Monday, February 12, 2007

Ulitmate Season...rant.....comments

I will be traveling with my family next week, so I will not be posting. Expect some info about UPA Series stuff come March 1.

Also, Mark M's rules blog has moved and become the UPA Rules Blog. I highly suggest that folks check it out. Reading the 11th is required for my Wellesley girls. We did a lot of work last week on ground checking the disc while putting a live disc into play.

Onto the topic of the week:

There was a call by Neva on RSD that results need to be posted on the SRT in order for ranking systems to work. Hear..hear! We seem to treat our tournaments as if they are in a vacuum. That they don't intersect with the concerns of others. That the data produced couldn't be of use somewhere down the line. While there seems to be a collective sense that a formal Ultimate season would be positive and exciting for the sport, we seem content in passively bleating about what we would like to happen and determined to resist the most primitive baby steps that could start us in this direction.

In my more extreme moments, I just find the fact that two of the lead posts on RSD this morning are players pleading for the most basic information about President's Day and Mardi Gras galling. This type of lack of information plus the derth of info from College Vegas is, to me, unacceptable. If we view things from this context, even asking why Ultimate is a not a big time sport is a joke.

If we want to take advantage of the small opportunities that are available to us in kick starting the development of a season for Ultimate, we need to be much more clear about what we expect from our tournaments as players, spectators, coordinators, and remote viewers. The concern of this post is not "which tournaments should be considered the "regular season" as that, in my opinion, puts the cart before the horse. Our "regular season"(events prior to the UPA Series) now is a mish-mash of "fun" tournaments, "serious" tournaments, lack of data, rumor on RSD, lack of communication, little documentation, and no standards in terms of formatting or accountability. The result is a "product" that has, in general, no continuity, few stories that draw us in, and little reliable data. Despite our best efforts to handicap ourselves, great rivalries and stories do manage to crawl out of the muck and, like some oasis in the desert, provide compelling drama and excitement.

Here is a summary of some things I would love to see.

For tournaments that want to be part of the Ultimate season:

1) The results and final standings should be clearly posted on the SRT within a day of the completion of the tournament.
2) The seedings and format should be locked down and published on the SRT by the Tues before the tournament.
3) Tournaments should have a bid/registration system with clear deadlines and defined policies toward teams dropping out. These policies should encourage teams to feel that they are making a serious commitment to attend when they submit their registration fee.
4) The format should be close to the standards defined by the UPA Formats Manual. If we are going to use the results of tournaments for such things as seeding, then the results need to be determined fairly. The format shouldn't change during the weekend.
5) Seeding should be done, as best as possible, in an order of relative strength. Pools shouldn't be built based upon "playing new teams", for example.
6) Teams need to understand that results will be used as data. No complaining after the fact that "we were at half strength"...or hungover...or whatever.
7) Results, if at all possible, should be updated on the SRT during the tournament.
8) The TD should be prepared with a variety of formats (very easy to do on the SRT) in the event that teams drop. The TD should publish the intended format ASAP, but also indicate that the format is not confirmed if they have teams that might drop. In this case, the TD should pro-actively communicate, on the SRT, how teams might be affected if the format were to change.

For tournaments that are not concerned with being part of the Ultimate season:

Ignore the above. Run whatever BS format you want...oops, I meant BCS format. Just keep it off the SRT. Leave your teams in the dark about seeding and the format. Or better yet...just make it up as you go along and seed things to favor your own team. We need to remember that teams are just there for the party.

Then we can let the market decide. Teams that want to be treated respectfully at an event with a modicum of "professional" standards will know where to go. They will know that their results will be derived fairly and that they will become part of a story larger than themselves...the Ultimate season. Perhaps we might even to get to the point where basic communication is an expected part of what teams are paying for.

This will also hold tournament TD's accountable to certain standards as well, and, possibly, mitigate the possibility of TD's influencing such things as Sectional and Regional seeding by creating seedings and formats at their own tournaments that are unfair and biased.

There will be many factors that will come together one day to give us an Ultimate season. Luckily, we have some things we can influence and control today that can start us in that direction. This post does not claim to offer an opinion or an outline of what an Ultimate season would look like. I just think there are some small things we can do today to raise the bar a bit higher.


Jackson said...

I was TD for the first time this fall when I ran the Rutgers fall tournament. I tried to do many of the things you stated but also found some of them very difficult.

I tried to stay close to the format manual. This would have been very easy for the expected 16 team tournament. However we only had 15 teams. The mistake I made was going to each team on the waitlist in order, instead of telling them all at once that the first team to respond gets the spot. Oh well, next year I'll do it the right way.

The score reporter is a great tool. I have found it very easy to use when submitting a score, and I have always been frustrated when TDs have not posted formats or posted them incorrectly. However, when I tried to post the format for the Rutgers tournament, I found that end of the SR to be incredibly difficult to use. It was very difficult to set up the format the way you wanted it, but even worse was that it was almost impossible to make small changes without starting all over again.

Final point: I don't think that results should be looked at without context (understanding if a team had a short squad, weather and wind conditions, etc.) (maybe you were saying something else?). Ultimate is different than other sports because it has a huge pre-season, and everyone makes the playoffs. The "regular" season data is used to seed teams at sectionals, regionals, and nationals. If team A loses to team B on a short field in the snow in early March, this should have barley any affect on how teams A and B are seeded at regionals. It certainly shouldn't be required that B is seeded higher than A, because of this one head to head loss. In this case, context is very important.

gapoole said...

The SRT has been invaluable to me in terms of documenting my team's relative successes, team-to-team comparision with or without a head-to-head between them, and following progress (for instance, seeing how my old high school did at the latest tourney). I agree that extraneous information is important (conditions, half-strength, TD bungles, etc), but I'm not sure about the best way to distribute it. There are only a few blogs out there, especially at the juniors and college level, and RSD requires patience and a pair of waders to sift through the BS.

Also, while I agree that sending your check should constitute an informal contract that binds you to the tournament, I think that enforcing the rules too strongly might discourage teams from applying to tournaments that they might otherwise have, had their reputation(etc) not been on the line. In other words, hardassed TDs might hurt the growth of small or newly-formed teams.

Adam Tarr said...

I, too, get really frustrated by tournaments that don't publish the format before the event. Obviously I have way more experience working with the SRT than most people (maybe more than anybody except Rodney), but I really don't understand why someone would go to the trouble of hosting a large event and not bother with publishing the format/results. Relatively speaking, it's not that hard.

On a few occasions, this has annoyed me to the point that I have edited other people's tournaments to allow the scores to be reported in the right places. This is my version of vigilante justice.

All of that said, I have a minor quibble with two of your suggestions for "in-season" events:

4) The format should be close to the standards defined by the UPA Formats Manual. If we are going to use the results of tournaments for such things as seeding, then the results need to be determined fairly. The format shouldn't change during the weekend.

There are quite a few non-manual formats that can work very well for non-series tournaments. For example, power pool formats or pool play with little-to-no brackets or a 14-team format with 3 pools or playing to place in stead of bubble down/bubble up bracket structures.

The reason for this is that the goal of series formats is a little different. The point of series tournament formats is that they are about as good as we can manage at producing a fair ordering of the advancing teams. Since non-series formats aren't effecting advancement, we can merely judge each team by the quality of their individual wins and losses at an event. As such, the focus of the format can be less about producing the most accurate ordering of teams, and more about ensuring that every team gets a good number of games against comparable teams.

5) Seeding should be done, as best as possible, in an order of relative strength. Pools shouldn't be built based upon "playing new teams", for example.

Here I am about 80% in agreement with you. When it comes to series formats, I've said that the only time we should seed to avoid secional/regional rematches is when we are unsure what the proper ordering is, but one of the potential seeding sets avoids rematches while the other does not.

When it comes to non-series formats, I would say the above still pretty much holds true, but I would be comfortable with a couple very minor tweaks, on the order of one or two switches of adjacent seeds, to further create desired matchups. Like I said above, we can merely judge each team by the quality of their individual wins and losses, as oppose to where they "finished". But something like what happened at the Florida Winter Classic, where they had pools of three and pools of five, is totally unacceptable. There's a line between massaging the seeds and corrupting the entire tournament.

Additionally, I want to make it clear that "massaging" the seeds is not a good substitute for running the right format. This is especially true of mid-stream changes in a tournament. There have been two or three times in my career that:

1) I have suggested a bracket structure to a TD (usually 4-5 days before the event) that would minimize the likelihood of rematches,

2) The TD responds with something along the lines of "that seems good, but (blah blah blah) we'll stick to the current format".

3) Saturday night or Sunday morning, the TD realizes that they are in rematch-land, and unilaterally makes a bunch of suboptimal switches to the matchups.

Episodes like this make me really appreciative of the TDs (like you, George) who actually care about getting the format right the first time and take input well.

parinella said...

I agree with Tarr. The needs of the non-UPA tournaments are different from the series tournaments, so you can deviate within reason. Especially early in the season, there is a lot of error in estimating team strengths, so there are a lot of possible seedings that are reasonable, so why not set up the pools for minimum replays so long as the pools are balanced?

George, would you also apply the format restriction to disallow A and B (and C, etc.) divisions at tournaments?

gcooke said...


I think the brackets side of the SRT is a bit hard to work with when you need to make small changes, but the pools are much more friendly when you need to tweak.

One thing I have done is create multiple tournaments (only one is published) that take into account the loss or gain of a team. Then, if a team drops, you just plug the new group of teams into the alt format and away you go.

Make sure you a familiar with the "import" function. That will save you a lot of time.

I appreciate your point about context, but I think it can be difficult and potentially very cumbersome to aplly "context" equally. Should a TD rely on the teams to give them a game by game "handicap quatient"? Are we able to rank wins according to some percentage of a "true win". If, for example, team B beating team A the weekend before Sectionals in no wind counts as 100%, then does the same win, but early in the season in the snow count as 50%? 60%? If we add in that team A was "not at full strength" does that mean that we lower these percentages even further? Supposing that team A is "better in the wind" does this diminish the quality of B's win?

My point is neither be curt, snarky, smart, or disrespectful to your good point. My point is to say that if we were to try to fairly adjust wins based on an evenly applied "context"...then the matrix of results is absurdly high.

I think, from sitting in my seat in front of the computer, that a win is a win. If a team is really concerned about entering into a tournament "not at full strength" then they should probably enter that tournament under a different name and candidly explain to the TD that they need to be seeded at some weakend level. Is relying on team honesty niave? I don't know.....


gcooke said...

Hi Glenn,

In terms of the contract, I do like the way Potlatch prints out a "refund schedule". This way, if a team bails, they know what percentage of their fee they can expect back.

In the past, I have tried to either publish on the SRT or communicate to the teams exactly what the status is:

"As of today, we have 34 confirmed teams. 2 teams look like they might bail. Our goal is have the format and seeding done by....etc...etc"

Perhaps I err on the side of overcommunication...but that is what the delete button is for.


gcooke said...

Adam and Jim,

I think Adam's 1st point is well-taken. The concerns of Sectionals (getting 5th place is right) is different than the "regular season". However, I would much prefer subjecting my team to the ordering that results from pretty much any UPA format to that of the formats that I have seen handwritten on the back of a cardboard box.

Of course, my above comment is an extreme. Mostly I just want to know the "why" of the TD's decision. So it is almost more about the communication than the format. If I know the why is "I just made it up", or "I want to give my team an advantage" or "I don't like your team and I want to screw them over" or "This format is very close to 16.3 of the UPA Formats Manual" or "I needed to give myself a bye in the last round so that I could pick up the kegs"...then I can make an informed choice in the future about which tournaments I will attend based on the communicated priorities of the TD.

Sort of the same goes with #2. I am OK with some TD discretion as long as it is transparent and fair.


Adam Tarr said...

On the "win is a win" versus "handicaping" approach:

- The RRI and UPA ranking systems already discount earlier results to a degree, so that's built in to some degree.

- My experience is that you're going to get generally more accurate seeds, and spend a lot less time, if you just ignore everybody's excuses.

Adam Tarr said...

Obviously I'm not impartial on this point, but I would agree that the typical, say, 12 team format at a random tournament is inferior to a randomly selected 12-team format from the manual.

I am attempting to gradually collect "good" formats for non-series events. My hope is that eventualy we will have a pretty good library of formats for TDs to pick from, for most common numbers of teams, as well as for power pool versus balanced pools and other common options.

gcooke said...


I didn't fully answer your question. By clearly stating a refund policy, teams will know where they stand. New teams will, I think, appreciate that the rules are clear and fair.


gcooke said...


I think A, B divs, etc are fine. I think the lower divs should be treated to the same standard of respect that the higher divs get.

I also think there is a place for lower divs playing up into the higher divs.


gcooke said...

Adam said:"My experience is that you're going to get generally more accurate seeds, and spend a lot less time, if you just ignore everybody's excuses."



Eric said...

it should be pointed out that in most cases anyone with a login and password can edit tournment scores in the srt. After a tournment I always input any scores i recall (or W-L for unknown scores) into the srt. we shouldn't wait for the TD or someone else to do it. if you know the score update the srt regardless of who you are....Better yet on saturday night when you are laying around in your hotel room waiting for your teamates, call a friend and have him/her update the srt with the results you observed. Why wait for someone else to do it?

gcooke said...

Hey Eric,

That's a good suggestion.