Thursday, October 16, 2008
[Some corrections in the Comments]
Yes, lots on our plate these days. Club Nationals, a looming college season, but I want to talk about something else. The 2009 World Games are just around the corner and if the U.S. national team wants to improve the selection process from 2005 the time to start thinking about that is now (or, weeks & months ago really, but now will suffice). Of course it's possible that the Powers That Be have thought about this already, but They've been kinda busy of late so I do not know.
In 2001, through the efforts of Japan's Furio Morooka, ultimate and disc golf were invited to take place in the World Games, held in Akita, Japan. Six countries sent 10 players apiece to play 6-on-6 co-ed (3/3). As you might guess, games were brutal; conditioning was crucial to any team's success. The U.S. team won a silver medal, losing to Canada in the final.
In 2005, the World Games organizers were gracious enough to boost ultimate's rosters to 11 players each and games were 7-on-7. Injuries were particularly harsh on Canada, who saw Oscar Pottinger go down with an ankle injury. The U.S. beat Australia in a closely fought final (I believe the first time any Australian team made it to the final of an international competition. Good on ya). There are accounts of Team Canada being so completely spent -- especially in light of losing Oscar -- that they sat on the line for the last few pulls of the bronze medal match. (Read about Team USA and the WG tourney here.)
If trends continue we can hope for at least 12 roster spots for each of six teams in 2009. But if WFDF, the UPA, or the CUPA have any clout that could get bumped up to 14 (the minimum I would argue for). I know it basically boils down to housing athletes and how many beds each sport -- and each discipline -- get, but IOC officials saw good things in the ultimate matches. Decry "Spirit of the Game" if you want to, but at the 2005 World Games the U.S.–Canada roller hockey game wound up in a brawl, whereas the U.S.–Canada ultimate game ended in a happy little circle.
The 2009 World Games return to Asia, taking place in
the Republic of China Taiwan Chinese Taipei. The six nations are chosen based on the previous year's WUGC performance, which means WG'09 will see these teams: Canada, U.S.A., Japan, Australia, Great Britain, and Chinese Taipei (as host country).
Team USA Selection Process
In 2001 and 2005 the national teams were selected by application: players submitted themselves for consideration, had references, and answered questions about their playing styles. Yet the surface of choice for any field-sport competition is grass, not paper. So this time around we'd be fools to take any other path. U.S. Junior National teams began real-life tryouts in 2004; it's time the adults follow suit.
Therefore attention needs to be paid to individuals at the upcoming Club Nationals. Since it's probably too late to initiate the WG'09 selection we should try to tape as many games as possible. (If I had my way players would submit their names before Club Sectionals and selection committee members would have opportunities to see these players play in person up through and including Sarasota.) In an ideal world members of the selection committee would also be on-hand for Nationals, but that seems unlikely at this point unless they've already begun the process.
But let's assume not much attention has been paid to this issue. After all, WUGC just happened and people are pre-occupied with the Club Series and the hotly debated college season. Witnessing how players interact with their own teammates and their opponents would be crucial to the decision-making process, but just as important would be a tryout camp in early 2009. To maximize its usefulness it would probably have to be a 3-day weekend. Since some of the selection committee, Powers That Be, and maybe even tryouts would likely be busy on MLK weekend I think I'd pick Presidents' Day. It would have to be warm and you might as well have some players not travel very far, so I would run it in Southern California or Atlanta.
This would be a great spectacle. The largest, sickest hat tournament of all time. Sure, there would be drills and timed sprints and sit-down conversations, but the gist of the weekend is the ~100 best ultimate players in the U.S. playing on the same field, vying for one of 12-18 spots (including alternates). Let's roll.