Wednesday, November 14, 2012


This morning I snuck a pinch of haterade in with the ground cardamon, cinnamon, and nutmeg I usually put into my hexsspresso. And as the caffeine kicked in, so did my annoyance with a nationwide habit that players across all levels of play indulge in: the yelling of violations and infractions from the sideline.

How many times from the sideline have I heard, "Billy, that's a double-team," or, "Johnny, that's a fast count," or, without question the most abused, "DOWN!!!"

"Double team", "fast count", and "down", within the context of a game of Ultimate, are not just words, or appropriate sideline communication; they are violations with prescribed consequences; in the case of "down", it's a stoppage of play where the defense is asserting that a turnover occurred. And as such, those specific words should be left to the 14 players currently on the field, and them alone, to use.

Here are some alternatives that I endorse to my team. Rather than say the words "fast count", say, "that's very quick!" Then, at the next stoppage of play, from the sideline you can talk to your teammate and tell him, "dude is fast counting you every time." Play has stopped so feel free to say it then. Instead of "double team", say, "they're too close," "they're crowding you," or "their cup is on top of you." Then, at the next stoppage of play, talk to your teammate and tell her she's being double-teamed, tell her when it's happening, and tell her when and how to punish it. In a stoppage of play, say whatever you'd like.

But keep the word "down" out of your mouth when you're on the sideline. Don't go there at all. It stops play, and anyone on the field who hears it and stops can send the disc back to its location at the time of the infraction, which you can bet they will if, in the moments afterwards, their team was roasted. "Down" requires a disc check to put the disc back into play, and that all players be set in position.

To complain further, aside from "down!" being abused by reactionary knee-jerkers walking the sideline, it's also routinely abused by defenders on the field to stop play, second only to the travel call. Violations in Ultimate are meant to be called when you believe, in your heart of hearts, that a violation has occurred. But the burden of proof for calling a disc down has fallen so low that defenders now call it with little perspective on the disc, without actually seeing it touch the ground, with no angle on the catch, merely because they think that, hey, maybe, right? Of course, if you call them out on their lack of position to see what actually transpired, they're adamant about their call, instantly looking for the nearest holy text to lay their hand on and swear they saw it touch this blade of grass, or that one.

All this is further exacerbated by the confusion as to what happens when a disc is called down. Few seem to know play stops and must be restarted with a check, and often after a side conversation or two the offense will just put it back into play and off we go, official procedures be damned. Ugh, so annoying.

Aside from monitoring what we say from the sidelines to strike a balance between communicating to our teammates and constricting on-field play, let's raise the bar on the certainty we require of ourselves to call a disc down. You should have an unobstructed view of the disc; you should be able to see the moment it touched the ground; you should know, and not just think, hope or, extrapolating a trajectory in your head, assume that it should have been down.





phil said...

i said "time out" from the sideline in our game, which i make a point never to do. generally say "burn it" or "we've got one"