Back in the Game… Some Thoughts on U23s

So firstly an explanation of why there has been so little posted on here over the last 6 or 8 months.

It would clearly be pretty blinkered to suggest that I was so busy with WFDF World U23s in London that I was unable to find a few minutes here and there to put some thoughts down on the blog – no one is that busy 24 hours a day. Closer to the truth is that I was busy enough (and behind enough) that any time sat at a computer doing frisbee things had to be spent on real work, otherwise the guilt would descend… The level of time management required to set aside some blogging space is quite definitely beyond me.

But we’re done now, and I’m just going to put down some unordered thoughts about an astounding week. Proper posts on abstruse theoretical frisbee topics coming soon… 🙂

Spirit Successes

There were some amazing and wonderful incidents.

Top of my list is the GB Open team, who suffered through a Japan comeback from 9-12 to 13-12 in a matchup that decided a Bronze medal on the world stage, but still made the right call. A floaty hammer went up, and every GB player could see there was a chance it would drift out and rescue them from the horrors of the Japanese comeback. The emotional stakes could hardly have been higher. But the Japanese player made an astounding grab and toed the line, and although many GB players initially felt the catch was out of bounds they unflinchingly accepted the perspective of a neutral spectator and shook hands on an incredible game. For me, that moment is worth more than a bronze medal. The players might not feel that way right now, but I’d say it’s very definitely worth more than any Bronze they might have earned through a dodgy call in that last point, and the doubts they’d have carried with them every time they looked at it. Huge congratulations to them for stepping out of the moment and making the call they can be proud of for ever.

Not far behind is the Spirit time-out in the Open final. Lots of you are doubtless thinking it pointless (how could talking about it help?) or complaining that Game Advisers were interfering with the game, or complaining about the delay to the game you were enjoying watching. But here’s the thing:

That Spirit time out was called by the USA Spirit Captain.

That’s right. It wasn’t the GAs stepping in, and it wasn’t even the Canadians stopping the game to make a point about some of the bids that were happening. It was the USA themselves recognising that they weren’t on the same page as the Canadians regarding some of those attempts and choosing to talk it through properly. There could hardly be a more shining example of what our sport is all about.

I firmly believe that the vast majority of players want to play a clean sport, and that any attempts we make to crack down on that tiny element who feel otherwise risks losing so much of what makes our sport special. I thought the GAs were a huge success this week, and whilst of course it wasn’t all perfect this first time*. I really do think we have the basis for a sustainable officiating model

What a venue!

We already knew that the UCL sports ground was a fantastic venue for ultimate. But anyone who stood in the changing block at 1am and watched that thunderstorm drop enough rain to leave three inch deep puddles over the whole venue – but then found the pitches in perfect condition next morning – should have a whole new appreciation for Adrian the groundsman.

It frankly beggars belief that he’d deliberately put enough ‘product’ on the show pitch – to help it cope with the rigours of 3-4 games a day all week – that he had to cut the grass every morning as it was growing so fast. Or that he was out there filling in any divots and tidying it up whenever it was empty, or that he relined it three times during the week.

The pitch that he spent all that time on was dug up this Monday to make way for a laser-levelled super-pitch for the Premier League football team who share the ground. All his hard work was purely to make sure that our players had the best possible pitch to play on. He could have let it turn into a mudbath and it would have been dug up anyway, but Adrian is a hero.

If you’re attending WUGC in London next year, you could not be in better hands.

What a team!

I guess many readers won’t be interested, but I simply can’t help mentioning the staff† and volunteers who made it all happen. From the lead volunteers pulling 36 hour shifts  in the lead up to the event, all the way to the last of the volunteers smiling their way off the site 2 days after the event finished, it was literally incredible. A special mention from me to Ben, Dan, Wayne and Rich who sat cooped up in our little tournament office for 16 hours a day making it all happen. If you ever see any of our volunteers anywhere on your travels, buy them a drink.

What a community!

The players were respectful, of each other and of the volunteers. Everyone had fun, and no one did so at someone else’s expense. Watching the USA genuinely celebrating the Spirit award for India was wonderful. Even though we feel the event went well, there are always things that aren’t perfect – but any complaints were minimal, polite, and constructive. Thanks to you all.

If I were to pick out something that offended me a little (because I enjoy discussing the negatives more than the positives!) I was very disappointed by the behaviour of one of the Open squads supporting their Women’s team. They chanted a wall of noise, which amounted to something rather like booing, whenever the opponent had possession. It felt like a deliberate attempt to intimidate. They were then respectfully quieter when their own team had possession. I’m sure (I hope?) they didn’t mean it that way, but it was a horrible atmosphere. There’s a big difference between supporting your team and trying to intimidate the opponent, and I really don’t think it’s a line we want to cross. Spirit of the game, including respect for the opponent, applies not only when you’re playing.

Hard Caps

Do me a favour. I’m rarely so black & white about an issue, but the US-style hard cap is just wrong. Comebacks are wonderful things; the winning team scoring the winning point is a wonderful thing. We just ran a World Championship with no issues at all. True, we had enough spare pitches to cover any issues, but then we also ran London Calling at the same venue – 98 teams on 30 pitches, 6+ games each over two days – and we had no problems there either. UK Ultimate run 10+ events each year at somewhere between 3 and 4 teams per pitch, and we never have major issues. I’m the scheduling guy, who is affected more by the risk of overruns than anyone else, and I’m saying to you that unlimited soft caps work fine.

Worst case is that one of your games will start a few minutes late – is the very occasional risk of that really worse than having your games decided by time (or time-wasting)? Is it worse than having games peter out aimlessly while you finish a point that affects nobody? Wise up.

I don’t look like an Ultimate player

Some Dutch U23 lads were trying to throw to knock a toilet roll off some boxes from a few metres away one evening. Of course, I couldn’t help wanting to have a go, and felt really smug after nailing it first time. Until one asked, ‘Oh, do you play?’

What do you think?

One of the downsides of being the schedule guy is that you interact with fewer people (many would say this is a good thing, in my case). And whilst so much of what I did hear was positive, I’d really appreciate some more insights into the week from the perspective of players and spectators – what did you like? What could be improved? Comment away…


*Note that whilst there were Game Advisers in Lecco last year, they did not have the powers that were in force this week. This is the first time GAs have been used in full, and therefore much of what you may have read about how they work is probably based on a misunderstanding. I’m not sure having the half-GAs in Lecco was a great move, and has led to many people – particularly those who support observers – missing the point somewhat.
†By the way, I really only did the scheduling and competitions stuff. The other staff and lead volunteers worked much harder than I did and deserve all the credit – but I’m worried if I list them I’ll miss someone out!
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4 Responses to Back in the Game… Some Thoughts on U23s

  1. Seamus says:

    Great stuff Benji.

    From my (livestream) spectating perspective it looked good. The field, the games, the camera angle, the advisors.

    I guess, as the schedule guy, that’s not what you’re interested to hear?

    Also, I’d be hesitant to see “calling a spirit timeout on yourself” (or solely because of your own teams actions) become an example of a spirited thing to do. It seems a little like calling a foul on yourself… maybe your opponent would prefer not to stop? Of course i don’t have the full story. Perhaps the USA offered to lose one of their regular timeouts for it?


    • I think I’m less cynical about that spirit time-out than you are maybe. Calling it because you can see your own team is not quite behaving the way you want is excellent spirit, and I think in this circumstance it would have been fairly clear that the Canadians were not entirely happy with some of the bids. Also, they stop the game clock for these, so no-one is disadvantaged (except by losing momentum, which was mostly with the USA anyway). I think ‘Stop the game clock, let’s have a talk about why this game isn’t quite working,’ is much different than calling a foul on yourself and stopping the flow.

      But yes, interested to hear anything – a discussion solely of whether we messed up the schedule wouldn’t be much fun… 🙂


      • Seamus says:

        Well… I wouldn’t say I’m cynical about this specific instance. But I can imagine a situation where the game momentum is with the clean team… Or if the violating team are running a very tight rotation of players who could do with catching their breath!

        The one possible improvement to the live stream experience would be to let the commentators somehow see the instant replays!

        But a big congratulations to all involved in putting it together. Looked great.


  2. Steve G says:

    Great article and a great tournament! I had the pleasure of experiencing it live and over the stream and it felt pretty flawless from both sides.

    “Until one asked, ‘Oh, do you play?’” … please tell me you said.. “play what?”…


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