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A Tennis Analogy

by Brett Matzuka

I usually try to write on the presented topic from a objective and scientific viewpoint, however, due to the nature of this topic, this will be rather subjective and opinionated. Also, much of this is a comparison to tennis since that is where I have participated in the highest levels of competition prior to frisbee. 

Growing up learning the sport of Ultimate in Australia, my viewpoint of SOTG comes from a more global perspective of competition. Now playing for Ring of Fire, I feel I have witnessed a large spectrum of viewpoints on the topic of SOTG, from nonexistent and unnecessary to dressing up to the theme of the team, uncontesting any questionable calls, and giving out gifts at the end of the game. 

For me, personally, I find that Ultimate and tennis share a lot of the same competitive features. SOTG really just refers to competing at the highest level presented while still retaining the utmost respect for the competition. How you define retaining respect is now the key feature and how that is displayed is at the crux of the issue. In tennis, even at the highest levels (pre-professional), you make your own line calls. Whether in a heated battle for break point in a match to make the final, or blowing some chump off the court, 99% of the tennis matches I was a part of consisted of the players doing their best to make the right call at every opportunity, whether or not it cost them the match. From Hawaii to Australia, this phenomena is consistent in every tennis match I participated in. It is true that 1% (1 match in every 100) of the time there was a match where this was not the case and the opponent tried to take advantage to obtain a victory, but people are human and this trait will appear (see below), so moving on. 

I found the reason that this high level of respect and sportsmanship was consistent in tennis is because each match, not just was your game on display, but your character, valor, and nobility as a person was on display. It seems to be understood amongst tennis players that it is better to challenge yourself to become a better player and improve every shot, than to make a bad call at the expense of the opposition just to win a single point. It may not be due necessarily to respect for the opposition as much as a desire to become the best you personally can be, and a respect for the sport, a game based upon a struggle with oneself mentally and physically to overcome all adversities. However, because all players seem to take this to heart, a respect for the opposition is inherent since each player knows that the other player is also challenging themself to be the best they can be in the face of every adversity. 

This respect can be seen even at the professional level of tennis when a player claps when his opposition betters him on the field of battle, or when a player wins on a technicality (let court) and holds his hand up apologetically. This is the heart of SOTG; it isn't about goofing around or giving your opposition the edge every opportunity, or so on, but about respecting those that share the field of battle with you and displaying it appropriately. Making the right calls no matter the circumstance, congratulating someone on a great play whether they bested you or not, playing at your highest level even if you are bageling a team, these are ways of showing respect, and inherently, SOTG. 

I find that this is the world view on how SOTG is perceived. For example, at the World Ultimate and Guts Championships in even the tightest, most significant games, teams came together afterwards in a circle to show appreciation for the fight that each team put forth. 

I think this is consistent with the top teams and lowest level teams in the US; they would rather expect more from themselves, improve their personal games and win on their own accord, than take advantage and obtain victory through false means. For example, at ECC, when Ring was playing Furious in the game to 5, Andrew Lugsdin gave up his bobbled catch in the end zone when we called it down and a player on the sideline with the best view also called it down. He easily could have sent it back or even argued it up, but he respected us, the sport, and himself enough to expect more from himself and his team than take advantage of the situation. This, to an extent, is what makes the top teams the elite teams, they don't make excuses but expect the best from themselves. 

It is true, there are still a few guys on each elite team that abuse SOTG and show no respect to the opposition (much like that 1% of tennis matches), however, they are usually the minority in the elite ranks in the US. For example, playing Boston at ECC, there was a foul call on a catch and it was contested and sent back, a single Boston player on the sideline started to yell, swear, and berate our player for the call, though all the players on the field, and the sideline, had already respected the outcome and accepted it. This sort of outburst never resorts in any benefit for either team (can you remember a time your teammates verbally assaulted another team and the call and game went smoother?), but can find one player of this sort on each team. However, as stated, this is the minority on the elite teams. 

Much like the elite teams, the low level teams also exhibit a high level of SOTG. This again is due to their focus upon improving themselves than worrying about a questionable call. The one place where SOTG seems to lack in the US is in the second tier teams. The teams that feel they deserve some recognition and praise for their work, that are always a few spots from making nationals. I find that they take a call as a personal gesture of disrespect and an insult directed at their game. They are the ones that have lost perspective about why they play the game; they don't expect the best of themselves, but find excuses why someone got the better of them. A call cost them the game, or their pride gets in their way, they no longer play with the expectation of perfection from themselves, but have deluded themselves into believing that they have worked as hard as they can and no one deserves to ever beat them. This is where SOTG fails to be present because these players have already entered the game without respect for the opposition. They believe victory is all that matters and that they deserve it irregardless of play. This is where SOTG falls short. 

With regards to how teams I have been a part of dealt with Spirit, the younger players would always refer to the respected players on anything questionable. 

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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