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What We Do

by Ben Wiggins

I'll let better writers and players describe why Spirit is, or is not, worth your time. I know my answer, and you have to find your own. 

If you come away having decided that it is worth your your effort, here are a couple of things that your team can do to improve your own Spirit on the field in meaningful games. At the very least, they are things that my teams have done in the past that have helped. 

1. Team Calls
One player can make a bad call in the heat of the moment. It is easier for a team to be objective. Make calls a team responsibility. 

One way you can do this is to have a secret signal that your team uses. After a call, this signal tells the player involved in the call that you have an opinion. It does not give away what you think about that call, only that you have feedback if the caller wants it. 

This allows your teammate to check in with you, even if you are off the field. You can then tell them that they are absolutely correct, or you can calmly (and privately) tell them that you had a good look at it, and that this call should go the other team's way. The final onus is on the caller, who doesn't have to accept feedback; but most will if they have a question. Instilling this as a team philosophy makes everyone responsible, and it makes it easier for a heated player to make the right decision. 

Note: This will not endear you to teams that cannot deal with any delay. It takes some time to communicate, even non-verbally, and in the past I feel like some of my team's bad calls have been perceived as cheating, and then the caller comes to their senses while our opponent yells a bunch. The reality is that we are discussing the call as a team, and your yelling is just getting in the way of us making sure our call was correct, or giving it up. 

2. Be Consistent between Points
If you would call a travel on game-point against team X, call it at 1-1 the same as at 14-14. Surprisingly often this will force your opponents to stop traveling, and you won't need to call it again later. If they do, then you have a stupid opponent who either has no regard for their footwork, or they have been negligent in practicing their fundamentals. Either way, it is on them, and they should have known better than throwing the same lazy sliding huck on game point. 

Note: This will not endear you to the crowd. Screw the crowd. The crowd is made up of very smart people, in most cases. But the crowd is stupid. 

3. Be Consistent between Sides
Splitting a team between O- and D-teams is bad for Spirit. In the 'old' days, more players played both ways, so you would matchup with the same player, and you would have feedback on how each other marked and threw and played. If my opponent called a foul on my mark, I could guage that against his mark on me. Now, I generally see a dozen marks from the same defender per game, and unless our offense is struggling, I may only mark him 1-2 times in that entire game. Since we don't get the same person-to-person feedback as if we were playing every point (guarding each other roughly every-other point) it is more difficult to come to a clear consensus on where the line stands. 

We ask our O-team to try to call fewer fouls, so that the other team has to accept our physical defense. We ask our defenders to try to commit fewer fouls, so that our O-team doesn't have to accept a barrage of hacking marks throughout the game. 

4. Make Calls in Practice/ Practice Making Calls
If your team scrimmages in practice like it is life-or-death, then you will be more ready for the high-pressure environment and high-pressure calls of big games. Honestly, though, if your team doesn't already scrimmage full speed and full anatagonism against each other then you have bigger problems. Raising the stakes at practice, and making calls on each other in practice, will help. 

5. Kill the 'Auto-BS' Response
If you want your opponents to play with more Spirit, give them the opportunity. Assume that they will make the correct call...and if you can't do that, then fake it. Give them an opportunity to take their call back without screaming in their face. Let them take back their call without losing face or making it seem like they were backing down to your volume. 

Heck, screaming at your opponent is the only way I know to insure that you will not win that call. Everyone has seen a charged-up sideline explode after a call (sometimes even the first call of the game). Explain to your teammates that this is probably losing you calls, and hence losing points, throughout a tournament. Then see if the catharsis they get from yelling at the enemy is really worth it. 

6. A Rules Quiz for your Team
Write a rules quiz, and give it to your team. You don't even need to demand that they take the quiz. Just suggest it. If you have teammates that make sketchy calls, or think they know the rules much better than they do, this can be a non-confrontational way to demonstrate their lack of knowledge. 

At the very least, more people on your team will read the rules again. 

At best, people on your team will start to defer to (or ask for explanations from) those people on your team that know the rules well. Hopefully, this results in fewer calls from players that really don't know the rules. 

Note: Personally, I would love to see a Rules Quiz given to players at high-level, even if just to help illustrate the rules and force players to check in with the rules once per year. The UPA does this with Coordinators: there is an online quiz that isn't hard, but it is a great reminder. Why can't we do this with players? I could have this ready in 3 days using SurveyMonkey. We wouldn't even need to require a passing score; just require that the quiz is taken and make the results public. Open book, even. Trust me, this will help. 

Conclusion: This is far from an exhaustive list of the things that you could do to help your team's Spirit. But these all work, and now that you know some options that could work for you, the question comes back: Is Spirit worth the effort? 

ADDENDUM: There are a few existing rules tests online. A test based on the UPA rules can be found at:

huddle Issue 24 Spirit Of The Game

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

by Tully Beatty

The Real Issues With Spirit
by Lou Burruss

Even If No One Is Watching
by Lindsey Hack

A Tennis Analogy
by Brett Matzuka

Our Rules
by Ryan Morgan

Codifying Spirit
by Ted Munter

Spirit Of The Games
by Taylor Pope

Character When It Matters Most
by Chelsea Putnam

The Blender
by Charlie Reznikoff

Two Principal Components
by Adam Sigelman

What Goes Through Your Head
by Ben van Heuvelen

What We Do
by Ben Wiggins

My Turn As That Guy
by Anonymous Elite Open Player





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