Monday, November 28, 2005

gender ratios in Coed

The official ratio is 4/3, offense decides. This ought to suggest that teams have a 1M:1W ratio, oughtn't it? But a quick look at a few Nationals rosters suggests more of a 1.4M:1W ratio. Even if every team chose to play 4M:3W, that'd still only be a 1.33M:1W ratio.

Boston has summer leagues for 4M/3W and 5M/2W, and my impression is that most teams have a lot more guys per spot than women. Someone can let me know whether the leagues that are limited to a certain number of players have to turn away a higher %age of male or female applicants.

On the other hand, guys in coed generally have a disproportionate share of the touches, so maybe the average number of passes for each person is the same for each gender.

So my question is whether anyone even cares about this. Should the UPA or league organizers care about gender equality or gender equity? If so, how much should they lead and how much should they follow? If it turns out that after 10 years of a Mixed series that only 35% of Mixed players are females, should they tinker with the 4/3 ratio? And should they care if males throw 80% of the goals?


Tarr said...

The stupid answer, of course, is "let people make their own decisions. If they want to be the 15th guy on the roster that's their business." The stupid answer has a point. But just because people are willing to accept a certain situation doesn't mean things can't be better.

You're bringing up a lot of different issues here.

1) Is there something "better" about 3:4 and 4:3 than 5:2? Should the current club rules about offense decides be tweaked?

2) Is there a problem with men throwing more goals than women?

3) Is there a problem with men being more involved on the field in general (cutting more, catching more goals, et cetera) than women?

4) Should the club series enforce gender ratios on rosters?

5) What should restricted leagues do about having more men than women?

Taking those one at a time:

1) It's largely an aethetic opinion either way. Why do we play with 7 players, on a football-sized field? Personally, 4:3 feels like the best balance, as women are harder to ignore than 5:2 but there are enough men around that 1-on-1 male isolations aren't as ridiculously easy to get as in 3:4. So I guess I'd like a 4:3 M:F solid rule, like many summer and fall tournaments use. Again, personal opinion, and this is solely due to an aesthetic view of what makes the "best" mixed play.

2) No.

3) To some degree. Definitely for low-level leagues where women develop more slowly because they aren't involved. This is an institutional problem that stunts the growth of women's ultimate.

At the club level, I don't see it as a major issue. Also, this explains, to some degree, the roster imbalance. If women are, on average, less involved, then they won't be as tired after an average point, so they need fewer subs to stay fresh, so you need less of them on the roster. See, one of your "problems" solves the other "problem".

4) Only if they do so in the context of overall caps on club roster sizes.

5) Have open leages for overflow men. Keep adding open teams until either every guy who is being turned away refuses to be on an open team, or the ratios of accepted players are the same.

It's also a good idea to have women's leagues, once you have enough female players. In general, I think that the fact that all low level play outside of college is mixed stunts learning to a degree.

Dan said...

RE Men getting more touches, throwing more goals.

This happens on every team -- some players on Dog get more touches and throw more goals than their team-mates. These folks are defined as most reliable, best, whatever. Same for Coed -- it seems that Coed teams find that most of their reliable weapons are men. Let's be honest -- a lot of women in coed aren't so hot. Had a women friend at Coed nationals recently who could't throw a flick (she hustles like hell and i'm sure contributed to her team, though).

Be interested to know how this plays out at the world games, where the women are world's better than the average coed women. Were touches there more equitable?

parinella said...

Dan, one of the women on the WG team had a lot of touches, about the same number as the top two guys, all three of them significantly higher than the others. I think the other women were at the bottom of the list. Looking just at goals and assists, the guys had a much larger share.

Other WG teams were even more extreme. On Day 1, women caught about 37% and threw about 16% of the goals (it was 4M:3W, so you would expect it to be about 43% of each).

parinella said...

Tarr, good summary.

Regarding 1), I think the idea is to create the best sport possible, at least when it applies to a national or world championship. (It's ok to try to create the best _experience_ for recreational play, where the sport itself is only part of the experience.) According to you, 3:4 creates virtually unstoppable situations that do not require a ton of skill, while 5:2 systematically ignores 2 people.

Dan said...

Yeah, interesting. I'm thinking it comes down to the fact, that no matter how good the women are, the men are always going to have bigger catching windows and therefore more margin for error.

I also think average male throwing ability is always going to be higher, so it makes sense that the numbers are skewed.

parinella said...

Regarding Dan's last comment, is the ratio of catching window to throwing error higher for men or for women? I'd guess that it's higher for men, meaning that the completion percentage should be higher for women throwing to men than for men throwing to women. Yet we find that women are primarily used as receivers in the coed game. Is this a suboptimum strategy, or just a misapplication of statistics?

Flo said...

Overgeneralizing here, but this is how I see it:
Men do not only have larger catching windows, but also the ability to deliver the disc to a greater area of the field with higher consistency. So it makes perfect sense to use your men as players who catch AND throw---easier to throw to and bigger threats with the disc. So no, not a suboptimal strategy.
Throwing to women in the endzone takes away the second part of the argument. No worries about being a threat with the disc, so a good strategy will throw to women more in the endzone than in the field.
Talking stats: the expected value of a throw made by a woman is usually smaller than that of a man (either because men gain more yardage per throw or turn it over less or whatever). So if you have two options in the field of equal value (combination of yardage and risk of throw/catch etc.), the throw to the man is the better choice since the expected value of the next throw is higher. If your throw is into the endzone, there is no difference---no next throw. So yes, in a way misapplication of stats here.

Other factors also play a role. Short passes into the endzone to women are often very easy---they often have an easier time getting open with less space. Also, due to lower speed of both cutter and defender, the time window you can throw the pass in is often greater.

About World Games. I had the feeling that all teams put in a big effort to use their women, it is mixed Ultimate after all. With most teams you could see that they would use their women less when the games got closer, so maybe teams started with a more pc strategy to then switch to the most successful strategy (or the men forgot about the strategy and looked for stuff they are most used to, you pick). One exception per team was often there: Deb on USA, since she would get open at will on handler cuts and not turn it over. Sarah on Australia since, well, she is just unguardable by pretty much any woman in the world on mid-to-long passes. The 4'10 girl on Japan (sorry, no name) who threw one great breakmark after the other. The Finns and the Australians both had a woman who would pick up the disc a lot. That was part of their game plan: woman to man --> bomb.Starting the disc with a woman gave them more options for the first shorter pass to a man.
Canada played their 3-4 horses whenever it got close, but Furious does the same thing. It's not so much about the gender of the players left out of the play.

Dan said...

The lower the level of coed, the bigger this problem gets. I bet on my old team male-to-male completions would have proven much easier (if we'd kept stats) than any other combination. As a cutter, women (generally -- we're not talking about the deb cussen's of the world) don't throw as far, or break the mark as well, or have as many good curving touch throws, which makes your job much harder (and the defenders job much easier).

Foxy said...

Re: World Games. Many of Deb's touches come from her being the one to pick up the disc on a turnover or pull.

As for league play in the SFUL we play 4/3 or 3/4 but put an equal number of men and women on each team.


Marshall said...

In Boston's hat leagues, where one registers as an individual instead of as part of a team, we routinely waitlist men but not women. We run both 4-3 and 5-2 divisions. We offer men a way to play in an "open" league, but many men prefer to play with women or not at all. [I haven't ever seen the play in the "open" league, so I can't comment on how it compares.]

jtflynn said...

i was really suprised/disappointed at the number of mixed teams at nationals that ignored their women. we played one team where we virtually stopped guarding their ladies, letting ours poach the passing lanes. we got a big easy win. there are 2nd (and 3rd) tier teams in Portland that use their ladies more effectively.

i have to believe part of it is cultural. it still feels like much of the country doesn't know how to play truely mixed ultimate.
i could go over my squad's stats from the season for scores, assists, etc, but the simple fact is:

it takes discipline and a structure that allows a team to exploit the strength of their women (without getting in their way), but if you've got a team full of guys who just know how (and only want) to huck it, that's not gonna happen.

should the UPA force change with roster and gender changing, no. eventually, teams that are successful will show the way to those who are less balanced (and thereby less effective.)


Marshall said...

Well, the Whor$hack folks have some credibility talking about using women at Nationals. They did a better job making their women effective than any other team we played (and to be fair, better than we did consistently, though I hope he wasn't talking about us in the big-easy-win game Shiv mentioned). The thing is that this seems often to mean just getting the guys out of the way. Whor$hack ran a spread that mostly isolated the women downfield and we defended it poorly (too many away passes given up on the second and third pass).

We also used a similar strategy a fair amount, frequently running a "harem" play where a single guy was downfield with three women - the guy usually cut first partly because he could be an un-poached, effective threat, but also because this usually left a lot of room for the women to work with fewer guys clogging their lanes.

Most teams did run through their men primarily, with the women often being mid-range receiving threats but not threats to deliver the disc to the end zone from there. A few teams had solid women handlers and used them there, but they were rarely the main handler the way Deb often was with Team USA. I doubt that many teams would be as effective as Whor$hack proved even with the same strategy, however. Nonetheless, every elite-level Mixed team should know how to play an appropriate game especially when they recognize the case where their women are their biggest advantage over an opponent, and how to create that situation.

Marshall said...

Yet we find that women are primarily used as receivers in the coed game. Is this a suboptimum strategy, or just a misapplication of statistics?

It's probably more a (maybe-misguided) measure of the relative skill of the players on the squad at different positions. Who are the best mark-breakers and best overall throwers (accuracy, distance) on the team? Those (usually) guys end up behind the disc, even if they lack one key component of what makes a really great thrower: decision-making. We had some talented women throwers, but many, maybe most of our best throwers were men. Our men probably made the lion's share of our errors, too. So perhaps THOSE stats say we should get the disc out of their hands. But here's the point: it doesn't break down strictly on gender lines.

In answer to the original post: I don't know that the UPA should legislate roster sizes or splits. We carried a ton of guys, which might have hurt us in some ways, but that's our mistake to make.

-dd said...

I see that things are not radically different on both sides of the big pond.

Women are the limiting factor in terms of numbers in mixed. Any woman that knows the basics and has only a few months experience can find a spot to play in a good level mixed tournament.

Men have to compete to get on the roster. The result is that the men in a mixed team are fitter, have more experienced, and have better disc skills than the women. It's no surprise that the guys make the majority of the big plays.

Anonymous said...

Another reason is that guys think that faster equals better target, so they throw to other guys. On in cuts, probably slower equals better target, as long as the D is slower as well.

Also, women don't look as open as guys, because their D is closer to them when the time delay between O and D is the same. So a woman who is a two tenths of a second ahead of her D might have a one meter lead, while a guy would have a 1.5m lead. The guy looks more open, even though he's not.

Anonymous said...

Ultimate seems like one of the few sports where women can be as good at men (I disagree with the above comment that women will never be able to throw as accurately etc) since most of what is important in throwing and receiving is based on skill rather than brute force. Anyone- even the smallest woman around- can learn to huck a full field length, or throw as accurately as a guy. And while speed and strength are clearly important, as a woman, you should be up against a woman, and there's no reason a woman can't get as open as a man. Much of my frustration at the lower levels of ultimate where I currently dwell has come from making mistakes as I have been learning, and being treated differently than an equivalent guy:- one drop and it's assumed "oh, a woman will never learn to catch" rather than "nice try, you're still learning". The woman doesn't get thrown to again in a similar situation. I doubt that this attitude persists to the top levels, but it's indicative to me that the problem has more to do with cultural factors than the 4:3 or 3:4 ratio.