Monday, November 03, 2008

On MVPs and Spirit Scores

So over at Ultitalk, there's a couple of interesting threads relating to MVP awards and Spirit awards. Kudos to Tom for getting things going. Go and have a read. There's some good stuff there. I'll wait.

Anyway, my take is that people are over-worrying these awards a little a little.

Short of having a set of people who's job it is to watch lots of games and then form an opinion (which is what happens when spectator sports have MVP awards like the Brownlow or the Dally M), you're not going to get something non-controversial (and even then, think about the controversy that's often involved with those awards (and I mean controversy in the positive sense, that there's lots of worthies but there can be only one winner).

So until Ultimate has that, don't stress it, and just remember that at an Ultimate tournament, a Most Valuable Player award is as much about 'standing out from a crowd' than it is about being valuable, and perhaps more importantly, not really anything about somehow being 'the best'. Still, its nice and fun for the winners (who are rarely the same people event after event (save for a few Adam Mortimers and Mike Bakers - and who's going to begrudge them that?)) and makes the ceremonies a bit more interesting.

In particular in my mind, I worry when Ultimate players start thinking up convoluted systems. Yes, many of us are systems builders (me included) - self-refereed sport appeals to us thinkers. But the beauty of sport and sporting recognition is in the simplicity. A champion player will be recognised, whether or not they win an award.

I've been more interested though by discussions about Spirit Scores and the Spirit Winner, as I think this is somewhat closer to more people's hearts (Jangles even sent me the Beach Ultimate Lovers Association's spirit score sheet for a look).

Again, I would say, don't oversweat it. Everyone knows how a spirit winner comes about, and usually when you examine the scores you see that normally any number of teams could have come 'first'.

My view of the reasons we give out a Spirit Prize is a) its easy to do and draws a bit of attention to spirit; b) its nice and fun again to have something else to give out; and c) "Well, we've collected these scores, so we might as well do something, like add them up".

So I worry a bit when people want to introduce some more systematic spirit scoring. Yes that is fine, but in a 24 team competition like Mixed Nationals, spread over dozens of games over three days, where people only play a portion of teams ... you're still not really and regularly going to be able to separate the 'most spirited' teams to somehow have a winner.

Fortunately, there's a lot of talk in the thread about examples of good and bad spirit, and I think these people are starting to get to the nub of the issue ... but let me take you there.

What Spirit Scores are really about is ... having a team sit down after a game and talk about good and bad spirit. That's pretty much it. If teams sit down afterwards and spend 5 minutes discussing the spirit in the game they played, then they should incrementally come out having a better idea of what good and bad spirit are and mean.

This is where I get worried when people want to quantify spirit and have little checklists and stuff. I worry that subconsciously, some people have missed the point and think its about getting a score in and someone winning a spirit prize. They want to do it quickly and easily and get onto the next bit of the tournament, so they like the idea of a little checklist that a Captain can fill in on their own (maybe talking to a couple of confidants) in about 10 seconds.

But such things won't promote good spirit. I wonder if teams who are rated poorly for spirit bother to talk about spirit after the game? I suspect (in general) they don't.

If you want to foster good spirit, then make sure your team sits down together and discusses the game, the good and the bad, for a good while after the game. Don't let one player just fill in a sheet. Help yourself and your team-mates to understand spirit better. The more we talk about it, and share stories and examples of Spirit (such as through good threads on Ulti-talk), the more Spirit will grow and thrive.


Maple said...

nice JDR..i like...a simple and clear elucidation about the awards, their purpose and what they actually acheive. I like your point about champion players beign recongised, MVP or not.

The only "panel" method we have is the G & G selection panel at Uni Games (and the selectors for worlds teams) which is great, but due to the inability of 3/4 people watching 10 games of ultimate for 20 teams, even that is flawed, subjective and skewed.

So chill. I like.

Owen said...

Nice point JdR.

Currently thinking about and discussing spirit is the means to an end: scoring teams on spirit.

When we should realise that scoring teams on spirit is actually the means to an end: thinking about and discussing spirit.

gref said...

Maybe instead of trying to quantify spirit with a number, we should have some sort of questionaire?

Did the other team know the rules?

Were they timely?

Did they have respect for your team?

Were there any iffy calls?
If so, were they talked out and resolved in a fair and reasonable manner?

Did your opponents play hard?

Did you have fun?

Perhaps instead of having a simple 1-10 number, which I think loses a lot of the point of spirit, you could just see whether they met the criteria in the questionaire.
If not, spirit captains of that team should be able to see what criteria they were assessed poorly on, and fix it.
Also it encourages people to actually think about how the game went and was played.