Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Contesting a Foul call on CUPA?


To be well known in ultimate, you need to play for a long time, be good at the game, and have a very distinct/passionate personality. For these reasons, Greg Lang is famous... or infamous... however you want to put it. Seriously, fewer people are as well known for their amazing hucks and ability to play when motivated. If you're playing Lang, I highly suggest you don't bug him. It does your team absolutely no good.

Mr Lang recently participated in the Toronto Ultimate Festival and watched Team Canada's World Games team scrimmage with some of Toronto's best players. He was very disappointed to see that almost all of the Team Canada roster is open and womens players and not coed players. He was so angry that he wrote a late night rant on his local league open forum and has called a violation on CUPA.

Brett Taylor at No Borders 2008
Photo Courtesy Dave Knowles

Violation on CUPA?

"CUPA has yet again selected non co-ed players to represent Canada in an international co-ed competition... Those men and women who choose to and dedicate themselves to the co-ed game of ultimate in Canada are the only Canadian players who should be eligible to represent our country in that division internationally."

As a board member of CUPA, I feel the need to speak to this. Here are my thoughts:
  • I don't mind Greg Lang or anyone else having an opinion and expressing it regarding CUPA decisions or team selections.
  • I'm not sure posting on open forums of local leagues is the best way to reach CUPA, and doing it long after team selection is a little reactive.
  • I completely disagree with Gregs violation call (I can't contest a violation) and his idea on how International coed squads should be put together.
Greg's idea, as I understand it, is that only Co-ed players should be considered for coed national teams. Instantly, we are limiting the talent that we can pick from, and we are discriminating againsts players and teams who may only be able to play for men's and women's teams in their area. How do we determine who is really a coed player and who is not? This could get messy.

CUPA is really trying to improve its processes for competitive play and team selection. Events such as World Games (the national team in selection) is a small rostered event that will feature the best players from the best countries. We worked very hard to recruit a talented selection committee (Andrew Lugsdin, Jeff Cruickshank, Eva Cham, Sherri Madigan, Lara Mussell) to try and cover all division across the country and put forward a winning team based on lessons learned from past World Games experiences.

It doesn't make it right, but when one looks at the Team USA roster, we see a similar trend in open/women player selection for the World Games roster. I do think that the overall best players are in the open/women's divisions, but I also hope that Team USA has not missed out on any hidden coed gems. It's Canada's gain if they did.

I want to see the best players picked for national teams, regardless of division, location, politics or gender. I think the entire CUPA board also echos that sentiment, and we're trying to make that happen on national team at a time.


T1000 said...

Greg's is not an uncommon view, but it is one that admittedly baffles me.

While I respect that there are players passionately subscribe to their preferred divisions, I agree with you, Steve, that I find it very hard to definitively distinguish a "Mixed ultimate player" from "Open" or "Women's." Very few players are as adamantly discerning, and those ones did not apply for a position on Team Canada. I imagine that if we question the current members of Team Canada, they would be stunned to find themselves similarly categorized.

Personally, I find the differences as trivial as those between many track or field events; we make no moral distinctions between 200m and 1500m. In that context, we have always agreed that one is eligible wherever one is capable.

With regard to precedent, the importance of division eligibility has only ever been made in the context of a tournament qualifier series (e.g., regionals). Players are otherwise free to compete in any division at any tournament, at any level. So why would CUPA (or even WFDF) impose such a radically strict requirement at this particular venue, where no qualifier is even required?

Jeff said...

@T1000, if I might take your track analogy and run with it (yuk yuk)...

There are no moral distinctions between the 200m and 1500m, but I wouldn't want to take the best 200m runners and stick them in the 1500m at the Olympics. This might be more to Greg's point. Are we taking sprinters, and trying to enter them into a middle-distance race?

I don't actually think the difference is this big, a more appropriate comparison might be 200m to 400m. There are some 200m runners that could dominate in the 400, which we've seen (Usain Bolt in the 100/200, Michael Phelps in pretty much anything in the water, are other examples of amazing athletes who can dominate in more than one version of their discipline). But there also should be room for some 400m specialists on the team, one would think.

So, the question is, is Team Canada full of the kind of player who can dominate more than one discipline, like Bolt, Phelps, etc. (and they're all outstanding, obviously), or should CUPA have put some specialists on the team to help round it out?

I would think most folks who've played both would agree that there's a difference in style between single and mixed-gender Ultimate.

Has Team Canada played TFP yet?

T1000 said...

I read over Greg's statements a few times, and I felt he made a very strong appeal to the argument of Spirit. As I read it, I feel he contends not merely that "Mixed specialists" are not given enough attention, but that they should be the only ones to receive attention in the selection process -- hence my remarks on "moral distinctions."

I wouldn't dispute that players with a Mixed background will be more familiar with that division's style of play, and may bring good skills and ideas to the table. I agree these things should be taken under consideration.

What I mean to say is that it seems somewhat unfair to describe Team Canada members as uniquely "Open" or "Women's" players, especially since I doubt they consider themselves labelled that way. Lindquist, Crump, Dion, and Frew just won gold medals at WUGC 2008 (with TFP) last autumn, for example. Hibbert, Frew and Menzies won gold medals at WUCC 2006 (with TFP), having won CUPA Nats in the preceding year. Doubtless, I have probably overlooked other Mixed-division accomplishments from the many other notable players on the squad.

However, Greg did suggest a potentially feasible compromise: that CUPA impose a filter on eligibility by requiring players to compete in the Mixed division at Nationals. It's not an unreasonable proposal, but almost all of these players had just finished representing Canada at WUGCs in all three divisions. It would seem like an excessive demand on some of our country's best players.

Sport Management Steven said...

I'm glad the T-1000 has run some computations and agrees with me.

I really don't see coed as that much of a different game from open or womens.

We're all playing the same game with the same size disc and same fields. The difference is talent levels and they vary.

Jeff's question about team composition based on playing style is a much more interesting and valid topic. Possibly a future post on this site.

Taylor said...

I think the running and swimming comparisons are valid.

Having never played co-ed at a competitive level I am no expert, but essentially the game is exactly the same. Same field, rules, etc. The only difference (or so I'm told) is strategy, but how is this so different from the varied styles of play seen between open or women's teams? We've seen recent discussion on PJ's blog (http://cultimate.blogspot.com/2009/05/poll-thursday-david-vs-goliath.html) about how different styles can change the balance of power between two teams. Examples have been the development of the German, Plinko, and Buzz Bullet's man-zone (person-zone if you will) defense.

I don't know why co-ed is supposedly so advanced in its strategy. At best I would say it requires different strategy. However, good players should be able to adapt. Watching the co-ed final at UPAs last year was like watching two teams try to drive in a screw with a hammer. The wind was high (similar to how it was all weekend) and their long game was successful 10% of the time yet they refused to change their tactics. It was a horrible spectacle.

Why is co-ed supposedly the most competitve venue for women?

lank89 said...

i think Dan Fassina had a great point in the discussion following Greg's post.

It was that the world games bid was earned by all of our teams that played in Vancouver. Open, Womens, Mixed and the two Juniors teams. Except for the juniors, our worlds games team is made up of players from the three teams that played in Vancouver. So those players earned the right to represent Canada again. If the countries who got to go to World Games was based solely on the top Mixed division countries, then i think the argument to only take mixed players becomes a more valid one.

sol said...

I have played both, women and coed... and definitely they are very different. It is true that if you are a good athlete , you are going to be good in "everything", but the cuts, the throws and in general the game in a coed team it is so much different that in a just women team. IN a coed team now you are sharing your space with men which are faster and can jump higher ( not even talking about pouching), also if you are a handler in a women's team that is not necessarily true for a coed team.

Gregory - Toronto said...

I too wish my focus had been more timely...like immediately after the last World Games when i sent a single email to the authorities.

I got busy, moved out of co-ed, and I forgot (I am old you know).

I am not limiting anyones option, just saying that if they want it they should earn it.

I guarantee that the future will award the spot the the Canadian Co-ed Champ. I just think we should align to that logic now. There will likely eventually be separate administrative bodies for each too, but i don't look forward to that.

The greatest difference between co-ed and the other divisions is that they compete with each other for players. I want co-ed to be better and giving the division players the division's top prize...seems simple to me.

AC said...

This is slightly off topic, but isn't the reason that World Games is played co-ed due to a restriction on the number of athletes playing each sport at WG?

I've heard it suggested before that we simply rotate between Open and Women's. I think they should should seriously consider that for future competitions.

Sport Management Steven said...


I understand that you're standing up for a great division with great talent (coed).

You are very right pointing out the divisions compete with one another, and that's why we get a lot of useless slagging of opposing divisions. Discounting coed players is not my intent.

However, I think you'll be hard pressed to convince me that coed ultimate is significantly different from open/women, in terms of strategy.

While the mid-level of the talent pools for most club divisions is very similar, you will be hard up to convince me your division has the best top end women and men players that would be considered for a national team. I am sure there are a few outliers that dominate coed and wouldn't play anything else (and should be on a national team radar) but these are the exceptions.

I'm not sure how you can guarantee anything regarding national team selection and future admin reorganization of ultimate, but I might have to just sit back and watch it happen to find out.