The Ultimate Gentlemen: 365ideas4change Number 15

A few hours ago, I sat in a freezing Highveld winter night, watching a men’s league Ultimate Frisbee Final. Fourteen players on the field. There is no referee in Ultimate Frisbee. There are no linesmen. When there is a foul, it is called, often by the one who committed the foul. The person who fouls generally walks away with their hands up, a physical mea culpa. Tonight, a player was fouled and he shouted with frustration. He immediately apologised for shouting. The other player got upset that he’d shouted. Both teams approached their respective players and I heard one man saying “Calm down before you discuss the play…..”

Fourteen men, running full pace, from one end of the field to the other. Defender and marked man, plunging, diving, jinxing, faking, bodies just a few inches apart, never deliberately touching each other. Restraint in fast-forward. If the disc goes out, whomever is closest calls it, irrespective of the team. A false start simply gets re-started. No arguments. If no-one sees a play, the two men involved just tell it like it is: I’ve seldom seen anyone disagree on a questionable play. Its not that there are no rules to follow: its that everyone follows the rules. And “Spirit of the Game” is written into the rules.

Imagine if we ran our businesses, or even our Board meetings this way? What rules and what roles might become redundant? I can see the benefits: robust – even heated – conversations where the team supports their player, but supports the outcome of the game even more.  Engagement – real engagement – from a matter of principle not position. Keeping the eye on the ultimate outcome, rather than the immediate frustration. In the broader business context, everyone playing fair with everyone.

Some may scoff – its only a game, they’re not playing for money. No, they play for something much more motivating and important: pride.

Might we still “win” with money, and change the approach to a gentlemen’s game where the focus is on all the players, not just the points?


About Julie Courtnage

With training in environmental science, I facilitate 'naked conversations' about sustainable wellbeing. Using facilitation techniques, systems thinking, art, music, writing, movement and photography, we explore the active creation of our uniqueness - personal and collective, as individuals, organisations and society - and our relationships with others, with sustainable wellbeing, and with genuine happiness. This journey of creation is a journey of Love. And fun.
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