Meet The Candidates: USA Ultimate Board Of Directors Election

Learn more about the candidates running to represent the USA Ultimate membership on the Board of Directors.

The logo of USA Ultimate, the sport's national governing body.USA Ultimate is currently in the process of electing new board members to represent the membership. We asked each of the candidates — four vying for the at-large position and two for the elite athlete position — five simple questions to help illuminate their beliefs about important, current issues. Below, find their answers, as well as links to their USA Ultimate statements.

All USA Ultimate members can vote for two at-large candidates. To vote, simply go to your USAU account, login, and go to the voting page.

Only elite athletes can vote in the elite athlete representative election. You can find out the criteria for being an elite athlete here.

Please note that all candidates were asked to keep responses to approximately 150 words per question and told that they were not required to answer all five questions. Responses were edited for grammar, spelling, and length. Joe Seidler did not respond to requests for comment.

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Kevin MinderhoutKevin Minderhout

Owner, NexGen Ultimate
USAU Statement

 

1. In your opinion, what is USAU doing well?

USAU has been doing great things in the college and youth divisions. YCC continues to set new attendance records every year which is really exciting. I’m stoked about USAU’s recent commitment to supporting International competition. While our nationals teams have always done a lot of winning, until recently our national team programs were in no way class-leading. I feel good about the dividend high-level development will pay in the long term.

2. In your opinion, what areas would you identify for USAU improvement?

If USAU has been doing an excellent job with development at the youth level, it stands to improve greatly at the adult level. USAU is currently struggling to meet the needs of both recreational club players and serious elite ones. I believe delineation here will benefit both parties. You can read more about this here.

I also think USAU can do more to support its gender-equity policy. The interpretation right comes across as simply providing the same things to men/boys and women/girls. We need allocation of resources set aside strictly for women/girls development.

3. What is your position on the semi-professional leagues and how USAU should or should not work with them (or other outside organizations)?

USAU has no obligation to or to not work with pro leagues nor do I feel they should or should not. I do feel that USAU should not write them off as valueless. The Board’s recent statement that “what makes ultimate unique in a very positive way is lost in and devalued by the models of both the AUDL and the MLU” is unfounded and protectionist. A majority of the people putting in the work in these leagues are members of our own community and we shouldn’t be dismissing them so easily.

The pro leagues have achieved some really fantastic things and have some really excellent people involved with them. If elected to the Board I look forward to continuing to touch base with their leadership teams and looking for common ground where the organizations can work together to grow the sport.

4. What part of your ultimate or non-ultimate experience do you want voters to know about?

No answer.

5. Greater visibility is USAU’s number one strategic goal. What measures should the organization take to improve the visibility of the sport?

This really depends on your definition of visibility. Based on the goals outlined in the strategic plan it appears that USAU is referring to popular media visibility. I believe that in order for that visibility to pay dividends we need to build a compelling fan experience. The current club structure does this poorly. As I mentioned earlier, I’d start by more completely delineating elite competitive and recreational competition structures and providing tailored support for what are very different goals.

Josh SeamonJosh Seamon

Chair of a High School Math Dept., Williston Northampton School
USAU Statement

1. In your opinion, what is USAU doing well?

USAU listens well to its members. Both strategic plans have been firmly grounded on vast sets of data collected over extended periods of time from all corners of the USAU membership. Those two documents (2008-2012, 2013-2017) are fine-tuned expressions of what the diverse membership of USAU wants and sees in the future of Ultimate.

USAU puts on well run events. There’s nothing like USAU championship events. Even most regional USAU events are far and away superior to any other events on the planet.

USAU has stayed very well focused on Spirit of the Game. It’s been a central part of both strategic plans and plays a pivotal role in all levels of USAU operation. Additionally, USAU has led the way, inside the strictures of its mission, in thoughtfully exploring the evolution of spirit throughout the various levels of play across the nation.

Above all, what USAU does best is live its mission of Character, Community, and Competition. Everything that the organization does is tied to those three C’s.

2. In your opinion, what areas would you identify for USAU improvement?

While USAU does actively listen to the voices of its constituency and evolve accordingly, I feel that the organization needs to be more nimble and quick with regards to change.

The website needs work. I believe the new site is a massive step in the right direction, one that took a herculean amount of work to get rolling, but it still has a ways to go. The user experience is too rough, to the point where some people are walking away with a negative view of the organization after everything from a basic view of the site, to deep roster and event management. That should never happen.

USAU needs to be much more aggressive about pushing the growth of women’s Ultimate. A larger portion of USAU resources should be devoted to growing women’s Ultimate. Phenomenal work is in motion like the Girls Ultimate Movement, and USAU has pushed hard to expand girls’ divisions, but I think much more should be done. One good way to start would be hire more women as USAU expands. Right now, out of 17 staff members at HQ, only 4 are women.

I feel as though USAU could be less reactionary. Yes, the organization does have finite resources, but I believe more work could be done getting further ahead of emergent issues. That way USAU could have a position publicly broadcast and a plan fully in action, well before it gets to the point where the organization must have one in place.

3. What is your position on the semi-professional leagues and how USAU should or should not work with them (or other outside organizations)?

I am in agreement with USAU’s very articulate and direct 3/18/14 statement of official position on semi-pro leagues. When determining how and to what level USAU should work with any outside organizations, USAU must first examine how well those organizations align with the mission. That being said, I believe USAU should always keep the lines of communication open with any organization that even only at a tertiary level has anything to do with Ultimate. You never know where you’re going to learn a crucial piece of information. USAU should always keep its eyes and ears wide open.

4. What part of your ultimate or non-ultimate experience do you want voters to know about?

I served on the USAU Board of Directors from 2008 to 2010. While on the Board I was elected to the Executive Committee, chaired the World Games Committee, and was a member of the Nominating Committee. One of our largest priorities on the Board at the time was implementing the 2008-2012 strategic plan.

Since 2011 I have been working as USAU’s Regional Youth Director for the Northeast. As RYD I also serve on USAU’s competition committee which sets the national policy and direction of all competition across all divisions of USAU.

Most recently, since 2012, I have been helping administrate Ultimate Peace as the Director of Training and Development.

You can learn more about my candidacy at JoshSeamon2014.com.

5. Greater visibility is USAU’s number one strategic goal. What measures should the organization take to improve the visibility of the sport?

All five current strategies are wonderful launching points that will help guide us all the way through 2017, and so far they have been quite successful. USAU should continue to expand broadcast coverage both in quality and in reach as well as focus on specific markets like youth, parents, and local leagues. Increased visibility is our number one strategic goal, but it’s very important to never forget that any goal doesn’t operate in isolation. USAU must stay just as focused on the other five goals for visibility to be grown in a healthy way.

In addition to keeping the pedal to the floor with all five of these strategies, I believe that USAU needs to dream bigger: Ultimate needs to be played everywhere. All of the time. Working towards that goal is the best way to achieve greater visibility of the sport. The numbers from the 2013 annual report should be celebrated, but we should never be satiated.

 

Andrew SiejaAndrew Sieja

Attorney
USAU Statement

1. In your opinion, what is USAU doing well?

I think USAU has done a great job in getting more exposure to the sport. Their strategic partnership with ESPN is something we’ve all wanted for a long time. I also think that USAU’s commitment to the development of youth ultimate and its determination to get ultimate on the Olympic stage is vital.

2. In your opinion, what areas would you identify for USAU improvement?

I’d like to see more games and tournaments between the elite clubs and those that are knocking on the door. I think we all may be surprised to see the results. In other words, I’d like to see USAU re-focus on the majority of its members, while not abandoning their commitment to exposure, and continue to grow the sport through grassroots efforts as opposed to a top-heavy approach.

3. What is your position on the semi-professional leagues and how USAU should or should not work with them (or other outside organizations)?

I’ve said before that I’m old school and I still believe strongly in the SOTG. A lot of the differences between USAU and the pro leagues is in this distinction. Personally, I think SOTG contributes well to pickup games, leagues, youth, and perhaps most importantly the IOC. That said, I’m a big believer in compromise and there must be middle ground to be had for the betterment of the entire sport.

4. What part of your ultimate or non-ultimate experience do you want voters to know about?

I’ve been playing ultimate for (going on) 18 years. I started my club (with the help of 2 others) in 1997 at Denison University. I’ve played co-ed, men’s, played all over the country, run tournaments, run leagues, captained, and coached. In other words, ultimate has been a huge part of my life for over half my life. I’d like to couple those experiences with my legal background and give back to the sport that means a lot to me.

5. Greater visibility is USAU’s number one strategic goal. What measures should the organization take to improve the visibility of the sport?

Getting to the Olympics is clearly the best way to increase visibility. But until that happens (which could be a while), I think USAU should continue its efforts with ESPN and media coverage, but we re-focus on grassroots efforts. If kids play, parents will learn the sport. Then it comes on TV and they watch it. If college students play, their friends and families watch and learn. Look, even in my 17 years of playing ultimate, the sport has grown in popularity and received increased exposure quite a bit. We don’t need to re-do the recipe, we just need to change the ingredients here and there.

 

Elite Athlete Candidates

 

Ness FajardoNess Fajardo

Captain, Fury
USAU Statement

1. In your opinion, what is USAU doing well?

USAU is making strides towards achieving its goal of increasing the visibility of the sport. A deal with ESPN and a new format that highlights the best teams in ultimate throughout the season are examples of how well they are doing that.

2. In your opinion, what areas would you identify for USAU improvement? 

As a player, I’ve noticed that the communication between USAU and players is not done very well. I would love it if USAU were more proactive in communicating what format and structural changes are occurring before those changes are actually happening. I also think that USAU spreads itself too thin. Coordinating competition at the highest levels for club teams, college teams, and youth teams is already a lot. On top of that, USAU is adding a lot more to its scope as the years go by. Suddenly USAU is now coordinating US club and youth national teams, beach worlds teams, a new beach nationals…and that’s not to mention the efforts they put into growing the sport and providing playing opportunities for recreational players.

3. What is your position on the semi-professional leagues and how USAU should or should not work with them (or other outside organizations)?

I am a fan of the semi-professional leagues. I think they help USAU achieve its objectives in increasing visibility for the sport. I do think that USAU and the semi-professional leagues should be more collaborative with each other. Our community isn’t big enough to support multiple factions….yet.

4. What part of your ultimate or non-ultimate experience do you want voters to know about?

I’ve been playing elite ultimate for a long time, and believe I can represent that population of the sport well. I also think that my non-ultimate experience as a consultant will help me be effective in driving the changes that I and other elite athletes want to see. I’m really good at listening, gathering input, and translating that into action. I think that makes me a good fit for the Board.

5. Greater visibility is USAU’s number one strategic goal. What measures should the organization take to improve the visibility of the sport?

I mentioned earlier that I think USAU is going a good job of achieving this goal, but there is certainly more they could do. One step would be to improve the score reporter so that it’s easier for fans to read and keep up with what’s going on. USAU should also increase the coverage of the most competitive tournaments (i.e. streaming more than just one game per round, and at the very least, ensuring that the streaming all works well). Lastly, I think that growing the sport will naturally increase its visibility. USAU has been very focused on the competitive aspect of the sport, but largely we should be directing more attention to the youth and the recreational players who make up most of the fan base. They are a key part expanding the visibility of ultimate.

 

Tyler GrantTyler Grant 

Player, Mischief & SF Dogfish (MLU)
USAU Statement

1. In your opinion, what is USAU doing well?

USAU has done a good job helping grow youth programs all over the country. It’s remarkable to see these athletes come in to college with fundamentals that I didn’t develop until much later. This just goes to show how extra training and a broader reach can improve the sport as a whole.

2. In your opinion, what areas would you identify for USAU improvement?

One of the major areas that can be improved is in communication. The last few years have seen a significant amount of change and I have found it challenging to get information about why a particular decision was made. In some cases it felt like USAU decided on a path without significant buy-in from the teams and players. This gap in communication leads to friction between USAU and its players. Examples include moving from Sarasota to Frisco, changing the format for Nationals, requiring multiple / specific TCT tournaments, and the rankings algorithm itself.

Regardless of whether I agree or disagree with any of these decisions, at the time of their announcements, I would have liked to see a clear and public explanation from USAU as to how they arrived at their decision. An explanation of USAU’s thought process would have gone a long way towards convincing me that they examined a wide range of possible scenarios.

3. What is your position on the semi-professional leagues and how USAU should or should not work with them (or other outside organizations)?

The semi-pro leagues are a great way to expand the reach of our sport by turning non-players into fans. Every game is filmed and has the opportunity to highlight individual performances beyond just the wins and losses at a tournament. This makes it ideal to show off the athleticism that you can find in our sport. Speaking as an MLU athlete myself, an additional benefit as a player is the opportunity to play alongside a variety of teammates who I might not get to play with during the more structured TCT club season. It reconnects and bonds players who might otherwise go their separate ways in different divisions.

In my opinion, the point of the semi-pro leagues is to attract more fans from outside the sport. USAU’s job is to attract more players and improve our playing experience. These are not conflicting goals. I’d like to help USAU work with these organizations and help each group focus on what they do best.

4. What part of your ultimate or non-ultimate experience do you want voters to know about?

My time playing has taken me all over the world and given me some amazing experiences with cool people. I could just ride it out without volunteering, but I thought I should give back to the sport.

5. Greater visibility is USAU’s number one strategic goal. What measures should the organization take to improve the visibility of the sport?

Frankly, I’m not convinced that “visibility” should be USAU’s number one strategic goal. I would much rather attract more players and athletes than try to compete head-to-head with the semi-pro leagues on showmanship. It’s not a battle that USAU can win without significant and detrimental changes to the how the club series is played.

The club championship is about the players and competing as a team for the top spot in the nation. It is the most important championship in ultimate. It’s where club players spend most of their free time over the summer. It’s where you find the most team chemistry on the field and it’s the reason people train and stay connected with the sport year over year.

The fact that we have a championship accessible to all players at all levels makes it worthwhile when someone wants to get a bit more serious about their commitment to the sport. There is always a place for people to get involved and improve. The best salesman is not some YouTube or ESPN highlight. It is your friend who brought you out to pickup, encouraged you to practice and helped you enjoy the game.

My goal is to help USAU focus on improving the experience of playing so that all members at all levels are inspired to continue to work towards the overall growth of our sport and to sustain the best parts of Ultimate.

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Voter turnout has been extremely low in board elections of years past. Help change that! Go to your USA Ultimate member page and login to vote today.

  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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