Monday, January 24, 2011

If It Aint Broke or Why Refs are a Bad Idea

This year at College and Club Nationals there were ~330 games played across six divisions. Of those games 4 or 5 were marred by bad spirit. Four in college open and one in masters. None in women's. None in mixed. None in club open. That's a mere 1.5% of all games played at the National level.

There is an undercurrent in discussion about referees and spirit of the game that somehow spirit of the game doesn't actually work. That somehow we are all sputtering along in a broken system. Look around! Game after game after game is played under SotG successfully.

As watchers and followers of the game, we are naturally drawn to the big and the exciting and the interesting. A consequence of this is that we overemphasize big events and undervalue all the accumulated small events. When a game breaks down and spirit breaks down, that game and those teams become the talk of the tournament. When that game happens at Nationals or in the finals of Nationals, it becomes all that anyone can see.

I don't think we should ignore the importance of these games. They have a huge impact on the quality of people's experience playing ultimate and sometimes a huge impact on the competitive outcome of a tournament. There are some wise adjustments that can be made to the process of spirit of the game and observing that will make a big difference in reducing the occurrence of these games.

Looking at the numbers more deeply, the story gets quite interesting. Five of the divisions (women's, college women's, mixed, club open and masters) had a 100% or 98% (1 of 39) success rate. College open is where teams are struggling. If four of those games were failures, that makes for an almost 7% failure rate. Why? How do you fix it? We know SotG works (if it works in club open, it'll work anywhere) so how do we get this one division back on track?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Don't Move to Beacon Hill or Why Refs are a Bad Idea

Way back in 2002, when my wife and I were freshly and madly in love, we decided to move. Our apartment on Capitol Hill had no outdoor space and we were desperate for a porch and a garden. So we started looking, found a place in Beacon Hill with two huge decks and yard and moved in. It sucked.

We had been so focused on what we were missing, that we didn't give any thought to what we might have to give up to get it. The corner apartment with windows facing south and west? Goodbye. The most interesting street in Seattle four blocks away? Goodbye. Walk to downtown? Goodbye. 3 minute bike ride to Pike Place Market? Goodbye. as

It is all too easy to get caught up with what is wrong with ultimate. It's all to easy to say "Refs will fix it." We need to be smarter and more far-sighted than that. The issues around Spirit of the Game and refs and self-officiation are incredibly complicated. How we choose to address them will have profound impacts on the game as we play it today and how it will be played in the future. In this series, I am going to look at these issues and see if it isn't possible to tease them apart and in the process, engender a real conversation.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Regional Review

Fugue is now in Region 1 or what been named the Northwest. The NW includes Oregon, Washington, British Columbia and a whole bunch of open space were there isn't much college ultimate going on. Structurally, there are some weirdnesses about our new region. From a competition standpoint, it is pretty straight forward.

It's with great sadness (and a small bit of relief) that we say goodbye to Northern California. Stanford has been the standard we all use to measure our programs by and it'll be weird to have them gone. Still, it makes Regionals a little easier to lose them and Cal. The true NW (OR, WA, BC) always felt a bit separated from the California teams and I think our new region will be good. Tighter and more family.

Our region is very large geographically (it's bigger than western Europe), but there aren't very many teams to scatter across it. The ten to twelve teams in existence are mostly strung down the coast valleys in Oregon (the Willamette), Washington (the Puget Sound) and BC (the Fraser.) For the existing teams, it means a more manageable-size region and one where we can drive to everything. It increasing (greatly) the likelihood of a Regionals held on Canadian soil, since UBC has the facilities and logistical know-how to run a good tourney. For developing or new teams in the Big Sky (Idaho, Montana, Alberta and Utah) the geography makes an insurmountable barrier. If you think I'm exaggerating, you should read this about crossing the western passes.

The Conference to Regionals shift will be weird as well. If the DIII schools opt out of DI Regionals (which I expect them to - see why below) our Conference is our Region. Not only that, we might not even get eight teams who want to go to Regionals?! From a competition standpoint, it will be very weird to play the Conference tournament (just for Regional seeding!) and then turn around and play all the same teams again at Regionals.

There are three schools in the Northwest who will challenge for spots at Nationals and then, once there, will challenge for the title. Those three are Oregon, Washington and UBC. I'm going to write more about these teams when I do national analysis, because they are all contenders. The next two teams, Western and PLU are a step down from those teams. Alyssa is done and with her, the hopes of Chaos. They still have some good players, but depth has always been an issue for them and without someone to carry the gigantic load Alyssa's did, they are unlikely to contend. PLU is the defending DIII champions and I expect that they will make defending their crown a priority. Reed looked good in the fall, so PLU will have a challenge at the Regional level.

What the redraw does for us is to shift our focus from April and May to February and March. In the past, it was Regionals that mattered. You worked and worked and worked for that one tournament. For many regions, it'll still be that way. But for us, where we have a big divide between the haves and have-nots, the question will be whether the big three teams can play well enough early in the season to earn three bids to Nationals.