Comment Of The Day: Spirit Needs To Be Officiated

Ryan Mallen took a look at the new USA Ultimate strategic plan and had this to say:

[quote]I’m glad that USA Ultimate includes Spirit of the Game in its plan, but they don’t discuss any details about how to resolve the issues with self-officiation that have arisen with increased levels of competition over the past few years (especially in the US and Canada). In my opinion, ultimate in its current state is not viable as a spectator sport because of the chaotic nature of self-officiation. If USAU wants to market and display (and eventually charge admission for?) competitive ultimate, it needs to improve the quality of play in a number of ways.

They could start with some adjustments to the rulebook.[/quote]

[quote]To me, competitive ultimate has become increasingly difficult to watch. Too many questionable calls are being made (and subsequently argued for way too long) at the most exciting moments, and it creates an awkward pacing to the game. As a player, I stay engaged because I’m interested in the call (read: shameless ultimate nerd), but I can imagine that non-ultimate playing spectators (read: expanded viewership, see goal #1) would be confused and/or turned off by this.

A quick fix for the pacing issue would be to implement a time cap on foul call discussions (10 seconds?), after which the ruling is automatically turned to the observer. Also, to cut back on the number of calls in general, I think travel calls should be taken out of the hands of the players and made actively by observers only.

As for the un-Spirited play… it really bothers me when teams use techniques like calling bogus travels and intentional fouls to slow offensive movement; its a clear violation of Spirit, but observers rarely intervene (unless the fouls become excessive to the point of physical harm/danger). I believe that observers need to take a much more authoritative role in penalizing teams that persist in violating Spirit. Whether its a more liberal assessment of TMFs/PMFs or a new system entirely, I believe some adjustments are necessary to deter teams from playing in an un-Spirited fashion.

I don’t think ultimate needs referees. I think self-officiation (with the aid of observers) is a valid (and sometimes more efficient) model for organizing competitive play. But there are some refinements and clarifications that need to be made before USAU starts pursuing a wider audience. I personally would like to see (from USAU) a clarification on the role of Spirit, which seems at times like a redheaded stepchild in discussions for furthering the sport. I believe its up to the USAU to (re)commit itself to SOTG and set forth a plan to establish the important role of Spirit in playing ultimate at all levels of competition. Self-officiation under the code of SOTG is part of what makes ultimate so great; it’s a unique and intriguing element to the sport the just needs some fine tuning to become sustainable. I hope that SOTG can endure the growing pains of our sport to bring the Spirited ultimate we know and love to a wider viewership.

USAU says it plans to “lead a community-wide effort to clarify and communicate how Spirit of the Game applies to behaviors on and off the field”. I look forward to finding out what that means exactly.[/quote]

  1. Charlie Eisenhood
    Charlie Eisenhood

    Charlie Eisenhood is the editor-in-chief of Ultiworld. You can reach him by email (charlie@ultiworld.com) or on Twitter (@ceisenhood).

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