By Jay D. Prince
For several years now, I’ve been arguing in favor of making more and more of our “competitive” matches count toward ratings and rankings with US Squash. For those of you who golf and keep up with your handicap, you can relate to what I believe to be a perfect scenario: Walk off the court, log into your profile online, enter your results and, presto, your rating is updated. Okay, I’m getting ahead of myself. But we’re getting closer.
I’ve read and heard a lot of the grumbling that goes along with using RailStation, the online system US Squash uses to manage membership, tournaments, leagues, ratings and rankings. And while I agree with issues surrounding user-friendliness, especially given the advances so many other websites have put forth, I am finally seeing some of the things we’ve been asking for become reality.
For example, my local league in Seattle is now sanctioned by US Squash. So every match that gets played is entered into RailStation and I can keep up with my rating and ranking on a weekly basis. Not daily, or in “real time” (i.e., instantaneously upon a result being entered), but the information is there. When I asked Kevin Klipstein how the system works, he told me that every Monday RailStation “crunches the results” to update every member’s rating and, therefore, ranking in their age group and/or skill level. Pretty cool—except for the fact that my own rating has fallen off the cliff over the past year. But that’s my problem, not yours.
The point is, RailStation, despite it’s quirks, is bringing to life one of the most highly desired benefits of membership in US Squash, and that is meaningful, up-to-date, information about match history and corresponding ratings and rankings. It is something that will keep bringing me back to my membership in US Squash; something that I can latch onto and relate to when I think about the Association. While I realize the system isn’t perfect, and I can see an awful lot of players ahead of me in the current rankings that I know I can beat today, the reality of my own play is that there aren’t a lot of results in my personal profile. And that is partly because I didn’t play last year, and partly because there are still limited opportunities to enter results into the system. But my own lack of play should penalize my ranking, and that’s something I can live with. Players in the professional rankings suffer the same consequences; injuries and the resulting lack of play, result in falling rankings that throw them right back into the life of having to qualify for events until they start climbing back up the rankings.
The question becomes, then, where can RailStation go from here? US Squash is continuing to improve the system so that match results across the system become more and more integrated. In other words, my matches played in Seattle are becoming more and more inter-connected with matches played by people across the country. As more of these results become part of RailStation, our ratings and rankings will become more accurate. This, in itself, is a reason to encourage more Tournament Directors to sanction their events and to use RailStation, and to encourage your leagues to do the same.
From there, isn’t it easy to foresee a system that will allow us to maintain personal profiles that can incorporate our playing preferences? How about being able to go to your profile on RailStation and include things like: times of day you like to play; whether you would be interested in playing someone from out of town; what club(s) you play at; contact info for arranging matches; etc. What if I was planning to be in Boston and wanted to find a game? How cool would it be to go to my profile, click on a “traveling” link to say where I’m going and when, and a day and time I’m interested in playing, and then hit “find a game” to send out a “broadcast email” of sorts to have RailStation find me a game? When that happens, then all of this updated rating and ranking stuff will be well worth the growing pains of RailStation. And what’s not to like about that?