Thursday, September 01, 2005

UPA Series Restructuring

A big upcoming project for the UPA National Directors will be looking at a reorganization of the UPA Championship Series. There have been many suggestions about a possible model. Different divisions, a European soccer model (teams move up and down between divisions), teams earning byes to Sectionals based on previous years', plus others, have all come up.

My initial approach to this task will be to view restructuring as an enhancement of a UPA membership. I think there is some sense out there that other than the Champ Series and newsletters that go missing, that a UPA membership could have more bang for the buck. I have no idea about what other sports organizations charge and what services they provide, but, for the moment, I am going to take this criticism seriously and not treat it as whining. So, for me, ideas about restructuring will have to enhance the benefits of membership in general and not cater to specific interest groups.

I think the development of a sense of a season could be a real benefit of restructuring. Members could get more events for their money. The UPA currently sanctions events, and I think it is great that the UPA is able to provide insurance, etc, but there is always a bit of grumbling about why folks have to be UPA members to play at a tournament. I think some of these feelings could be mitigated if the event was part of a larger series of events. Now, there are some real issues to face. Rosters, for example. When would they be due? Teams playing in the UPA Champ Series have very different timelines. Some teams complete their try-outs by early spring. Other teams are just getting going in August. The UPA Score Reporting Tool (SRT) is a very helpful step toward the sense of season as it tracks results and provides rankings, but there is also much consistency missing. Teams change names to hide results, and many events are not reported. Certainly, the SRT is a major step forward, but there is a lot of work to do.

There have been ideas about incorporating local leagues into the new structure. The general idea is that league play would serve as some kind of qualifier. I think this idea has potential for bringing in new UPA members, but, again, there are many questions to be resolved about the continuity between teams that participate in local leagues and teams that participate in the Champ Series.

I am wary of restructuring serving to cater to the elite level teams. Ideas such as teams earning spots to Nationals directly based on previous years' results do not resonate well with me. There is also the "Why does Furious George have to play high school teams at sectionals?", and "Why does Sectionals have to be 2 days when we know we are going to qualify for Regionals?" whines. I think elite teams, for the time being, need to remember that for the teams that do not qualify for Regionals, Sectionals is the season. I also believe that there is a benefit to elite teams and high school teams playing one another, at least in the present series structure that we find ourselves.

So, in summary, the idea of restructuring the champ series is appealing to me if it enhances a UPA membership. I think that a better sense of an Ultimate season could be the fundamental enhancement that drives restructuring.


Gambler said...

I've thought for awhile that the UPA should have a separate membership for league players. I know that they have a special "one-event" fee for people who are paying to just participate in a single tournament that is insured by the UPA, but it seems that right now there isn't much a league player gets for their $40.00 if their league requires UPA membership.

A tier system for the Series would be very interesting. It seems there has to be some better system that would make Sectionals (or its equivalent) more meaningful. The goals should be both increased participation and increased competiton, but that would probably necessitate different divisons of some sort. Of course, I really like the idea that at the beginning of Sectionals, every team has a shot at winning Nationals if they win the right games. I wonder if that ideal is viewed differently at a different level of the spectrum...

gcooke said...


Thanks for writing the first response to my blog!

You went right to some of the very issues that concern me. Integrating leagues is enticing, but, as you mention, will take some work to figure that out.

At the ND meeting last Jan, we discussed creating a committee to look into the reorg. The general feeling was to create a committee with a broad perspective.

Thanks, G

Gambler said...

I've just discovered the blogging world of ultimate thought and am a big fan! So much more thoughtful and insightful than

As far as the restructuring goes, it seems that recently in college there's been a push to have Div II fields at Regionals for open teams that don't qualify out of Sectionals. In the NW, the CRCs made sure to have fieldspace available for a Div II, but there wasn't enough interest yet. Hopefully we can develop this so that teams can all plan on coming to Regionals out of Sectionals, they just might be in the Div II.

gcooke said...

I agree that Div 2 is a good place to start. The NE Open Club folks have been running a Div 2 Regionals. I know that Founders Open also runs Div 2.

You address the problem though. Not enough teams yet for a national Div 2. Interesting that you guys are working on it for college. I am not sure how much of that is going on.


Josh Mullen said...

hey george,

after being at ultimate camp and having you and baccarini talk to me about sprinting, i was hoping that you could address the proper form of sprinting here.

also, some days i just don't feel like i can get up to speed and some days i feel that i am the fastest person on the field. lately though, it's been more of the i can't reach that extra gear days (since i got mono last year... and didn't run at all after i played sick at club regionals for 4 months after). let's just say that over-training definitely isn't the problem. could a 25 year old person be undertraining if he practices hard or plays tourneys 3-5 days a week?

the speed feeling i feel is all about springy-ness. some days i have it and some days i just feel without a first step and not bouncy.

also, i have been trying to do that ankle angle that baccarini talks about, but i am confused because when i turn my toes upward, i feel that i am hitting more of my midfoot first than the toes/balls of my feet. am i doing something wrong?


parinella said...

I was noticing that only 2 of 16 games at Women's Sectionals so far this year were closer than 15-8. In one of them (a 3 team section), team A beat team B 17-6, and team B beat team C 17-2 (A beat C 17-0, but I suspect the game wasn't really that close).

I just have a hard time believing that these games are worthwhile for any of the teams. They're better than sitting at home, but I wonder they're better than playing other ultimate, even practicing.

With a 3 team section, the answer may be different than for an 8 or 26 team section.

(George, I know you were talking about DoG, so thanks for making it look like the (Canadian) Monkeys were complaining.)

gcooke said...

I understand and agree that it is difficult to make lopsided games worthwhile. While it might sound hokey, I do think that we can't take the opportunity to play for granted. Alan Goldberg, the sports psychologist, discusses that injuries can be positive because they provide time to reflect on how much we miss playing. John Thompson (not the Georgetown coach) wrote in his book "Shooting in the Dark" that his team developed distinct goals for games in which they would crush or get crushed. These goals allowed them, in both situations, to take something positive from the experience.

With the structure the way it is today, Sectionals is all about the teams on the cusp of qualifying for Regionals. My concern, as an administrator, is more about these teams than the teams that are a shoe-in. I think it is also important to remember that there are players and teams that get very excited, and maybe, perhaps, even consider it an honor to take the field against a team like DoG. To be able to say "...and then I got skied by Jim Parinella....", well, maybe I should just stop there.

So I think it would be incorrect to view where we stand as transitional, because the idea of restructuring the series isn't even off the ground at all. Now, this presents the opportunity for vision, which can be intimidating. Opinions and vision are different.

I am curious----what are peoples visions of a UPA Championship Series?

deepdiscthoughts said...

I feel that the current system needs tweaking, but not in a major way. Here are some basics requirements for a quality series, for me:

1. All teams that want a shot at Nationals get a shot at Nationals.

2. Teams should not receive preferential treatment (other than seeding) based on the results of a previous year.

3. Sections should not be larger than ~20 teams. Space and Format restrictions are prhobitive at this point. In the MA and NE regions at very least, this necessitates some redrawing.

In the end, I'm less concerned about finding quality games in the series than I am about determining the best teams. If you want quality games, go to other tournaments before the *Championship* Series.

micah said...

George, good to see some action on the blog...

I agree with Gwen that there should be a different fee for league-only members, but could the cost come down at all and still be able to cover the insurance needs for the local leagues (I assume that's why most of them would require UPA membership, right?)

heacox said...

We had a discussion about this a few months ago:


My apologies for not knowing how to hyperlink yet. And if I'm spamming.

It mostly revolved around college teams, but I believe is applicable to the club series as well.

As was mentioned previously, expanding the series may require some Sectional and Regional restructuring.

Jon said...

I think it is also important to remember that there are players and teams that get very excited, and maybe, perhaps, even consider it an honor to take the field against a team like DoG. To be able to say "...and then I got skied by Jim Parinella....", well, maybe I should just stop there.

Well, it wasn't DoG, but I did get a chance to play against 7 Sages at Mars (I was with Pursuit), which is about as good a collection of ultimate legends as I'm likely to see.

There was definitely some awe factor, and it's fun to tell my friends that I caught some discs and threw a score when Jim Parinella was defending me (I know Jim, you're not a D guy), but everyone else has a lot more fun with the anecdote that goes "...and then I got heckled by Jim Parinella."

In other words, though the elite teams may see it as a waste of time for them, I think the value of the experience to a lesser team definitely makes it worthwhile.

gcooke said...

ok..good feedback so far.

1) The Board has been doing a bit of work on outreach to leagues. I think one of the sticking points for some leagues is that to be UPA sanctioned, all the league members have to be UPA members. I am a bit unsure about this area of things, though.

I do know that a lot of leagues have their own insurance.

I have heard the idea of using league play as a qualifier for the Series.

2) To me, the idea of a tiered system AND everyone having a shot a Nationals requires an additional level of competition. In other words, some games need to be played in order to sort into tiers? This, I think, is similar to what I was talking about in terms of an extended season.

3) The idea of a tiered model a la European soccer is interesting, but has some fundamental differences.

First, teams are in tiers based on the previous year. I don't believe that a team in the bottom of the divisions can win the whole thing.

Also, I could be wrong, but my understanding is that there is no championship game. The goal is to win the division. If you are in A, that means you win it all, if you are in B...then you move up to A.