Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Roster Size- Too Big, Too Small, or Just Right?


Tryout season is alive and well in Canada right now, and most likely down in the U-S of A. As teams are being formed, the question many people discuss is this:

  • How many guys should we carry?
An impossible question, which makes for a debate that never ends.

Personally, I've always been a big fan of carrying a team of 20-25. It seems big at the start of the year, but yet it always seems to whittle down each and every year. Even with 25 players, you're likely to have a tournament where your numbers are bordering around 14. People have jobs, lives outside of ultimate, and there is always that nasty injury bug that haunts many players, some more than others. And some ultimate players, dare I say it, lack committment to make all practices and tournaments even if they say they will at the start of the year.

While you might only bring 20 players to each tournament, you need to make everyone hungry for every practice.

If you're going with a program of two teams, I think you need at least 50. I think the lower half of a program is transient in nature, and the last thing you want to do is find replacements in mid summer.

Do players want to be in the 20-25 spots or in practice rosters:? The good ones will, as long as they get good experience and play with a winner.

So the poll question is : How big should a team roster be in ultimate? What are the considerations?


T1000 said...

Competitive teams, I think, generally like to have practice rosters-- a reserve of talent four to five players deep that they can dip into when necessary. But while these practice rosters will definitely build skills in those reserve players, I think of them as an incomplete education. A lot of the time, the would-be practice roster players just need more experience as the playmakers on weaker teams. They need to be forced outside their comfort zones, to expand their skill sets, and to hone their mental games. On a practice roster, they will never be treated as go-to players, and so they will be lacking the grace-under-fire that sort of experience gives. It is altogether too easy to adopt a submissive style of play when one is flanked by one's betters.

I like to see the B-team systems now cropping up in major ultimate cities. For players "on the bubble" of the A-team, these provide the benefits of practice roster exposure alongside valuable playmaking experience.

Sport Management Steven said...

Giving practice players a chance to practice with your team pays dividends for both sides. The only exception is when the player is truly a 'dog'.

If you have to send a raw player to the A bench or the B starting line, I would usually agree that you should send them to the B Squad. A lot of young guys get promoted as a way to reward their potential and their desire for a team status, but it might often be too much too soon and less productive.

I also like the A/B concept, but I think ultimate programs/can should make these teams as integrated as possible.

A former teammate came from a rugby background and described the system his rugby team used. It literally sounded like both teams practiced fully with one another, and it was literally an open contest for spots on each team every tournament, all year. That sounds great. Keeps everyone on their toes.

T1000 said...

Yes, I believe in integrating B-team and A-team practices. It's the system I was raised in, and I swear by it. However, by extension to your "dog" remark, the concept becomes sometimes impractical when there is a serious discrepancy in skill level between A and B rosters.

Several Women's captains I know have called an integrated system unmanageable because their elite-level talent pool is much smaller.

M-W said...

"Several Women's captains I know have called an integrated system unmanageable because their elite-level talent pool is much smaller"

I don't know if I agree on that statement. I think it would be a lot of work, but not unmanageable due to a lack of "talent". Maybe it's just laziness.

I'm thinking of teams in larger cities on this but...

Talent is all around - athletes are all around. You just have to find them, recruit them and develop them.

I'm no expert, but I don't think that ultimate teams in most places have a "traditional" ultimate pool to draw from. Yes there are more youth and junior programs popping up, but it's not very widespread yet. I'd say the identification and integration of athletes from different sports is a key step to building that pool.

Once you have them identified, you need some flexibility to have them gain experience and develop the fundamental skills. That's where the second team comes in.

The talent pool maybe weaker over the first two year and you may not have as much "integration" or movement between teams to start. Hell the second team maybe really terrible.

However, once you start gaining some critical mass and generating momentum, players will develop, it would be easier to integrate, and it would be easier to attract new athletes to feed the system (athletes know/talk to other athletes).

While yes there are good players playing league that can develop into a club level player, I think that if you want to increase the depth of your program/team/whatever, you need to focus less on finding that one random player at pickup and focus more on:

1) finding/recruiting athletes

2) giving them a place to develop the skills

3) creating a competitive environment where all the players are driven to make the top team or win a championship.

Yes, it may take a few years to get that system in place, but if you stay focused on the long-term benefits, they'll out weigh the short-term "lack of talent".

T1000 said...

I should clarify my meaning, because we are talking about slightly different things. The women's teams of which I speak have trouble holding integrated (joint) A- & B-team practices because of the sharp talent dropoff. There's no question that the B-team can and will improve with practice. But if the B-team roster is markedly worse than the A-team, then neither team achieves optimal benefit.

The A-team needs to practice advanced skills and strategy. It's very difficult to practice set plays, for example, if half the players on the field have trouble catching or throwing. And there's not much benefit to practicing a particular defense if the offense routinely loses the disc due to unforced errors anyway.

Conversely, the B-team may need to just concentrate on the basics. It's very difficult to improve your catching and throwing whilst trying to appreciate the subtleties of advanced strategy.

This is what they mean when they say an integrated system becomes unmanageable. When the skill sets are vastly disparate, neither team gets much benefit from a combined practice.

Sport Management Steven said...

It really comes down to mentality.

If you are focused on winning now, you tend to shun the b team and give it limited leadership to develop the players.

If you can balance long term/short term team goals, you'll find it very easy to spend time intergrating A/B teams and developing talent.

Not having a B team good enough to scrimmage with is essentially reaping the seeds sown in previous seasons.

T1000 said...

On a modus operandi for player development, I wholly agree with both of you. We are just focused on different time scales: if a B-team is just not ripe enough to hold joint practices, then good leadership won't force it. This is not to say the leadership should abandon the B-team-- the future may be different.

But, for a moment, I do want to defend those programmes that do not yet possess fully-integrated B-teams. Ottawa has a success story to be proud of -- the flame took hold, so to speak. I think what you have is great, and your hard work is paying dividends.

But I have also seen like attempts fail, and not just because of leaders' laziness. The Queen's Women's teams struggled with this problem for years. It takes a certain critical mass of players, leadership, and resources to develop a fully-integrated A&B-team programme.

For example, we may ask why a given A&B programme lacks a fully-integrated C-team as well. I think we can agree it would be a good for player development. What about a D-team? At a certain point, you would stop me to say that what I propose is impractical (for any number of good reasons), and I would believe you. You're just not at a stage that can support that kind of programme.

M-W said...


I don't think there's any need to "defend" captains that have not fully integrated their B teams.

In terms of "optimal benefit" are you thinking short, medium or long-term? Clearly there's no way to optimize the short-term benefits for the either team if there's a wide talent gap. So maybe you have less integration to start(1 of every 4 or 5 practices), but when you do integrate practice you focus on fundamentals (throwing, marking, plays etc.) during those practices.

My experience is that the top players on the teams get and stay at the top by repping the fundamentals over and over. Regardless of "A" or "B" status, I'd say that there are very few players who couldn't stand to improve/refine some aspect of their game.

I guess what I'm trying to say is, in that situation, you need to practice smarter in order to have both sides benefit the most from the integrated practices (not necessarily "optimal" though).

In terms of integrating C and D teams... it's a very good point, but if you can get your A and B situation sorted out properly, why wouldn't you try to make stronger linkages with your city's junior program and college programs?

Sport Management Steven said...

-It's very tough for college captains (of both genders) to focus on B teams because one has such a short season and such a small window to develop a team to compete for a national championship.

-On top of that, very few college teams write anything down or develop ways to transfer knowledge to future captains and teams. I tried to implement some staples to the Western program, but after you leave you have to rely on others to carry it on.

-I'd be all for c and d teams, but it takes a lot of work, and most importantly we probably don't have the critical mass (in most cities) to have full c/d teams and get them out every week to practice and tournies. You are right T-1000- it is impractical at this point.

cyoung said...

IMO CUPA should limit roster sizes in an effort to promote the B-Team and give some of the bench players a chance to compete.

With open teams showing up to CUC with 25-30 guys/gals on a roster, they're robbing the local scene of a B-team or a better co-ed team. Instead of these bench riders just tagging along for the "experience", I say cut them loose and let them play with another crew. The Ultimate player pool across the country is small enough as it is, we don't need to limit it any further by hiding talented players in the depths of these massive teams.