Tuesday, February 6, 2007

About Calls and Contests

Okay, now that we have the Spirit stuff behind us, there's one other 'general' topic to cover before getting into details of the rules. (I apologize right now for the length; I expect this'll be the longest of all my posts by far--i.e., I'm not getting into a pattern here, I hope--so please bear with it, if you can.)

And that topic is making calls and contesting others' calls.

Both of these are virtually unique to Ultimate. Sure, something similar exists in pickup games of other sports--like making your own calls in pickup B-ball and then someone on the other side 'arguing' their perspective--but only in Ultimate is this formally written into the rules. So it's an important thing to understand.

And since each one of us is expected to make calls when necessary, it's an important thing for everyone to understand.

As you likely know, in Ultimate we don't have referees. That's not perfectly true... in actual fact, every player is a referee, so really there are 14 referees.

So it's vitally important that every player understands the rules; otherwise we have 14 referees on the field, some (or in many cases, 'most') not knowing the rules, which of course means they're not making calls they should be making. Or worse, making calls that are just flat-out wrong, which greatly increases the chance of arguments... either from some who truly know the 'correct' rule, or from others who understand an opposite and equally wrong rule.

Or even worse, someone will say to themselves, "oh, I didn't realize that was a rule; I'll have to remember that". And then next time, it's them making the bad/wrong call. Even arguing vehemently that they know what they're talking about.

I'm likely preaching to the converted. Otherwise you probably wouldn't be here in the first place... so I'll climb down from my soapbox now. Before someone knocks me off.

So, if you've come this far, it goes without saying further that it's important to know and understand the rules. (Oops, I said it anyway.)

Okay, so who is actually supposed to make a call?

It depends on the type of call, but generally:

(1) the person fouled makes a foul call [11th Ref: XVI.H.1.];

(2) anyone on the 'violated' team makes a violation call [11th Ref: XVI.A.]; and

(3) anyone who sees it makes any other type of call.

By "anyone" (in 2 or 3), this really means a player on the field. In other words, "sideline, shut up". The exception to this is sideline people helping beginners, or Captains whose job it is (in some cases) to help resolve disputes.

It's also important (in 1 or 2) that you do NOT call fouls or violations on yourself. Sure, we all want to do the right, honorable and Spirited thing, but this isn't it. It's actually UNspirited to call it on yourself.

For example, say you're the marker, you accidentally bump the thrower while he's pivoting, and you call a foul on yourself. The thrower may have intended to play through the contact, especially since he's only 5 feet from the goal line and a cutter is completely open for the score. You've effectively stopped play, and taken away their scoring chance.

So don't ever make infraction (i.e., foul or violation) calls against you or your team. If you feel strongly that a foul should be called on you, suggest to the person you fouled that they should call it; but let them then decide to call it or not. [11th Ref: XIX.A.] It's their decision to stop their flow, not yours. Don't try to fix your first mistake by committing another.

However, for category 3, everyone is expected to make these calls. And this is the case regardless of whether it's for or against your team or your opponent. Examples of these are in- and out-of-bounds calls, up and down calls, and in or out of the end zone calls.

Rule myth: "It's the receiver's call".

Some people believe that the receiver is the only one who is allowed to say whether they're in or out, or have landed in the end zone or not, or caught it before it hit the ground. You call someone out and they immediately snap back with, "it's NOT your call!"

This is wrong. Being the receiver's call has never been in the rules. The 9th edition had a part in brackets that suggested the receiver 'might' have the best perspective on an up/down disc. However, it wasn't definitive, and didn't cover the in/out calls. And that was removed at least partly because people thought that was the rule, and partly because it just often was not true.

The correct rule (mostly unchanged from the 10th, btw) is that the player who had the best view (i.e., "best perspective") is the one who makes the call. [11th Refs: II.A., XI.C., XV.E., XVI.D.]

If you got a view of the receiver's foot at the time of the catch, and you believe his foot was on the line, then immediately call, "out". (This should be the case whether they're on your team or the other team.) In other words, if you saw it this clearly, you already have 'great perspective', so assume it's also 'best', or at least the same decision as someone else who might have the best perspective (and more of a quiet person), so make the call.

If someone else (your team or theirs) thinks the receiver is in, they should also immediately call "in". Then you can discuss and decide which of you had the "better" perspective, and that's the call that stands. Or you can agree to disagree on which of your two 'great perspectives' is actually 'best', and send the disc back to the thrower.

However, when you have someone (or a couple of someone's) who saw the receiver's feet in relation to the sideline, I doubt that a running receiver, looking up at the disc while catching it, could be anywhere close to having even just a good perspective, let alone the 'best' perspective. It's not the receiver's call.

It's entirely different when the receiver knows the disc is flying at/near the boundary, looks down as he or she plants his or her feet just inside the line, then falls OB as the disc is caught. He or she certainly may claim best perspective, and possibly be right. But it's based on actual fact, and not some mythical rule that it's always their call.

And while I bring up mythical rules, "check feet" is not a call. Sure you can say it if you want, but it does NOT require the receiver to do anything. If you see someone out then it's your responsibility to call them "out"; not say "check feet" in the hope that they'll do the Spirited thing and call themselves out. As explained above, if you've got the 'good/better/best' perspective--which you do have because you saw them out--and they often do not have any perspective, call them "out" right away.

Oh, and while I've brought up calling something right away, that's actually a requirement of the rules. You need to make your calls immediately. You don't get to wait to see the outcome of the pass, that's too late. Waiting to make your call is actually a violation in itself. [11th Refs: XVI.A., XVI.H.1.,XVI.I.2.]

Notice that earlier (5 paragraphs up) I said "discuss and decide" and "agree to disagree". More importantly, I did not say "argue to win" and "not be willing to concede so just give up".

One of the core differences between these two types of interactions comes down to respect for your opponent.

If you respect your opponent, you will (read: 'should') immediately understand that your opponent has made his or her call based on an honest perception of what happened and the right call to make. If you don't, then it's more likely that you'll automatically assume his or her call was made dishonestly to gain an unfair advantage.

It's exactly the same when dealing with contests by your opponent. That is, your opponent truly believes that his honest perception is different than yours. Let's be clear here: your opponent is not calling you a liar, accusing you of cheating, or trying to gain an unfair advantage. They simply believe the infraction (i.e., foul or violation) did not take place. [11th Ref: XVI.B.]

So, that's what the rules say that a contest is--an honest belief that the infraction did not occur--but what exactly is a contest? Are we actually required to say the word, 'contest'?

Some have suggested that a contest is a quick one-word sentence that means: I disagree with the call and am not willing to discuss it so send it back and play on. And then they immediately halt your attempt to discuss the difference of opinion or why they're contesting, suggesting that discussion is not an option.

This is not the best way to resolve calls.

We first need to assume, believe, and support that the person making the call has one perspective and the other player has a different, but equally valid perspective. No matter what the call, or whether there's a different resolution for it being contested or not, absolutely there is great value in discussing the basis for the call and contest. Assuming of course that this discussion is based on mutual respect, and with calm heads.

Consider this exchange: "Foul!" "I contest, that wasn't a foul." "You hit my arm, and I could've caught it otherwise. " "I think I got all disc, and your arm hit mine, and after I had already caught it." "Hmm. You know, I think you might be right. No foul. Your disc."

That's way better than, "Foul!" "What!!???! There's NO WAY that was a foul!!!" "Yeah, you hit my arm". "No way, you hit mine! Contest...back to thrower." "Fine!"

So what is the value in a contest and discussion, especially for calls where the outcome is the same? I mean, why even bother?

In the first of the two examples above, both players should come out of the exchange understanding that the other player made his or her call from the basis of honest and valid points of view, and that it was both of them calmly discussing and collaborating that resulted in a resolution that both of them fully supported, believed was fair, and therefore agreed with. And I know they will each continue to respect each other, probably even moreso. Regardless of the outcome, or whether the outcome ended up any different, this respect and building it further is invaluable.

The opposite results from the second example. Neither player will be happy with the result. One will think they were thieved of their turnover, while the other will feel the 40 yard gain was taken away. And neither will understand at all why the other made a call opposite to their own. Certainly no respect was strengthened, and likely worsened.

Which would you prefer? The upward spiral of building respect, or the downward spiral of increasingly unspirited calls and play? I know my choice.

Okay, okay... enough 'preaching'. So where are we now?

- Know the rules.

- Make your calls according to the rules and the spirit of the rules.

- Respect your opponent.

Hmm... that's kinda like what Kyle said a while back. (see my previous post on Spirit)

What's next?

These discussions about Spirit and calls, contests, and discussions should lay a good foundation to move on to the 'meat' of the rules.

So next up is the new/updated group of marker violations: disc space, fast count, double-team, and vision blocking.

Play on.

1 comment:

Joey B said...

First off, awesome posts. The examples are great and wish they could be put in the rules (Yeah, I know, the rules would get huge). But maybe just a few...

Could the following be added to the Rules of Ultimate, in big, bold font? They are succinctly written:

1) Three main tenets to Spirit of the Game:
- Knowing the rules;
- Respecting and following the rules; and
- Respecting your opponent.

2) In Ultimate we don't have referees. That's not perfectly true... in actual fact, every player is a referee, so really there are 14 referees.

(and after seeing so many stoppages of play because someone calls "Check Feet", For Receivers):
If you got a view of the receiver's foot at the time of the catch, and you believe his foot was on the line, then immediately call, "out". (This should be the case whether they're on your team or the other team.)

If someone else (your team or theirs) thinks the receiver is in, they should also immediately call "in".

(Thanks for talking about Mythical Rules, " "check feet" is not a call. Sure you can say it if you want, but it does NOT require the receiver to do anything" Oh, how I wish this were written earlier. :-)