Thursday, December 07, 2006


Proposal, Part Deux

[This is a follow-up post to the one of Dec. 5, 2006.]

I will file the proposal (below) with the UPA. I hope that it will be put on the
agenda for the annual meeting of the Board of Directors. Any readers
who wish to help ensure that happens, please comment as such and
I will include the comments as supplementary material to the proposal.



Spirit Ranking System Proposal


Part of the mission of the UPA is to "uphold the Spirit of the Game."
The UPA also seeks to foster and promote SOTG. One problem is
getting an accurate measure of SOTG: where it is best and worst,
how it is changing over time, and what effects the UPA's actions have
on it.

This proposal states that the UPA will form guidelines for ranking
spirit scores at tournaments. Currently, there is already a ranking
system in place at many tournaments. This proposal would formalize
some aspects of that system and lead to the adoption of concrete
guidelines for spirit scores. The problem with current spirit scores
is that they are rather arbitrary, often arrived at whimsically by a
team at the end of a tiring game ("Four? Yeah, sure. Four it is!").

With standards of spirit, the UPA could reliably compare SOTG
in different regions, among different divisions, and in different
time periods.

Guidelines example---


1. Multiple incidents of acrimonious disputes involving
derision, name-calling, or taunting.
One team unhappy with level of physicality.
2. Game marked by one acrimonious dispute or several
smaller disputes involving needling remarks or other players
getting involved. Some level of disrespect in evidence.
One team unhappy with level of physicality.
3. Game played without any significant incident. Perhaps a few emotional
outbursts or disputed calls with terse words, but no overt signs of
disrespect. Both teams generally agree on the level of physicality.
4. Game played without incident and with evident good will
between teams. One or two areas of dispute settled
civilly, if not amicably. Both teams happy with level
of physicality.
5. Game played without incident and with evident
good will between teams. Contested foul calls were
honored with respect and without emotional outbursts.
Both teams happy with level of physicality. No heckling from team members.

Notes: A score of "5" does not require any cheers, colorful antics,
or "give-back" calls. This measure of SOTG is entirely distinct
from the "spirit" of ultimate: its zany characters, inside jokes, and
cultural touchstones like Rochambeau.


That the UPA
1. Create and adopt guidelines for SOTG scores by April 1, 2007.
2. Require volunteers collecting spirit scores to verify familiarity with, and/or
distribute, the adopted guidelines to team captains before collecting scores.
3. Require that all UPA-certified observers know the guidelines.
4. Print "Ten Things You Need to Know About SOTG" on the back of waiver forms.
5. Expand the collection of spirit scores beyond the current limited
system (at the least, to include regional tournaments).
6. Implement items 1-5 by September 1, 2007.


This proposal aims to improve an existing scoring system which is currently
ad hoc and arbitrary. There are no drawbacks to such an improvement, although
the efforts could conceivably be seen as heavy-handed. I don't think the
hand is heavy.


CONCLUSION: Spirit scores should mean something. The UPA should
standardize them. Reliable SOTG measurements will allow the
UPA to focus on areas of poor spirit and learn from teams/divisions
which exemplify SOTG. The UPA could also reward and publicize
the efforts of outstanding teams. All this helps to *foster* and *promote*
SOTG, not just "uphold" it.

Your proposal is a positive idea, I think.

It looks like you put a decent amount of thought into spirit scoring system. However, to me (4) or (5) could be awarded to identical games. For example, good natured heckling, even from the opposing team, can make for a more friendly game. Contested foul honored with respect means the same to me as dispute settled civilly.

At a regionals or other serious tournament, I'd even give a game as described by (3) the highest possible score, as that seems to be a welcome degree of civility. Context is important.
There is always the general question about spirit scores:
Should the goal of spirited play not be the respect of your opponents? I see a risk that once you attach scores to spirit, players will play to a certain level of "spiritness" ("I am o.k. with a 3, no problem"). Especially once you attach consequences to the score system, you get on a slippery slope.
OTOH, If you want to use a system to tell teams which aspects they need some work with, I think you need the more detailed analysis with 3-5 categories with yes/no answers, I don't think that a spirit score can achieve this.

I like the constant reminder with the 10 points. But in a way I feel that a spirit score takes away from the whole concept of spirited play.
To respond:

Travis's good point and many other such points will be grist for the mill of creating the precise guidelines. The ones I wrote are only an (unsatisfactory) example. The proposal is that the UPA create and adopt A set of guidelines -- not necessarily these.

flo's question is more general, and is well-traveled territory in educational philosophy: We want children to learn for the sake of learning, so why do we test them? Won't they only want to learn what we test for? Aren't we telling them that the test grade is what is being valued and not the more intangible concept of the love of learning, etc? On the other hand, test scores can be powerful motivators. The debate continues....

Personally, I feel that the goal of spirited play is not the respect of my opponents, but something even more ineffable: goodness in general, from which self-respect, perhaps. Others may feel differently. I don't know the mindset of my opponents, but what affects me most is their behavior, not their internal mental state. I think it is well within reason to try to measure and gauge behavior. That is why I am focussing on the *practical* here.

As for the detailed analysis, with 3-5 categories, I addressed this point in a comment to the last blog entry. I stand by the assertion that while more data would be helpful, the extra administration would be unwelcome (based on my knowledge that Admin staff are already overworked at UPA HQ!).

My proposal actually does not address the consequences of spirit scores (another point of flo's). That is another can of fish.
Scoring Spirit is really difficult. Christine Sura and myself were in charge of the overhaul of the spirit rating system (SRS) for the Montreal League (AUM) back in 2003. At the time, spirit was rated from 1 (these people should be jailed for the good of society) to 5 (i want to adopt them). Pretty much the same gripes you have with spirit ratings at the UPA level. Around those years, the AUM started to grow its membership tremendously and we couldn't "teach" spirit through mentoring by experienced players as was possible earlier. The influx of new players from hockey and football backgrounds (for example) coupled with teams totally made up of newbies with no experience or mentors coincided with a perceived loss of Spirit.

The SRS implemented in Montreal in 2003 tries to overcome this by stating what is looked for and what is frowned upon as behavior in a league game. The system is simple, every team starts at five on a scale of 10 and then gains or loses points depending on the actions of its players. For example, a point is gained if:
- No disputes occured or were kept to a minimum when calls were made;
and you would lose one when:
- Repeated unjustified calls were made.

The good thing about the Montreal SRS is that it gives clearer guidelines to new players unfamiliar with fair play in sports. The drawback is that new players may equate spirit with only those guidelines. Of course, the Montreal SRS is geared towards recreative league play but the system can be implemented and modified with pretty much any level of play in mind.

I would think somebody at UPA has had some exposure to the Montreal SRS as Shiellah Quintos, the Montreal league GM, is pretty active with the UPA and Lorne Beckman is on the Standing Rules Committee.

You can find a short description of the Montreal SRS at:
and an updated version (Good job Lorne et al.) by BULA at:

I hope I wasn't too much OT as i haven't really talked about your proposal, but i thought the experience we had in Montreal could help.

Whats up!! Anybody know where I can get a Quick Cash Loan
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