Do We Need A Grand Bargain Between USAU And Pros?

In his reaction to Tiina Booth’s latest column, my co-editor Sean Childers makes the case that finding common ground between USA Ultimate and the semi-pro leagues is going to be challenging, if not impossible.

“Finding a consensus on the idea of compromising is different from finding a consensus on the actual implementation, and I’m afraid there is none,” he writes, before going on to look at a proposal for compromise by commenter Troy.

Troy wrote:

Can I formally arbitrate an agreement? USAU agrees to avoid major scheduling conflicts and provides their trained observer base, AUDL agrees to let players call their own fouls while keeping most of the “ref” system. USAU agrees to fully promote pro leagues and help with the streaming coverage (and both sides bring the NexGen network back from the ashes), AUDL agrees to grow USAU membership by requiring it of all it’s players and coaches (imagine kids at an AUDL game signing up for USAU clinics). PLAYERS get to decide which format they like better for the top of the game, and YAY both versions have the ear of ESPN already anyway, who’s probably just waiting for us to figure out what we are . . . Maybe the US Open could include the AUDL championship game that Saturday night… now THAT would be a party!

At least right now, this is an obvious stretch — it’s just not going to happen. There isn’t going to be some unveiling of a “grand bargain” between the semi-pros and USAU where everyone suddenly gets together and sings kumbaya.

The thing is: that wasn’t Tiina’s point. Let’s be clear about what Tiina called for in her column:

1) Broker an agreement with one or both of the [semi-pro] leagues to have a USAU presence at their games to promote the sport to its young audience. A pop-up tent next to other vendors, with USAU branding, will most directly educate new players and their families about existing and exciting opportunities.

2) Welcome players from the pro leagues at USAU clinics or any other youth-targeted event. The volunteers running these clinics need all the help they can get and, again, we are talking about the same pool of players. I understand not wanting to overtly promote these leagues at Triple Crown events, but how far does USAU’s reach have to extend?

That is a very small, incremental step, one that is focused on growing youth ultimate, not trying to find some new Triple Crown Tour/AUDL/MLU superhybrid. Tiina is calling for a USAU presence at semi-pro events (to me, a slam dunk no-brainer) and a semi-pro presence at USAU clinics.

We’re already halfway there. The AUDL and MLU see obvious value from hosting youth-oriented events as a way to grow their fan base. They are already hosting these events on their own terms. They want to go out of their way to provide volunteers, money, and structure to youth clinics. Guess what? Local communities want that. At the micro city level, there is already a great deal of support for the semi-pro presence, at least from a grassroots growth perspective. The ivory tower approach at the national level from USA Ultimate on these issues doesn’t make sense.

Again, Tiina is not calling for a total realignment of the sport. Maybe that’s coming, maybe that’s not. Her column is about how young players are reacting to the semi-pro leagues: incredibly positively. Let’s parlay that into more youth growth in the USAU umbrella with a baby step towards working together.

  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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