Monday, January 29, 2007

UCPC Content available for download

I meant to include this in my UCPC Recap post and Shiv's comment reminded me that I need to say that I will be uploading content (handouts, powerpoint, and audio) to the UCPC website all week.

Go here to download.


UCPC Recap

Whew. What a week. One of the busiest 4 weeks of my life is capped by a day long conference 2 years in the planning. The cherry on top is that I had to pack up the gear from the conference and then race over to Arlington to play with my band. I felt like I had fallen over a cliff this morning. I don't "do" busy very well, so I'm looking forward to getting back to my normal pace.

Jim posted about his experience at the UCPC. I think the event went over very well. It was pretty amazing to see high school kids from Minnesota and Pennsylvania, coaches from Texas, Ohio, Montreal, and Presenters from Massachusetts, Seattle, Oregon, and North Carolina, etc walk in the door at Newton South High School

I can't thank BUDA enough for their support in making the conference happen. Tiina and I are also indebted to the Presenters and Volunteers who gave of their time. Many folks, including Shiellah Quintos, Josh Mullen, Emily Baecher, and Andrew Hollingworth (just a few names among many) took the initiative to solve problems and make the conference a better event. I would also like to thank Kyle Weisbrod for coming in from Atlanta and running the panel discussion as a data gathering event for the UPA's Strategic Planning Initiative.

I actually had a pretty calm day on Friday. I realized that the conference was a train with wheels in motion. What was done was done. Even still...I really didn't sleep on Friday night as there were many details that needed to be resolved. Small things like Wiggins getting rerouted and not arriving until 10am, which meant that Gwen and Miranda needed to know, at 1am, if they were going to rent their own car or not(they ended up getting the hotel, after driving around on Boston streets on the coldest day in two years, at 2:30am). The good thing one freaked.

The event began with a keynote speech by Dr. Alan Goldberg ( Really great stuff. Lots of talk about acting without thinking and being in the moment. At one point, he brought uncontrollables and my Wellesley girls (all working hard as volunteers) started laughing at me because they had just realized the limits to my original thoughts. Dr. Goldberg's presence really added to the legitimacy of the event and I am grateful that he could spend time with us.

I spent a bunch of time wandering around checking out the presentations. I thought they were excellent. Ben Wiggins' marking discussion revealed a depth of analysis and focus that was remarkable. Made me realize that I don't spend enough time on marking with my girls.

I spent a large portion of time in the auditorium as I was making sure all the av stuff was going smoothly (I work as an audio technician for corporate meetings, so we were able to get dvd's going and provide a feed for Jeff Irvine/Ultivillage. Hopefully, we will be able to get some of the conference footage up. After Wiggins, Dan Cogan-Drew and Bryan Doo discussed Fitness for Ultimate. Again, eye-opening. I hired Bryan as my trainer a few years back, but I hadn't really touched base with him in a while. His basic focus was hamstrings and core. He really does not think static stretching is good at all. One of the things he discussed was the difference between warm-ups at the start of the day vs between games. He mentioned that Ultimate was very difficult to train and prepare for as the demands of the tournament format are pretty unique. In that context, I felt that their presentation was a small opening into the future. There will come a time when there will be a base of knowledge, developed by professionals like Bryan, that will help us to prepare ina serious manner for the rigors of our sport.

I walked by Tiina's presentation. It was packed. Goldberg, Parinella, Ted Munter, and Tully were all in there. Then I wandered over to Bryan Dobyns' session. I got a chance to introduce myself to Chris Phillips and we reminisced about the 1982 UMASS vs Hostages game to go that we had both participated in.

After the second round of presentations, everyone gathered, had lunch, and wandered around the Ultimate Expo. I think the middle school and high school kids loved wandering around and getting all the free stuff from the colleges (Miranda mentioned to me that if Ultimate was an NCAA sport that we would have all been fined for recruiting violations). My wife and daughter volunteered for the whole day, so they ran the ARHS/NUTC/UCPC/Dan Cogan-Drew video/Alan Goldberg cd/book table with Dory Ziperstein and Emily Baecher. This does not come without perks as my wife got to chat up Goldberg for an hour about the specifics of mental toughness and swimming. I thought the Ultimate Expo went well. I would have loved to see more vendors and club teams participate. Lincoln-Sudbury High School Ultimate parents did all the catering as a fundraiser for their Ultimate team. I thought they did a great job and they worked very hard.

After lunch, I got Cogan and Doo going and then I wandered over to see Wicks present on coaching college Ultimate after stopping in to see Miranda and Wiggins talk about MOHO. I think the "5 Rules of MOHO" are good rules to any level. Wicks had written me a couple of times expressing a bit of concern about whether folks would be interested in 45 minutes of what he had to say. I decided to go see how it was. I will just say that there are 2-3 ideas that he presented that I am absolutely going to blatantly steal. I thought his presentation (organized based on the calendar year) was informative and focused. Most of the presenters, including Nathan, encouraged questions as they were talking. Not only did this promote interactivity, but I thought it helped to diffuse any formal pretensions (compared to the meetings and conferences I work at regularly, this was quite refreshing).

Kitt Hodsden flew in from the Bay Area to discuss "Ultimate for the Non-Gifted Athlete". As we didn't require pre-registration for the presentations, I was interested as to what her draw would be as she was up against some big names (Parinella, Dobyns, Wiggins). In the end, she had very solid attendance at both her presentations. I think this speaks to the fact that the attendees were very interested in content...especially that which pertained directly to them. We tried to encourage attendees that were there with several teammates to spread out...don't go see a single presentation all together. I think, overall, that most groups followed this advice.

Gwen Ambler chose to speak on fundraising for Ultimate, and her examples of what she did at Stanford are remarkable and inventive. Just another example of why that program is on a different planet. I got a few moments to touch base with Gwen during the conference. The first time, really, since NUTC 05. Gwen, even in the face of her tremendous success as a player and coach, is always interested in what others have to say and I always benefit from her insight.

I had an hour to set up the panel discussion in the auditorium, so I did not see any of the 4th round of presentations. Folks started to filter in at around 5pm, and we premiered the NUTC promo video as they came in.

Kyle served as moderator for the panel. Our panelists were Emily Baecher, Miranda Roth, and Steve Mooney. We asked Jeff Graham as well, but he had to leave the conference early at the last minute. Kyle opened the discussion with a brief description of the UPA's initiatives and how this event would fit into the overall scheme of the Strategic Planning Initiative. The format was basically focused on two questions/issues (paraphrased): 1) Should we grow Ultimate via grass roots or high profile events, and 2) Discussing the tension between SOTG and highly competitive play. Kyle did a great job keeping things moving. The response to 1) was overwhelmingly in favor of grass roots growth, both by the panel and the audience. I do think the different view points of the panel were constructive. Mooney as elder statesman seemed to reveal that while he has as great a historical perspective as anyone out there, he was not as concerned with in vogue issues of the day. Miranda, of course, offered the perspective of a coach/player at the top of the game, and Emily offered the perspective of a growing player with a solid foundation in Youth Ultimate. Mooney refereed to a conversation that he had with Bill Rodriguez about what Ultimate would look like in 100 years. From that perspective, Mooney felt like we were "fine" and he did advocate for the importance of protecting and nurturing our culture.

Question 2 was a bit more polarized, which is to be expected. Some folks felt that refs are necessary at the highest levels. Others were adamant that refs are a bad idea. Miranda brought up what I think is the important distinction between SOTG and refs (I brought this up in my "self-officiating" post. It was during this discussion that Steve interjected a very interesting comment. He basically said that in the context of SOTG, our culture, and promoting the sport, that the Mixed Div could offer the best opportunity for marketing ourselves as the sport of the future (paraphrased). I swear to you that I did not pay him to say this. I actually had a conversation with Steve about this at the inaugural Mixed/Masters Easterns in 2003. I was playing with Steve, Jim, Al, Cork, etc on Big Ego Ultimate. The masters div was about 6 teams. We were on the line, and Steve looked at the other 35 Mixed Div teams playing and said to me, "That's the division to be playing in". In any case, it was quite a comment.

Kyle finished the discussion by having all the attendees place stick-on dots on big sheets of paper so that we could "vote" for our preferred direction that the UPA should take in terms of the the 2 questions. This data will be gathered and combined with the data gathered at other SPI events. The result will hopefully be a picture of what Ultimate players want. Again, I am glad that the UCPC could function in the context of larger purposes.

With that...the conference came to a close...9 hours of talking about bad can that be?

This morning, Kitt, Gwen, and Miranda came over for brunch. It was a rare opportunity to talk with other College Women coaches. Very fun as we exchanged funny stories about coaching, teaching, and trying to make our programs as good as they can be. Gwen and Miranda left for the airport, and Kitt is staying over until Tues as this her first time in Boston.

---all I can say is thanks.


Tuesday, January 23, 2007

I or D Part 5- Gender Equity

This will be the last post in the series. I am sure that many folks will be glad to see me get off my high horse. This post will address what is to me a critical area in which our sport has an opportunity to set itself apart from most other sports (and virtually all field sports). By putting men's and women's divs side by side at its showcase events, the sport has not only differentiated itself, it has indicated its priorities and values.

Now, there are no rose colored glasses here. While we have been successful, in a general sense, of physically putting men and women equally on a tournament pitch, there is, in terms of "backroom" sentiment, clear disrespect toward the women's division. One needs only look as far as The Count's post on Day 4 of Nats to get a pretty clear view of this sentiment. Other spectacles such as the Sockeye heckling debacle two years ago further this point. Finally, one needs only to talk to the women involved in the formation of the division in the early 80's to get the sense that the creation of a women's division was met with great reluctance back in the day. Luckily for us, good sense prevailed. This is not to say that we should all enjoy watching women's Ultimate, or that we shouldn't be critical of its quality of play. The point is: a policy of gender equality is good for the sport because, due to differentiation, it places us in line with some of the small social steps we have made in the last 30 or so years and, unlike most other sports, gives us an advantage as both genders have access to participation under one umbrella.

Ultimate might be perfectly aligned to be the field sport of the post Title 9 era. There are examples like the WNBA in which the "men's" division has promoted its development , but, for most field sports, if they even acknowledge the "better half", it comes in the form of griping about losing its funding due to Title 9. Of course, there is usual line of rationalization about why it 'ok" to ignore women athletes based on "objective" data (men can run faster and are stronger), but then we have the NFL rolling out with great pride the fact that women make up 43% of its fan base (up from 35% a few years ago). While the NFL is basically Neandrathal in terms of promoting any kind female involvement in the sport (other than eye candy), they have all of sudden seemed to wake up to the fact that they have, until recently, basically ignored 50% of their fan base (read: potential income). With this kind of example, why make things hard for ourselves?

Ultimate is obviously behind most other sports. Most of the other field sports have roughly 80 more years of organzational experience than we do. Very few, however, have a structure in which women and men are treated equally. This is a clear opportunity to not only offer assets like positive role models to both genders, but we have a relatively equal playing field of experience to draw upon, in terms of leveraging this as an asset.

I think it could be argued that gender equality could be THE most important thing that our sport has to offer. More than the flight of the disc, "purity" of the sport, SOTG, etc, etc. As we move into the future, we will probably need to clearly state our values and priorities. I think there are not a small number of us that feel that a policy of gender equality could, in the future (if not already), come at the expense of our ability to promote ourselves. Hopefully, a clear statement of values will help us negotiate potential difficult decisions.

I do think it is important that we view the divisions with a clear and informed mind. I personally found this year's Riot v Fury final the most compelling of the final games. Why? The story was interesting. It is naive to assume that faster and stronger athlets are ALWAYS more interesting. From a broad point of view(meaning over the last 2-3 years), the Fury win has to be considered an "upset". It is been stated several times in the Ultimate blog world that a good story like an "upset" makes sports exciting. As such, I found it very interesting to see Fury systematically take Riot apart...great stuff. Kicked the men's my opinion.....

So, to review, the context for this series of posts was to churn the waters for the panel discussion on "The Future of Ultimate" at the upcoming Ultimate Coaches and Players Conference. It now looks like the UPA is going to participating in this panel discussion as they are, obviously, working on a Strategic Planning initiative. It is my hope that subjects like media, technology, self-officiating, and gender equity can be part of the discussion as I think they will be important parts of our next steps into the future.


Wednesday, January 17, 2007

I or D Part 4-Self-Officiating

Wow. Very busy time right now. I was in Boulder for the past weekend for the Board meeting, planning for the UCPC is really ramping up, plus there is that thing called life that has its normal demands....ok.....moving on.

Kevin and Glenn had comments about self-officiating in my "Game Pace" post that lead me neatly back to the Imitate or Differentiate thread. Clearly, this is a controversial subject and this post is not meant to evaluate self-officiating or to wade in on the "ref" debate. It will simply discuss that, for good or for bad, self-officiating is probably the clearest and most obvious example of an opportunity to differentiate ourselves.

I will first start off by saying that this post makes the distinction between SOTG and self-officiating. In the broad scope of things, SOTG is essentially good sportsmanship, which can be found, to a greater or lesser degree, in the basic teachings of most sports. While SOTG makes the assumption that knowingly breaking the rules is in violation of SOTG, I don't think that SOTG mandates that Ultimate can ONLY be self-officiated....we wouldn't be able to have observers if this were the case.

As I said above, self-officiating is perhaps the most obvious means by which Ultimate can set itself apart from other sports. Maybe it is naive, but I think self-officiating can be looked upon as "social experiment". A project in which assumptions about the way we behave in competition are challenged. Maybe it is laughably optimistic, but maybe the way folks treat each other in the context of "positive" self-officiating could be a major component of what the sport has to offer. Maybe Ultimate without some self-officiating component is not Ultimate anymore.

Clearly, there are some challenges. Other sports, in a pick-up context, practice self-officiating. There is an image problem if the one of the things that differentiates us is generally known as a "school yard" means of arbitration. It doesn't take a lot of insight to see how people outside of the sport can't take it seriously.

A big question I have is can self-officiating be viable if money is involved? If not, does self-officiating therefore limit our potential?

I think a helpful perspective comes down to an answer that is familiar: Let's concern ourselves more with making the game great to play...and less with "external" standards of success.


Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Ranking the "game pace" of Ultimate

Lots of talk about the "pace" of Ultimate these days. There have been plenty of complaints over the years about too many arguments, slow resolutions to foul calls, too much time between points, etc. In general, there seems to be a sense, as Kevin mentions in my "11th Edition" post, that players would like to see Ultimate become more "fan friendly". There are also many discussions in places like RSD about getting Ultimate on TV and what it will take to accomplish that. I had some questions about not only "game pace" but also its relationship to TV, so I spent some of the past week doing "research". I timed football, hockey, basketball, soccer, and Ultimate games and developed a ranking based on the data. This post discusses those findings.

I think I need to start by saying that my sample size would not pass muster at even the most basic academic level, but I do think the numbers give a rough sense, enough to have a discussion, of what is going on in major TV sports. Here is what I sampled:

Soccer- 1st half of Chelsea vs Wigan from early Dec
Hockey- First period of the Bruins-Columbus game from Dec 26
Basketball-2nd, 3rd, and 4th qtrs from the Heat-Lakers game on Christmas Day
Football- 1st half of Eagles vs Cowboys on Christmas Day
Ultimate-2003 UPA Club Championship Open Final-FG vs Condors

Here is how I devised the ranking number:

What I was interested in was the time the ball (or puck or disc) was "in play". I measured the time the object was in play and then I divided that by the total time for the period. Hockey and basketball were easy as the clock runs when the object is in play, but for the other three, I had to get the data with a stopwatch. The result of dividing "in play" by "total time" results in a percentage. I then ranked the teams by this number. I also made some general (not comprehensive) notes about longest times that that the object was in play, etc.

Heat vs Lakers, Christmas Day

Each qtr is 12 minutes. I did time starts and stops in the action, but the main measurement was the start and finish time for each qtr.

2nd qtr- Began at 3:06pm, lasted 36 minutes
3rd qtr- Began at 4:01pm, lasted 28 minutes
4th qtr- Began at 4:33pm, lasted 31 minutes

Total "in play" time= 36 minutes
Total time for period= 95 minutes

Game Pace Ranking = 0.38

Notes: The average duration of time in which the ball was in play was roughly 25-30 secs, although there were a few periods of much longer sustained action, including a wild 2:44 span in the 3rd qtr in which there were no stoppages of play.

Eagles vs Cowboys, Christmas Day

1st Qtr- Began at 5:08pm, ended 28 minutes later at 5:36pm(the announcers remarked that this qtr moved very quickly)

Total "in play" time= 2:37

2nd Qtr- Began at 5:38, ended 43 minutes later at 6:21pm

Total "in play" time= 3:05

Total "in play" time= 5.7 minutes
Total time for period= 71 minutes

Game Pace Ranking = 0.08

Note: Longest sustained period of action was an 11 second kick-off and return

Boston Bruins vs Columbus Blue Jackets. Dec 26th.

Note: I don't have cable so I had to resort to the web stream of the radio broadcast. As such, I was not able to get to the level of detail of the other sports.

1st period- Began at 1:54pm, ended 32 minutes later at 2:26pm

Total "in play" time= 20 minutes
Total time for period= 32 minutes

Game Pace Ranking = 0.62

Note: Hockey had long periods of sustained action and, in general, just seemed to to flow along with very few stoppages.

Thanks to Marshall Goff as he had Tivo'd an English Premiership game. I appreciate his help.

1st half of Chelsea vs Wigan- Early Dec.

Total "in play" time= 30:47
Total time for period= 47 minutes

Game Pace Ranking = 0.65

Notes: Average sustained period of play was 32 sec. Longest sustained play was 2:35.

The ranking is as follows:

1) Soccer-0.65
2) Hockey-0.62
3) Basketball-0.38
4) Football-0.08

Observation: I am guessing to certain extent, but I find it interesting that there is an inverse relationship between the "game pace" ranking and the TV market share of the sports.

So, where does Ultimate fit in?

Game: 2003 UPA Club Champs- Furious George vs Condors

1st half= 60 minutes
"In play" time= 27:52

2nd half= 61 minutes
"In Play" time= 19:55

Total "in play" time= 47:47
Total time for period= 121 minutes

Game Pace Ranking = 0.39

Notes: Average sustained duration was roughly 25-30 seconds. Longest sustained duration was 57 seconds. Longest cumulative break was time between points, followed by long slow walks after a turnover, followed by arguments about foul calls.

Game Pace Rankings with Ultimate:

1) Soccer-0.65
2) Hockey-0.62
3) Ultimate-0.39
4) Basketball-0.38
5) Football-0.08


1) Based on this data and on my observations in watching all of these sports live in the past two months, I don't think Ultimate is unduly slow or any less "fan friendly" than other sports. I am not saying that it wouldn't benefit from a higher pace, I just don't think we are asking for an unreasonable amount of patience on the part of the spectator.

2) I think this data suggests that Ultimate would translate pretty well, in its current form, to TV. There are ample breaks for commercials and instant replay.

3) Is asking for Ultimate's pace to increase and become more "fan friendly" in the live setting at cross-purposes with the requirements needed to get it on TV?

I spoke a bit with my brother (a college div 1 rowing coach) about this post, and he felt that Ultimate shouldn't worry about TV. He thought that the focus should be on making it fun to play and then go from there. His suggestions for Ultimate: professional uniforms and very well run events.

Hopefully, the data (however small the sample) in this post speaks to the fact that sports viewed live or experienced on TV place very different and sometimes conflicting demands on the experience and that we need to be careful about our assumptions when it comes to looking at other sports as possible role models.