In an effort to acquire input from the growing ultimate community across the United States, the national governing body USA Ultimate, is in the middle of their “2017 Vision Tour” in which they are holding meetings at city’s across the nation. They are coming to Seattle next Tuesday (4/4) and your chance to influence the direction of the sport in the U.S. will be from 6-8pm at the new ultimate gym — Ren Fitness (1404 NW 49th St, Seattle, WA 98107). You can pre-register online.
Agenda and attendees
USAU’s CEO and a few members of the board of directors will present something like the following agenda (from the Mar 23 tour stop in Pittsburgh) in effort to hear from Seattle area players, coaches and parents about our region’s hopes and dreams.
Welcome, brief outline of the evening, goal of the Community Conversations (5 minutes)
The ultimate community’s hopes and concerns about the future of ultimate (10 minutes)
A look back: ultimate’s history (5 minutes)
A look forward: ultimate and USA Ultimate in the wide world of sports (15 minutes)
Q&A (10 minutes)
Considering our next steps: Group exercise, facilitated in six small groups. Then, led by facilitator in large group (60 minutes). Topics and facilitators include:
AUDL: Henry Thorne, USA Ultimate Board Vice President
Elite Level Play: Josh Murphy, USA Ultimate Director of Member Services & Community Development
Equity & Diversity: DeAnna Ball, USA Ultimate Board President
Olympic Dream: Tom Crawford, USA Ultimate Chief Executive Officer
USA Ultimate Brand: Stacey Waldrup, USA Ultimate Manager of Communications & Publications
Youth Structure: Kathy Hendrickson, USA Ultimate Board of Directors
Guest Speakers: (10 minutes)
Sarah Lemanski: Gender Equity and Disparity
Marcus Ranii-Dropcho: Club ultimate vs. semi-pro
Close, Appreciation and Rating the Output (5 minutes).
Tomorrow night (Friday 3/24/2017) the exhibition games for the Northwest Challenge will begin at 6:30 pm with the women of the University of Washington’s Element facing off against Syzygy from Carleton College. The men’s game immediately afterwards (8:30 pm start) will showcase the UW Sundodgers vs BYU CHI. These free games in Seattle’s Memorial Stadium will be a great chance for local youth players to get inspired. More information on the Northwest Challenge Facebook page…
If you’re busy Friday night, there are also a bunch of games happening at the UW’s IMA fields in Seattle on Friday, and then up in Burlington at Skagit River Park on Saturday and Sunday. All these games are free, so you should consider volunteering for a couple hours (they’re still looking for help over the weekend). Here are schedules and game locations for the women and men (Tier 1 | Tier 2).
According to Ultiworld’s “Power Rankings” for college teams, UW Element is ranked 20th and will play rank 16 Carleton Syzygy. For youth spectators in Seattle, here are the other women’s games that will be played tomorrow (Friday):
Last week the lead post on the home page of DiscNW was the announcement that the current Executive Director, William Bartram (aka “Bunny”) will leave the organization and the search is on for a new leader. The announcement (text appended) included a job description (archived PDF) which referenced the 2016 strategic plan (text also appended).
What does this mean for youth ultimate in the greater Seattle area and the Northwest region? I offer a few inferences from materials posted on the DiscNW web site, as well as some historical perspective gleaned from the organization’s annual financial reports (Form 990s for DiscNW, 2002-2014).
Reading through the announcement, job description, and overview of the strategic plan, there’s not a crystal-clear vision for youth ultimate. After all, youth programming is only about 1/3 of DiscNW’s annual efforts.
The documents, however, do contain a few hints about where DiscNW may take youth ultimate in the next few years. The announcement rightly applauds Bunny for increasing “youth participation from about 1000 to 4000” players per year, and for establishing the “Youth Development Fund now in excess of $130,000 annually.” The job announcement seeks candidates who will “direct industry standard youth programming” and “ensure gender equity and accessibility.” I’m not sure if “industry standard” means that the board considers the awesome programs that Bunny has grown to define the industry standard, or if DiscNW intends to emulate some other regional or National programs (e.g. the Canadian LTAD model). It could also be an allusion to the LTAD benchmarks and re-vamped coach development program (CDP) that USA Ultimate has been working on for the last year or two, or to the roll-out of State chapters by the National governing body which began last year… The call for gender equity in both the job description and the strategic plan, combined with the emphasis on promoting gender equity in the recent DiscNW coaching clinics, suggests that the organization may be seeking leadership that could incorporate new structure (e.g. the GUM middle school girls curriculum) into the DiscNW youth programs and coach development.
It’s exciting to consider who will lead DiscNW for the next era, especially when you look back through Bunny’s long run (from ~2004-2017), the evolution of the administration, and even into the early leadership. Here’s a Google spreadsheet that characterizes the history of DiscNW with an emphasis on the organization’s “youth activities.” It’s clear from the associated graphs (below) that DiscNW has grown consistently over the last 15 years, both in total revenues and in its expenditures on “youth activities” (which according to the IRS documents includes youth leagues, tournaments, camps, clinics, and total youth players served).
Youth expenditures were less than 10% of revenues when they were first reported separately in the 2004 Form 990, but in the next few years they rose to ~30%. They have remained near 1/3 of total revenues since then, though there was an interesting (yet to be explained) dip in 2012.
Administrative costs (also as a % of total revenue) have also risen. In 2002 when Mike Keran was the E.D., administrative costs (compensation) were about 10% of total revenue. The percentage stayed pretty constant until ~2008, about the time the organization’s staff started to grow. In 2004-2006, the E.D. changed from Mike to Bunny, with Morgan Ahouse serving as an interim E.D. as first Wilma Comenat and then William Bertrand (Bunny) were hired and trained, with paid assistance from Mike for Wilma. Then in 2007, Bunny brought on Frank Nam as the first Youth Director. The next year Wynne Scherf was hired and paid along with Frank (who presumably brought her up to speed). About the same time (2008), Jeff Dairiki began being paid to help maintain the web site which he’s continued to do since, with some help from Mike in 2010-11 and a concerted paid effort (to rebuild the site?) in 2013. Finally, in 2011, Elizabeth Brown was paid as an Operations Manager, a position which switched to Rusty Brown the next year.
The growth in adminstrative staff has brought total compensation to about 20% of total revenue. This seems quite reasonable (for an organization that doesn’t maintain a central office and has staff living in Seattle where expenses are high) but it would be interesting to compare to other comparable regional entitities, to the extent that the exist. Perhaps the Bay Area Disc Association (founded 2008) or Minnesota Youth Ultimate (founded 2003)?
Know of any other organizations that might be comparable? Leave them in the comments!
Archived text of the DiscNW home page announcement:
Message from the DiscNW Board
Our Executive Director (ED), William Bartram, has recently informed us that he will be leaving our organization.
Bunny, as he’s known around the community, has graced us with his leadership for the past 12 years. In an organization like ours, this is a lifetime. Bunny has brought to DiscNW a sense of wisdom, patience, and caring instrumental in helping us grow into the tight-knit community we are now. Under his tenure, DiscNW has experienced extraordinary growth, in many dimensions:
Increased youth participation from about 1000 to 4000
Established Youth Development Fund now in excess of $130,000 annually
Expanded adult league participation by more than 60%
Led budget growth from $220,000 to more than $1,100,000
Grew from one employee to four full-time staff, hundreds of volunteers, and several contractors
The board thanks Bunny for his work, love of the sport, and commitment to our community. We are lucky to have a resilient organization with dedicated staff members, who will continue to provide excellent programs to the community as we begin recruitment for a new ED.
The job description is now available and the position is open for applications — please spread the word if you know of a motivated, sport-loving, non-profit leader. Bunny will continue in his position in the interim, and will work with the new ED to transition his responsibilities by early summer. For questions about the position, contact email@example.com.
DiscNW will be posting occasional updates on our social media channels about our recruitment process. If you see Bunny on the fields this spring, please thank him for his years of service to our community!
DiscNW Board of Directors
Archived text of the 2016 Strategic Plan
Strengthening Our Community – DiscNW Strategic Plan 2017-2019
In 2016 DiscNW developed a new strategic plan to guide the organization through the next three years. Through this new plan, DiscNW will strive to strengthen our ultimate community. The plan will allow the organization to be more nimble, and it will empower staff to take action. DiscNW will serve as a regional resource by being a model organization and reaffirming our commitment to the Spirit of the Game.
Prioritize building community relationships
Through improved and strengthened communications to our constituents
Through outreach to other coordinators and organizers
Through our business partnerships
Through messaging, branding, and promotion
Continue improving upon and delivering excellent programs
By emphasizing Spirit of the Game at the forefront of our decision making
By ensuring gender equity
By ensuring accessibility and inclusiveness
By developing and supporting high quality leadership and coaching
By continuing to focus on efficient operational procedures and best practice
Devote resources to organizational resilience
To provide the agility to address rapid changes in our regional Ultimate community
To grow the sport by more thoughtfully expanding regional services
Please spread the word about two great youth tournaments that will be hosted in 2017, this winter (February) and spring (May) by the Bay Area Disc Association (BADA).
Playing on the beach in California is really fun and requires only a small roster. Spaghetti Western this year is in May and so doesn’t conflict with Spring Reign. In addition, BADA offers financial aid for teams or players in need.
A couple Spring Reigns ago I noticed a guy with a laptop and video camera offering to analyze kids’ throws for free. I watched briefly over his shoulder and thought it was cool that he was able to quickly give some feedback to the passing players by comparing their backhand or forehand throw mechanics side-by-side on the laptop with an “ideal” thrower (typically footage of an exceptional adult player).
I signed my 13 year-old son, Liam, up for analysis of his forehand and backhand as a birthday present last spring. He likes to handle so I hoped he’d put the feedback to good use. Plus, as a youth coach, player, and scientist I was curious to learn more about what information Kyle and his technology could provide.
It took us a while to find the time to get down to a local field with Liam’s 30-fps 1080-pixel video camera on a tripod and a stack of 10 discs, but once we got there the filming went fast. We set up the camera following Kyle’s guidelines (after a little confusion about the spatial arrangement which the following sketch should resolve). It would have been better to borrow mom’s new iPhone to get 60-fps footage, but it worked out.
To actually acquire the footage, a friend pressed the record button. Liam took the stack of 10 discs and tried to throw consistent throws aiming to maximize their distance (not accuracy). I ran around about 30 meters down-field and fetched the discs. The actual filming took less than 10 minutes. The total door-to-door time to set-up and get the footage took no more than an hour.
When we got home, we uploaded the videos to Youtube without editing the footage. Later in the fall, Kyle sent over two links to Youtube videos containing his analysis — 13 minutes on the forehand, 14.5 minutes on the backhand.
From initial registration on the DiscNW site to delivery of the videos took about 4 months, but that was due to multiple delays on our end trying to get the filming done between summer vacation activities and a few busy periods in Kyle’s schedule after we submitted the footage. Apparently a more typical turn-around time is 2-4 weeks.
Here are the resulting videos. In each analysis, Kyle chose 4 throws from the 10 we filmed. First he compares them side-by-side synchronized on the release moment. Throughout, he talks about best practices, throwing mechanics, and provides both observations and recommendations for improvement.
Second, he analyzes a single most-characteristic throw more deeply, overlaying it with an elite thrower’s mechanics. In Liam’s case, Eddie Feeley, a handler for the Rainmakers in 2016 is overlayed for the forehand; George Stubbs of Revolver fame is overlayed for the backhand.
Observations and tips:
Remarkably consistent form! If you can improve it, your throws will likely be consistently better.
As throw begins with planting foot, flatten disc more (and earlier) and drive off-side elbow back (with arm bent and turning shoulders more) a little later
During release, raise wrist (or lower elbow) OR tilt axis of core more to achieve closer to a 90-degree angle between forearm and core axis (it’s about 100-degrees in the video)
Think about getting chest to face more forward and less up through throw, especially at release moment.
Observations and tips:
Good consistency across 4 throws. You maintain both hands on disc during wind-up which is considered best practice.
Try to maintain downfield view throughout throw as much as possible.
Aim for a straight, smooth swing of your throwing hand, ideally in a plane that is aligned with your forearm line at the release moment
Keep your core strong throughout throw, trying not to bend over so much at the release moment.
Let your trailing arm continue around, as you do with your throwing arm, to get even more power into the throw.
A few months later, Liam reports that he enjoyed the process and feels like he’s been able to incorporate Kyle’s feedback during the subsequent season. I can’t say I’ve noticed a difference when watching him play, but I look forward to having his throws re-analyzed in a year or two — just to see if the same issues are present or have been trained away.
Next spring I’ll ask Kyle to analyze my daughter’s throws. I hope if we do the filming mid-January that she’ll get some feedback during the spring season and have lots of opportunities to consider and incorporate it.
And I’m thinking that I, too, would benefit from some feedback about my throws, especially my forehand that seems fine when throwing with my kids, but often bombs when I’m playing under pressure. And then there’s the question why it seems so tough for my old body to significantly increase the max distance I can throw… The soreness I feel after a session of throws suggests I could definitely build stronger throwing muscles, but how important are mechanics vs strength?
Thankfully, Kyle is ready and willing to share his insights and detailed observations to help us all improve.
Coaches, parents, and players sharing K-12 ultimate