The Future of the Freestyle Rankings

In the summer of 1993, I published the first freestyle rankings. First they covered open events, then later I added a separate list for women. Each month since then – and sometimes more often – I have published a new rankings list. It’s time for someone else to lead this project. I will continue to compile rankings through this year’s FPA World Championships. After that, my intention is to step away from the rankings.

I’m excited to see which freestylers are interested in shepherding the rankings through its next chapter. I’m possibly even more excited by how the next team can improve them. The rankings can get better in so many ways:

AUTOMATION

Compiling the rankings is labor-intensive. Lots of data entry and calculations and not enough automation. A freestyler with database skills could simplify the workflow for compiling each rankings list. Flo Hess has done amazing work with the competition spreadsheet and tools to export results into formats for web publishing. It would be great to see a link between his spreadsheet and an automated system.

TRANSPARENCY

The rankings are kind of a mystery for most freestylers. While the process for calculating rankings points is published on the rankings homepage, there could be much more access to information. I’d love for players to be able to drill down from their total points and see the points they received at every event they played. I’ve love for players to be able to see the results of a tournament and how that translates into rankings points. I’d love for players to be able to see statistics and graphs of their rankings performance over their career.

ACCURACY

The rankings are solid. I’ve updated the system throughout the years to reflect the evolution of freestyle and improve accuracy. Below are some opportunities I see for the rankings.

Equalizing Points
We play freestyle in formats that range from individual turboshreds to 3- or more person teams. That creates some unequal situations if the point scale is based purely on tournament placing (1st, 2nd, 3rd). It’s harder to win a turboshred than it is to win a pairs event, if only because winning turboshred means you’ve beaten every competitor, and the pairs winners didn’t have to beat their teammate. 2nd place in co-op means you’ve beaten all but 3 players, which maps to 4th place in a turboshred. I’d like to see a point scale that reflects the relative difficulty of placements across different divisions.

Rewarding Larger Events
When the rankings started, we had official FPA tour events and official status for then-successful WFDF and US Open events. Freestyle has evolved in a more homogenous direction. Tournaments are tournaments. Some are big and some are small, but all are valid. And the FPA Worlds is the big one. Right now, there are some rewards for the number of players entered in an event, and there are rewards in the bonus points for beating lots of players. There is room for improvement here.

I’m in favor of a system that minimizes the categorization of tournaments as important or “major.” The importance or majorness of a tournament comes and goes. I’d love the next rankings system to find other measures to reward importance. One simple approach would be to increase the standard for player turnout. Right now it is 20 players. Raising it to 40 or even 60 players allows tournaments to be differentiated and gives an incentive for events to reach out to new players.

Improving How Multi-Division Events Are Addressed
In the current system, each regular tournament with at least 20 entrants offers the same number of points. If the tournament offers multiple divisions (pairs and co-op, for instance) points are split among those divisions. Points become a measure of performance over the entire tournament. While this has worked fine, one side effect is that it doesn’t reward superior performances fully. A player who wins a deep pairs event but places lower in the same tournament’s co-op event might will probably get lower ranking points than a player who wins a pairs event at a smaller tournament that only offers pairs. I’m not in favor of offering full points for each division. That sets up a glut of points for essentially the same gathering and does not reward the step-up-and-shred reality of one-division tournaments.

One approach I like is to offer points for each division, but for there to be a “drag” on the points with each extra division added. For instance, a tournament with only pairs offers 100% of the normal points. In a tournament with pairs and co-op, both pairs and co-op would offer points like they are separate tournaments, but with a 10% drag. They would each offer 90% of the points of a single-division event. Tournament directors could add as many divisions as they want, but with a diminishing return in rankings points. As always, the tournament director could designate as many or as few divisions as point-earning events as they like.

These are some initial ideas. I’m sure the next team will have their own fresh and inventive ideas. I look forward to seeing how it takes shape.

2 comments

  1. Skippy Jammer

    First off, thank you Arthur for your selfless and community driven spirit. Your tireless and diligent work on the rankings have been a tremendous leap forward for the sport of Freestyle. For those of you not up to speed with the history here, prior to Arthur doing the rankings, the only way results were tracked was by me on a piece of paper with a pencil and lots of scribbles and erased marks. Needless to say, a huge leap forward.

    One element that I would like to see is some new categories reflecting the top ranking for Teams in each of the categories. Top Pairs Teams, Co-op, Mixed and Women’s. And a Category for Turbo-Shred as well. I know that this would take extra work and would also pose the problem of which should be used for seeding teams (pure rankings over team rankings). But I believe it should have some value and merit.

  2. Craig Simon

    Arthur has performed a phenomenal service for this community for a long number of years. Only an extraordinary level of diligent commitment to painstaking effort can explain his achievement. We can’t expect there will be another Arthur… someone who steps up and singlehandedly maintains such a critical function over such a long period. Now is the time to think about better automation. The upcoming transition presents an opportunity for us to re-engineer our disparate data stores into a system that’s integrated from the ground up… so that the tournament history, the membership system, the competition-sheet preparation tools, and the ranking system can work as a seamless whole. Done right, an integrated data system would make it easier for a new generation of competitors to join our sport, and to rise in it.