May 3, 2019
By Grant Lindsley
Integrity - What is Sportsmanship in Pro Ultimate, and How Could We Better Promote It?
Pro ultimate’s Integrity Rule is unusual among professional sports, and we could do more to celebrate it.
In any other sport with referees, if players get away with a bad call, they grin at their teammates and play on. If they’re on the losing side of the whistle, they fume. Maybe they start blaming outcomes on referees. Maybe they try to get away with something themselves on the next point. In most sports, that’s just the way the game works.
But not in ultimate, which gives players the unique chance to regulate themselves. One of ultimate’s most distinguishing features is that players can overturn incorrect calls that would benefit their own team and, in some cases, make calls on themselves.
It’s worth reading the specific wording from the AUDL rulebook:
13.6 Integrity Rule
13.6.1 Any player or head coach can overturn any call made by an official if the official’s call favored the player’s or coach’s own team. Officials shall respect the integrity call. This allows teams to display sportsmanship and remedy an incorrect call against their opponent. A call includes fouls, stalls, or decisions regarding the results of a play (e.g., goal vs. no goal, in vs. out of bounds).
13.6.2 A player can call a foul against themselves if the call would result in a change in possession (e.g., a player may call a foul against themselves for fouling the thrower and causing a turnover).
The section is as brief as it is vital. Notice that officials must respect the integrity call and that head coaches can invoke it. Can you imagine the official rules of any other professional sport containing such language?
Promoting the Integrity Rule is a huge opportunity to distinguish ultimate from other team sports, where it’s a foregone conclusion that players can’t be relied upon to help uphold the rules.
I asked AUDL Commissioner Steve Hall and VP of Finance and Operations Rob Lloyd about this on the most recent Player’s Forum call on April 28, and they are excited about such promotion.
The specifics are yet to be ironed out, so in the meantime, here are a few components we’d do well to consider:
Recognize players. Each team could nominate one player who exemplified sportsmanship throughout the season. The AUDL could publicize this list. Teams could highlight specific moments during the season where the player earned their recognition. Interviews with the players could educate spectators and establish the player as a role model. One of the nominees could receive special recognition over Championship Weekend.
Recognize coaches. Coaches are rightfully included in the Integrity Rule. Decorate one who made significant contributions to fair play, perhaps voted on by other coaches. Highlight specific moments when they earned the recognition in testimonials from players and other coaches. The coach could also be recognized at Championship Weekend.
Recognize teams. Consider implementing a scoring system where teams evaluate each other’s conduct after each game. Consider an award for the team that receives the highest aggregate score over the season. Maybe consider required education or sanctions for teams that drop below a certain acceptable threshold of sportsmanship. Recognize the team with the highest scores at Championship Weekend.
The support of AUDL leadership in officially recognizing sportsmanship is an encouraging step toward celebrating players, coaches, and teams that help make this sport so uniquely appealing.
There will be a snowball effect. Paying systematic attention to sportsmanship exerts social pressure on fair conduct, which in turn makes it more likely. That’s the kind of sport we want to promote – one of mutual competition and accountability.
Let’s watch more closely for the Integrity Rule. People are more likely to do the right thing when others are watching.