Thursday, May 09, 2013

Quick Thoughts on Pro Leagues, Officiating and Youth

I've stayed out of this conversation for a reason.  I've followed the discussion pretty avidly but wanted to see how things worked out once the leagues were in place.

Two things made me write this.  First was Hector Valdivia's article about youth and its impact on pro leagues.  Basically Hector states that due to media attention the pro leagues will get more mindshare with youth players and decades from now those are the plays/players/games ultimate players will remember.  

Second was watching some "highlights" between the Portland Stags and Vancouver Nighthawks and seeing #6 (Cody Bjorklund) respond to a play in the end zone.  The play (around 0:44 in the video) was a nice catch by one of the Stags players with some contact by a Nighthawks player.  Basically it was a running jump where the Nighthawks player was behind the Stags player.  But I don't want to get wrapped up in the play and whether or not it was a foul.  What I want to focus on was Bjorklund's response to the play prior to knowing the resolution (a catch).  Cody threw up his arms and looked at the ref.  Watching the video it did not look like he was signaling a score but instead was appealing to the ref to make a call (it is impossible for me to know for sure, but my point is about how it looked to an observer).

I don't want to get into the "should we have refs" debate, but I think this goes back to the nature of the game that BVH commented on in his highly divisive article.  Changing the game is fine, but we should spend some time thinking about some of the subtle impacts it has. 

Hector and BVH are both correct when they mention that youth is watching.  As a high school coach I am particularly aware of that.  That is part of what makes me nervous to see Dylan Freechild referred to as Spikezilla.  When I see Bjorklund throw up his hands asking for a foul from a ref it isn't new.  I have seen that done by basketball players time and time again.  But I have also seen it done by 10 year old siblings appealing to a parent or teacher to correct bad behavior.  By adding a third party the MLU has changed the dynamic of problem solving.  It has moved from an interaction between two peers trying to abstractly find what is "fair" to an appeal to a third party to agree with your side of events.

I coach a lot.  I don't want the latter to be how things are done.  That doesn't mean that I disagree with all third party options.   But I worry that in 10 years I will be coaching players that are always looking to a third party to fix how people are unfair and coaching against coaches who are always trying to appeal to an omnipotent third party.  Both of those take away player control and responsibility, and those are things that I value about this game.  Sorry this was so long.


barckley said...

Stumbled upon your post today. I agree that play will change as ref's become the norm, more people will get injured, and competitive coed play will likely end. You have a ref when there is an assumption that others are cheating. How people play will change from, "I play hard and break the rules more by accident or being out of control", to "I play hard and cheat as much as possible provided I don't get caught".

The real shame of it is, that shift is only happening in North America and somewhat in England. The rest of the world prefers sportsmanship over winning.

Good luck teaching spirit and sportsmanship to our youth. They are the future.

Martin said...

I am often surprised about how different the game is in other countries. I haven't had many opportunities to play over seas, but from friends I know that are in other countries the arguments for and against refs seem completely different. Fortunately there is still very good spirit in the youth division. But that isn't going to stay unless it is actively thought about and taught. Thanks for the comment.