly makes, for example, a 4 graded player. Secondly, clubs will occasionally deliberately misstate players grades to allow them to play in certain grades, either to strengthen their lower grade teams or to satisfy a player’s own desire or ego. No club likes to disappoint their players and tell them they aren’t as good as they think they are, sadly sometimes it is necessary.

There is possibly a need for more independent oversight of the grading of players in the lower grades so as to make it more consistent and less easy for clubs and players to influence.

3) Perhaps there are just too many grades. The UKPA is the only polocrosse association in the world that grades to 20. Every other country grades to 10. More grades to choose could be leading to more inaccuracies and confusion.

For example, one club has six players of a certain ability and grades them all a 6. Another club has six players of the same ability but grades them all a 5. This leads to a 6 point difference in team playing grades but both teams would be in C grade and one team would potentially be the top team while the other would be in the middle of the grade, despite them being the same ability.

Also, often it seems clubs are quite happy to leave players on a particular grade for a while before increasing their grade by 2 or 3 points in one go, rather than moving grades up by one point at a time during the season.

A change back to 0 to 10 would perhaps simplify the system and put more players on the same playing grade. This would allow more direct comparison and would hopefully mean that clubs and the UKPA would more regularly move players up or down by just one grading point. It would also allow an easier direct comparison between the UK’s top players and top players in other parts of the world.