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Ultimate! - New Year's Party & Updates

From: Casimir
Sent on: Sunday, December 25, 2011 12:45 PM
Hey Everyone,

First, some important details.
- No frisbee today (Merry Christmas)
- Frisbee Monday (noon)
- Buffalo Wild Wings in Hoffman Estates on Thursday (6:15ish)
- Frisbee Saturday (10 AM)

- New Year's Eve party at Jamie's on Saturday ($15 gets you champagne, food, appetizers, desserts)! (7 PM) RSVP BY THURSDAY -

- Frisbee Sunday (noon)
- Frisbee Monday (noon)
- Fox & Hound in Schaumburg on Thursday (6:15ish)
- Frisbee Saturday (10 AM)

- Satya's Birthday Celebration downtown on Saturday (starting after frisbee)

So those are the events going on in the next couple weeks.


Now, here's a really, really long email discussing a lot of things regarding the group. I'll be waxing philosophically at times, and everything I say is pretty biased, but it's probably a worthwhile read on an extended holiday weekend. The 1-sentence summary is: starting kinda soonish, more people will be doing more things (like emails, website junk, etc).

First off, you guys are awesome. I love playing frisbee and hanging out with you. Many of you know me better than my family does. I suspect a number of people feel the same way. This group is the biggest reason  want to stay in the area, even though it gets cold as hell sometimes (my arch-nemesis is the cold). Not my family, not my three best friends who don't even show up to play frisbee really (except for Ryan sometimes), not the food, not my job, not all the ladyfriends I've become acquainted's this group.Thank you all for kicking ass.

For those of you who haven't heard the stories from group historian John, this actually started as an offshoot of a social group. It was originally some friends who got together and tossed a disc around reasonably leisurely. Over time, that morphed into a more competitive, yet still friendly and open group (at least I'd like to believe so). There was a time when the split would be "competitive game" and "non-competitive game." I wasn't around back then, but it's a pretty cool idea. So then some stuff happened, and Chadd went off and did some police stuff, and Dean was busy working for like a month, and Satya basically lived in his hotel, and it was kind of like no one was really in charge but no one needed to be...but there should still be someone in charge, right? So that's kind of where I fit in.

Back up a bit, and here's my frisbee story. Back in high school I would toss a disc around with my best friend Dan (No, he doesn't play ultimate, probably never will. You'll be surprised to hear how completely okay I am with this). Summer of 2005 I played Ultimate for the first time at this engineering summer camp. It was awesome. Kept tossing the disc around the next year, and then played a bunch of ultimate in college. I did the "play like 5 days a week for a few months then get totally burned out and don't really play in the spring" thing for like two years, and didn't really care at all my last year because I got hooked on racquetball and was also playing tennis a bunch. So then I graduated and moved to where I'm at now, and within a week I stumbled across the Meetup. Registered, showed up a few times, and enjoyed it. This was summer of 2009. I didn't really play much in the fall, and there weren't really winter games at the time. Then March rolled around, and we had one weekday game going (as well as the standard weekend games). I must have played in almost every 2010 game we had. I know for sure I made every June game, and we had gotten into 4/week consistently by then. So people knew me, I knew pretty much everybody, and I'd long-ago realized that "Hey, if I set up the cones, we'll get started playing a lot faster than if I just wait around for someone else to maybe do it." I was probably loudly suggesting water breaks at this point, as well.

So now both the group's story and my story kind of meet. I was already basically "in charge," so people were like "Hey, let's put him in charge." And so I became a co-organizer, because figuring out how Meetup works is weird. Many of you are aware that I'm a pretty analytical, thoughtful dude, and so I very quickly made a number of changes to the website that I thought would be improvements. Added a few pages about the group, about the game, about other resources / games. I did some marketing, by putting the game into a bunch of pickup ultimate reference places. Etc. Things were good. And I think most people are now familiar with the zealotry with which I now recruit people. Random folks watching us play, food service folks, any friend or relative that shows up at an event and hasn't played before, etc. I've even been out alone, had women come up to hit on me, and the first words out of my mouth are "Do you play frisbee?" (This has never worked out positively...)

This only happened because the group worked so well to begin with. I'm pretty good at adding some improvements to things that are already kinda cool, but I'm not that great at starting things up or fixing things that are completely broken. And to use an overused quote, I definitely "stand on the shoulders of those that came before me." Good for them that I'm pretty light. Oh, sometime ago we also figured out how to make me the "official" organizer. So that's how that worked. Meetup is still kind of tricky.

So then it got dark out in 2010, and we were all like "Dammit...still like frisbee..." And thus winter games started. Last year what we did was try and institute an RSVP system to make sure we'd have numbers. Last year, I think that made a lot of sense. This year, as I've mentioned before, I don't think we'll need it. We've been having good numbers pretty consistently (though it hasn't been deathly cold yet...we'll see how that goes).

The third contribution I've made to the group (aside from marketing the game & pushing for winter games) is encouraging & enabling social events. But it's really not even my contribution. So before I came along, there were a number of social groups already established. Chadd / Devon / Sue / Rich / Beau / Holly / Satya / Dean etc...they all hung out outside of frisbee already. But that died down a bit, and wasn't really a very open format. Late summer of 2010, I think, was when Thursday night post-frisbee Jamba became somewhat commonplace. But that died down too. Same with Game Nights at Katy's (and Jason's...and Mark's...). And the handful of hangout nights I hosted. But all of those were still kind of tailored more toward a small subset of the group.

When Tabitha started showing up and saying "Hey, let's all go drinking after frisbee." week after week, and then we started listening, that was, in my mind, the catalyst. Mostly because I think I started sending out details in emails to the group, and announcing it during water breaks, and stuff. Then there were our holiday cookouts, which we ramped up a little bit, And now this Thursday night thing, and all the other parties...As I have been describing to a bunch of people recently, we've now become much more of a social group, bringing things kind of full-circle. Shivi sent me the best text message a few weeks ago, and I'm going to butcher it with my paraphrase from memory, but it was something like "I like playing ultimate, but now that I hang out with people outside of frisbee, it's all really awesome. Just a happy thought for the day." And then there was probably a smiley or something.

So now I get to wax philosophical for a while...

This summer, when Zoot and I were trying to put together the first of the lined fields (an idea that was pretty awesome in theory, but just never panned out as well as I would have liked it to), his kids were on a playdate with some other kids, so we had this random young child helping us. As I was pacing things off, this young child asked something about how we were measuring how far to go, and Zoot replied with something like "Well, the people in the frisbee group have generally agreed to use Caz's steps as a measure for how the field gets set up." I think this statement really explains how I think the frisbee group organizer's role is, for me at least--to set the standard, in the best interests of the group as a whole. Note that this occasionally means that some people are displeased with the option I've gone with. There was one time we were moving fields, and I explained to Melissa the logic behind it, and she goes "I don't agree with you, but I will go move fields anyway." That's really good feedback. I need to know when I'm making a decision that might be wrong.

Why don't we always play games to whatever and keep score? Why don't we play 7-on-7 with subs? Why don't we have fields with proper dimensions? Why don't we leave Meetup and have a Facebook and Twitter only, if anything? Why don't we spend time teaching people stack offenses, and zone d? Why don't we move to another spot? Why don't we call picks? Why don't we always just go to Fox & Hound on Thursdays? Why don't we..........? I have answers for all of these questions, and a ton more, and I think I can do a reasonable job defending my position on each. If I don't have an answer, or can't defend my position, or if the answer I have isn't best for the group, then I'm doing a shitty job and we should change what's going on. 

A few months ago Richard made the comment that "Everybody likes you." While I'm not 100% sure on this, and I'd also argue that pretty much everyone likes pretty much everyone else (at least I hope that's true), I'd say that people are okay with me being group organizer for a few reasons:
- It means that they don't have to do it.
- They think that I do a pretty decent job at the above things.
- I'm usually not an asshole.

So, I'm not trying to toot my own horn on this, but rather trying to explain more concretely why things usually seem really well-organized. I've thought so much about this group in the past few years, and I'm taking this opportunity to share a lot of it. I'm hoping that this stuff makes sense, and can be used in some non-frisbee-related way.

One of the trickiest things is to say "I'm choosing this option because I think it's best for the group" and have people believe me. I think I do a reasonably good job of this because I really do put the group first, in a lot of visible ways. Note that other people do these things too, and they're awesome for it.
- Setting up the fields. Small thing, has become somewhat of an expectation.
- Setting up an extra field once we're already playing. People know how much I like playing frisbee, so when I voluntarily take myself out of a game to go set up other cones, it means something.
- Knowing everyone. Yeah, I don't know everyone...But I'm pretty damn close. Because I'm the one that knows the most of the group, it makes sense that I can make reasonable judgments for the good of the group as a whole.
- (Usually) running down to the other side of the field to start a game. Again, small thing. But pretty much no one wants to do this, and someone has to in order for the next game to get going reasonably quickly.
- Not making discouraging remarks to my teammates (or anyone else, really). At least, I think I play this way. I'm not 100% sure. Yes, there are some exceptions, like trash talk with a select few. And the Christmas Eve game yesterday had me going "Suck it, bitch!" to The Captain (Greg) after he dropped a pull of mine. For the record, he did start it a number of points before that (with the same phrase, basically whispered). I'm not huge on smack talk, but I figured it was the holiday season and I might as well win this one. Note that "winning the smack talk battle" against The Captain wasn't that I yelled a little louder on something that wasn't actually a huge deal (since we don't count dropped pulls as a turnover). The key, I think, was like one or two points later, when I D'd one of his throws (a much more appropriate time for smack talk) and just didn't say anything. This effectively ended the battle, as during out final "game to 7" when I dropped the first pass in the end zone on the other team's game point (ugh...), nothing was said. Also, props to Brian (Yellow-Hat) for another ridiculous Greatest to John for a score.
- Making encouraging remarks to people when they do things that are cool. Most people in the group are really good about this.
- Making encouraging remarks to new/unskilled people when they do things that are in any way helpful to the team. ("Nice catch" on a routine catch for an average player, "Nice try" on a D they almost had, "Good throw" on any completed throw, "Good throw" on any throw that was probably catchable but just got dropped, etc). Again, most people are pretty good about this.
- Actively trying to get the disc to new/unskilled people, or people who haven't shown up in a while (John does this really really well). This may mean not guarding them as closely, or looking off someone a little more open or a little more downfield, trying to force a hard throw to get it to them (maybe not the best idea...), or between points discreetly talking with someone on the other team and saying "Hey, get it to blue shirt, hasn't touched the disc yet."
- Checking your feet and TRYING to make an accurate in/out call (key word in capital letters). It's kind of funny that even in a pickup game where we don't keep score, some people will still make comments about "Oh, they weren't in.." and seem a little frustrated about it. Vince, a few times, has mentioned what I do, and thinks it's a good standard. I try to find where I think my first contact with the ground was. I go over and step on that spot. I look left and right, and see where that spot is in relation to the cones. If I have any doubts, I'll ask the person closest what they think, and usually go with that. If there's still any doubt, default to giving the disc to the other team (because who cares?). Then I call in or out. And I try to call it loudly, or very visibly. I'm sure I've been wrong before. It's not a perfect system. But if you do this, and it's apparent that you're making an effort to make the right call, then people will have a hard time saying anything against you. Additionally, if someone makes a call I don't think I agree with, the default response is something like "It was close. I think it was (in/out), but I didn't have the best perspective." The point is, hasty decisions are easy to see in a negative light. But also, stop caring so much.
- I also write emails that are way too long and detailed, and no one but someone crazy about this frisbee group would do that.

Of course, there have been many minor strategic decisions about whether lights or darks switch fields, where I choose the option I personally like better. I'm not ashamed of that, and will probably keep doing it. There have to be some benefits to being group organizer.

So now that I've said all that, I'm almost ready to get to the point...

I need to take a few steps back from leading the group. Yes, I'll still be the organizer (for now). Yes, I'll still be there at pretty much every game. Yes, I'll still send out some emails. Yes, I'll still be talking with people and trying to get ideas for social events and stuff. But more people should be doing this job. I've gotten too attached. There's a reason for term limits. 

For one, what happens if I get struck by lightning? (Unlikely since I even stop playing frisbee when there's lightning, but possible). The group will continue on, for sure, but there are a lot of things that I've done behind the scenes that either not many people have heard about, or that everyone's going to forget about until someone one day says "Hey, remember when...what happened to that? Oh yeah, Caz was in charge...Huh..."

For two, there are a number of things that I'd like to see implemented, but just didn't get around to. Indoor games during the winter, lighted fields when it's dark out, Wednesday games during the summer. Getting group discs / shirts / jerseys made. Those are all my bad, for not doing it myself, for not delegating, and for not enabling / recruiting others to help out. This needs to change, starting very, very soon.

For three, a ton of people have said they want to help out. I've been an idiot whenever I've turned down someone offering to help set up the cones. I should have been teaching them the way I use to make reasonably-straight lines, with consistent dimensions.

For four, I have to do all the setup of parties and stuff on the Meetup site. There's no reason Jamie couldn't have posted his own party details. Hell, Satya did it the other day. Good for that guy.

For five, I've gotten old and fat and lazy (metaphorically). Yesterday while it was 10-on-9, someone suggested changing it up a little to do three teams of 6, with rotation, like we tried a few weeks ago (where it worked well, I think). Instead of doing that (and we still had a reasonably good length of time to play, with people who didn't seem like they were leaving any time soon), I kind of shrugged it off figuring "Eh, this is good enough." That's stupid. I should have at least polled the group during the water break we took right after that. The only thing I did is made it less likely for people to come up to me in the future with suggestions for improving the game. And that's a really bad precedent / habit to get into.

So in the next few months, don't be surprised when you start seeing emails from Alex, or if Jamie is setting up a majority of the fields, or if John tries to recruit you to do a little something more. If you want to help out with anything, please ask, or, better yet, just do it yourself (after making reasonably sure it's a good thing overall for the group). As you can obviously tell from this email, I'm modest to the point of lying when I try and really brush off my "organizer" status when new people ask "So you're in charge here?" And I go "That's what everyone tells me, I just do some things with the website and send out an email now and then." I actually do quite a bit of stuff, a lot of it behind the scenes, and a lot of it is just thinking & talking about the group while I'm not at frisbee. 

But I do that because with new people especially, I want to set the tone that it's not my group, it's never been my group, and it never will be my group. It's our group. I can't stress this point enough.

Thank you, all of you, for being my friends.

Post-Script: Oh yeah, Alex, Jamie, & John, you're all now assistant organizers. Congratulations. You can now send emails to the group without me having to approve them, and you can mess with the website.

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