Tiina Booth grades the 2014 National Championships.
October 29, 2014 by Tiina Booth in Opinion with 34 comments
Attending a tournament as a fan/fluff journalist is much different than going as a player or coach. I was not privy to what went on in most of the games or rules discussions, but I always had my teacher-ear trained to conversations that repeated themselves. There is almost no data in this report, except for #11. I am sure I will be told there is not enough data in #11 but please remember that this report card, as were many that you have received, is subjective. As always, feel free to create your own categories and grades in the comments.
We were in Texas, after all, and the parking lots were spacious and easy to get to. Once you learned where your field was, it was easy to park near it. A+
2. Arrival and Welcome
There sure were a lot of them. The local volunteers all wore blue shirts and were accommodating and helpful. The admission was $5 for the day or $15 for the entire event, although at our entrance, the all-event wristbands were not available. A
The Toyota Soccer Center was designed for events like these and I completely understand why USAU is enamored with this site. Almost everything is easy. Each field has some sort of low stadium seating and was easy to find. It is not a huge complex, like the one in Sarasota, so in some ways it felt more intimate, yet still antiseptic in its aesthetics.
The grass fields were quite good and the turf fields were unbearable, according to the players who had to play on them. One player said that the turf was so hot that between points he looked for some shade to stand in to cool down his feet. As a spectator, I had a hard time finding any shade at some of the fields. Some of us stood in the scrawny shade off a light pole and moved with the sun every 20 minutes. Scoreboard signs were too small and difficult to read.
Suggestions for improvement: If you want non-ultimate fans to attend, or even ultimate fans to spend a full day there, some accommodations need to be made for shade. The turf question is much more difficult to solve and is an important issue for all athletes. B+
4. Signage and Publicity
There were sponsor signs everywhere and they also provided a modicum of tall skinny shade for some fans. I was surprised to see no mention of this championship on the Toyota Soccer Center’s front page, but there sure were a lot of high school football games listed. Seems like a wasted opportunity. I saw one small 8 x 11 flyer taped high on a window at a sub shop but I can’t imagine any kid could or would read it. There were some wee players trotting through the tournament at times, but I would expect more since this is our second year in Frisco and this is USAU‘s premier event.
Suggestions for improvement: This is the same suggestion I had for the first MLU game in Boston and College Nationals. Having signs on the busy roads outside of the stadium could bring in non-ultimate fans, if that it a USAU goal. If it is not, then we are doing a fantastic job. C+
The only complaint I heard about bathrooms was that if you played on the far fields, near the NGN field, you had a long jog to the complex’s main bathrooms. On Saturday and Sunday, the bathrooms under the showcase stadium were next to a line of port-o-potties. Plenty of choices. I was most impressed with my visit to the USAU tent on Thursday when I saw two Costco size packages of toilet paper, in case they were needed. These small details matter. A-
6. Uniform Compliance
During College Nationals, we were visited by the 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, mainly because one player was wearing red ones. There was no danger that my team — UMass men — were going to appear on ESPN and it seemed a waste of personnel. (At the 40th Cornell Ultimate Reunion, I told this story and everyone thought I was lying.)
However, it seems that the sock issue and perhaps other uniform restrictions, have been loosened. While I totally support teams looking professional at high profile USAU events, let’s not choose every battle. If everyone is wearing different color cleats, do the socks really matter?
B+ but this should be an A or even disappear as a category. Looking professional does not mean you have “sold out to the man.” It is a fairly benign request by the organization who is putting on this event.
The options for vegetarians were a soft pretzel or orange nachos. There were some chicken dishes that ran out early. The Gatorade also ran out on one of the days. On Sunday, most of the vending machines were out of beverages. This irks me to no end. I do not understand why this complex, whose job is putting on big events, runs out of anything to serve to people attending these big events. They would get a D but their counter help was very professional and friendly. C-
This grade is the most substantiated as I asked almost everyone walking by what they thought of the Saturday night player dinner. The #1 positive is that it was self-serve, so players could take as much as they want. Very smart. Meat eaters took a pulled pork sandwich and some kind of sausage. The #1 negative is that the vegetarian entrée was a baked potato with a side of potato salad. I also did not see anything green on the plates.
Here is what is not a reasonable excuse: “Oh. It’s Texas. They probably don’t have any vegetarians down here.” or, “Oh. It’s Texas. Of course we are only going to get meat.” This is ridiculous. Someone signed a contract with a catering company to provide this meal. The catering company has menu choices and if they do not have a real option for vegetarians, then choose another company.
9. Media Access (written by Ultiworld editor Charlie Eisenhood)
Things got started off almost exactly as they did at the College Championships earlier this year. Media had a dedicated tent with plentiful space for gear, computers, and people. We shared the tent with UltiPhotos and both of our crews had plenty of space to work. It was shady, and there were sufficient power connections (though I was very glad to have brought extra extension cords and power strips). Very good all around.
Again, the Internet was bad to nonexistent. We hotspotted most of the weekend. I guess the dedicated internet at the complex was overloaded? Suggestion for the future: USAU should try to secure a passworded network for the Media.
Unfortunately, our access to watch and report on the semifinals and finals on the main stadium field was the worst its been since I’ve been working at Ultiworld. The press box was too small to accommodate anyone more than the ESPN broadcast team, so we were given a small tent outside of the stadium area, behind a fence and the sideline players and tents. Trying to report from the tent meant not being able to see at least half of the field.
USAU said that we could sit in the stands, but good luck reporting and working on a computer without a desk or power, alongside spectators. This was a huge headache, compounded by the fact that our reporters weren’t allowed to be on the sidelines (even though photographers are). USAU seemed to be lenient about allowing active writers to be on the sideline, until they weren’t, and I was chided for breaking the rules. We certainly didn’t mean to be a nuisance — we were just trying to do our job. B-
There has already been plenty of analysis of the games on Ultiworld and elsewhere. This is what I have to offer. A few years ago, I arrived with my high school team at Easterns and found that the games were to 13 points, instead of 15. When I asked why, Will Deaver said that they had looked at the data and that only two teams consistently reached 15, so they lowered it. I can’t wait to see this same logic applied to Club Nationals. In the quarters, semis, and finals, the women’s teams reached 15 in 5 out of 7 games. The men reached 15 in 1 out of 7 games. So I assume that in 2015, the women will play to 15 and the men to 13. Or, if you want to provide incentive to stop the stoppages, threaten the men’s teams with this change in 2016 and see if they can self-correct next year. Incomplete
11. Gender Equity
Even though it was announced earlier, I was still stunned that both women’s semis were not on ESPN3. Reading the announcement online is much different than seeing Fury and Riot relegated to a field away from the main stadium. Since USAU pays for coverage, I would think that they would step up and showcase the amazing athletes on all four teams. Since there seems to be much interest in increasing the number of girls and women playing ultimate, why not take this opportunity to provide coverage of two games in which our elite women compete against each other? Since USAU’s long-term plan seems to be getting mixed teams into the Olympics, I would think that they would want the world to see what who our women athletes are and what they are accomplishing.
Suggestions for improvement: Revisit the gender equity policy with a fine tooth legal comb. Very Incomplete