The Ultimate Nation - College NDs (March 19, 2014)

Posted: March 19, 2014 03:49 PM


Ultimate Nation: 2014 Episode #4


Host   Guests
Bourland Matthew   Headshot JeffKula Headshot BethNakamura Headshot KevinKula Headshot KenKaminski
Matthew Bourland
Manager - New Media
USA Ultimate

Jeff Kula

Beth Nakamura
Kevin Kula
Ken Kaminski


Note - the following is a transcript of this week's show, lightly edited for clarity:

USAUltimateLogo 200x200

Hi, everyone. Welcome back to the Ultimate Nation. Today, we have the pleasure of being joined by all four USA Ultimate national college directors. We have Kevin Kula, Beth Nakamura, Ken Kaminski and Jeff Kula. Thank you all for taking the time to talk with us today. 

Headshot KenKaminski   You're welcome.
USAUltimateLogo 200x200  

And just a reminder for everyone listening - if you have a question for these great volunteers, use the Twitter #ultimatenation, and maybe we'll use your question on the show. Before we dive into some of the questions submitted, I'd like to do what we did to start the previous show and have you all give the viewers a sense of who you are.

Starting with you Beth, could you tell the viewers a little bit about your ultimate background and what led you to be a national college director?

Headshot BethNakamura   Sure. Hi everyone. I'm Beth Nakamura. I'm the National Women's College Director. I've been a volunteer with USA Ultimate, and prior to that the Ultimate Players Association, since 2004, where I started as the Metro Boston Women's College Sectional Coordinator. I made my way up through the ranks, served as the Northeast Club Women's Regional Director, and when the position was open in 2010, I was recruited to join, to return to, the college division and serve as the National College Women's Director.
USAUltimateLogo 200x200   And you, Jeff?
Headshot JeffKula   Hi, I'm Jeff Kula, I am the National Men's College Director. I guess my involvement started back in 2007 when Columbus was selected to host Nationals - College Nationals - in 2006, so I kind of got a little bit of a behind-the-scenes look at - do you see me still?
USAUltimateLogo 200x200   Yes, I do.
Headshot JeffKula   Sorry, I got something that said someone left the call. Sorry. So, in 2006, Columbus was chosen to host Nationals, and I had been involved as a player for a number of years, but that kind of gave me my first behind-the-scenes look at how things got organized and interacting with staff a little bit, so I kind of coincided with the vacancy for the national director position, so I decided to apply and figured it would be a good way to serve the community and do some good nitty-gritty detail work, a little bit more than what I had been doing with ultimate as a player. You know, I figured it would be something I could do for two to three years, and now, eight years later, here I am, so apparently it's going pretty well.
USAUltimateLogo 200x200   Nice. And you, Ken?
Headshot KenKaminski   I'm Ken Kaminski. I'm the National Developmental College Director. And I started playing at Kettering University about four years ago, and there actually wasn't a team there, so I had to kind of start it myself. And after those four years, I was able to create it to have a varsity status and full funding, and now I'm actually the head coach. So kind of cool to continue on that legacy. And during that time, I was also regional director for the Great Lakes region. That got me exposure to a lot of other teams, so I was able to help other teams with their start-up processes, and when this new developmental national director position opened up, it just seemed pretty natural, like I could help out a lot in that area. So that's where I'm here.
USAUltimateLogo 200x200   And last, but not least, Kevin.
Headshot KevinKula   Hi, I'm Kevin Kula out of Columbus, Ohio. I'm the National Division III Director for college. It's been great. This is my third year on board. I did my undergraduate playing at Ohio Wesleyan. And I've really liked seeing the growth and development of D-III on both the men's and women's sides. I will say I'm impressed too, on Ken's end, that stack of discs you have nicely behind your camera.
Headshot KenKaminski   That's my collection. I'm kind of sorting through it, making sure they're sealed.
USAUltimateLogo 200x200   Nice. Now we're going to jump into a question we received from Twitter, from Bill Bourrett. It's not to any one of you in particular, so feel free to chime in if you have something to add. It's a general question. He asks,
USAUltimateLogo 200x200   Jeff, I mean you've been around the longest. Do you want to chime in?
Headshot JeffKula   Sure, I'll jump in. I didn't want to cut anyone else off. So I guess the national director is, I'd say the most important thing that they're responsible for is sort of communications and consistency. I think the idea is that, there's a lot of interaction through either email or conversation with either teams or coordinators, but the big thing is you've got teams and coordinators in all different parts of the country. So, we do a really, we pay a lot of attention I guess to making sure that something that happens in one corner of the country is going to be consistently applied and treated in other places. And so we try to do our best to make sure events are getting organized in the same way, that rules are getting applied in the same way, that eligibility gets applied in the same way and try to kind of maintain that umbrella over all the different regions, so that people playing that are playing in one area are going to get the same quality experience as people playing in another area.
USAUltimateLogo 200x200   Thanks, Jeff. Does anyone else want to chime in with their thoughts?
Headshot KevinKula   I can chime in a little bit. I think Jeff really hit it on the head with the elements of communication and making sure the high quality events are consistent throughout the country. The other thing I think that we really try to keep doing as a national director are push the initiatives of our individual divisions. It's nice that all four of us are on the same page of growing college ultimate in general, but we all have different concerns as national directors. So I think really being the voice of our regional directors and coordinators around the country, to each other to make sure that guidelines and policies change for the advantage of college ultimate.
USAUltimateLogo 200x200   Great. So I have a few individually tailored questions. I will jump around a little bit. We'll start with Beth. What is it about college women's ultimate that keeps you motivated volunteer your time year after year?
Headshot BethNakamura  

Initially, my involvement with college ultimate started off as a necessity. The previous Metro Boston women's sectional coordinator stepped down, and we needed to host a sectionals. Otherwise, none of use were going to advance to regionals, and so it stepped out of necessity, and then it became a way for me and my team to connect with the other teams in the conference. And being in Boston, we were, our campuses were very close, but we all stuck to our own respective campuses and didn't really know how close we were. So we were, as we were growing our team at Boston university, we were able to connect with teams right across the river - MIT and Harvard, and then Tufts and then Boston College as they were also starting up their team - to create a community. A women's community that hosted our own Beanpot tournament, we played against each other throughout the fall and the spring, as well as just general support of just growing the women's community in Boston.

Moving on to the club division, as a coordinator, I was able to again unite the community of women's club teams in the Northeast. I played with Brute Squad for 8 years and we were, you know, every region has it's challenges, and we were able to again strengthen the bond of teams within the Northeast region. And to be able to serve the college women's ultimate community as a national director and again, to echo what Kevin said, to push our, push the concerns of the women's community forward in our respective divisions is really important to me.

And, in my real job, as a student affairs professional, seeing the growth, seeing the student population come in and manage to balance their time as student athletes as well as the difficult challenges club teams face as they make their way through, make their way through their administration of having the administrative component understanding, really helps me to understand the concerns that teams and captains have as they plan for the series, get through the administrative processes with us, as well as trying to find, finding the help to bridge the relationships at their respective universities.

USAUltimateLogo 200x200   Great. Moving on to Jeff. Jeff, you've been a college director for the longest - since 2007. Aside from the expansion from one to four national directors, what have been the most notable changes to the college ultimate landscape since you started?
Headshot JeffKula   Well, I think the most obvious place to start is something that's just happened within the last few years - sort of the establishment of the more standardized regular season with rankings and the impact that the regular season has on everything that's happened. Way back when when I started, strength wildcards from regionals to Nationals were based on the previous year's Nationals performance and that kind of thing, so I think listening to some of the concerns and listening to some of the reasons that people had for trying to make some changes really pushing it to the current season driving everything that happens during that season. I think has been probably one of the biggest changes, and it's definitely been for the better because it always used to be regionals was always an exciting event, but now you're seeing that kind of intensity and that kind of excitement at regular season events where teams know the impact that it directly has on the rest of their season. So I think that's one of the main changes. 
USAUltimateLogo 200x200   And Kevin, this is the fifth year of the D-III championships. How would you rate the health of the division in year five?
Headshot KevinKula   I think it's very healthy. and I think it's because there's a lot of grassroots efforts on the coordinators end and especially on the team leaders' end. There are captains and tournament directors out there who really want to make sure high quality events are being formed around D-III. Feedback we received from last year's college championships were really focused on thanking us for that opportunity. Thanking for high quality play, thanking for a long, long season that they can compete against similar calibre teams but be able to culminate at the college championships. This year's college championships it's real nice - it's only about 20 minutes north for me, in Westerville, Ohio, and that organizing body is doing a great job to kind of bring a high quality event back to Ohio. So we're happy to have actually both events in Ohio this year. And show the state a little bit about high calibre college ultimate.
USAUltimateLogo 200x200   Nice. I bet that's nice for you Jeff, as well, to be able to have D-I and D-III both in your home state.
Headshot JeffKula   Yeah, it'll be great. I'm looking forward to it. It's going to be nice. I've gotten to know people. Obviously I know people in the Columbus community, but I've gotten to know people in the Cincinnati community over the years too, so I think that kind of like Kevin alluded to, where I think in both cases, you're dealing with pretty good volunteer cores that, maybe aren't the large ultimate communities that people recognize when they think of the Seattles and the Bostons type of thing, but they're both pretty strong with their volunteers and definitely have youth programs that I think are going to help drive the communities moving forward as well.
USAUltimateLogo 200x200   Nice. Now Ken, you're the newest to the bunch. What motivated you to apply to be a national director and what are you hope to accomplish as the national developmental college director?
Headshot KenKaminski  

Yeah, what motivated me to apply - I, being a regional director for two years, I saw a lot of teams in my region at least, either not participating in the series or no longer exist after a few years. And I saw it was due to a lot of internal structure issues with their leadership transitions, how they presented themselves to their universities, stuff like that or even how they structured their b-team rosters, so I kind of wanted a better chance to spread what I was doing with these other teams, helping them start up and do it kind of on a national scale. So when this position came up, earlier last year, I was like, that sounds awesome. I definitely want to try my best to gain that position and help more teams.

So what I hope to accomplish is really giving more teams that want it guidance through their start up processes, as well as trying to make their first years as teams easier in competition. There's a lot of pressure for d-I schools especially that don't have teams, they get intimidated going into the series for the first time, so they might be looking at the season guidelines and making it easier for them to compete in their first year. And overall, just kinda of help reach a higher level of organization. and funding and recognition at their school because there's just a lot of stresses that come with being a Frisbee team at a college that has a lot of sports and other stuff like that. So it's good to help teams get a little bit of confidence in building themselves stronger and this applies to developmental as well. It's kind of considered both new teams and b-teams, like the secondary rosters, so with the secondary rosters, I hope to help them have better competition structure and opportunities for even pre-season events with the STAR program that USA Ultimate has, so overall, a lot of work to just help teams become stronger and then have fun competing.

USAUltimateLogo 200x200   Thanks. And as a follow up, could you go into more detail as to the biggest challenges you see facing college development?
Headshot KenKaminski   Yeah, there's plenty of challenges, and one of the things I'm seeing the most is that each challenge is specific to the region or even the conference. So it's going to be a challenge to kind of get inside what is going on at that specific college or within the region, where the structure is how many conferences there are, and just kind of make the solution make sense for everybody. So, there's going to be a lot of variables, and some of the biggest challenges that I've seen so far are just the approach that teams take to their universities, to get a better funding and better recognition, so that's something I hope to be able to help a lot of teams with.
USAUltimateLogo 200x200   Thanks. We'll move back to Beth, and this is a questions specific to this season. I was thinking about the college women's division and one way you can sort of think about how the health of the division is how many different teams are winning. And I looked it up and 2001 was the last time a team outside of the Northwest or Southwest won. And that was with Georgia. And with Central Florida and Ohio State currently ranked second and third, do you think this could be the year that that streak is broken?
Headshot BethNakamura   I guess, so I think that this year may be the year the streak is broken. I feel like I am watching a mainstream sport, like college basketball. We're already into March Madness, and I love to follow college basketball. But I see the parity in both college basketball and in college ultimate evening out across the board. More players are going, are entering college with experience, and are no longer, well I don't have the data to support this statement, but I feel like more of them are staying, are choosing schools because they know that there are established programs. And they're not travelling, they're not reaching out tot he more established programs and staying there and going there. They're hoping to be that class of players to bring a national championship home and to break the streak of the Northwest or the Southwest. And I do think it will be an exciting season and an exciting series, and it has been already. And I love how College Nationals has changed over the last three years. My first College Nationals as a national director was in 2011, and just the competition has risen. And it's great to see the top 20 teams in the country really push each other to be better, but also to know that there are friendships and relationships off the field that have blossomed because of this rise. So I'm excited.
USAUltimateLogo 200x200   I'm definitely looking forward to this year as well. Jeff, this is going back to the fact that you've been around the longest. Just out of curiosity, how often do you catch yourself still saying sectionals instead of conference championships?
Headshot JeffKula   Well, less frequently these days. Definitely when the change was first made I was having to catch myself. Luckily I guess, there is a backspace on the computer, so whenever I was typing it, I'd usually catch myself before I actually sent something off. But, yeah. I mean, there definitely, with the evolution of things, there are definitely changes like that, so as long as people allow for that learning curve, it's always been for the better.
USAUltimateLogo 200x200   So I have a question for all of you. And feel free to just go down the line and I want to give you an opportunity to give some shout outs to some of your volunteers, your RDs or conference coordinators out there who are doing a great job so far this year. So, if you could all go through and shout out a name or two, that'd be great. Beth, do you want to go ahead?
Headshot BethNakamura   I only get to shout out a name or two?? 
USAUltimateLogo 200x200   I mean if you provide good examples, you can go on, but...
Headshot BethNakamura   No, I have a great team of regional directors and conference coordinators and I'm really grateful to have, especially staying with me since I jumped on board, Jackie Booth, who runs the Metro East, even though she lives in Boston. Another loyal coordinator, Lauren Boyle, who has now stepped up to be the regional director in the South Central. And then the team also in the North Central, who has survived snow and rain and mud and not-so-awesome weather over the last three years to run really smooth events up in that area of the country. I really appreciate the work that they do. So, thank you everyone! It's been really such a pleasure to work with all of you.
USAUltimateLogo 200x200   And you, Jeff?
Headshot JeffKula   Yeah, I'd just like to point out a couple regional directors that I've had a chance to work with for several years. In one case, Dave Branick over in the Atlantic Coast. He, a lot of people probably know him from the tournaments he's run even, even in club, not just college. But Dave has always, you know, makes sure things are smooth. it's a pretty independent region from that respect. There's not too much oversight necessary from my end. Things are always planned months and months in advance, and they have back-up plans in place, so it's always been smooth. And then John Martin, he came on after Dave, he's just been for the past few years. But he's over in the Southeast as a regional director. And he, because of the size of the region, and because of some different structures for the way some of the different divisions are set up, he's kind of, not always, he can't just, it's not like plug and play for him. He can't just kind of go through and do the same thing for all his different events. So he's kind of always dealing with different formats, different last minute changes because of the distances teams are travelling,  dealing with weather issues, so he's been really on top of trying to make sure that all those things can kind of get ironed out during the process with minimal impact on the teams.
USAUltimateLogo 200x200   Thanks. What about you Ken? I know you're new, but are there any coordinators that have impressed you so far?
Headshot KenKaminski   Yeah. Well, I don't know many of them that well yet. I have gotten to know a few over email. But definitely looking forward to working with all of them in the future. So if I had to give any shout outs right now, I think it would be to Chris Gleason who would be taking over my old position as regional director in great lakes. He was an outstanding conference coordinator for two years, so I'm looking forward to seeing him take on the reigns of the Great Lakes. As well as Erika Wagner, she's been a great women's director in the Great Lakes as well. 
USAUltimateLogo 200x200   Thanks. And Kevin, what about for D-III?
Headshot KevinKula   It is tough to pick a few, but I do want to give a shout out to Zack Purdy. He hasn't carried over to work with us in 2014, but he did a great job out at Claremont, really coordinating high-quality events but also promoting D-III. Was an author on some web articles and really helped spread stuff throughout the country. Another individual, up near Milwaukee-area is Scott Sawinksi. I want to thank him for really bringing two very high-calibre college championships to that area. Really seen a spectacular growth of even fan attendance at those events and finding venues that really looks what we're going for at D-III. Specifically, last year, where the finals field was pretty much at the center of the complex, so it was easy for a two day event to have all the teams finish their games and attend the finals. So thanks to those two coordinators and everyone else who has helped spread D-III.
USAUltimateLogo 200x200   Nice. Well, I do want to also, on behalf of USA Ultimate, give thanks to all the volunteers out there who are thanklessly putting in a lot of effort in the local areas and the regional level to bring good ultimate to the area and make the college division as good as possible. I have one more question, and this is just a general one. I know each of you receive lots of strange questions from people from all over the country via email. And I'm wondering, perhaps as an education point, what are the most common questions you hear from college players or teams?
Headshot KevinKula   So I'll chime in first, and then if I think of others, I'll also chime in after my colleagues here. But one, another shout out I'd like to give is to Noel Howlett who is taking over the eligibility chair. We directly receive a lot of eligibility questions, especially in the last two months, as individuals are trying to finalize their rosters and figure out their own status for the series. He's done a tremendous job to both work with the committee and communicate through us to make sure that processes run smoothly. In addition to eligibility, I think another thing we field a lot of questions on are making sure events are coordinated but also communicated in a timely fashion. travel plans, making sure that teams see the updates, not a week or so in advance, to know what formats they're playing with and things like that. So as we get near this upcoming 2014 series, we'll definitely see a lot of those questions coming forth.
USAUltimateLogo 200x200   Would anyone else like to add to that?
Headshot KenKaminski   I'm good.
Headshot BethNakamura   Yeah. I was like, good job Kevin! That's great. Those are the main questions that we get throughout the year. Definitely.
USAUltimateLogo 200x200   Nice. Well, we're going to go ahead and wrap this show up. I would like to thank all four of you for joining us today and anyone who tuned in. We're still in the planning phases for our next few events, sorry, for our next few shows. but if you have any ideas, you can send them to Twitter #ultimatenation, and we would like to find some really good guests, so we'd like to hear from you. And thank you Beth, Jeff, Kevin and Ken. Thanks for joining us. And we'll talk to you soon.
Headshot KenKaminski   Thanks, Matt!
Headshot BethNakamura   Thank you, Matthew!
Headshot JeffKula   Thanks!
Headshot KevinKula   Thanks!


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