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Author Topic: "The biggest decision we'll ever make"  (Read 43551 times)
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simmo
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« on: November 26, 2007, 06:17:28 AM »

Well, the AFDA conference was quite interesting, especially the discussion that happened on Saturday arvo. Matt Boevink presented us with what he called "the biggest decision we'll ever make" regarding Australian ultimate's "fundamental flaw". Allow me to summarise...

- The two key measurements of the AFDA's success is international results, and membership growth
- He cited the example of dragon boating, introduced to Australia in 2000 and now having 5,000+ participants, despite a boat costing upwards of $15,000
- The key time for recruiting new players is January to March/April (summer months, people trying new things in the new year, O-Week), but many top players are focusing on Nationals prep

And so the proposal is...moving Nationals to October.

And subsequently moving Mixed Nats to April. The idea being that early in the year the entire ultimate community can be focused on recruitment of new players to leagues and uni clubs. Straight off the bat I thought the idea made sense. Of course there are all sorts of issues...when to play NUFL, Worlds prep, the National season being in winter, etc etc etc. However the key point Matt brought up is that we shouldn't fall into the trap of only thinking how this will affect our elite players (and whether they want to train in winter)...we really need to think about how this will help (or not help) us recruit more members.

Obviously a decision is a loooong way off, but it's worth starting discussion now.
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littletom
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« Reply #1 on: November 26, 2007, 08:22:38 PM »

Interesting idea.

One minor point is that we have found it harder to find fields for tournaments in October.(hence our mixed nats bid falling through) This is largely due to organisations using this time to re-seed their fields for the coming summer sports season. Might not be a problem elsewhere.

Also, I suspect that if the elite players aren't preparing for nats in jan-april, there won't be an automatic conversion into focus on recruitment of new players...they'll be mooching around with the rest of their lives...
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Jangles
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« Reply #2 on: November 26, 2007, 09:41:24 PM »

the other problem is uni games and do you want to continue with the mixed season and open/womens seasons that we currently have. I think as the sport grows there will be less room for people to play in both mixed and open teams without dedicating significant time and effort into the sport. This will solve the problem of having uni games and Nationals (2 most expensive tournaments) a few weeks apart.

The other problem i believe is the long term sustainability of NUFL i think it needs to become a fixed competition of 6 teams(or more for both men and women). We need to set up timelines and people to organise the event much like nationals but obivously cheaper and smaller. After looking after the finances for NUFL this year i can say that it was a mess in terms of organisation. The people who did help did a great job but there was a lack of records of players, scorers and Not even a bank account to start. This has all been sorted out but now it falls down do we change the structure of NUFL to help with worlds training or keep current teams. I dont know what is planned nor have i heard much talk.
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JdR
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« Reply #3 on: November 27, 2007, 12:16:20 AM »


Interesting (I always enjoy Matt's ability to challenge the status quo), but I can't see moving Nationals for a relatively minor reason (next to the other reasons Nationals is when it is).

I figure most sports have their National title for a combination of reasons that have evolved over history, just like us.  The potential for improving recruitment seems like a minor reason, particularly relative to the desire to ensure a national long weekend (Anzac Day) to host a four day tournament.  Having Nationals over before the 'international season' that culminates usually in August is useful too (the 100 or so international players can 'train on' after Nationals).

Do other sports (like dragon boating) have their National title at the end of a calendar year, specifically to encourage elite players to focus on recruitment earlier in the year?

Like LittleTom says, the interest of elite players in recruitment varies highly.  Always remember a distinctive factor of Ultimate is that players are the administrators (most other sports have parents or ex-players running the show).  A big question for us is how to continue to manage that - elite players who do lots of administration (including recruitment) carry a double load and often can't do as much as they might want or should do to achieve their goals.

All that said, Nationals involves say 600 elite players, out of about 3,600 current members.  No more players will fit at Nationals.  So if number of players is a goal, the focus for our sport should be building up the non-Nationals stuff. 

Here's some ideas off the top of my head for fostering recruitment using top-down techniques (separate to administrators supporting more effective 'grass roots' recruitment, for example by providing resources or setting up new Leagues).

- Work out a way of connecting the various *Leagues* within a state (or nation?) into a larger (if very loose) structure/competition.  I'm an outsider of course, but I've always been surprised the various Sydney leagues don't have cross-over championships using their various league teams.  These might be run during November to finish the League year off.  When I've played other sport at a fairly low level, there was often a sense that my weekly league team had a formal connection to the larger competition.

- Continue work on generating/promoting development of non-elite (ie nationals-playing) Clubs.  See for example in South Australia where I think most or all League teams are fairly formal Clubs, but also see the new Club of the Year points system in Queensland, described over at the Brisbane Ultimate Blog - this time around it was focusing on Tournament clubs, but we're working through a way to integrate League Clubs into the 2008 figuring.
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« Reply #4 on: November 27, 2007, 07:34:58 AM »

To cite ultimate's failure to increase membership relative to something like dragon boating is monumentally unfair.
For one, dragon boating is fun even if you're shit at it. (N.B........this post is by no means an attack on that particular non-sport so i dont need angry replies by the many dragon boaters that hang out on ultitalk). Often, new people introduced to frisbee will leave because they cant do it and they have a shit time. Usually it takes either someone who takes to it like a duck to water, or someone who has no friends and will hang out with anyone doing anything for them to come back.
Secondly, i imagine that dragon boating picks up the overflow from more traditional water sports (rowing/kayaking/canooing/surf lifesaving etc.) Ultimate only gets overflow from all field sports who haven't already found their way into touch football, indoor soccer or mixed netball competitions, not to mention those other hideouts for non-athletes, triathlon and adventure racing.
Anyway, the ultimate community shouldn't covet the recruiting success of dragon boating, but know that we gain new recruits much faster than we can get rid of our dinosaurs, and if thats not growth i dont know what is.

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simmo
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« Reply #5 on: November 27, 2007, 09:20:08 PM »

I think our biggest problem is retention. The online rego system started up in 2002, and since then we've had around 12,000 people sign up for AFDA numbers (presumably to participate in events). We have 3,500 active members, so basically for every 4 new players at an event, only 1 is going to be there 12 months later.
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Tiger
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« Reply #6 on: November 28, 2007, 07:02:07 PM »

I think our biggest problem is retention. The online rego system started up in 2002, and since then we've had around 12,000 people sign up for AFDA numbers (presumably to participate in events). We have 3,500 active members, so basically for every 4 new players at an event, only 1 is going to be there 12 months later.

How do the numbers work, Simmo? I'd always wondered - they are unique numbers for each person, right?

My other question on this mini-tangent is how exactly you categorise the 'active members' of which we have 3,500.

I have absolutely no opinion on moving Nationals to October, because I've never played Nationals (or AUG's, the other 'big' tournament'). From the reasons Matt has described, October Nationals sounds like a great idea, especially as the recruitment side of an October Nationals year would tie in with O-Week. Yay!

But, surely, Nationals is where it is now in the calendar for good enough reasons, otherwise we'd have had this argument already?

T.

T.
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JdR
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« Reply #7 on: November 28, 2007, 09:39:24 PM »

I'm sure Pottsy will chime in on this one when he gets a chance, but if I recall correctly, 3,500 is the number of people with afda numbers who have registered for an event via the afda.com website in the last 12 months.

There are plenty of people playing Ultimate who don't do that - some local leagues for example don't use the rego site (something the AFDA needs to address - improving the usability of the rego system), or League and Tournament Directors rarely update their registrations after the event (ie add on the extra unregistered people who turned up).

The 12,000 figure is people who've registered for an afda number over the last dozen or so years, or something like that.

By putting the 3,500 figure on its website, the AFDA has aimed to be transperent in giving its number of members.

I'm not sure there's a "national standard" for how sports report their numbers, nor that anyone audits these numbers, so I always take them with a grain of salt - usually its in a sport's interest to report the highest numbers possible.  I guess the big sports do come up on the Census.
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simmo
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« Reply #8 on: November 28, 2007, 11:41:17 PM »

How do the numbers work, Simmo? I'd always wondered - they are unique numbers for each person, right?
Yep.

My other question on this mini-tangent is how exactly you categorise the 'active members' of which we have 3,500.
If you have played an event within the last 12 months you are considered an active member.

There are plenty of people playing Ultimate who don't do that - some local leagues for example don't use the rego site (something the AFDA needs to address - improving the usability of the rego system), or League and Tournament Directors rarely update their registrations after the event (ie add on the extra unregistered people who turned up).
Obviously we can't put an exact number on the number of people playing ultimate. But let's say there are an extra 1,000 people who play pickup or league or whatever, wouldn't you want those people to become active members?

Luckily we don't have many hoops for people to jump through to become a member - fill out a few details online, click a few buttons to register for a tournament, and pay when you rock up. Most other sports require a membership form/application, along with a yearly fee to be sent to X address, then wait for someone to process/approve it. I suppose the onus is then on the TDs/LCs/captains to actually report player numbers and registrations properly.

Rach - I really liked your idea last weekend of a 'bulk upload' function for registrations. I think once we implement that we might find our 'active members' figure goes up a bit.


But back to the original topic...I'm going to be doing a fair bit of delving into some hard data to make sure we have some solid reasons to change/not change. First report will be 'when do most people sign up?'
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Jangles
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« Reply #9 on: November 29, 2007, 08:24:40 PM »

there is a bulk rego option available for captains from memory. however if you are only registering 15-16 people it doesnt take very long. But i dont think rego and the number of current players is a big concern, sure it looks good when your selling the sport to people but not essential.
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Chris
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« Reply #10 on: January 04, 2008, 04:13:31 AM »

I know I'm a bit late on this conversation, but the one thing I like about moving Nationals to October would be the fact that the NUFLs would then be a prelude to the Nationals, which I believe should be the premier competition of the year. I'm not anti-NUFL or anything and I know it serves a purpose, but I'd like to think that with continued growth and development that Nationals could get to the level where is truly is a respectably competitive competition where there isn't as big a disparity between the top and bottom teams.
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simmo
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« Reply #11 on: February 27, 2008, 03:08:04 PM »

Figured I'd give this topic a bump to the top since the board has started their consultation process.

If you're subscribed to aus-ultimate or any of the state groups you should have received an email last night about it. Go read it  Grin
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Frank
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« Reply #12 on: February 28, 2008, 12:51:15 AM »

maybe dragon boating's more fun than ultimate

 Shocked

But seriously...
I think looking at some data (as you suggested Simon) would be a very useful starting point to try and answer this question.

A question: there seems to be some implication here that the growth of ultimate has stalled: is this correct? One of the key measures of the AFDA's success is growth in membership - is there any indication that growth is stagnant (this question may have been answered already here but I haven't seen anything beyond the stuff about member retention)

If it hasn't, then I question the need to do anything.

If it has, then you could probably argue that the stalling in growth in numbers has resulted from the increased focus on elite ultimate over the last few years (NUFL). I can't be bothered going into all the details of why that might have happened (to be honest I don't even know), it would probably take a while to figure it all out. But if you are looking for a cause and effect type scenario, the introduction of NUFL is the biggest change that has occured over the least few years - and is the most likely factor imo of why there might have been a stagnation in membership growth.
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Chris
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« Reply #13 on: February 28, 2008, 11:44:29 AM »

Something to consider potentially is the implication of moving Nationals to October would make quiet a distinct off season which has its own ramifications. I don't how other people feel but for me personally I have never really had an "off season" from Ultimate and have pretty much been playing or training for some league/tournament since I first started back in early 2005. If there was an off season when I first started I'm pretty certain Frisbee would have been a passing fad for me and I would have moved back into more mainstream sports.

Of course with that said without a truly distinct off season there is the other problem of player burn out, and I know I'm not the only one who has in the past said "I'm pulling out of X tournament" for no other reason than just being over it.

Just thought I'd throw that thought out there.

Also I don't know if this gets discussed very often but is Ultimate in a position where it really wants to compete with the mainstream winter sports? When it comes to Nationals, I think I'd personally prefer them to be earlier in the year like early March. Get them out of the way early, because to be completely honest I really want to be able to go back to playing soccer, but at the moment with Nationals at the end of April that means I can't start soccer until May which is way too far into the season to really justify joining. I don't mean for that to come across as a "selfish" statement about how I want the entire Ultimate community to bend around me. I mean it in the sense that I think I'm the fairly average sporting guys that was used to playing soccer in from February - September, and would play touch with mates or go surfing in the off season - until I started playing Ultimate.

Now for other average sporting guys that aren't into Ultimate as I am, when it came around to February/March when mainstream sports starts back they may well have say to themselves, "Ultimate is good fun but I'm going to go back to soccer, at least that is a sport I know how to play because I have played it all my life with all my friends". I'm sure many a future superstar of Ultimate has thought along these very lines, because the reality is top level Ultimate players were most likely top level something else before they were good at Ultimate, and forcing them to choose between something they were already good at (plus which they have lots of friends still playing) versus this funky new sport is probably not going to end Ultimates favour very often.

So is there potential to bring Nationals forward and leave Mixed Nats where it is, or maybe push it back a couple of weeks? That way you could look to run the major Ultimate season from Sept/Oct until March and capture some more mainstream sporty types.
« Last Edit: February 28, 2008, 12:07:55 PM by Chris » Logged

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« Reply #14 on: February 28, 2008, 07:19:09 PM »

Matt's proposal to switch Mixed Nats and Nats has several premises behind it:

1. Who volunteers
The 600 players attending Nationals are, and will continue to be, the core of our administrators, recruiters and coaches for growing grassroots ultimate.

2. Impact of Nationals
By training for and playing the Nationals campaign, these 600 players dedicate significantly less time to grassroots ultimate during the summer season.

3. Summer vs Winter
The summer season is better for growing grassroots ultimate than the winter season due to weather, field availability, daylight hours, and avoiding football codes. And elite ultimate can deal with those things.

4. Grow
We need to ramp up our grassroots ultimate.

If all 4 are true, then we should adopt Matt's proposal, unless there are a strong reasons why not.

Let's get some numbers and research to help us look at points 1, 2, 3 and 4.

Reasons that apply to just 200 players (uni games or NUFL or Worlds) need to be strong if they are to overrule the benefits to potentially thousands of ultimate players.

Remember that more players -> more funds -> more programs (coaching, marketing, development grants, trophies, paid staff, etc).

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