Some random-ish thoughts and memories from my experience running College Nationals last weekend:
- Nationals is a big tournament. Really big. I run another 32-team tournament, the Colorado Cup, every August. I figured I would have a pretty good sense of how complex Nationals is, based on my Cup experience. Not even close, honestly. The number of players is a bit higher (College teams seemed to bring about 22 players a team, vs. 17 or so on average for the Club folks), but the big difference is the level of excitement and stuff going on, as well as the number of spectators. There were 700 or so players, and easily another 600 spectators during peak hours. Throw in three merchandisers, 100-plus volunteers, and you’ve got yourself some marginally (at best) organized chaos.
- Many of the spectators were local Boulder and Denver types, out to see some great Ultimate. A big change from when I played in College Nats is the number of parents who travel. It never occurred to my parents, certainly, to fly to Minnesota or California to watch their son play that ridiculous game with a frisbee. But these days, as Ultimate gains greater legitimacy as a sport, we have many more parents who think of it as something more like soccer, something they will go watch, than something like traveling to Woodstock, something they’d let their kids do on their own. This has some great upside, as we sold a shit-ton of merchandise, and it generally improves on the level of energy to have so many people on sidelines of games.
- However, the addition of highly-involved parents also has its dark side, namely, the specter of, for lack of a better phrase, Intrusive Soccer Parents invading our game. On all three days, we filled up the 545-space parking lot at Pleasant View Soccer Complex. We had an overflow parking plan, which we put into effect. It involved telling people to turn around and go to another lot, from which they could pretty easily walk to the fields. On the first day, my parking volunteer told me that one of the cars told him that their son was one of the front-runners for the Callahan Award (sort of the MVP of college Ultimate), and they had Gatorade for the team, so they couldn’t afford to take the time to drive out to the overflow lot. That’s a sense of entitlement that I really don’t think improves the sport.
- Mad props to various organizations, including 1) Discraft, for giving us some really sweet schwag to throw out to fans in between the finals (and a free hat for me!). 2) The staff from the City of Boulder, who always do a great job keeping those fields in tip-top form, and always show appreciation for how much work we do to try and keep them happy when it comes time to run an event there. 3) A Spice of Life catering, for incredibly ably handling the rush of 500 or so players coming to get their dinner all within the space of 45 minutes or so. 4) VC Ultimate, for putting together some awesome gear to sell to the players, and for giving me a sweet zip-up jacket in exchange for $10 and some kind words. 5) Rental City Special Events, for putting up five massive tents, with no work done by me beyond saying ‘put it here’, and also for dropping off an extra pop-up tent on Saturday, after the dumb-ass tournament director miscounted the number of tents in the storage locker. RC is not the cheapest organization imaginable, but if you’re throwing a big event, you can do a whole lot worse.
- Also, plenty of dap for all the various and sundry people who helped make the event go, including Will and Sandie and Matthew and everyone at the UPA, who do amazing amounts of work to make Ultimate go; my volunteer coordinator Degs, who was awesome at chasing down crews to do all the dirty work of putting on an event; my social/media coordinator Oz for taking lead on putting together the catering, and chasing down advertising dollars around town; and top volunteer Mike “Goofy” Reher for working almost as many hours as I did over the course of the weekend.
- Anti-props to the marketing company in charge of our relationship with Recharge energy drink, for not arriving at the fields until well after games had started on Friday, for damaging one of our golf carts, and then for being extremely slow about refilling the product distribution barrels as the days wore on. Recharge is great, the drink and the company, but that marketing firm blows!
Some quicker-hit thoughts:
- Damn, but those kids from Wisconsin can fucking play. Everyone wanted to see local CU in the finals, but they simply were not as good as the Hodags.
- College kids sure use a lot of toilet paper.
- I got to hear Will Deaver’s Angry Voice this weekend, which was a lot of fun, especially as it was not directed at me.
- Thanks to the UCSB women, for first bringing two giant pickle jars onto the finals field, in violation of the ‘no glass container’ rule, and then to their managers, for being too lazy to actually leave the finals when told they would have to take the jars to their car, and begging me to take them instead. Also, extra special thanks for not quite closing them all the way, so my favorite cowboy hat now smells like pickle juice.
- I may have mentioned this already, but I don’t think I’ve ever been so tired in my life as I was on Monday. I walked around in a haze from Monday morning to about Wednesday afternoon.
- All told, that was a lot of fun, but there’s no way in hell I even want to think about doing it again right now.