2015 USA Ultimate Club Championships Thoughts

I’m lucky to get three seasons of Ultimate each year; the first is a European tour that starts/ends with Paganello, the second is the Canadian series (read thoughts), and the third is the USA Ultimate series. This year was interesting due to the level of competition but more importantly the level of frustration. I’ve waited a week to see what would happen and I’m a little disheartened with a lack of momentum on some key issues. Let’s get started.

The number one topic was, and should be, the TMFs for swearing. Without rehashing too much you can get penalized, through significant field position changes, for swearing even when you’re injured. While there is still some discussion ongoing I’m more interested in action. Action is needed immediately in order to ensure that the passion that we have for our sport is not contained in nice little neat boxes. What I’m disheartened by is that players debate back and forth and put blame on the USA Ultimate staff. The staff is not to blame, we are to blame. We elect the board of directors and they set the direction. We can make real change by contacting them. When you do please take a few minutes to ensure that what you send them is legible and polite.

The second topic was the format of the tournament and how some teams appeared to be sandbagging. Conversations with players had mixed results with teams that didn’t meet expectations wanting a format change and those that did better mostly ambivalent or supportive. From the sidelines I miss the setup that we had in Sarasota where there was constant activity leading up to the Masters finals. There was a build up in energy to Saturday afternoon that was a true display of passion for our sport. We’re not going to be able to go back to those days and the feeling is that we should change the current format. The question is what format to go to that aligns with ESPN. There were also questions, from the players, as to the value of ESPN at the tournament. Regardless, this is probably the second issue that deserves attention in the next few months.

How did I not know about Rudy’s BBQ until this trip? I guess I’ve spent so much time at the fields and stayed away from the venue that I preferred eateries closer to the hotel. Unfortunate but good to know in case the tournament returns to Frisco. I hope the tournament does return there someday much like I hope it returns to Sarasota for a brief visit, even if it’s a tease. Returning to Frisco is more likely though.

Next year the tournaments in Rockford Illinois. Chicago Ultimate is running it with Gail Reich (we first met at Gender Blender) the TD. D3 championships were held there so the team already has experience. Gail was in Frisco shadowing and learning from the team. While USA Ultimate bring some staff there is a huge local volunteer presence required. The location of Rockford is interesting given the distance from Chicago (about an hour) and it should result in decent crowd sizes. No doubt we’ll also see plenty of supportive fans from surrounding states. Plenty of players were wondering about the weather as it could be great or it could be cold. Definitely a risk that USA Ultimate is taking with this one but they should be safe considering that it’s in September.

It was a great tournament and both USA Ultimate and the Dallas Ultimate Association deserve credit. The staff were always friendly and they have improved each year. The weather helped with only one “off” day with some rain. Generally speaking it was good weather and the wind, while it played a part, wasn’t the story like some years in Sarasota. I’m looking forward to a year in Frisco at some point in the future.

The general energy of the players seemed a bit more subdued than in past years. Not sure what it was but it wasn’t quite the same celebration of the season that we’ve seen in the past. I can’t quite put my finger on it but the players seemed more cynical and perhaps the TMF issue and the schedule issue had collectively caused players to be more subdued than usual.

Level of competition was good with relatively few flaws. Players are getting better and better. More coaches on the sidelines as well with some teams have three or four coaches/support tracking and assisting full time. Many were concerned about the program and experience that their players were gaining which means that they’re focused on not being one and done. Some teams were concerned that they finished too high, in Elite flight, and the travel costs would be prohibitive so they’d decline the placement.

Capitals made it to and played at Nationals with 18 players. Think about that for a few seconds. Input from players was they did well and need more depth. What cannot be argued is the incredible skill and ability that already exists on the team. They came in seeded 13th and left 13th after a tough tournament.

Traffic finished 5th over Scandal on Universe point in a very exciting game. The sideline had many spectators and when Traffic won they fell absolutely silent; it was an interesting experience. Traffic did have some issues against Riot in the quarter finals at the start but were on the path to recovery in the second half. Still things for them to polish before Worlds next year but they’re looking strong.

Iris had a great tournament and are a team to watch. FQU has made the right move by focusing their development on a provincial team. The team in the US series had 10 players from the CUC series which shows the availability of talent in Québec. Even so there were a few players that clearly got more touches and were much more talented than the remainder of the team. We’ll see how they develop over the next few years but the program is looking good.

Not a great tournament for GOAT but they finished well. Mentally they were also looking good at the end of the tournament despite key players on the sidelines. They were also missing a few of their stars and combined with injuries they managed to improve upon their 15th seed to finish 11th.

It’s a joy to see CLX play and tough to see them lose in the quarter finals; they play with an amazing intensity and consistency that I hope to see in the finals sometime soon. The Mixed division, as a whole, didn’t get as much attention as the other divisions. Also many grumbles from players about seedings being out of whack. It’ll be interesting to see who makes the Mixed National team considering the talent and egos present in the top tier.

Amazing defense by Brute Squad throughout the tournament but especially in the finals. They won 15-12 vs Riot; the team that came closest after that? Iris: 15-11.

Periscope is amazing! I was shooting from the sidelines on a few games and feedback was that it provides a good experience. I’m looking forward to seeing games from that view.

Heartbreaking to see Bravo lose the way that they did. The team was defeated for the rest of the tournament, you could feel the spirit wasn’t there any more.

15th place game in Open was ridiculous with players playing in street shoes and not taking the game seriously at all. I’m not sure what to make of it as they clearly didn’t take it seriously…but isn’t that the point of this? All of this?