February 13, 2013 by Tiina Booth in Opinion with 1 comments
I have never seen a year like 2012 in ultimate. More people are playing than ever before, tournaments abound every weekend of the year, and the glut of men’s leagues has been mesmerizing, as well as an endless and amusing source of speculation. We have two excellent online ultimate magazines, both of which provide daily updates of competition as well as document the drama and vitriol that has defined these last 12 months.
If you look at the speakers and seminars at this year’s Ultimate Coaches and Players Conference, you will see seasoned coaches and players, veteran organizers and directors, exciting entrepreneurs and their start-ups. The breadth of what we have to offer has never been wider or deeper. We are in the middle of unprecedented growth and, as expected, we are experiencing growing pains.
At times it feels as if we are in the middle of a particularly vicious Easter Egg Hunt. People are elbowing each other out of the way, running toward any bright bauble they can find. Friends are cheering them on from the sidelines and jeering when someone else gets to an egg first. And the people in charge of the Hunt have lost complete control.
This kind of chaos is not surprising and, indeed, is part of what happens when growth happens quickly and money is involved. As my friend Anthony Nunez said last week, “Everyone is scrambling for their piece of the pie.” I have been known to scramble too, so I understand the frenzy.
However, we are in danger of leaving behind our real work as ultimate coaches and players. This real work can be slow and frustrating, but without a renewed commitment to training and education, we will eventually find ourselves playing to an empty hall or…stadium.
I see our Real Work as:
1) Finding and training new coaches to lead our teams. We do not have enough competent coaches to match the growth of our sport, across all divisions. I probably fielded over 30 requests from teams to help them find coaches in 2012 and I suspect this is happening nationwide. And just because you have played “elite” ultimate, you are not automatically an effective coach. Learn how to teach.
2) Encouraging experienced coaches to continue learning and growing. The sport has changed, the public perception of us is in flux and coaches can always improve how they lead their teams, both on and off the field.
3) Supporting the girls’ and women’s divisions by everyone. The current catch phrase is that these divisions are 10 years behind the boys and therefore attention does not have to be paid. I suspect that this myth is just a way to rationalize ignoring these divisions and I am dismayed by the ease with which many in the community dismiss female players and teams, privately, publicly, and anonymously online. And can we just figure out a way to give Michele Ng the money and resources she needs?!
4) Improving our behavior and conduct whenever we are in the public eye. With the increased growth of our sport, we are under increased scrutiny. I am not making an ethical argument here. Frankly, I do not care how anyone behaves in private. I am only interested in having access to fields, stadiums, trainers, transportation, newspaper coverage, and anything else that we need to grow ultimate. Every school, college and city has resources we could use and the burning of bridges needs to stop.
All of the news is not bad. I think that the best thing to come out of the league drama has been the coalition that some men’s teams have formed. Whatever the reason, this defacto union is unprecedented, exciting, and holds great potential. International coaching and playing opportunities are blossoming and Ultimate Peace is the clear leader in these endeavors. I believe that the UCPC will continue to be a place where all of our innovators and veterans, rookies and captains, can come together and do an annual pulse check on where we are and where we are going, and where we want to be going.
I have pretty much decided to stay the course and stay on the sidelines of the Ultimate Easter Egg Hunt. I am committed to coaching, to my camp, and to this conference. When the ashes settle, when leagues or businesses dive or thrive, when alliances are forged or broken, we will still all have the same task ahead of us: the education of those who play, coach, and represent our sport. It is my hope that the UCPC will continue to have a role in this challenge in the many years to come.
You can register for the conference and the expo on the UCPC website. The conference is set for March 2nd, 2013, in Newton Centre, MA.