Wednesday, February 07, 2007

My Turn - Part I of IV - I don't want to grow

Hey folks,

The UPA has seen huge expansion. In current times of prosperity, they're beginning to wonder in what direction Ultimate should take, and as the biggest Ultimate organization in North America (maybe the world) they've started to try and determine the future direction. Part of this initiative is to talk to different parts of the membership.

At UCPC they asked two questions (paraphrased) to the panel:
- How should Ultimate grow? Either through grassroots, entrepreneurship, or other path.
- Where is spirit of the game going in the modern game.

Pictured Above: A winter shot (from Arthur Teteishi's site) from Snowplate 2006 up in Sudbury. Thought it fit the negative Celsius or Fahrenheit temperatures many of us are experiencing. The next Snowplate is coming up - Snowplate 2007 in March.

I listened to the panel and audience at UCPC, and it was fascinating. Both questions are the types of topics that many of us can debate for hours. Now, I get to give my perspective on the topics.

First, I'll address how I think ultimate should grow.

I feel that ultimate is a participatory sport. So, right off that means that I think the sport will continue to grow at a grassroots level. Now to some possible controversy. First, I don't care if the sport grows, and I don't even think that should be a goal of the sport, and second, I think Ultimate's true strength and niche is as a second chance sport.

So, why grow the sport? What advantages are there? Sure, when I tell the border guard or my family that I play Ultimate, I might not have to explain that it's like frisbee football, but you can't run. Many people complain about the lack of respect our sport gets. Who cares? Sure, many of you will have parents, significant others, and children who question the value of your time and money commitment to a sport that has no presence outside of our community. Again, who cares? To me it's like explaining where I come from ... Picton which is near Belleville which is near Kingston which is near Toronto which is near New York city. Depending where you live in the world I'll be able to stop at a different point, but it doesn't change my opinion about Picton or the person I'm talking to.

In general, over the last seven years Ultimate in Ontario has grown to a point where almost every weekend of the spring, summer, and fall there is one or two tournaments. The local leagues in almost every city with a population over one hundred thousand seem to doubling in membership size all the time.

How is growth good? We're not talking stocks, and few of us have financial investments in the sport. Field space is already limited and more people just means more competition for resources. This is where the growth question sits on the balance. With growth we have more financial resources to obtain physical resources like fields, but with more people there is more competition for physical resources. This balance may favour us if growth results in respect that provides more leverage with administrators of resources. It's all a risky game.

The reality, however, is we're not really trying to grow Ultimate. The sport just grows naturally as each person passes on their joy of the sport. So the question becomes, how do we maintain the the ideals of our sport as we inevitably grow? Again, almost everyone including myself believes that we should grow at the grassroots. As the next group of Ultimate players joins the ranks, we all need to pass on the ideals of Ultimate that make the sport so enjoyable.

From my perspective, this means that high school, college, and new league teams should be coached or mentored by people who truly understand what spirit is. And if we want to maintain Ultimate as it is, then the growing population needs to be introduced to the sport by those who best reflect and can pass on the basic tenants of Ultimate. What those are (even after I've suggested spirit) and whether they should be maintained are two key questions that I'll address later.

So, Ultimate is growing. I'm happy with our current size and I can't see the advantages of further growth, but I must accept reality. If we have to grow then maybe we can steer how we grow.

In the next post, I'll continue this discussion on Ultimate's growth and address my second belief that Ultimate's strength is as a second chance sport and that is where the growth should be focused.



Sheff said...

Peter, I'm with you 100% on this one.

Anonymous said...

growth for the sake of growth is sitll a cancer. ed abbey

Anonymous said...

I would like to argue, but I also see your point. I always thought that anyone who loves the game would want to see it succeed, but I also know a lot of players, good players even, that don't care about the integrity of the sport and would just rather get on the field and toss the disc. I think that growth is a good thing as increased participation and exposure gives us all more opportunities to play and enjoy the game, thus fostering the SOTG concept.

However, as you said, if growth is going to happen, it should be done the right way. As other sports continue to grow and decline, there are lots of things we can learn, but too much growth, improperly managed, can indeed lead to things that would diminish SOTG and hurt what we all love about Ultimate.

IMO, the very nature of SOTG and the grass roots foundation of Ultimate demand that we all give back to the sport and encourage its healthy growth, but I guess some people don't see it that way. -Baer

ulticritic said...

a couple of things i would like to comment on. First, you remind me of some of the people i deal with in the industry in which i work (which is the home building and development industry). Let me explain.....recently i built a small 10 lot development that is right between an older neighborhood of around 40 years and a newly built yet unfinished mixed use comunity. Well the people in the older neighborhood fought tooth and nail not to allow either of the new developments (mine or the much larger mixed use one) to pass through city counsel even though it would give homeowners direct access to shopping, restraunts and office type facilities through the backside of this mixed use community without having to get on any main roads and increase the value of their homes drastically. Long story short.....there was a time when their development was being newly constructed and infringing on other already established neighborhoods on its boarder. So it is my feeling that it is somewhat hypocritical for you to take that stance when at one time you yourself were not part of the ultimate community but due to growth somehow ultimate reached you and included you although others before you may have thought that ultimate didnt need to get any bigger and your participation would have not been welcome or nessecary. Second, ultimate dose not and can not "grow naturally". It takes alot of leg work and organization by people that obviously feel differently about the whole issue than you do. I dont even know what the hell you mean by "grow naturally"......i mean is there an unnatural way in which ultimate, or any sport or organization can grow. Please explain.

Jeters said...

All the comments have been good, and like I said these are great topics to debate.

"Natural Growth" is a poor term. What I mean is that the sport seems to grow mainly on a word of mouth passing on. I, also, know there lots of people who make serious efforts towards organizing all sorts of aspects of the sport.

I'm really just questioning if we might be losing a niche market. Pondering if the loss of that market might hurt more than we think. I could be wrong.


ulticritic said...

so natural growth would not include, say.... seeing a flyer to come join the local or college ultimate team???? I just dont understand where you would draw the line and consider a promotional avenue to be inapropriate. As for this niche market that you want to preserve, it seems that you are talking about the rejects or has beens from other that a fair assestment?

In my mind, and understand that i was someone that was in my prime during the NY NY days, ultimate should get out there in the mix of the sports world and conform to the establishment and attract top tier athleates and hold first rate presentations that provide maximum entertainment value.....that is if ultimate really wants to be classified as a sport. I think that ultimat has had a major identity problem due all the sotg propaganda that has incompased it all these many years. Once the sport realizes that sotg is mearly a another word(s) for goodsportsmanship then it will see that it is really no different from any other sport. Its competition, teamwork, deception, and so on. And in the end you shake your opponents hand, maybe give em a little half hug and wait for the next game......just like they do in all the other sports.

The dynamic that you seem to be promoting is, to me, some what of a hoarding philosophy. Add in the pride of the sotg dynamic and its boarder line self rightious. Point being, if ultimate is so great, why wouldnt you want others to be able to share in its greatness. I guess the big question is "what makes it so great?" to me thats an easy aint the people...or the process....its the disc.

Jeters said...

You make some good points ulticritic. I hope you make another comment after my third post (monday) on the topic. I think it addresses some of these points you make.