2017: a weekend in January. The U24 women`s national team is in the meeting room of the sports center of the University of Darmstadt (“Bundesleistungsstützpunkt” „Performance centre“ of the German Frisbee sports association: http://www.frisbeesportverband.de/). Outside on the fields there is a thin layer of snow. In the meeting room, 21 motivated female players from all over Germany listen to the two national team coaches – because of the cold some of them are tucked up in sleeping bags.
Only a couple of weeks ago, I found a letter in my post box with a flight ticket to Perth. I have to admit that it was not a real flight ticket. It was a symbolical ticket to the U24 Ultimate Frisbee World Cup which should take place in January 2018 in Perth. I could barely believe it. I made it to the national Team.
At the moment, the tasks of the project “World Cup in Perth” are being allocated in the meeting room in Darmstadt. Each female player will undertake a task during the next year until the tournament. Two female players will take care of food and drinks during the tournaments and the training camps, others will encourage the team spirit between the training camps with different tasks, one female player will search for hotels for the time of the World Cup – together with the men’s Team.
It is my task to coordinate the locations for our training camps. Once a month we will meet for the World Cup preparation in a training camp or for a preparation tournament. Training camps will take place in different cities in Germany. The female player, who is from the respective city, will be responsible for the organisation of training and sleeping places.
Self-Organisation within the Preparation Phase
In addition to the planning of the preparation phase, we are also introduced into a professional strength training during the first training camp. We become familiar with the different types of muscle development and we are taught when the different muscles should be trained during the preparation phase. We become acquainted with different exercises and learn how to integrate these exercises into our warm-up programme. However, what we do not get is a pre-defined muscle building programme. During the preparation phase, each female player will be responsible for her own fitness. It is up to the players themselves to find out what is best for them. Thus, there is no frustration in case the plan cannot be adhered. Each team member can focus on her own strengths and weaknesses.
With a suitcase full of tools, tasks and good intentions I am on my way back to Hamburg after the first training camp of the national team. Now it is my duty to coordinate, test and optimize myself.
Ultimate Frisbee and Agile Project Management
This introduction already outlines some parallels between the preparation for a World Cup and agile project management. Similar to an agile project team the female players of the U24 team are given an enormous freedom with respect to content, scope and design of their training sessions/working methods. Important in both cases is the final outcome. It is the players` responsibility to be fit and competent at the time of the World Cup. Self-organisation within the team is the key – just like for agile methods as well. There is no planning and monitoring outside the training camps.
Short Cycles of Development
During the year prior to the World Cup my team met every four weeks for preparation. Turns were trained including basic skills and team spirit. Due to this short training cycles I received feedback from my trainers, team colleagues and also from self observation about my performances and skills which I had already achieved and which I had to keep practicing. I adapted my training plan continuously to my performance and my needs. The interaction within the team also changed with the competence of the players. New priorities were set to promote the project “World Cup in Perth”. As in agile projects, approaches and results are tested in short iterations and are adjusted – if necessary. Inspect and adapt.
Self-Organisation during the Game: Fair Play and Spirit of the Game
Self-organisation is not without reason. Firstly, self-organisation can be attributed to the infrastructure of Ultimate Frisbee, which is still relatively undeveloped; secondly it is deeply entrenched in Ultimate Frisbee.
Ultimate Frisbee means that two teams with seven field players play against each other. The field has approx. the same size as a football field. The teams aim to overcome the field and bring the Frisbee into the opponent’s end zone. Running with the Frisbee and body contact is forbidden. The players must pass the Frisbee within their own team to bring it into the opponent’s end zone to score. The team that reaches 15 points first within 100 minutes wins the game.
“Fair play” and the “Spirit of the Game” are the basic principles of sports. Ultimate Frisbee does not need a third instance to perform and control the game. The field players themselves are completely responsible for a smooth game. A game is not kicked-off by a starting whistle. The players signalize their readiness by raising their arm and wait for the response of the opponent team. In case this takes too long, the opponent is warned with the Call “Delay of Game”.
During the game fouls and any disagreements are solved in a similar way. By showing handsigns and making “Calls”, the players signalise their matter or fouls. As short as possible the parties involved present their perspectives and jointly decide how to continue. For instance, fouls can be accepted, withdrawn or rejected. An extensive set of regulations is the basis. Every player must know these regulations. Thus, it is up to the players to keep the game running.
Basically, there are no tactical fouls in an Ultimate Frisbee match. Fouls would contradict the idea of fair play. Appreciation is a basic principle – as it is for TEAMWILLE. However, it can also happen that a team considers a running game as “unspirited”, which means that the idea of winning seems to be much more important than the game spirit. If this is the case, the game can be interupted and the teams can exchange their views. With such a break it is possible for the teams to move toward fair play and thus toward better results – even during the regular playing time. Here again there are parallels with agile project management: during the project duration deficiencies are changed just in time before the whole projects builds upon such deficiencies and the results must be fundamentally reworked. Here again: Inspect and Adapt.
The Idea of Fair Play
In an Ultimate Frisbee match it is not only important to win. The spirit of the opponent team is also evaluated on a 15-point scale. If a team won the match with a very low spirit score, this would not be a good reference.
Personal Contribution Encourages Motivation and Teamspirit
In the course of the preparation I realized that planning and organizing the participation in a World Cup needs nearly as much energy as the entire training. But exactly this effort increased my intrinsic motivation. Every player put so much effort into participating in this World Cup as a team. It is fascinating what cohesion and ambition we were able to develop due to that team spirit. When we lost the significant game of the World Cup to enter the semi-final, we knew that we will never be a team in this constellation anymore – and this was what made us really sad. We knew all the strengths and weaknesses of the players. Every player was unique in her own way and absolutely indispensable for the entire team. But exactly such a feeling of a strong team spirit made it possible that the project “World Cup in Perth” resulted in an extremely good outcome.