Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Spirit of the Game Committee

I have been crazy swamped lately trying to get ready for Nationals. I have been watching video obsessively and trying to tie up the loose ends in the other parts of my life so I can go with a clear conscience. I'm going to avoid predictions and speculations about Nationals beyond saying that there is a ton of parity. A ton. When the dust settles on Monday, we'll anoint a champ and anoint the 'good' teams and the 'bad' ones, but if we've learned anything this year, it's that one tournament doesn't mean much.

However, I do have something totally unrelated that I want to talk about before I leave for Boulder on Thursday morning. USA Ultimate has decided to revive the Spirit of the Game Committee and I was asked (by Meredith Tosta) to serve on it and I agreed to do so. Here are the other members:

Meredith Tosta
Will Deaver
David Barka
Jim Schoettler
Leila Tunnel
Catherine Greenwald

I am posting now because I'd like to solicit feedback on what people's thoughts are. Nationals is a great place to network and talk about stuff because it's one of the few places where we are all together. I am a little unclear on our mandate. Will and Meredith are swamped organizing D-III Nationals, D-I Nationals, Easterns and Westerns so there hasn't been much work or discussion yet, but I imagine it will pick up post-Nationals. I am beginning to work on ideas and thoughts about what can and/or should be done. I am trying to keep my ideas pretty general at this stage. There's no point getting detailed before there is any overarching vision.

Here are the two main ideas I am mulling over:
1. We need practice to back up theory. I teach middle school and we use the PBIS (here) model to instruct behavior. People need specific directions to learn behavior. Right now, the USAU's Ten Things You Should Know About Spirit are the most specific instructions in existence and they are still very general. What would more specific instructions look like in ultimate? How could it be delivered?
2. Focus on coaches. More and more college teams are driven by their coaches. As our sport matures and coaches begin to outlast players we will see more and more programs like the Stanford women where two and half generations of women have passed through with the same coach. Those coaches have a profound impact on their team's culture.

What are your ideas? You can comment them here, email me directly (louburruss@gmail.com) or find me in Boulder. I am not sure how much down time I will have, but I'll have some and I'd love to talk shop.

PS - I am quite aware of the irony involved in my membership on this committee. I'm not quite sure what else to say about it, but I thought I'd better mention it.


  1. I've thought about this for a while and am bummed that nobody else has answered this yet (at least publically). So, here are my thoughts: I think we need to clarify SOTG and succinctly communicate what SOTG is. For me, there's not much to spirit of the game except for:

    Know the Rules (Knowledge)
    Follow the Rules (Fair Play)
    Trust that your Opponents are doing the same (Trust/Respect)

    This is actually what is in the curriculum for the Level I Coaching Clinics. I'm not sure that all of the Level I instructors teach it this way. They should. You could add this (or whatever the definition is) to the quiz for level 1 coaching.

    Also, how about this? Rules quizzes. Linked to publicly available player profiles or to rosters. Perhaps, depending on the level of play, a certain amount of rules knowledge is required and at any level there are quizzes that are available but not required. So I can see that Lou Burruss took 5 quizzes with an average score of 85%.

    I think this would encourage rules knowledge and trust for your opponents that they know the rules. As far as fair play goes, I think that following the rules is first requires a system that properly recognizes violations of the rules. I think the current balance between observers and player calls does this (although I would still argue for observer called travels).

    I think Observers have done a good job in recent years (particularly at this year's Nationals) of issuing TMFs for fouling on the mark. I think they should issue TMFs or PMFs for anytime a player does something that could not "reasonably" be within the rules. I would argue that calling a clearly down disc up, contesting an obviously correct call, and calling a bs travel (as long as players still make that call) all fit in to that. That would encourage players to only make "reasonable" calls which would increase fair play and further build trust between opponents. It would also reduce players from making obviously bad calls in the hopes that the observer didn't see it because if the observer did see it, they run the risk of getting a TMF or PMF.

    Also, I sort of love that your are on this committee. It's like the character in Catch Me if You Can helping the FBI solve fraud cases.

  2. lou: what videos were you watching and during your viewing what were you looking for; what were you hoping to learn? the Seamen have used the Hudl for the past two years; but that's mostly learning from our own mistakes and seeing our own tendencies.

  3. Tully,
    I was going to email you directly, but I can't find your address. Video has been a huge pain in the ass for Oregon. We film our games and then burn them onto DVD and then I watch them at home. The whole process is a pain: we film inconsistently, we have trouble downloading from the camera onto DVD, I can only pick them up on the weekend when I am in town.

    The point is that I was considering a program like Hudl (there are others as well) and wondered what you thought of it. Do you want to get back to me at louburruss at gmail?

    As for your question - I was watching mostly us playing other teams, but any other snippets of film I could find and old footage from previous years. If I don't have any current film on a team, I'll go back and watch film from a previous year. It isn't great, but it does show the general personality of a team which adds another piece to the puzzle.

  4. sorry for the delay; i'll email you directly.

    the Hudl is a great resource; it has been invaluable for the Seamen the past two seasons. the trick is getting volunteers to film the games; usually an injured player or a rookie at the bottom of the pecking order gets the short straw. the coaches own the cameras so it's up to us as far as when we decide to upload the footage and only coaches can telestrate and comment.
    and i would argue it's more useful for a college player/college teams as they have access to computers anywhere on campus and are usually up unit 3am or so.

  5. Very helpful suggestions that help in the optimizing topic,Thanks for your sharing.