USA Ultimate Competition Working Group Meeting - Club Division Update

Posted: December 21, 2015 01:12 PM
New Competition Format for National Championships Unveiled, Preseason Timelines Established, Rostering Requirements and Enhanced Opportunities for Classic and Select Flight Teams Considered
Colorado Springs, Colo. (December 21, 2015)—USA Ultimate’s Competition Working Group recently met to address various components of its competitive structure across the different divisions of the sport – youth, college, club, masters and beach – as well as its youth outreach efforts. The annual meeting, which consisted of 10 USA Ultimate staff members and 27 key volunteers, was held over two days in early December. Following the meeting, several reports have been issued to communicate about many of the topics that were discussed and some of the decisions that were made. Following the reports about college, youth outreach and beach, news from the club division is up next.
A subgroup of the Competition Working Group, the Club Working Group is responsible for much of the research and discussion that informs the decision-making process and includes USA Ultimate staff, national volunteers and USA Ultimate member-elected athlete representatives (two per division). At this year’s meeting, the group was comprised of USA Ultimate Manager of Competition & Athlete Programs Ernest Toney, National Men’s Director Adam Goff, National Mixed Director Dave Klink and National Women’s Director Remy Schor. Also participating was incoming National Women’s Director Carolyn Finney, who replaces Schor as she transitions to the role of National Mixed Director. 
Elected athlete representatives Tyler Kinley and Jack Marsh (men’s division), Steve Sullivan and An-Chi Tsou (mixed division), and Peri Kurshan and Charlie Mercer (women’s division) also took part.  
The notable topics of discussion included the Triple Crown Tour guidelines (with an emphasis on rostering requirements) and preseason timelines, the competition format for the USA Ultimate National Championships, overall timing of the Triple Crown Tour season and more. 
The 2016 Triple Crown Tour guidelines, which serve as a comprehensive guide to teams and athletes competing in the elite-level ultimate season, are due out in mid-January. Among the expected changes are updates to team rostering requirements following considerable discussion about how USA Ultimate can enhance and maintain the integrity of team composition throughout the entire season. 
After the guidelines are published, confirmed dates and locations of premier Triple Crown Tour events will be announced, including the Select Flight Invite, Elite-Select Challenge, Pro-Elite Challenge and Pro Flight Finale. Those events will again be bookended by the U.S. Open in early July and the National Championships in late September.
Other possible improvements to the guidelines include language that enhances playing opportunities for Select and Classic Flight teams as the group evaluates the event structure and rostering rules. 
Following a thorough review of the competition format utilized at the national championships – both by the Club Working Group and through feedback collected from a survey to athletes – the decision was made to modify the format.
The format will be similar to the one used since 2014, with a few exceptions. Here’s an outline of the new format, with notable changes:
  • Each 16-team division (men’s, women’s and mixed) will again be seeded into four pools of four.
  • Day one (Thursday) will feature pool play, in which each team plays the other three teams in its pool.
  • Following the conclusion of pool play, the fourth-place team in each pool will be eliminated from championship contention, but would remain eligible to play for a spot in the following season’s Pro Flight.
  • The second- and third-place teams in each pool advance to round one of single-elimination bracket play. 
  • The first-place team in each pool receives a round-one bye and automatically advances to the quarterfinals (round 2) of single-elimination bracket play.
  • Like fourth-place pool finishers, teams that lose in round one of bracket play are still eligible to compete for a spot in the following season’s Pro Flight.
The key difference is that this format now provides a more significant advantage to teams who perform well and win their pool on Thursday while offering a true disincentive for doing poorly on day one.  
This format was one of a few that were discussed and proposed by the Club Working Group. The other ideas included maintaining the status quo, as well as a traditional single-elimination tournament. 
The group also considered having different formats for different divisions, but decided not to after circulating a survey to athletes and analyzing the responses.  
The data produced by the survey illustrated that there was an overwhelming preference from both the men’s and mixed divisions to change the format. And while feedback from the women’s division did not indicate a strong preference for one format over another, there was a clear preference to remain consistent with other divisions. Based on this input, as well as taking into account previous discussions about the pros and cons of various formats and consistency, the working group decided to implement these changes for 2016. 
Finally, the other major topic that was discussed and evaluated by the group was the overall timing of the Triple Crown Tour, including regular season events and the postseason. Several options for 2017 were considered with the various pros and cons of each being explored. Before deciding on a course of action, USA Ultimate will continue to explore these options in early 2016 through the analysis of existing data, discussion with the board of directors, and via additional feedback from the community. 
At the conclusion of this series of working group reports, USA Ultimate will conduct a Q&A with key volunteers and USA Ultimate staff for each of these working groups. Please send any questions you’d like us to answer to   

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