A Model For Pro And USA Ultimate Cooperation

Two referees watch as a player lays out for a disc in a DC Current v. Philadelphia Spinners game.
Photo by Kevin Leclaire — UltiPhotos.com

As the co-founder of the AUDL’s San Francisco FlameThrowers and a long-ago men’s Club player myself, I have been following the development of the USAU’s Triple Crown Tour with keen interest.

Tyler Kinley’s excellent recent piece caused me to sit up and take notice. We at the FlameThrowers certainly don’t think of ourselves as revolutionaries, but it occurs to me that USAU, and even some players, may view us that way. To us, the development of professional Ultimate is about bringing a dynamic, spectator-friendly sport to the broader audience it deserves, and is a natural evolution in the history of the game.

Let me say from the outset that I have incredibly high regard for USAU. I am an active (USAU-certified) youth coach, and found the Coaching Development Program to be invaluable in my own efforts to teach the sport. I believe a strong and vibrant players’ association is an absolutely critical component of building the sport of Ultimate, and the question in my mind is how the USAU and professional leagues should work together to promote and grow the sport we all love.

Fortunately, there is a readily available model for constructive interaction between USAU and professional Ultimate. Many sports feature national governing bodies working alongside professional leagues: US Soccer & MLS, USA Basketball & NBA, USA Hockey & NHL. They are mutually exclusive, and, although there are occasional conflicts, they generally support each other’s efforts in their respective sports.

In all of these cases, the professional leagues offer elite regular competition, and the national associations promote the sport’s development and select teams for international competitions, some of which are still considered the pinnacle of the game (think: World Cup). In the individual sports of tennis and golf, the national associations (USTA & USGA) continue to sponsor annual tournaments (the US Open in both cases) that are also “career wins” for any player. The emergence of pro Ultimate does not necessarily diminish the USAU Championships, and ensuring that players have maximum freedom of choice across all facets of the game seems an obvious win-win for the sport.

Pro leagues and their teams on the ground are bringing Ultimate to new fans every day. Those same fans will want to watch their favorite pro players in the USAU Open and Mixed series, and inevitably discover the amazing women athletes in the Mixed and Women’s game. I believe the USAU should seize the opportunity to work hand in hand in cooperation with the pro teams to take Ultimate to the next level of public awareness.

These are my own personal views, and do not necessarily reflect those of the AUDL, or the SF FlameThrowers.

  1. Michael Kinstlick
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    Michael Kinstlick is a long-time Ultimate player and coach. He is a co-owner of the AUDL's San Francisco Flamethrowers and one of the world's foremost experts on craft distilleries. He lives in San Francisco.

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