In my opinion, Spirit of the Game comes down to one simple idea: respect your opponent and believe the best of them in all situations. This idea can be applied to a variety of situations.
Read this article, entitled Understanding Disagreement, by Dave Klink of Dragn Thrust, this year’s Mixed Division champions. In it, he talks about why disagreements happen on the field and the biological processes responsible for differences of perspective. In particular I like this quote: “I’ve learned that there are many possible explanations for a disagreement on the Ultimate field. And I’ve come to believe that willful and deliberate cheating is typically one of the least likely explanations.”
Your opponent is going to make some calls during the game. Sometimes you will agree with them and sometimes you will disagree, but the rules of our game are designed to handle both of those situations! In my opinion, it’s a marvellous piece of game design. In the end, if you believe the best of your opponent and conscientiously consider the calls that they are making before responding, the game will be faster, more pleasant, and generally better for all involved.
Don’t do it! This one is easy: Respect the game and play within it’s rules. If you cheat to win, you didn’t actually win.
Competition and Effort
Another important part of spirit in terms of respecting the opposition is in the attitude with which you approach every game. Looking at your upcoming opponent and thinking “this is going to be an easy game, I shouldn’t have to work too hard” is not a spirited approach and is not going to help either you or your opponent improve as a player. Believe that your opponent will be playing to the limit of their abilities and respect them by playing at full speed in every game. Relaxing and taking the game off mentally or physically doesn’t help anyone feel better and doesn’t help anyone improve. Whether you’re up 10 points or down 10 points, show respect by continuing to play hard.
At the end of the game, you want to be able to look your opponent in the eyes and say “Thank you. That was a great game. Let’s see if we can make each other work even harder next time.”
After the Game
Once the game has past, don’t hold a grudge for any part of the game. Believe that the game was played in good faith. This can be very hard, but it’s also very important. Carrying forward bad feeling won’t help you for your next game against a new team, and it definitely won’t help you for your next game against the same team. Stay focused on the parts of the game that you can control.
In addition, I like to take a minute after the game to go to the player on the other team that I matched up with and talk to them briefly: maybe discuss a call that we disagreed about on the field, or just to congratulate them on a game well played. These little interactions help to build relationships across teams and help people walk away from the game feeling good. I think this might become both more difficult and more important this year as a captain of the team.