2014 College Championships Report Card

Tiina Booth grades the 2014 College Championships after attending the event for the first time as a coach.

The crowd at the finals of the 2014 College Championships.
Photo by Kevin Leclaire — UltiPhotos.com

I have been to College Nationals three times, but never as a coach. The last time I attended was 2009 in Columbus. Returning to Ohio as the coach of the UMass men was decidedly different than attending with my friends and young nephew.

At times it felt like a very compelling field trip to me. I was a bit overwhelmed, trying to absorb everything and not miss any event or person. At other times it felt like a normal ultimate tournament, except really well-organized. It has taken me over a week to recover, and like any subjective evaluation, please remember that there is absolutely no data here. Feel free to create your own categories and grades in the comments.

1. Parking

The best design for parking I have ever seen at an ultimate tournament. At the main fields at Heritage Oak Park, you drove on an access road that looped the fields. If you knew where your field was, you could easily park near it, as the parking surrounded the fields. The spaces were arranged like spokes on a wheel. Brilliant.
At the Mason High School stadium, where everyone moved to on Sunday, parking was also easy. A+

2. Arrival and Welcome

The volunteers were exceptional at this event and it started the minute I arrived. I had forgotten my parking pass and they let me in anyway. I chatted with two very friendly volunteers and they were clearly excited to be part of College Nationals. I asked them about how the “fans” were feeling about paying to park. One young woman said that the only car who had been rude to her was full of older club males, one of whom told her he had invented the hammer. Classic. A+

4. Main Venue
The fields at were quite good with very clear lines that delineated where everyone was allowed to stand/not stand. Grass needed to be cut at the satellite fields but, really, they were better than the fields at most tournaments. Someone suggested double sided scoreboards but I don’t think that was necessary. I loved the tents for each team on the sidelines. Made changing fields so much easier. We definitely needed more trash cans on the sidelines though and/or more teams need to pick up their crap!

I didn’t spend much time up at Merchandise Alley but it looked like lots of fun. The premier field had low stands on one side as well as scaffolding for filming. A-

5. Signage

There were sponsor signs everywhere. There was no doubt that this was a USAU event, sponsored by Discraft and . . . I don’t remember. But that wasn’t the fault of the signage. Suggestions for improvement: This is the same suggestion I had for the first MLU game in Boston. Having signs on the busy roads outside of the stadium could bring in non-ultimate fans. They even had a LED sign that could have been programmed for this event, rather than for the high school natatorium. One parent told me that a neighbor just showed up at the stadium because he saw that something was going on there, but there sure were no signs to show him, or others, the way. She also said that there was very little local coverage, but I know nothing about that. B

6. Announcers

I didn’t really pay attention to the announcer at the park. The one at the stadium was excellent and was easily heard all the time. A

7. Bathrooms

There were porto-o-potties at the park, plus a real bathroom, although somebody told me it was locked on the first day. I still don’t think there were enough p-o-ps, or at least there should have been more at the busiest fields. Some were out of toilet paper first thing on Sunday morning. Bathrooms at the stadium were fine. B-

8. Uniform Compliance

So I knew as a coach what I was supposed to wear. And I knew that the players had to wear matching uniforms with the correct numbers on their jersey and shorts. Somehow it slipped my mind that the socks and hats had to match . Or maybe that was something that the captains were supposed to take care of. Either way, I was visited by the very nice USAU Compliance Police during a break in one of our pool play games. They informed me that my team’s socks were out of compliance. I am sure that this is a job that no one wants to do. I understand why USAU wants uniformity. Just seems like a waste of time and staff. Incomplete

9. Food-Retail

Lines were too long at the tournament site, although I hear it was good food. More food trucks would be better. Mason is the Land o’Chain Restaurants and having some local food during the day would have been great.

And there was ice cream at the stadium, as well as some other options. B-

10. Food-Tournament

I am always a little skeptical when I hear that a tournament is serving us dinner. I have simply waited too long in lines for lukewarm food that quickly runs out. But whoever was in charge of the players/coaches Saturday night dinner did a stupendous job! Lots of options and the lines moved quickly. Very friendly servers and there were even seconds and thirds. The tiniest gripe I had was the wading pool full of soda. The cans were ice- cold but not everyone likes carbonated drinks. I also heard some complaints about the lemon cookies for dessert but those complaints were wrong. A-

11. Contests

I didn’t really watch the contests at the merch tents. At the stadium, there were many opportunities to catch shirts (size small) and discs and minis by Discraft. As at the MLU games, the fans live for these.

Suggestion for improvement: The PDGA throw-a-disc-in-a-pole-hole-a hundred-yards-away-and-win-a-car probably seemed like a good idea on paper. It was definitely lackluster in person. Too far to throw and far too difficult. I suggest a shorter distance, more throwers, and smaller prizes. If you want to simulate the agony and ecstasy of disc golf, give contestants a real chance to get it in. Or . . . how about a trick shot competition from different places in the stadium, with everyone aiming for a garbage can or basketball hoop? Seems like that might be a good idea to promote the fun of throwing. Someone should do that. B+

12. Observers

I am sure someone can write an entire column about these observers, but I thought they were pretty good, even when I got T’d up for swearing. Again, this is an impossible job. We are not an easy group to ref. I think the four observers/game is ideal but I know that is also expensive. One concern I heard was that players need more experience with observers earlier in the season. And that observers need more experience working games before nationals. B+

13. Level of Skill

I was most impressed with the college women’s teams in the semis and finals. I have not watched college women play at that level before, other than online. Men’s teams were skilled, as expected, but still too many turns for my taste. A- (average for the two divisions)

14. Level of Thrill

Every time I walked back to my car, I saw players either gathered in a “How did we play so poorly?” huddle or walking in pairs, trying to hold back tears. This tournament clearly matters to everyone. The parent posses wearing the shirts of their children’s teams seemed bigger than last time and their energy certainly contributed to the competitive excitement that was everywhere.
The women’s semi-finals and finals were probably the most thrilling games I watched all weekend, particularly UCF v Oregon. The men’s semis were OK, but it really seemed that Oregon didn’t really show up to play. The men’s finals also seemed predetermined.
Men – B
Women – A

15. Organization

At Northeast Regionals, there were numerous problems because we had to move from Dartmouth to URI at the last minute. I understand logistical challenges, but there was no tournament central and if you wanted to find out where you were playing next, you had to find the dude with the schedule written on a torn flap of cardboard. Shades of the early 80’s!

No such problem in Mason, of course. Precision and competence defined the work of everyone who put together this event. The tournament looked professional, ran smoothly, and was so much fun to attend. Brava and Bravo! A+

15. Volunteers

They were the best. They were easy to find in their blue shirts and they were so helpful and engaged. The folks keeping score sometimes had a few malfunctions, but nothing that couldn’t be fixed quickly. A+

16. Pageantry

Before the men’s finals, the fans were asked to remember the 3 lost men from Carleton in a moment of silence. Then a woman started singing the Star Spangled Banner a capella. As she sang, I looked up and saw 3 parachutists, representing the 3 players, dropping gently into the stadium. The last one was carrying a huge American flag. As he landed, the song finished and I found myself in deep tears. It was Memorial Day. I am not a particularly patriotic person. It floored me. A+++

  1. Tiina Booth
    Tiina Booth

    Tiina Booth is the director of the National Ultimate Training Camp and a co-coach of the University of Massachusetts men. She founded the Amherst Invitational in 1992 and co-founded Junior Nationals in 1998. In 2006, she published a book about ultimate with Michael Baccarini, entitled Essential Ultimate. She has coached teams to numerous national and international titles. Her ongoing passion is sports psychology, and she offers clinics to coaches of ultimate and other sports. Tiina will be inducted into the Ultimate Hall of Fame at USAU Club Nationals in October of 2018.

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