January 8, 2013 by Charlie Eisenhood in Livewire with 12 comments
Could Mixed ultimate be the driver of successful pro ultimate? Commenter Skippy thinks so. He praises USAU for their work and thinks the Triple Crown Tour is the right step forward, but says Mixed is being overlooked.
[quote][USA Ultimate] is an organization that has tried to really work hard at listening to the membership and delivering on its promises. (Who does that??) Bringing in a CEO with professional league experience was a big part of that. Rules have changed. Sponsors have joined. But It takes time to develop a sport into a recognized and respected entity, let alone bring the sport to the professional level. I believe there has been a plan in place for a LONG time, and it is a LONG term plan. (I don’t have first-hand knowledge of this, but there is proof the plan has been acted upon – especially if you were part of the first strategic planning process that took place in multiple cities across the country a few years back.)
USAU knows you can’t just go out and start a professional league without a market. Look at what they’ve done. They updated the website, they added video updates, they added the college national championship series to ESPN, worked with NexGen… They’ve been trying to figure out how to get the club division to a “pro” level without compromising the spirit and integrity of the sport, which is just what happens any time someone tries to develop an independent “professional” league.
As an entrepreneur I have learned to start small. Sure, have a big plan, and know you are going to scale it up. But if you can’t do it small, you won’t do it big. USAU decided to go with the TCT because it makes the most sense in the gradual introduction of Ultimate to a potentially huge audience. When a company grows too fast the likelihood of failing increases exponentially.
USAU had to introduce certain aspects of this growth plan (leading to TCT) so that organizers and players could gradually adjust to things like new paperwork, rankings, and language. As with rules, it is rare to see a new rule (or interpretation) adopted at the club level before it’s been experimented with at the college level.
This is all my opinion, I am not on any boards or committees, but as a former Sectional Coordinator and Tournament Director, I can say that what the players and fans wanted wasn’t the product that was delivered by AUDL, nor is it what is being offered by MLU.
Too big, too fast is a fail, and if you love Ultimate as I do, you don’t want to see it fail. I do agree that NexGen as done well with broadcasting and marketing. However, starting a league is much more complex.
As for divisional questions. One thing people overlook is the trend of Mixed Ultimate. Sure, Open gets the press and play, while Women’s is just too slow for the viewer… but no sport in the world has mixed competition at the highest levels like we have in Ultimate. This unique piece of the puzzle is one everyone overlooks. All your local leagues are coed. Coed drives the sport and keeps ultimate growing at the adult level. Certainly an elite men’s division will draw a crowd, but what I have experienced over the last 5 years in Boston makes me really question why Mixed still feels overlooked. Ultimate is positioned to become the first and perhaps only true high-level COED professional sport. That is unique. And that WILL draw audiences – maybe not right away, but in the long-run (and it will grow league-level participation a ton)…[/quote]