The World Champs Say Spirit Circles Make Them Better

by | May 8, 2015, 7:00am 12

Spirit of the Game Conference

Presented by WFDF

The World Flying Disc Association, UltiEvents, and RISE UP hosted a Spirit of the Game conference at Worlds in Lecco, Italy last summer. Now, WFDF and Skyd are partnering to bring you a six-part series of videos from the conference.

In the first video, Seattle Riot leaders Kate Kingery, Alyssa Weatherford, Gwen Ambler and Rohre Titcomb describe how a hollow, poorly-spirited win at Regionals led their team to embrace Spirit circles as a way to build relationships with other teams. The reigning world champions use Spirit circles to exchange honest (and even unpleasant) feedback on everything from strategy to rules discussion.

Does your team use Spirit circles after games? Why or why not? Do you know of other ways to promote better in-game Spirit?

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  • Patrick van der Valk

    Valeria Iani just shared with me an example of Spirit Circles at the Youth Level where Charlie Mullin, one of the Los Angeles Flyers coaches, gave this consideration after the 4th annual Spaghetti Western Youth Tournament:

    “Our overall experience was wonderful, with a combination of thrilling challenges, gorgeous weather, and a warm community feeling. My best memory is the dedication to continuing the Spirit Circle tradition. A lot of adult play short changes this important ritual and it’s a great way to emphasize what Ultimate is all about.”

  • Robyn Wiseman

    Yes yes yes. Thank you so much for this presentation. I love the reflection on past experiences and telling of stories in an honest way. SOTG is super important to our sport and am glad to see some of our top athletes having an honest discussion about the inclusion of Spirit Circles.

  • shake hands and leave me alone

    I think that women find more value in Spirit Circles than men. No, I don’t have data to back it up. However, from the number of discussions I’ve had with players and coaches, women definitely look upon Spirit Circles more favorably, and put more importance in them than men. Probably apparent, but I am male and I really dislike when you are expected to participate in a Spirit Circle. I don’t think it is poor spirit to not want to be a part of a Spirit Circle. I really don’t want to talk to my opponent about the game, right after the game. That’s not bad spirit. Bad spirit is getting mad at me for not wanting to join you. You’re not on my team, I don’t owe you anything besides the effort I put in on the field and the sportsmanship I demonstrated. While this is a nice story about sharing moments with other teams, I think you can have just as a rewarding of an experience against an opponent without doing so. I am not advocating removing Spirit Circles, but rather presenting a view point that I am sure many other people agree.

    • Joe

      I agree wholeheartedly. Spirit Circles are a nice idea and work for some people, but seem a little contrived and fake to me. Isn’t going to “battle” with and/or against someone, and congratulating them after “battle” enough spirit?

      • Junior Coach

        In Europe, the “Spirit Circle” exists since the beginning of Ultimate.
        We always did it, and still do. There are many different ways to do it.
        What is called the “Spirit Circle” was/is a social way to meet other people, sometimes from another country, people who share the same passion for the game of Ultimate. It’s also an opportunity to cool down and have a short exchange about the game (that may be continued after the circle).
        I never heard before the name “Spirit Circle”, and I personnally prefer to call it “After Game Circle”.
        The Spirit of the Game is a really important point of the WFDF Ultimate rules, and should not be reduced to an exchange of nice words in a “Spirit Circle”.
        Does anybody know if the After Game Circle was introduced in Europe by US players who came there to play, or if it was a european tradition ?

        • notaboomer

          when i was in college in the us back at the dawn of the upa, my team and our opponent almost always formed a large circle together after the game and cheered together in a celebration of our mutual love of the game. later on in us club play in the central region, i did not see this and there was more tension between teams. when i finally got to do some international play in the late 90s, i recall sweden doing a really friendly post game circle after the game but not so many other teams did that at the worlds i attended.

    • Will

      I think it’s unquestionably bad Spirit to not participate in the circle – it’s simply disrespectful, to your teammates and your opponents who are participating. Since I left the US and started playing Euro and Australian Ultimate, I’ve spent a lot of time in Spirit circles, and I’ve learned to appreciate them (far more now that people don’t sing songs and that crap anymore).
      The circle is a very functional addition to a system that relies on respect and interaction between opponents. It’s not only an important part of maintaining that basic modicum of respect required for our sport to function, it’s also a valuable feedback option in the off-chance a team hasn’t earned that. At the top level of Open, where our intensity and testosterone can blow things up where they don’t need to be, it’s arguably even more important. Even if I’ve played against 5 absolute pricks on a team, there’s at LEAST a minimum of 5 guys who fought me that deserve the recognition we give in our circle. Realistically though, the majority of the time the games are intense and well fought, and there’s a lot of value in looking your opponents in the eye and acknowledging that.

      You don’t have to like it, but shut the fuck up and manage yourself. It’s not about you, though your ego clearly thinks it is. MOST of your opponents have earned some respect for how they play – and if you can’t recognize that, you’re probably a self-centered asshole.

  • notaboomer

    how about this spirit circle interchange: “very competitive game and tough loss for our team. i really think the travel call you made on our fast break as we were about to score the upwind go-ahead goal was pretty unwarranted b/c player x didn’t really travel. it seemed like you made the call just to stop our fast break. and it worked and then we turned it over and your team scored without turning it over, changing the momentum of the game.” and riot’s players response is?

    • Patrick van der Valk

      I don’t know what Riot’s response would be but my $0.02 is that if you have that same game, after you played against that opponent twice before and you had a spirit circle, the call will likely not happen. If the bad call happened and you address it properly, it can stop it from happening in the future. Spirit Circles are best to help avoid problems later on, not resolve problems in the game. A bad call is a bad call.

      • notaboomer

        fair enough. i didn’t mean to suggest that riot (or any team) had this call scenario, just a hypothetical to see what spirit circle advocates would suggest as a reply if that came up in the post-game circle. what if the other team didn’t think it was a bad call?

        • Patrick van der Valk

          This is of course the essence of the game. If the other team really thinks he call was justified, they should state why they think so and a conversation can take place. The outcome can be that a team recognizes that maybe their initial understanding of the what happened was not as solid as they thought, or teams can agree to disagree. Just having the talk can reduce future calls and improve the game in general.

        • Štěpán

          I had a similarly honest comment after one game. It wasnt the easiest thing to say in the circle that normally hears something friendly and neutral. The discussion afterwards was about to become too hot so we decided to discuss it after the circle. We met as team and spirit captains and talked it in a very peacefull way. Just my experience – you don’t necessarily need to solve the issue in the spirit circle but it can be the place where to come up with the topic