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YCC Participation Now Requires Attendance At HS State Championships

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YCC 2015 Medal Ceremony. Photo: Alex Fraser – UltiPhotos.com[/caption]

This week, USA Ultimate announced the 2017 Youth Competition Guidelines, which lay out some significant changes to the structure of youth ultimate.

As announced in March, high school Regionals have been discontinued and replaced by a new regional structure for youth club Regionals (unaffiliated with high schools). But an unexpected eligibility change for the Youth Club Championships has also made waves: “Players must have participated with their high school team in the most recent USAU High School State Championships in order to be eligible [to compete in YCC].”

Although USAU conformed the age eligibility rules (U20 and U17) to match those of the World Flying Disc Federation, for the older cohort ((to be eligible, players may not turn 20 in the year of that YCC)), the new age rules are not likely to matter, as the new HS States requirement will effectively limit competition to those currently in high school. In recent years, many top YCC teams have contained young college players who met the age eligibility requirements.

“The idea is much more targeted at stimulating the growth of state championships within the USA Ultimate structure than it is at individual athletes,” said USAU Director of Marketing and Communications Andy Lee of the primary purpose for the new rule. He added that the second goal is to “restrict the participation of college athletes from the Youth Club Championships, which over time we believe will contribute to the growth and development of youth players and local youth communities.” ((You can see Lee’s full statement at the bottom of this article))

While the rule seems certain to advance those two goals, many online have expressed concerns about possible negative effects, including in states where high school competition is not centered around USAU-sanctioned HS State Championships (e.g. Washington or Vermont) and areas with less developed high school ultimate scenes. USAU does note that “exceptions will be considered on a case-by-case basis.” ((USAU noted on Facebook that the Washington boys’ teams, who completed their competitive season this fall, will be exempt from the new rule in 2017.))

Former USA Ultimate (then Ultimate Players Association) Director of Youth Development Kyle Weisbrod ((also a columnist at Ultiworld)) was sharply critical of the changes on Twitter, arguing that the “new structure isn’t player focused or growth oriented.”

The new rules are set to go into effect beginning with the 2017 Youth Club Championships, which will be held in August in Blaine, MN, alongside the US Open.

Here is the full statement from USA Ultimate’s Andy Lee about the rationale for adding the new HS States eligibility rule:

The guidelines have two different goals. One is to create a stronger connection across our youth programs by more directly connecting the dots between High School State Championships and the Youth Club Championships. Both of these competitive opportunities contribute to the growth of youth membership across the country, which is critical in continuing to support youth programs and development initiatives like coaching education, Learn to Play and GUM, along with YCCs, Regionals, States and National Teams. And while club-based youth competition will continue to develop, high school state championships presently provide the majority of the playing opportunities. It’s very important that as states create, develop and grow those events, they also continue to help build the base that in turn supports all of our youth programming. Ensuring that state championships are a part of the nationally recognized youth structure of USA Ultimate and encouraging the nation’s top programs to be a part of it helps to build that base. So the idea is much more targeted at stimulating the growth of state championships within the USA Ultimate structure than it is at individual athletes (for whom exceptions will likely be granted on a case-by-case basis.)

The second goal is to restrict the participation of college athletes from the Youth Club Championships, which over time we believe will contribute to the growth and development of youth players and local youth communities. While college players can raise the level of competition at the YCCs, they are also being provided with a more appropriate competitive structure in our college division. And while college athletes also temporarily bolster the rosters of newer youth teams, the rule creates an incentive (and roster space) for youth ultimate communities to invest in the development of younger, local players, which is an important and strategic long-term goal.

Originally published at: https://ultiworld.com/2016/11/30/ycc-participation-now-requires-attendance-hs-state-championships/

Once again, USAU is using a big stick and not a carrot.

I don’t believe the elimination of the college players from youth club is that big a deal. It will be very disappointing to several of my players that were banking on playing this coming summer, but we will survive. It does seem odd though that the decision to line up with international age groups (this was the way it was marketed to coaches that were surveyed) is not really what came out. Either we line up with the international norm or we don’t. Don’t say one thing when really you are not doing it.

The FAR bigger issue is the requirement to participate at states. I don’t think USAU really understands how many “case by case” exceptions will need to be made. Here in OH, we have had entire teams not participate at states because of cost, overlap with prom, overlap with graduation, etc. The girls division is the one that is really going to get hurt, and in particular the U15 and U17. I would predict that there will not be enough girls teams to have any division other than U19 this year as teams have to contract their rosters to field even a U19 team. The reasoning is simple. Many of our U16 girls play on a B team or for schools that lack sufficient female participation to field a team at state. Are we to abandon them? BIG step back for girls.

What about states with no championship? In the past, we have had teams from IN and MI compete in OH because there is no tournament for girls in those states. Are they banned until they get an exception or until they convince enough other school to participate that they can have their own state championship?

Someone explain the logic of this to me. Accoriding to the guidelines, college players could play at the REGIONAL championships, but NOT at the National Championships. Huh?

The logic of requiring participation in a High School state championship in order to participate in a Club championship eludes me. That is sort of like saying that you can’t play at USAU Club championships unless you also participated in the college championships. The explanation that Andy Lee gave seems to me to be a bunch of double talk.

Finally, USAU is part of the Safe Sport initiative. One of the catagories of philosophical abuse listed in the Safe Sport guidelines is expecting you players to only participate in only you sport. By requiring participation at states in order to play at YCCs (or club regionals), USAU is requiring players to play up to 9 months a year and essentially prohibits them from playing in other sports/activities. Way to follow your own guidelines.

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Here is the email that USAU used to solicit input from coaches about the prospective change to YCCs. What is described is substantially different than the final guidelines that came out. I will once again ask that USAU please put out some sort of vision for what they see as the future for the youth division because, frankly, it really doesn’t seem like there is one. Getting buy-in on the vision would make changes like this go much smoother.

"Hey YCC Coaches,

I wanted to get some input on a potential guideline change in 2017.

The competition working group is considering changing the age divisions of YCC to U20 and U17. This would mean that players in U20 could not 20 during the tournament year and U17 players could not turn 17 during the tournament year. This would align USAU age divisions with WFDF’s. This would also allow room for a more viable U15 division to cultivate middle school aged playing opportunities. We would encourage communities and leagues to think carefully about allowing “college age” players to participate on their YCC U20 teams but would not enforce the specifics of that relationship between league and player as we have done in the past.

Please let me know your thoughts.

Thanks a bunch,

Connor Maloney"

I find this disconcerting. Ultimate already has a huge problem with regard to disproportionality along economic, educational, ethnic, and racial lines. I don’t know all that much about most of the high schools with ultimate teams, but perhaps all of the people I do know who play or have played in high school appear to have come from economically comfortable neighbors, mostly private high schools, and are overwhelmingly white (like the US ultimate community as a whole). If you want to create an anti-racist and anti-classist ultimate community (perhaps you don’t?), this appears to be a step in the wrong direction. While this apparently isn’t a hard rule being instated, if you’re anticipating teenagers to interpret the word “exception” as “opportunity”–rather than “barrier”–then you’ve almost certainly enjoyed great privilege in your life.



First off, I don’t believe USA Ultimate has much interest in creating an anti-racist and/or anti-classist ultimate community. If they have an interest - that’s all it is, an interest. Anti-racism and classism take real effort and I haven’t seen the needed amount of effort to understand communities of color or low-income communities by the organization. And maybe that’s not their fault because I’ve seen very little demand for this work from the wider community either.

(Side note: However, I will say that I’ve worked with some great USA U20 coaches in this work and am grateful for their effort and understanding.)

USAU is at least trying to create an anti-gender-inequality community but this work is light years ahead of any effort to work with communities of color or those who can’t afford to force all their kids to pay for a full USAU membership when they never plan on playing YCC. That’s my opinion and if there’s something I’m not aware of I’m happy to be enlightened.

My HS kids at Franklin in Seattle love DiscNW. We stepped away from participating in Westerns last year because the cost of going to an away tournament plus USA Ultimate memberships for everyone (many of which I paid out of my own pocket) was too much for us.

DiscNW is generous enough to offer us a scholarship to play in the local HS league and at Seattle Invite. I am not comfortable forcing my kids to pay up to play in a sanctioned state championship even though USAU is now using a school-based league as the stick to fill their numbers and coffers in a club-based tournament.That makes no sense and is really the opposite of creating opportunities for communities of color and low-income communities.

Elite/select soccer is not exactly the poster child for this type of work either but at least they don’t force their participants to play in their own school-based league first.


  1. Allow each state to figure out how they want to decide if a player played on a school based team during the year or if they need an exception (USAU has shown they’ve allowed more leniency and state coordinator based decision-making to happen in the past).

  2. If a state has their own state tournament outside of USAU (like VT or WA) then let them continue to use that as their qualifying state tournament.

Long View:

What does USAU want other than Olympic status? They want more paying members to bolster their stats and they want more money from memberships to run programs.

How about this - let the youth organizations that are already doing the work take care of creating a huge growth of players in elementary, middle and high school. This will pay more dividends in college players who will play in USAU college series/teams/tournaments. (and club)

If USAU stays on the course they’ve laid out - the number of “USAU official” youth players will flat-line or dwindle and it’ll become more and more homogeneous across racial and class lines.

Let me finish with the wise words of Lauryn Hill:

I wrote these words for everyone
Who struggles in their youth
Who won’t accept deception
Instead of what is truth
It seems we lose the game,
Before we even start to play
Who made these rules? We’re so confused
Easily led astray


Before calling USAU out as racist and classist, please think critically about a proposal of how they should fix this? They are a small organization and a sport that’s not nationally popular. They’ve reached out to Boy Scouts of America and are putting in the effort to get there. Penatrating local communities that know nothing about you and teaching them a very complex game (yes, this sport is way more difficult than basketball, football, lacrosse, baseball/softball, volleyball, wrestling, swimming, track/cross country, golf). Our sport is challenging like soccer and hockey in terms of skill, rules, and the most unique Spirit of the Game. Who to teach this other than Ultimate players? Racism is such a hateful and powerful derogatory word and it’s unfortunate our population has used it so readily that it’s used commonly when we don’t align with another culture now.
So please think about where we really are today, limited resources that are really out there, and how you can get this sport taught to new classes. What would you do? YCC was supposed to help with this, but it has not succeeded in growing Youth high school teams. Local orgs and volunteers and Club players are doing this on their own. Nationwide the Youth players in YCC have not brought the sport back to their schools to build teams within their school the way they were expected to when YCC was designed to do so. Exemptions early and having them build teams within their schools will put a greater priority on growing the sport and recruiting new diverse students within their schools who either are not in athletics or are not fully satisfied in their current sport.

No one in this forum has called out USAU as racist or classist. What they have done is question USAU’s commitment to fighting racism and classism. The basis for this criticism is a just-announced policy which hits hardest players from the least affluent schools, and thus seems likely to reduce diversity within the sport.


Nationwide the Youth players in YCC have not brought the sport back to their schools to build teams within their school the way they were expected to when YCC was designed to do so.

Having designed YCC, I don’t agree with this statement at all. Look at the growth of the sport at the HS level over the past 10 years. It’s been impressive. The primary purpose of this change isn’t to increase HS teams, it’s to increase USAU youth membership. The new structure itself is a barrier to HS teams and players. It’s a barrier to players without a HS team who now will have no place to play while their trying to start a team. It’s a barrier to HS players and teams without the financial resources to compete that will now be shut out of meaningful events (that they have so far been able to access). As Scott says, “underserved” communities (including low income and women) will be hit the hardest by this change.

So please think about where we really are today, limited resources that are really out there, and how you can get this sport taught to new classes. What would you do?

Well, you could support communities that have succeeded in doing exactly that instead of imposing a significant burden on them. One of the big factors for Seattle’s success in getting the sport to lower income players is to remove the burden of USAU membership to attend the state championships.



That will depend on how liberal they are with handing out exemptions for people who either don’t have a team, whose team didn’t go, or were unable to attend for financial hardship. My experience in the girls division leads me to expect that girls who really want to attend YCC will be able to this year, but will that last? I don’t know.

I feel like that by removing the league requirement and tying YC(lub)C to HS the USAU is betting that HS team play is the primary way to increase youth membership. Are they right? I’m not sure.

Back in January you and I had a back-and-forth about the necessity of leagues (after an Ultiworld article I wrote) and it looks like USAU took the side I argued for about leagues, though not on the larger question. My guess is that USAU is probably right to gamble that us volunteers will continue to create the inclusive leagues (or league-like things) even without YCC sanction (and use exemptions to get some players to YCC anyway) and so USAU will get the best of both worlds. But I certainly may be proven wrong.

The wisdom of the various changes is certainly a subject for debate. I, for one, am not sure I agree with the statement “college players … are also being provided with a more appropriate competitive structure in our college division”. Why does USAU think that educational attainment is a more appropriate way to sort competitive structures than age? It would seem to me that age has a much higher correlation to physical development in the 14-20 year old crowd than education does.

BUT, the more important issue is that this is a “surprise and unexpected eligibility change.” USAU has made a large change to the structure of a successful event without buy-in, or even a comment period, from the stakeholders. The only reason I can think of for doing that is if you know the changes are going to be unpopular.

Dave, while this program may mean the new barrier isn’t as high, it’s still a higher barrier than the previous status quo. How will USAU ensure that all players and teams know of this program? How will teams planning to attend states know that their players will qualify? Does USAU have sufficient funding in this program to cover all of the players that will now need to apply for it? What happens to players that don’t qualify for the program but aren’t willing to pay the $35 (in addition to paying for everything else they pay for to play ultimate)?

Even if it all works, players now have to take multiple extra steps to attend states (registering with USAU, applying for a play it forward membership). And while the play it forward program may support player’s USAU membership costs, it does nothing to reduce all of the other costs of running a HS program (tourney attendance, travel, coaching, uniforms, etc) which are essentially new barriers to players that want to play at YCC but whose schools don’t have teams. All of these things are unnecessary bureaucratic steps that have been implemented with zero input from the membership and the local organizers and coaches.

If there’s concern that USAU isn’t generating enough revenue to sustainably run and grow programs that USAU perceives as being useful to the sport and it’s players, the right step is to bring that issue to the community and work with them to figure out how to balance those needs. In the words of the Declaration of Independence: “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

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I’d like to echo and build upon Scott’s response. Racism and classism are systemic–that is, these phenomena are embedded in the many overlapping socio-cultural systems (including institutions) in which we live, and thus any act by those who benefit from such systems to propel those systems is, by definition, a racist or classist act (eg, supporting free market policies, not taking affirmative action as a hiring consideration)–and thus any action (or inaction) is either racist or anti-racist. Nevertheless, “The North,” it appears that you are thinking of racism and classism as individual acts of discrimination that occur in a bubble (ie, outside of systems). Within your definition, there are now three kinds of acts: racist, non-racist, and anti-racist. Many white people who identify as “progressive” are nonetheless content to live a life of non-racist actions. A life filled with anti-racist and anti-classist actions should be the next step. While I said that USAU’s new policy wasn’t anti-racist and anti-classist, I never said that they were racist and classist, but I’ll say that now. This policy privileges along economic lines, which unfortunately also correlates moderately with racial lines. Moreover, as I accept systemically-inclusive definitions of class, race, gender, sexuality, and even species, I believe that if you’re not actively PRIORITIZING those living under oppression, then you are preserving the privileges of those intentionally or unintentionally oppressing. We must work toward equity or live with our actions or inactions garnering the labels of “classist,” “racist,” “specist,” “sexist,” etc. It ain’t easy and we all can do more. So, shouldn’t we listen when we hear HOW we can do more?

An important read from Chip Chang and the gang for everyone in the ultimate community, focusing on race in ultimate and the vital concept of “intersectionality,” A great illustration of why “inaction” (rather than action alone) can also be racist: https://medium.com/@chipadelphia/an-open-letter-to-the-ultimate-community-1378dd8a357f#.g385vadfj