Last week I posted some general impressions of the athletes and teams at Colombian Nationals. This week I want to add some more observations on the national organization and some of the challenges facing ultimate in Colombia as the sport grows at an uncontrollable pace.
AJUC and Pre-Nationals Conference
Before Nationals there was a day long conference where team captains attending nationals were present. They got together to discuss the role of AJUC, how to grow the sport, how to best select the athletes to represent Colombia in international competition, etc. Topic discussions were very reminiscent of a USAU Organizers Convention.
We broke up in to smaller groups to discuss various issues of the day.
At my table, one of the Krigar captains translated to me (this is a summation), “Here we have this problem. People who are paying dues to AJUC are always wondering where the money is going. They don’t see what AJUC does and they don’t submit proposals to AJUC to fund projects in their region.” And another captain said something like “AJUC is telling the regions that they know best what their own region needs. That’s why they have project proposals. People complain but they are too lazy to fill out the forms.”
I just had to laugh. Same sh*t, different country. (I did not know how to say that in espanol)
AJUC is Colombia’s national governing body for ultimate. It is still a fairly new organization. As one who started playing at around the same time that the UPA was first formed, I can say they are following a pretty familiar trajectory and are doing very well.
I’m not sure if they have this type of conference every year, but it seemed to be a good place for the most invested players to provide input, air grievances, and learn from one another. Again, much like a USAU Convention.
At Nationals Andres Angel (“Frijole”) said he’d be curious to think what I thought of the weekend. He was under the impression that US games go faster because we have observers. He was surprised to hear that most games in the US do not, in fact, have observers.
Rather than games being slowed by bad calls, I was surprised to see how short the arguments were. (I do not know Spanish, but foul re-enactments are the same in every language). After a few sentences of exchange, if there was no agreement, the disc was sent back. In some ways this was good as the flow of the game was usually not interrupted for long. The downside is that players can get away with ridiculously bad calls if they choose to. Calls that would have been a 10 minute argument in the US were sent back in about 15 seconds. The length of the argument appears unrelated to the good/bad nature of the call being made.
The only game I saw all weekend that would have benefited from observers was the Oso v. Euforia game. As mentioned by Ultiworld, there were bad travel calls galore. These were so bad that I would say it was pretty much blatent cheating by Oso. Euforia remained surprisingly calm during these calls. In the second half, they managed to retaliate with a few terrible calls of their own. The crowd did not enjoy this game and started whistling and booing after almost every call good or bad. On the way home in the car, the girls told me “Euphoria vs Oso. Whoever makes the most calls wins.”
It worries me that two of the best open teams in the nation cannot play a spirited, or even legal, game against one another. I wonder at the future of Colombian ultimate if these are the players that the younger ones look up to. I spoke with two Oso players during the game and they agreed this game was “terrible” and “this is no fun.” After the game Oso and Euforia had a longer than normal spirit circle. I am not sure what it will take to fix the problems between Oso and Euforia but I do get a sense that players are starting to realize the impact that SOTG (or lack thereof) has on the ability to play the game. Especially as more players gain international experience, the issue of SOTG is becoming increasingly important.
Because there are not long arguments, I do not think observers would speed up the pace of the game. They could however, improve the quality of the game by overturning bad calls and by simply knowing the rules. Knowledge of the rules by all players is a problem. Apparently, this year they had all captains take a rules test in order to be able to play at Nationals. Which I think is a brilliant idea.
At the convention the Friday before Nationals one of the captains said that currently each team just has their own ideas of what the rules are and no one wants to come to an agreement on what the rules actually are. I cannot imagine trying to play a game this way. On the other hand, it does remind me of early tournaments I participated in where some rules were up for grabs (gender ratios, timeouts per half, cap rules) as long as the captains agreed.
The basic problem (if you could call it that) is that the sport appears to be growing so rapidly that the organizers (AJUC and local organizers) were/are not quite prepared with the tools, resources, and coaches needed to educate everyone on the basic rules of game play.