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After receiving a Hot Tip on twitter, I read this on the page for Verns League 2012:
This season games will not be scored. We want to encourage captains to take advantage of teaching moments mid game and after games. We also want to encourage new players to play without the pressure of winning or loosing.
This completely baffles me. I understand it's a teaching league, but Ultimate is, by nature, a competitive sport. Shouldn't we be teaching beginners about that aspect of the game as well? There are plenty of pickup games around the area for low-pressure learning.
I know Verns isn't designed for my player profile (experienced with intermediate skills), but I feel like this is going to push away many of the intermediate/advanced players who are needed to help teach the beginners and keep the league running.
Also, as a friend astutely pointed out, the beginners will also not learn how to keep score using shoes. Clearly a more important skill than actually playing Ultimate
I think this is backwards too. If there's a real issue that new players feel intimidated because we're playing to win (is there any evidence to support this?), that's a cultural problem that should be fixed by captains and more experienced players being more encouraging of new players to get out and play. On all the vern's league teams I've been on, the captains and more experienced players have always given that encouragement, and it's great.
It also means that if I decide to play (and this puts me on the fence, leaning towards sitting out) I'm going to be throwing a lot more hammers and push passes, which isn't an example I really want to set for newer players --- but I'll do it anyway! Which is a jokey way of saying that if there's no motivation for taking the game seriously, then quality of play is going to suffer in a way that's not helpful to newer players.
Also, even as a brand new player in a sport, if you tried to convince me to pay for a league where you didn't keep score, I'd think it was super lame.
I think that the “no scoring” rule is well-intentioned, but an overreaction, given the current culture of Verns League. A quick review of the 2011 Verns team rosters reveals that each team had no more than 2-4 new players each. Verns is comprised mainly of players of various skill levels that don’t play team league, and hardcore intermediate players.
From my experience, most of the experienced players do a good job of mentoring and not taking the game as seriously. For those who don’t play team league, it is their only competitive Ultimate outlet, and keeping score serves them well.
There are many ways to relieve the pressure for beginners. One is not keeping score. But I think it would be far more helpful to give them the feeling of contributing, to encourage, and to assuage their frustration. They have nothing to do with keeping score. Here's a start:
1. Constant communication and give positive feedback (from all players, including the opponents, and not just captains.)
2. Make sure the new players touch the disc at least a handful of times each game. If they aren’t getting the disc, go out of your way to explain why (“your defender was right on you!”)
3. Have the captains talk about their newer players before the game. Have the defenders “go easy” on them – let them get open sometimes, don’t handblock them, let them get an easy dump off. I’m not saying let them only have successes. Just use good judgment.
I'm sure I can think of more, but I'll stop now.
Last edited by cnccola (2012-02-08 03:31 pm)
Most definitely agree... not keeping score is a great way to turn a game into a pick-up free for all. My least favorite thing about pickup games is the lack of structure... it absolutely encourages bad play that shouldn't happen in a real game. Would hate to see the same thing happen to Vern's league.
Would list alternatives here, but would just be repeating what Craig said... he's dead-on. Having a good captain coach the new players is going to be 100% more effective than not keeping score.
Last edited by bryan (2012-02-08 07:33 pm)
Craig is right: recently, Verns has hardly been a beginners' league. After captaining a Verns team for the past two years, I've expressed my concern about this to the league coordinators. I'm not sure if any other captains or experienced players were also concerned, but I think feedback from surveys the coordinators sent out during/after the season showed that some new players were unhappy with their experience: they were having trouble getting involved on the field, or they felt intimidated by the level of play.
Last year I saw a lot of play that was inappropriate for a beginner league. It's hard to teach new players how to cut when your opponent's players (captains, even) are playing poachy defense at the front of the stack. It's discouraging to get beat by a team that scores by hucking to its fastest veteran player over and over. I agree with gmj that this is a cultural problem with Verns, but unfortunately the captains and other players that should be leading the league haven't succeeded at discouraging too-competitive play. I think that not keeping score is just one of the ways that Verns is trying to get back to being more of a beginners' league this year. Providing more time for coaching and practicing skills is another way, and I know that some people have been trying to get an additional spring hat league going to allow more experienced players to play competitively outside of Verns. I guess I should let the coordinators and DiscNW speak further about their plans for this season and the motivation for their changes.
I think that Verns can/will be improved by reducing the number of experienced players on each team and having a smaller league. I'm not sure what the ideal ratio of beginner to experienced players on the field is, but I think that the ratio has become too low for what's supposed to be a teaching league. Has anybody played in a beginner's league (elsewhere, or maybe in Verns long ago) where there were too many beginners and not enough people that knew what they were doing, and it was a disaster?
As for the not keeping score rule specifically, I could take it or leave it; the captains can still decide to call a game to 5 or whatever near the end of playing time. This works well in winter league to keep it a low-pressure setting. As far as I know, most or all of the casual (non-DiscNW) pickup games in Seattle play without a stall count or even field boundaries. Let's be realistic: Verns is not going to be pickup, it's still going to have teams and rules, and not keeping score the whole time doesn't mean we won't be teaching new players how to play ultimate.
I think Pete's probably right that there just needs to be a much higher ratio of new players to make Vern's more beginner-friendly. I learned to play in a beginner's league where each team had two experienced captains and all the other players were new. That was great. But we still kept score
Wow. So many thoughts running through my head right now.
Picking out a few quotes from above:
Walnut wrote: “This completely baffles me. I understand it's a teaching league, but Ultimate is, by nature, a competitive sport. Shouldn't we be teaching beginners about that aspect of the game as well? There are plenty of pickup games around the area for low-pressure learning.”
I couldn't agree more. Competition is a *good* thing, folks. Life is competitive. The very nature of a *League* is competition, isn't it? Don't dumb down the game (no score, foot block bans, "mullet" rules, etc.) out of some mis-guided belief that this will make it more palatable to beginners; rather, focus on making sure the game and the rules are taught correctly. For example, I have consistently fought against foot block bans in any league because foot blocks are perfectly legal plays and are not, in themselves, problematic. Rather, it is the *way* in which many people attempt foot blocks that can cause injuries; the emphasis is and should always be on discouraging dangerous play - ie, instructing *all* players on the proper, non-injurious ways of playing the game (in the case of atttempted foot blocks, I would argue that they're bad plays in general, indicating poor marking mechanics & leaving a defender unbalanced and unable to adjust quickly to fakes; better to teach someone how to effectively move their feet on a mark, eliminating or greatly reducing footblock attempts through better marking fundamentals).
Bryan wrote: “Most definitely agree... not keeping score is a great way to turn a game into a pick-up free for all. My least favorite thing about pickup games is the lack of structure... it absolutely encourages bad play that shouldn't happen in a real game. Would hate to see the same thing happen to Vern's league.”
Again, I couldn't agree more with Bryan. What's the point of having a league, then? If the idea is to turn Verns into an extended "training camp" or "Ultimate 101" for beginners then call it that - but to turn it into an unstructured league is a mistake, in my opinion.
Pete wrote: “As for the not keeping score rule specifically, I could take it or leave it; the captains can still decide to call a game to 5 or whatever near the end of playing time. This works well in winter league to keep it a low-pressure setting. As far as I know, most or all of the casual (non-DiscNW) pickup games in Seattle play without a stall count or even field boundaries. Let's be realistic: Verns is not going to be pickup, it's still going to have teams and rules, and not keeping score the whole time doesn't mean we won't be teaching new players how to play ultimate.”
The operative word above is "casual"; are we really equating Verns with casual pickup? Should a league be casual? I disagree that a casual league will be anything but glorified pickup. Again - if that's what the goal is then call it such. What works in Winter League with experienced players on structured or semi-structured teams doesn’t necessarily work with beginners. If overly-competitive play is the problem then completely restructure Verns and make it an instructional course strictly for beginners with experienced players as instructors/coaches. I thought the purpose of Verns - or any beginner league - is to teach players how to play on a team, working collectively towards a goal. How is that a bad thing?
Jabs wrote: “I think Pete's probably right that there just needs to be a much higher ratio of new players to make Vern's more beginner-friendly. I learned to play in a beginner's league where each team had two experienced captains and all the other players were new. That was great. But we still kept score.”
I absolutely agree, I would love to see a higher ratio of inexperienced/beginner players. I captain Verns every year and my worst experiences are not with beginners but with intermediate/experienced players who are not open to learning new things, themselves, and who view beginners as obstacles to be avoided in their huck/catch keepaway games with other experienced players.
Really, the underlying problem is that league play opportunities for intermediate players are becoming increasingly difficult – particularly for men. Verns has become a primary option for those players, most likely marginalizing opportunity for beginners (a digression, but I’d love to see data that there’s a sizable group of beginners that are not playing because of the way that Verns is currently structured). We need more playing opportunities for all levels of players.
Last edited by leftydisc (2012-02-09 01:01 pm)
My initial emotional response has subsided, and I can understand where the coordinators are trying to take this league. Also, I missed this little tidbit on the league page:
However, in order to ensure that some new players get a chance to participate, we will limit the number of experienced players that are selected through the lottery.
I think this is a much better idea to try to turn it into more of a teaching league.
In the interest of full disclosure, I've only played Verns 2 seasons out of 5 possible since I moved to Seattle (I rather like to have my Friday nights). So this probably won't impact me. But in terms of bringing in new people and teaching them Ultimate, I still think it's a sub-optimal rule.
Love this feedback! The concerns raised here are definitely valid.
Feedback gathered over the previous three seasons of Verns League has
been instrumental in identifying how best to serve the players for
whom it was created.
We will continue to solicit input and strive to shape Verns such that
it best accomplishes its mission: Recruit, teach, and retain
inexperienced adult players to the sport of ultimate.
The Verns LCs
Any league specific questions can always be directed to verns_at_discnw_dot_org
Not sure where this idea came that Vern's was created as a beginner's league. Here's the oldest reference to Vern's I could find in my email, from 14 years ago:
Vern's League is a lower-level hat league played Friday evenings
from 6:30 to 8:30 pm on Sand Point fields. The play can be competitive but
it's also a great way to try out new roles and/or throws in games. And it's
a great excuse to get outta work early on a Friday afternoon! The league
will run from April 7th to June 23rd, sign-up is $20 which includes a
team t-shirt. Probably only 8 or 10 teams so slots will fill up fast,
get in while you can!
Vern's has always been a casual league, but no scores really is no league at all. If we think the league isn't succeeding with new players, how about a beginner's pickup night? There's a long running game called rec night in Honolulu that has worked well for this.