Ultimate is growing. There is no doubt about it; USAU even has statistics to prove it. Overall growth for the sport is excellent and competitive ultimate gets more competitive every year. RISE UP is set to debut on Monday. This will have a significant effect on the college game. In some regards, every team is about to get hand delivered what elite teams have had for years: superior strategy and a detailed explanation of how to do the little things correctly.
College programs such as Wisconsin, Carleton, Colorado, and 1980’s UCSB are the best examples of an elite program. The same can be said of recent teams such as Oregon, Florida, and to some extent Pittsburgh. These teams, especially the late Black Tide teams, held a strategic advantage that was passed down by older captains, coaches, and alumni. Those teams operated in a bubble. If you wanted to learn a better way of doing something, you had to learn from a better team, potentially while trying to beat them. Not an easy task. The internet gave away some of these top teams “proprietary information.”
While there has always been ultimate related material available online, there has never been material like this. Let’s take for example a small school, anywhere in the country, that’s hoping to turn into a more legitimate program. Previously, all that’s been available is whatever literature you could find scattered around the internet. Then, there were collaborated resources such as The Huddle and ultimate related blogs. Eventually, YouTube Stations and other video resources began to emerge. Now, there is RISE UP: Video-taped episodes devoted to coaching the game complied by some of the best in the business. What I’ve seen from just the ten minutes that have been released might revolutionize the college game.
What is about to be released is somewhat the equivalent of Derek Jeter teaching you how to fetch a ground ball, or Ray Allen teaching you how to shoot jumpers. Small programs can gather this winter and watch these video’s together and then repeat it at practice the next day. RU has taken, to some degree, the teaching out of elementary ultimate. And this is going to be fantastic for ultimate in the long run.
I can’t help but consider the effect that this is going to have on the college game. RISE UP is going to have the same effect on ultimate that Moneyball had on baseball. Information that was previously secret is going to be easily accessible by all. This is going to change the game. It’s not going to happen overnight, or even this season but, elite programs are going to lose their strategic edge.
Other question to ponder is how the elite “monopoly” teams are going to respond. If you’ve lost a strategic advantage, there are a couple different paths you could approach. The first and possibly easiest is to get better athletes; either through recruitment or better training outside of practices. Another option is to become more disciplined. A difference between the college and club game is skilled marks, along with better throwers and a better understanding of the importance of offensive spacing. The final option might be to become innovative, to experiment with new ideas; this will regain the strategic leverage teams are about to lose.
What’s actually going to happen? I have no idea, but it’s going to be exciting.