Wednesday, July 29, 2009

World Games 2009 Review


The World Games ultimate tournament took place July 19 - July 21.

I want to let people know that Ultimate at World Games sold 39,500 tickets to the games. This surpassed Rugby 7s, which had only 35000. This is a great step forward for the game.

Team USA beat Japan 13-6 in the finals. Canada lost it's bronze medal match to Australia 13-8.

Overall, this has to be a very frustrating performance for Canada. When one watches the coverage of the USA-Canada matchup, the team seems to be struggling to gel, struggling to execute, and the "willingness to compete"was lacking.

Everyone is entitled to an off day and the players picked are still excellent players. But the overall results of the team, the fact that our team got the lowest spirit score of the tournament (Not even close, one particular game did not help), and the disturbing growing distance between Canada and the US at the junior levels is of great concern to me.

Luckily, CUPA has already had a competition committee that is focusing on monitoring these trends and make systemic changes to help curb population and other challenges we will face as the game becomes more sophisticated.

With limited rosters, World Games is not as great an indicator as Worlds about who is the greatest nation in the game. Our 2005 World Games performance was dissapointing as well and yet we won lotsof medals in 2004/2008 Worlds. However, losing to teams outside of the USA is a big concern. It means the world is getting better and we must get better as well.

How do you see the World Games results? Is it time to press a panic button, take note, or simply shrug it off.


Daniel said...

WUGC is the true barometer to go by. The WG result is no reason to hit the panic button but we would be foolish to not try to improve regardless.

One big difference between how Canada and other countries pick their teams is the tryout process.

The US selected 80 players from all the applicants to attend a tryout. From there they selected 20 players to be team USA and took 13 of those players to be the WG Team. Australia had a similar process but I'm not sure what their numbers were. (Australia also puts a lot more effort into their national programs than we do, just read this... ).

Canada had a selection committee pick a team from a list of names. There was no tryout process. A tryout process accomplishes two things. First, it allows the selectors to see the applicants go head to head and pick the best players based on performance and not on reputation. Second, it is another opportunity for players from across the country to play together and improve their individual skills and experience levels, further improving the level of ulti in Canada.

I know that won't solve everything as you can only work with the players who apply for the team. I take it Mike Grant did not apply since he wasn't on the team? So right there the pool of applicants available to the selectors wasn't as strong as it could have been.

Patrick Mooney said...

couldnt agree more.

T1000 said...

I see every tournament as a goal unto itself and it should be our aim to win every tournament. I think any loss of this sort is a cause for concern and motivation for improvement. Personally, I don't feel any consolation in the argument that the WUGC format is a better indicator of national greatness (for whatever reason). Canada's victories last year were great, but last year is over.

Daniel is right that the Canadian tryout process relies heavily on reputation. And yes, in light of how many athletes had a legitimate shot at the team, not very many athletes applied. There are many possible reasons why the interest was low, but before we aspire to make the tryout process more comprehensive, we need to elevate interest in participation.

Kirker said...

the tryout process is the low hanging fruit here. nobody had problems with the tryouts process the years canada dominated. so i'm not sure it's fair to finger it out the one year canada doesn't make the finals.

holding nationwide tryouts is tough in canada due to the size of the country, the expense of traveling within the country, and the fact that most of our elite level ultimate players tend to be split across the west coast and the central east (7000km and a $700 plane ride apart).

there are always things that can be improved, but the team we sent this year was terrific, regardless of how they were chosen. the field of competition was also unbelievable. if that same worlds tourney was played 3 times over, canada would probably have made the finals twice and won gold once.

Daniel said...


Don't get me wrong, I also think that the team we sent is amazing. I was just pointing out the most obvious difference between the Canadian process and what other countries did. I also think that Canada is moving beyond a point where you can assume you know who the top 13 players in the country are without a tryout process.

I'm not sure we would have had a different team represent Canada if we had a tryout process but I still think it's time to move to one. The US and Australia are faced with similar logistical challenges yet they have a tryout process.

Patrick Mooney said...

Kirker I have to disagree with you on a couple points. I also have to agree with you on a couple points.

First off, I dont think anyone complained in the past because our program could get by on its overwhelming strength compared to most other countries. As more and more countries become competitive it seems like we need to find ways to improve our National program and I think tryouts would be the first and most obvious place to start (obviously this isnt the only way we could improve).

I think if tryouts felt like a more open process and not a selection based on reputation alone more people would have thrown their names into the hat. People likely refrain from applying when they think "so and so will definetly make it over me because of who they are". Right from the get go it doesnt seem like most people have a fair chance at it so why apply. The way it is now it feels way more like a rigged job interview then a tryout for a sports team. I know people who didnt make it that did apply that at the very least deserved a shot at trying out against the other players that were picked.

All that being said it is a National team so it obviously cant be a come-one-come-all sort of deal and in my opinion thats why the US model seems like a great fit for us as well. We might not be able to get 80 at tryouts but we could probably get a good list of 60 and have east coast and west coast tryouts that Im sure people would be more than willing to pay go to just for the chance to play for Team Canada at such a prestigious event. Just giving people a fair shot at it and letting them play with and against other awesome players from across the country cant hurt anyone in the long run. This would most likely lead to the same team being picked which is fine but not having this tryout seems like a missed opportunity to improve the sport across the country and to bring people together from different teams and divisions to strengthen ties throughout the canadian ultimate community.

And Kirk, I do agree with you on these two things. We still put together an amazingly gifted squad and if we played that tournament over a few more times we would have had more success. We just had a tough tournament and we all know how that happens sometimes.



Patrick Mooney said...

dan, you beat me to the punch. well said and a lot less long winded then my version.

Sport Management Steven said...

This thread is very interesting/productive so I don't want to stop the momentum. :)

However, Kirk raises a very common notion (ragarding how we didn't have tryouts before and no one complained when we won) that makes sport management academics (and some practitioners) seethe.

I blame "experts" and TV personalities for the cause and effect mistakes we make about sports.

I'll reference Rod Fort to explain this a little better.

"The difference between us is very simple. Sportswriters always or almost always begin their analysis with a position on the issue. We always begin our analysis with the question itself.”

“If you find a sportswriter debating who should be the National League’s Most Valuable Player this season, his article will probably begin by asserting a position on the issue, and then will argue for that position. If you find 100 articles by sportswriters debating issues of this type, in all likelihood all 100 articles will do this.”
“What we do is simply to begin by asking “Who is the National League’s Most Valuable Player this season?” rather than to begin by stating that “Albert Pujols is the National League’s Most Valuable Player this season, and let me tell you why.” That’s all. That is the entire difference between sabermetrics and traditional sportswriting. It isn’t the use of statistics. It isn’t the use of formulas. It is merely the habit of beginning with a question, rather than beginning with an answer.”

Sport Management Steven said...

Please note my last comment is not a dig at Kirk or anyone else, but a statement that for some reason, even people with PHDs, seem to put the logic they use in everyday life aside when it comes to assessing sport.

I think ultimate, stat less and without tryouts, is very guilty of needing more assessment and development.

Druski said...

Steven, interesting point in there about the low spirit ranking of Team Canada (disappointing though not surprising to me after seeing similar results from WUGC in most divisions). I haven't been able to find the spirit scores from World Games however. Where are these available?

lank89 said...

I noted something similiar on another site after the spirit scores were released from WUGC last year. Canada had the lowest spirit score in the Junior division, with Columbia being the second lowest and the US were runnaway winners of the spirit title. Now this may be more true in the Jr division then others. The U.S were the undeniable best team in the division, so most teams are going to realise early on in the game that things arent going to go there way, so they generally lighten up and calls made arent argued as much because they arent as important. However as the second team in the junior circuit we (canada) were seen as a more beatable opponent and games were closer for a longer margin, so any calls made were seen as more important and were probablly debated more heated and heavily. Even though US head coach BVH cited Canada in a follow up article as the most spirited team he played, we are given the lowest spirit score because we played more tightly contested games i believe.

Just how i felt about the issue of spirit scores. something very similiar is being depated on RSD right now

Kirker said...

I love it ... "Lank89". Should be "BALLSBABYBALLS".

Steven - it isn't at all faulty logic to ask "why is it that only in hard times do people criticize how things are done?". I was suggesting no relationship between the tryout process (or lack thereof) and TC's results.

Also, I wasn't defending the selection process. I'm rather indifferent about it. We ran 3 tryout camps for the World's Jr. Team last year and it took a tonne of time, money and energy. In the end, we had a lot of fun and got to know Canada's top Jrs players, (present and up-and-coming). But, our result as a team wasn't better than in previous years where the team was chosen based on paper applications and reputation.

What seems off the mark to me is to say that the rest of the world is catching up and that we need to evolve to stay ahead of the curve. What drives elite level ulty here in Canada, for the most part, is the US. Canadian elite level teams almost play exclusively in the US to gain experience, cause that's where the competition is. Also, the Canadian elite level teams tend to consist of as many imports as they do regional players (Goat benefits from players all over Canada, Russia, Sweden, etc. -- Furious profited immensely from Ontario players like Lugsdin, Hoover and Antz, as well as dudes like Kubalanza and Mauro).

If we want to improve our level of ulty beyond taking touring teams down to the US and relying on talented imports, then we need to invest heavily into our Jrs and University programs.

Sport Management Steven said...


I tried to state that your post brought up (not stated or proposed) things that drive me bannanas about the conventional wisdom of sport.

I think your junior efforts with PJ and company was a great start in the right direction. But like a recipe for food, you're only going to get that end product in front of the box if you follow the steps as directed. A lot of things need to be done right by a lot of people years before we get the team on the field. For this reason, we need a strong central organization to help bridge the gaps of finances and etc. It will take time and support from all of us.

And it's even worse for ultimate in Canada because we know what the front of the box looks like (Championships and Medals), but we really have no clue what the f%^k we did when we made the cake previously. We have ideas about how we put it together, but it essentially breaks down to conventional wisdom.

I probably should write a post about working in the same office with Alex Bauman, who brought the lessons learned in Australia back to Canada and has since really brought radical changes to NSOs and the sport system through finances.

Druski said...

As an addendum to the spirit comments - I know WFDF's current system uses a multipart scoring system based on several aspects of gameplay and conduct (see for a sample scorign sheet - note the same system is used fro WFDF events and BUDA beach ultimate events).

I do not know if the results are available with breakdown by each aspect, but it woyuld certainly be useful to see what at kleast the averages were by country, by aspect - would point out where Canada (and possibly other countries) were lacking.

I would hope this type of detail were avilable... seems a waste to score in this way otherwise.

T1000 said...

Well, Steve, you touched on a key ingredient to past Canadian successes in your original post, to which we can all agree -- team chemistry. We can make a tryout process fairer, more comprehensive, or better publicized, but it's very difficult to purposefully synthesize urgency, chemistry, and cohesion. We can theorize about what should create chemistry, but sometimes, the cake just doesn't rise.

Personally, I don't think that past iterations of Team Canada (WG) were endowed with any more talent and skill. Ironically, the team that we sent to Akita, Japan, was essentially built around the country's strongest league team.

Patrick Mooney said...

from dylan tunnell of team USA on the subject. i think this supports my opinion on the situation

"Congratulations and welcome home.

Thanks. It's good to be back but I'm definitely experiencing some withdrawal.

Withdrawal from which part—people, playing? How was it trying to bring together a group like that from all over the country?

Mostly withdrawal from the people. The people on the team were awesome and it sucks that we won’t get to be a team again. It was really pretty easy for us to come together. On field chemistry took a little while to develop but off the field we immediately bonded.

A big part of it was that we all shared a love of playing and that made it easy for everyone to buy in early on.

Can you identify a specific point in the season when this "buy in" happened?

I think it happened as early as the tryouts among everyone who was there—those who made the team and those who didn't.

Everyone seemed to be excited just to be a part of the process."

i think a new format for tryouts is a great idea

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