1) Training Camps
The NHL season is starting up again, and that means that training camps are beginning as well. I know some AUDL and MLU teams have training camps of their own that function as tryouts, like something out of the Mark Wahlberg movie Invincible. Training camps in the NHL are a time for fans to get to know the future stars and current prospects of a team, players that may be competing in the junior leagues or that have been developing down in the AHL. For the non-hockey fans still having trouble grasping it, think of it as practices held between all the Boston area men’s teams, and Ironside brass taking the time to evaluate where every player that shows up stands, and a way to make their opening season roster; it’s a little more complicated than that for hockey, but that’s the basic point. Training camp gives way to inter and intra-squad scrimmages and games, training tests to make sure players in are in proper playing conditioning from the summer and drills to test the players on their hockey IQ and skill.
Something that could be added to the ultimate camps from something like an NHL camp: individual teams within those training camps. The Detroit Red Wings, for example, have their prospects and veterans organized into different ‘legend’ teams for use in scrimmages and different drills during practice. I’m sure that not only makes it easier on the players knowing where they will be during a day, but also allows the fans to follow along and see how each player is doing in a real situation. Imagine if the Whitecaps took their training camp players and split them into teams over the weekends of tryouts, slowly whittling them down to the final roster. During that process, the team, through social media, could let everyone know what was going on, play by play.
For the college game, I’m thinking of training camps as a way to increase the competition and a way to make the season a bit longer. A university’s NCAA team has to show up early for school to start training with a team, especially if they’re a fall sport like football or soccer. Imagine a team like a Pittsburgh having their veterans showing up to school one or two weeks early for two-a-days and more team bonding. So that instead of using the weekends of September and October to sort through players that maybe don’t belong with the team, you get an early start on strategy, on conditioning, and on chemistry. This idea maybe isn’t feasible in the current setup of some university’s schedules, or even with students and whatever they do over the summer. But it would be a way to kickstart the tryout process for returning players, or players that know they’re going to a school that has a serious ultimate program.
2) What AUDL/MLU can learn from NFL
Speaking of the pro leagues in ultimate, and other professional leagues, with the NFL really starting up again, there are two things that the NFL has either been pivotal in allowing to happen but also simply allowed to happen that I think could go a long way in helping to promote either one of the professional leagues. The first being to dominate the news cycle: when the NFL starts, the typical sportscast centers solely around the NFL, or if it isn’t the NFL, it’s a future draft pick (college football). Baseball, golf and Nascar (sports that have been going on throughout the summer) are there but usually relegated to the bottom of the cycle, or at least after the NFL storyline. If it isn’t highlights from the game before, it’s analysis or pregame coverage on a Wednesday, for a game on Sunday. With the game being forced down the throats of sports fans everywhere, it’s hard not to pay attention to what’s going on if you watch the news.
Now, we all know this isn’t possible on the same scale for any league in ultimate right now. But they can position themselves above their competition in articles like this one, in other media outlets for the sport, on r/ultimate, and on Twitter. If they can keep people talking about the sport, and stop it from being ignored during the week in favor of school or work, or other sports, then I would think that not only attendance numbers would rise but the number of people watching the streams would rise as well.
Lastly, I think if the leagues worked on getting individual plays out there in a more easily consumed format – the GIF – it could help in fans of ultimate sharing it within the community and to those outside of it. The MLU especially has been great at getting each game’s highlight plays up on YouTube, but that’s usually just the sponsored plays of the game. If you read sites on SBNation or something like Deadspin, you see GIFs of not only the NFL, but NBA, NHL, MLB, etc. all the time. It helps to bring about not only the funny moments of games, but also big games in easily digestible formats, that can be easily added to any recaps or articles about games. I don’t think this point is as major as the last one, it’s more of a byproduct, but would go a long way in ensuring the first’s success.
3) EXCLUSIVE: Other Considered Nationals Rules Changes
Yes, that’s right I’ve landed an exclusive internal memo from USAUltimate that has a few of the other considered rule changes for Club Nationals this year. No word if they could still come out as potential changes before the start of regionals. They are as follows, and also came with a link to a Vine of Dr. Crawford practicing his twerk, but that is unfit for publishing.
Kid Cudi’s Day’N’Nite Official Song of all USAU Championships: After determining the schedule for quarterfinals in the morning and semifinals at night, we thought it only right to reach out to the Cudder’s reps in hopes of using the song exclusively through our PA system DJ booth. ESPN has also agreed to air the song continuously in between the two rounds of streaming on the WatchESPN app to fill the 10+ hours of dead-air hoping that it will not only keep both the “target audience and athletes in their hotel beds” tuned in on the streaming.
Teams in Series Must Have Strong Social Media Presence To Compete: In an effort to truly maximize the promotion of the sport, all teams that compete in the USAU Club Series must have a strong social media presence. In order to make sure any team that potentially qualifies for the series can be promoted to the utmost extent, teams will not only have to win a bid out of their region during the tournament, but must submit to their regional coordinators links to all of their active social media outlets before 11pm that Sunday night. Furthermore, after initial acceptance from USAU officials, all teams must submit a plan that details their plans for social media for each day before the Club Championships, and how they will improve their presence as well. Teams that do not meet the social media requirements will be forced to relinquish their bids in favor of the next team that meets the requirements.
On-The-Fly Substitutions Allowed: To compliment the changes of the Nationals format, we have also decided that in observed games, on-the-fly substitutions will be allowed after a change of possession with the disc. We hope these changes will allow the pace of the game to pick up, but for the impact players of each team to have more time spent on the field, and allow for crucial hydration on the sidelines. In our limited testing, we found it easiest to record the substitutions should the players check in with observers.
4) Starting College
As I mentioned in ‘Cracked Egg’ a few weeks back, I once wrote something for Bryan Jones about my first two years playing college ultimate for SUNY-Buffalo. In short: I wasn’t very good at all as a freshman, and as such got practically zero minutes of play time during the season. Over the summer, and into the next fall as a sophomore, I took the time to improve my throws, athleticism and general ultimate-IQ to the point that I was put on the starting defensive line. I made myself better and in turn my team, and tried to carry that same mentality through the next two years at SUNY-Buffalo as best I could. I still wasn’t that great when I finished as a senior, I wasn’t an all-region player or anything, but from what I was freshman year I was a vastly different player. It was around this time freshman year that I was slowly coming to the realization that I wasn’t very good, and making the team would be a testament more to my work ethic than my skill. For freshman, or anyone else in similar situations, I cannot stress enough how important it is to keep up that work ethic, and to push yourself for constant improvement. Right now, you may be reading the list of the first round of cuts, or stressing for the cuts that will come soon. Regardless of where you fall on that list, make sure you keep pushing yourself to improve as a player, and as a teammate. Not everyone is a Dylan Freechild, or Jimmy Mickle. But they aren’t the only ones on the field, or at practice, or in the gym.
Continuing off of that, it’s time for the college season to start up again and really get into gear. Before the semi-major fall tournaments that come in mid-to-late November that give us all a preview of what could come in the spring (Pitt did win Missouri Loves Company last fall over some good teams…), we have all of the tryout tournaments, featuring X-Y-Z teams, hangovers and costumes. I know I’ll be seeing my first college pull of the season next weekend at the annual SUNY-Buffalo home tournament, playing with a team full of alumni. As great as it has been to watch the MLU, AUDL and the Triple Crown tour unfold ever since the College Champs ended in Madison this past May, nothing beats the college season.
5) Price of Competing in USAU
Sludge Brown had a post recently looking at the ‘money leaders’ through the Triple Crown Tour thus far. Fury and Revolver are your leaders so far; with a total any one team could earn standing at $9,250, and their earnings being $4,000. Go and click over to the site to see the detailed breakdown, something that Sludge has always been great at doing, and it does include a per player breakdown. As the first commenter says, “Nobody is making money playing the Triple Crown. People are only having parts of their flights / fees subsidized.” And that much is apparent, as Mischief pointed out on Twitter as well.
As Sludge mentions in the very beginning of his post, there is also money being handed out in the MLU and AUDL, for the men’s side of things at least. Reading through, the AUDL model seems to have the most money up for grabs per player, and you have to think as a player that looks more appealing even if the league isn’t that put together as a whole (that is changing though). Is there any chance that becomes a reason for players to ‘jump ship’ so to speak? Not only that, but it’s easy to forget that the MLU and AUDL cover travel expenses, and other associated costs with playing that USAU is unable to. With talk of USAU pushing the series back into summer a bit, a possible standoff between the two could be coming soon. Money could be a big deciding factor when players from the cities with the professional teams decide where to play.
6) MLU Announces 2014 Schedule
Well that was fast. It still feels like the season just ended, but the MLU has announced their 2014 season schedule. As the announcement says, not much has changed from last year. But with a set schedule already, getting the word out there for the games and hopefully selling more season tickets should in theory become a lot easier. With all those MLU Shop sales that each team has been throwing out on Twitter, have to wonder what the league has up its sleeve going into their second year of competition.
7) Visualization of Animals
Sludge Brown also did something kind of awesome by visualizing the seven animals that Middlebury, he and I chose as their own starting seven should a game of ultimate like that ever be played. Go check it out. And keep holding out and signing petitions, because sooner or later something like this is bound to become one of those weird Google projects.
Photo by Burt Granofsky of UltiPhotos.com