Tuesday, January 09, 2007

PlayUltimate Mailbag: Easterns and Westerns Scheduling

Fresh from the inboxes of PlayUltimate -

I am new to the youth ultimate blogging scene, so forgive me if this topic has been
rehashed over and over but I believe the issue is the number one problem with the junior championship series and that is graduation conflcts with Westerns and Easterns.

I understand that the HS tournaments fit best for the UPA after college, before summer, not in the fall because of club. Some have argued that April is too early and June is too late, but I argue that the date should never be set on any high school's graduation. It is inherently discrimatory. It is unfair. In the last 5 years of coaching ultimate Nationals and Easterns has fallen on our graduation date 3 times. Paideia, one of the top ranked HS teams in the nation has had similar conflicts. I admire Mike Baccarani and his crew. I have never heard him complain once about this issue. I am not that strong. Its wrong and I wish I could enact change. I've spoken with Will and Kyle and emailed board members in past years, but all in vain. So, we plan on taking a Freshman-Junior squad to Easterns this year. There will be no complaints on the field, but the bottom line is it isn't fair.

David Wu, Coach
Lexington Catholic HS
So what do you think? Should the UPA ask for all school's graduation dates? Should they accept all the teams and then select a date that allows all to attend? Or should things remain as they are now?

As a fan of the game it stinks not to see a top team at the most prestigious tournament, essentially the closest thing to a national championship we have for high school teams at the moment. But is there a feasible way of correcting this? I know my high school graduation was a weekend in early June, as i think most schools in the area were. But is there regional disparity here?

On the same subject, it is also my personal opinion that all state championships should happen before easterns and westerns so that they can be taken into consideration when admitting teams. and in the same line of logic, local league and city championships should be held before states. NFL playoffs are going on right now and as im sure you have heard, it is referred to as the second season, the games take on a whole new level of athleticism and competition because teams are now fighting for survival. But i digress, the connection here being, in some ways it can be unfair to judge a team's regular season individual games for a tournament such as easterns or westerns, because who knows who had a test that day or perhaps playing time was mixed up. Whereas with the direct progression a more accurate depiction of who the best teams are late in the season will come to the forefront.

Agree? Disagree? Let's hear it.


Anonymous said...

I agree that states should be before easterns/westerns. Last year my team had to play states after a very fun and competitive easterns. Easterns was our final "big" tournament and most people were drained and had lost the interest and competitive drive. Many key players didnt want to show up and because the games at states had lost their meaning we underperformed. Theres no excuses, but I feel that having states before easterns would mean a more fun and competitive tournament, sort of a prequel (for those going to easterns and westerns) to those bigger tournaments.

tiinabooth said...

Here's what I know about scheduling, definitely from a NE angle, but perhaps it applies to the rest of the country too.
1) Most schools who have conflicts with May graduations are private schools. I don't know of any public schools who graduate that early. We don't get out until the 3rd week in June and I believe NY public schools sometimes get out even later. So perhaps it's the private schools in general that are being left out. Do we actually have more private schools playing than public ones? I suspect this is the case.
2) That being said, I think if we moved Easterns/Westerns to June, we would find many private school teams already disappated. It is really difficult to keep a team together after graduation, as many are already committed to jobs/travel/camps. They have a difficult time making it to our States as it is, a few weeks after Easterns. But, of course, if we built a later date into an upcoming Easterns/Westerns, then plans could change.
3) I hate having States after Easterns. We just have never been able to schedule it any other way, because we use fields at the kind discretion of the Boston Invite folks and their dates are fixed.We have the same problems in terms of motivation and, if we didn't need to attend to qualify for the following Easterns, we probably wouldn't go.

I am not arguing either way for keeping or moving the Easterns/Westerns dates. Indeed, perhaps it's time to move it later, leave out the Amherst (and other public school) teams, and get a better representation from other schools.

Anonymous said...

So move states, easterns, and westerns ahead a bit. States in mid to late April and Easterns/Westerns late April to early May. No too far into May though because that could interfere with crunch time at private schools. I don't see anything wrong with moving the dates up. I think it's good because it will put more pressure on HS teams to get their act together quicker and even participate more in fall tournaments. Moving the dates could also get the kids focused on their youth club teams earlier as well

Anonymous said...

Except then you have no time for other tournaments, especially in states where you can't get outside to practice until March.

And you also put Easterns/Westerns right in the middle of AP exams and SAT's.

Joe's Brother said...

It snows in April every year in Minnesota. In fact, there was snow flying at all but one of my 5 College Sectionals as a college player. Having a State Championship in May in Minnesota isn't ideal since May is the very first month of the year that you can count on decent weather. Generally, having 1 or 2 good weather tournaments (plus our Spring high school league) provides ample practice games as well as results for accurate seeding.

If a good majority of us continue to ignore Al Gore, however, by the year 2020, we'll happily hold the Minnesota State tournament in early March :)

tiinabooth said...

For Mr. Anonymous #2 (it would be so much easier if everyone would use their names),
Not all school teams can or are allowed to have a fall season. I certainly think that fall results should be taken into account when deciding who goes to a tournament, but to expect schools to field serious teams in 2/3 seasons is just not realistic for many teams. Some reasons are:
1) Ultimate players play other sports in the fall. Cross-training is good.
2) Some schools, particularly private or those with varsity status, will not allow kids to play two seasons, based on league rules and school policies.
3) Those rules also prohibit teams from holding tryouts early. Our tryouts start March 19, 3 weeks later we go to the Paideia Cup, three weeks after that our Invite, two weeks and then Easterns. It is really an 8 week season for us and moving things earlier would make it about a month and a half long.
4) I think the lack of focus on youth club teams has nothing to do with these issues. It is much more complex than that.
5) And, as Mr. Anonymous #3 said, moving the UPA events earlier would squash out our big tournament and other ones also, I would guess.

Again, the schedule does not have to be tailored for us or other public schools in cold areas. If the majority wanted to move things around, we would deal. But as we move more toward institutionalization of our sport in high schools, we will find that the amount of restrictions also increases. Are the benefits worth it? Again, another good topic for discussion.

David Wu said...

Five years ago, I looked a promising young ultimate player in the eye and asked him the question, "What do you think about developing a quality Ultimate team that would qualify for Nationals and be competitive?" We gathered a group and committed ourselves to each other and our shared dream. For four years our mantra and goal was getting to Nationals (and then Easterns). We threw every morning before school for a half an hour. We practiced the most in the cold of Dec, Jan and Feb -- the only time that Ultimate Frisbee had priority on our field. We played college and open tournaments because of the lack of HS teams in KY. It was a shock and dissappointment when our squad of 10 solid seniors and underclassmen couldn't even be considered for the "Big Dance" junior or senior year because of graduation conflicts. Personally, any date except a graduation date is preferable for me. Having Easterns after school is over is preferable to having it on graduation (Is not the purpose of school learning and graduation?). Graduation is a larger obstacle than the end of school in my opinion. Easterns in early May is also preferable in my opinion. AP exams and SAT's are valid conflicts, but I believe they are lesser conflicts when compared to graduation. One wild idea would be to have a Northerns and Southerns as opposed to Easterns and Westerns, which isn't a great idea, but would address issues of climate. Another idea would be to vary the Eastern/Western date from early May/late April to Late May/June. Another option would be to allow schools with graduation conflicts to be eligible for the other tourney ie: and Eastern team w/conflict admittance to Westerns if they are eligible. If the best solution is to concede that some teams are going to be randomly excluded, then we should fairly exclude different samplings of schools. Thanks for the discussion everyone. Tiina, I have great respect for what you have done for the sport. On another issue, are juniors teams now allowed to compete in the college series? I asked a few years ago when Lynn D. was the National College Director and he said no. I noticed Amherst had competed and done well -- are HS teams now eligible? For the future, our team could look forward to College sectionals and possibly regionals as our big goal rather than Easterns. Well, to end on a positive note, the crew that never had a chance to go to Easterns was allowed to go to the first ever Mixed Club Nationals in 2005 (even though we did not have a youth league--we got a bid due to lack of bid applications) and that crew placed 3rd and won the Spirit Award. I guess its all good. Thanks for letting me vent -- David Wu

David Wu said...

I meant 10 solid seniors PLUS underclassmen --- Proofread Dave, and let it go already! I do love this sport...

Fantusta said...

What do all the other sports at your school strive towards? Is it an Easterns championship?
NO. It's a STATE tournament.

Almost no public schools compete in anything larger than this.
I would argue that high school Ultimate's goal should not be to organize Easterns better, it should be to move towards more organized leagues and state tournaments.

Right now it's not realistic, as there are simply not enough teams, but this should be our goal -- growing the sport such that instead of "PHUEL" and "PHUL", there would be the central league, the public league, the catholic league, the ches-mont league, district 1, the WPIAL... same as most other sports.

tiinabooth said...

Hey David!
Thanks for the kind words! To answer your question, high school teams are NOT allowed to compete in the UPA College series. We compete during the spring in whatever college tournament will have us, plus we play single games with the local colleges. And, as of last year, high school teams with a record against college teams are NOT allowed to be listed on the all-college section of the UPA score reporter. I argued this for quite awhile with the UPA folks last year and they felt that it hurt the legitimacy of college ultimate to have a high school team ranked in the top 30 college teams. (My argument was that there were a lot of other factors that hurt the legitmacy of college ultimate and the poll wasn't necessarily the worst of them.)
In terms of the state tournament argument of Fantusta, I completely agree. I think the UPA is moving in that direction and that the institutionalization of our sport by state athletic associations is not too far down the road. Whether that means that the UPA will cease to become the governing body for competitive youth ultimate remains to be seen. My guess is that Massachusetts will be one of the first states "tested" in that area. We have quite a few teams and the MIAA (Mass Interscholastic Athletic Association)will eventually become interested and a number of Mass. ultimate programs here WANT the MIAA to make us part of their system. If the MIAA does take over ultimate here, there will be some serious changes, such as restrictions on out-of-state travel, mouth guards, no off-season interactions between coaches and player (including coaches watching summer league), and most likely refs. So, at least up here, we are careful of what we wish for.

Ryan said...

If we transition to a normal high school sport schedule/season, there will still need to be a season like there is now. Youth soccer players play high school soccer for one season and try for a state championship. Then they play on youth club teams that compete in state, regional, and national tournaments as well as prestigious invite tournaments around the country. In other words, it's exactly like it is now, but with youth club teams instead of high school teams.

However, it's silly that youth clubs are only one tournament with bids based on the size of a league. If you have a youth club series/season, then you have more youth club teams starting, including several from the same league/catchment area to form rivalries, etc.

All in all, it's a win all around.

David Wu said...

Fantusta, if our school were in PA our primary goal would be States. Yes, most HS athletics aim for states. But in KY, the competition in states is weaker than a Lexington,KY City Championship. Our team interpretation of Spirit is that we strive toward excellence with who we have and what resources are available, while helping others. So for us, our aim is Easterns and open/college competition while our state scene develops. So, what I am hearing is that it is the opinion of some that it is NOT the UPA's responsibility to have a Split-National championship which includes all
eligible teams schedule-wise. And that States, not Easterns or Westerns is where the big dance ought to be. Maybe we should have Easterns/Westerns for States with fewer than 10 competetive teams or so -- in other words have regional competition for the developing states and have States as the
tournament for the more developed states.

Mike Mullen said...

Hey all,

Fantusta is right on the mark with his/her arguments. States should be the ultimate goal and when more teams are playing in each state those tournaments will mean more and more.

Westerns and Easterns were designed with the idea that someday a central tournament would be added. And then maybe even smaller regions after that. But that won't happen until many more teams are playing in states.

Nationals and Westerns dates has always been an issue for us. Our school actually schedules prom around Westerns after the first year when we had prom the night before Westerns. Our main point to the UPA is we are fine with either traditional weekend as long as we know a year ahead of time so we can schedule prom away from that weekend just in case we are invited to Westerns. But that doesn't mean we don't have conflicts. We have grade level trips, overseas trips, science trips and a whole bunch of other issues that keep me from having a complete team between spring break and Westerns. That is just something I have to deal with. My point being that we all have to deal as best we can with the cards we are dealt.

Mike Mullen, Northwest School Boys Coach

Fantusta said...

I understand that right now, KY is not a very attractive state to compete in, but my belief is that our goal should be to MAKE it a real state tournament. I agree that right now you need to travel outside, and you should! Play as much as you can in the current conditions, but the development of more teams is where the future is.

Re: club teams
Yea -- high schools should be striving to win state championships, while summer/fall time, the YCCs would be club teams goal. Maybe someday there will be sectionals/regionals/nationals for this?

-Chris Vanni
Founder of LM Babaganouj
Queen's Mothership

Anonymous said...

My opinion on this topic is that whenever you change the date there will always be a conflict for someone. You move Easterns to early June to avoid graduation dates of private schools but then you interfere with other things, such as high school proms, final exams, etc. You just have to find a date that works for most teams and unfortunately leaves others hanging.

Anonymous said...

Pennsbury has the Number one prom in the country and most, if not all of our seniors have already committed to skipping it for Easterns. Now, i know things like graduation day are a bigger deal than Prom, but what it comes down to is that you have to make a choice about what means more to you. No matter when they schedule Easterns people are going to have problems, all you can ask for is an announcement as early as possible to give teams time too prepare. Teams and players are just going to have to make sacrifices and hard decisions.

Isaac Saul
Pennsbury Ultimate