Friday, August 03, 2007

Boys Ultimate in the Fall on West Coast?

Here is an interesting question for people interested in West Coast HS ultimate. Should boys ultimate move to the fall?

It is my educated guess that boys ultimate will be in the fall in Seattle starting in fall of 2008.

The problem in Washington is that boys soccer, boys lacrosse, boys track, boys baseball, and for some schools boys tennis are all in the spring. The two main sports in the fall are cross country and football. To top all that off less than half the schools that play ultimate play boys because coed HS ultimate has been around for 10+ years.

The final nail in the coffin for boys ultimate in the spring of 06 came when the state association recently moved class 1A (small but not smallest classification) soccer to the spring. That means that two of the big four ultimate schools, Northwest and Seattle Academy, which are both 1A schools will very likely have soccer in the spring starting in 09. Both those schools are most likely too small to still be able to field ultimate teams. The two bigger schools, Nathan Hale and Lakeside, already play spring soccer.

But clearly this is about more than two small schools. This is about how best to get the sport to grow much much bigger. Here are the upsides:

  • For the bigger schools including Seattle public, there would only really be competition with football and cross country.
  • There is already a coed MS Seattle Public Schools sponsored league. An open Seattle Public HS league could maybe use those fields right after the MS in exchange for HS players helping coach the MS players. The HS kids would get free game fields and volunteer hours needed for graduation. There could be cross over games versus private and non-Seattle public schools on park fields during the week.
  • It is difficult to find HS coaches in spring. UW and other college ultimate players in the area would most likely be able to coach much more in the fall as long as sectionals and regionals don't conflict for adult club.
  • There would be more coaches available in the spring because many boys coaches could also coach girls and vice versa.
  • The independent schools in the Emerald City 1A league with Northwest and Seattle Academy would be much more likely to make boys ultimate in the fall a varsity sport since they would only have cross country and are not likely to add football.
  • BC is rumored to want to add boys ultimate. They have a well organized spring coed league. This would not conflict.
  • If boys want to play coed in the spring and there are significantly more boys playing ultimate then there would have to be significantly more girls playing. As soon as a school has enough girls for two coed teams they have enough for a girls team. Girls games could happen on diferent days than coed leagues.
  • Boys State would be in the fall.

Here are the big questions:

  • Would BC, Oregon, and California have boys ultimate in the fall?
  • Would Colorado add a boys in the fall?
  • Would the UPA move Westerns to the fall for boys? Could we get fields in California for Westerns?
  • What would happen with the Minnesota schools? They are a great part of westerns?

What do people think? Is this the way to best grow the sport?



Anonymous said...

As I've stated to mike before, I would be more than thrilled to see open ultimate shift to the fall. I would like to see both open and girls shift to the fall as our programs have seen great growth together. It would negate at least one of the positives mike listed as being able to have coaches do both girls and boys as their season's would be different.
The reality that I felt I observed in the 3 years in Oregon was that either season honestly had difficulty allowing space for Ultimate. In the fall we compete with less sports that our ultimate players wish to play, but we fight much harder for field space.
I felt that the fall season also was shorter as we could not get things organized until mid-september and we would then only have until late October before our fields would be closed down. The spring has allowed us a longer season where we've begun indoor conditioning and then outdoor practices on turf starting in early February. Our season would then not end until the first weeks of June allowing for 3 times the length of season. And for many of our players, the highlights to the season were tournaments. The fall gave us 3 tournaments, none of which were open/girls. The spring allowed us 4 open/girls tournaments and 3 mixed tournaments.
The question then to me isn't what season, because it is what that season provides that makes makes the experience for our players worthwhile or not.
Those things are (and I could be forgetting something since it is late):
1. Tournament play (for both open, girls, and mixed)
2. Length (no less than 3 months in my opinion)
3. Parity in games/tournaments
4. Opportunities to interact with college play

(there are other things too that make playing worthwhile that are not connected to seasons at all, like friends, ability, sucess, etc)

-luke johnson

Kevin said...

I think that ideally fall is probably better than spring, but that right now it is not a possibility in California at all.

For one, most teams aren't established yet in the fall. Due to high personnel turnover fall is needed just to recruit players and get them to learn the game.

Second, club soccer occurs in the fall. I played club soccer for two years while playing HS Ultimate and that was hard enough even with the main season being spring. In California spring HS boys sports are Baseball, Track, Tennis and Lacrosse (though barely any schools have lacrosse). Most of my HS team at one point either played soccer/cc/track or played them while Ultimate was going on, moving to fall conflicts with two of those. There isn't much baseball/tennis to Ultimate cross over, but if we lose soccer players I never would have had a team.

Lastly, partly because of the aforementioned soccer fields, field space is tight. It is tight year round, but afterschool there is the Freshman, JV and Varsity football teams, and after that it is the club soccer teams. In the spring we're only competing with baseball and track, both of which require less field space than Soccer/Footballkkd

Anonymous said...

spring is ultimate season. fall-football, spring-ultimate.

Anonymous said...

agreed. football would wip out many teams! not to mention cross country

Anonymous said...

Spring is a better season for sports, because of the weather. Just because ultimate's a new sport (easier to move around) doesn't mean it should change seasons because soccer decides to move.

I play ultimate every season and my best memories are of Spring games and tourneys. Yeah, soccer would be more fun in the Spring, but cold hands don't make as much of an impact in soccer.

Mike Mullen said...

All - I envision ultimate fall season starting two weeks before labor day (Like other HS sports) but ending by mid-October. That would still allow for decent weather in the Northwest. Not too cold but some rain. About the same as spring. And boys could still play coed in the spring.

Luke - You make good points as always. I see a lot of similarities between Oregon and Washington ultimate of course. My hope is that by moving boys to the fall (Field space is always an issue in Seattle fall and spring) we could actually get more teams to participate. We could still get college competition because many college teams play the fall series but we could also have a better chance of getting college players to coach.

Kevin - Club soccer is indeed an issue in the fall for boys but with the jump to each new age group more players tend to burn out of the high level club. Those playing lower level club can generally play ultimate at the same time. (I played club soccer and HS football at the same time). I also wonder if we need to jump start Cali boys ultimate. My understanding is that the open teams out of Cali are generally coed teams that split off for tournies. In fact one of the things hurting the growth of boys ultimate is coed ultimate which seems pretty well entrenched in the spring. To get teams entrenched is an issue to me that relates mainly to having a bigger pool of players available which in Washington is probably the fall.

Anon 2:10 - Like you say ultimate is a new sport. I agree, which is why I don't understand how people think it belongs in one season or another. I believe ultimate is a great youth sport. So why the limited growth or no growth in some areas?

And finally one of the reasons there are no national championships in HS sports is because different states play sports during different seasons. If ultimate is going to grow most effectively each state needs to figure out what season fits best for the growth. If somehow Washington boys ultimate grows to 30 or 50 or even 100 schools then a state championship will be a huge deal and things like Westerns will fall to the wayside though I could see a Cascadia Championship (WA/OR/BC) replace Westerns sooner or later.

Anonymous said...

I think that thought needs to be given that if the youth open, girls or (proposed) club seasons move to the fall, how players will, like club soccer players, be forced to choose between playing two sports or trying to develop into a juniors caliber player. I personally, wouldn't want to have to make that decision.

gapoole said...

What happens to seniors? They get screwed out of their final spring season. It's a lame duck period. Plus, one season is too short to develop freshman for competitive Ultimate, at least enough for them to contribute significantly in their freshman year. Realistically, you would have weaker teams if you didn't have a competitive spring season.

I don't know much about the West Coast, but my NJ team has been able to play competitively year-round. It is nice to be able to introduce new players to (and refamiliarize veterans with) a our specific strategies and goals in the fall, then ramp up in the spring for the true competitive season. Having only one season is a restriction that we might have to deal with once we merge with the NJSIAA (which governs varsity sports in this state), but that is not even on the horizon. Since Ultimate is more unaffiliated and unrestricted, we can work with schools' administrations to support us in both the fall and spring. If there are obstacles, we find ways to overcome them, but I don't think there is a need to limit ourselves simply because other sports pick a particular season as their primary competitive period.

Anonymous said...

that doesnt make any sense...why would there be a lame duck period? the talk is moving it to fall in Seattle in fall of '08, meaning in the coming school year, it would still be held in the spring and then moved to the fall the next school year...way to go. iv always thought you watchung guys were lacking a little something up there

also, your point about playing year round isnt really relevant...sure, you can play year round, but one of the seasons has to be the dominant one, the one with the championship tournaments like states, etc. that's really what we're talking about, the main season

Anonymous said...

mike. you have a very well thought out idea. however, most schools have been dealing with this for a long time, and seem to have coped quite well. 2 small private schools having spring soccer is hardly a nail in the coffin(although i suppose this could be hard on your school)

as a small sport, recruitment to me seems a large reason for the sport to remain in the spring. NWS may have a very established program, but many schools have to scrape and sweet talk to get new players to keep up team size. in addition, most ultimate games are much more enjoyable in warm weather. therefore it does not make sense to have westerns in the fall as it could occur in late november. perhaps it is nice and warm in seattle at this time of year, but in a lot of places, it is very difficult to use your hands, and hardly the conditions you would want to play your most important game in.

thirdly, luke brings up a good point that in the spring, the season coincides with the college season, so there are many more tournament options/ practice scrimmages available.

Anonymous said...


Kyle Weisbrod said...


I think this is an interesting discussion and I think you really nailed it with your comment about national championships in high school sports. There is no one schedule that works well for high school sports at the national level. The UPA has put the focus on state development for that reason.

I think when it comes down to it, it's Washington's decisions to make weighing the pros and cons of moving the boys season. Most likely, UPA Westerns would not move because at this point in the development of Ultimate it seems that most Western states need/prefer Westerns in the spring. Washington is the most organized, structured state in the west and needs Westerns less than other states do (although I'm sure it is still a draw), but not having Westerns to cap off the Washington season may be one of the cons to be weighed when considering a move to the fall.

I think that Washington considering a move such as this is a sign of the growth of the sport and the organizational strength of Washington. It will be great when more states have enough teams and good enough organizers that they can consider these types of moves independently of other states to continue growth of the sport.

(Speaking as myself, not a UPA board member)

gapoole said...

Anonymous 8/06/2007 12:46 AM, you're missing the point. When a player comes in to a program, he generally improves with each season of play. If the fall season is the competitive season, then his final spring season is not competitive. Therefore, he has 3 competitive and 3 non-competitive (off-season) seasons before his final competitive season. If instead spring is your competitive season, then he has 3 competitive and 4 non-competitive seasons prior to his final competitive season. That's another season that he can use to become more athletic, more skilled, and a better player.

The "lame duck" period is his final spring season, because it is non-competitive, meaning he is still part of his school's team but he can no longer contribute directly to winning the prestigious tournaments, like States.

Was I not clear enough before?