In my 2 years of coaching elementary ultimate, I’ve rarely had to make decisions that affected my team’s success. For the most part, my players absorb enough of the rules of ultimate during practices and on the sidelines to be able to self-officiate without adult supervision during games (though I wish I could eavesdrop on their foul resolution more often!).
Today, though, in the glorious heat of the Disc NW elementary spring league playoffs, I was presented with two decisions (see below) that challenged me, and ultimately affected or could have affected the outcomes of our games. What would you other beginner (or experienced) coaches have done in each situation? (Feel free to answer and/or discuss in the comments!)
Situation 1: two girls or too few girls?
At the beginning of your game the opposing coach explains that they only have three girls so wonder if it would be okay to play 5 boys and 2 girls at a time. That way their girls will have a sub and won’t get too worn out for their subsequent games in the playoffs. Your roster, though, only has 5 boys and 5 girls, so if you agree then you won’t have any boy substitutes. Knowing that agreeing would conflict with one of the league rules (about playing at least 3 girls), but also being sympathetic having been in the same situation, what would you do?
Gender Ratio: Teams must field a minimum of 3 girls. In order to promote girls in ultimate, more girls may be fielded if a team wishes. After the first 3 girls, gender ratio matching is not required. Teams must play down if they cannot field 3 girls.
I agreed, but said that I wanted the opportunity to return to the 3 girl:4 boy ratio if we were down at the half. At the half, we were down 6 to 1. We switched back to normal rules and it made a difference: we started catching up, but not fast enough. In the end, we lost 11 to 3.
If asked again, I think I’d still say yes. But next time, I’ll suggest that we play with the official ratio first, and consider changing to a 2 girl:5 boy ratio only if *their team* is falling too far behind at the half! Another solution might have been to drop down to teams of 2 girls & 3 boys for that game, as that would have enabled all of our players — our boys and their girls — to get an occasional break.
On the other hand, I think I recall correctly from the 2013 coaches meeting that the main rationale for having 3 girls on the field all the time is to ensure that girls get close to equal playing time in youth ultimate. So, dropping down to 2 girls in any scenario would mean that my 5 girls — all of whom have practiced hard and showed up on time to play — would get less playing time than they expected and that the rules say they deserve.
So, on second (or third) thought, since I want to be a strong advocate for girls in ultimate, next time I’ll insist on sticking to the rules. If they want to keep their girls fresh for the later games (and give them less playing time than they expected), let them play down one girl. My girls would be happy to double team one of their stronger players — boy or girl!
Situation 2: when is enough enough?
Your team has had an awesome, finger-biting game, trading leads multiple times with another team that’s a great match — both in skill and spirit. The score is tied at 10-10 with 5 minutes to go before the 1-hour hard cap. Your team pulls, but the opponents manage to score with 3 minutes left. Thinking the game is over because generally the first to 11 wins in our league, their team cheers and starts flooding onto the field.
But you know all the league rules regarding scoring and caps, right. They’re not that complicated —
- Point Total & Game Times:
- Games are to 11 points.
- Mirror halftime at 6 points, and take a short timeout (2 minutes or less).
- The hard cap is applied at 60 minutes (15 minutes before the next round).
- Teams should finish the current point (if between points, finish the next point).
- The team that is ahead at the end of that point is the winner.
- If the game is tied at the end of that point, play one more point (“universe point”).
- Win by 2, unless a time cap or point cap is in place.
- Point cap at 13.
You walk over to their coach and venture “You have to win by 2, don’t you?” They suggest that it depends on whether there’s any time left. You look at your watch and point out there are a couple minutes left. But you both agree that there’s only about 15 minutes before you both start your next playoff game.
Do you press to play one more point, knowing that if your team does manage to tie it up, you’ll have/get to play “a universe point” and cut further into your team’s chance to rest?
I decided to ease off, giving the opposing team their win and my players a full 15 minute break, hoping the re-charge would help them take home a victory in their final game. How sweet it would have been, though, to win that most-memorable-of-the-whole-season-game with a universe point!