In my two weeks in Colombia, I have seen some worrying incidents relating to spirit in the open division. I have also had a number of Colombians and non-Colombians recount incidents of very poor spirit to me, from intense arguing and border-line cheating to pushing, shoving and punching on the field.
My previous experiences with South American men's ultimate were playing a very fiery Venezuela team and a more subdued Colombian team at Worlds 2008. I also saw that South American teams had very low rankings in Spirit scores for Worlds 2008 in a number of divisions, particularly Open.
The poor spirit has arisen particularly in certain team match-ups and from certain players.
Many other games across Regionals and Nationals had excellent spirit, and this was acknowledged after the game within the teams.
But in a way, spirit is a chain as strong as its weakest link.
Immediately after those disappointing quarterfinals at Nationals, I started talking to players about spirit. It seems to be evolving into a social research project worthy of several PhDs. The more people I talk to, the more I learn.
Many players are aware of the issues with spirit, and have pointed out a range of factors: the strong focus on club ultimate, the culture and history of Colombia (as this Columbian columnist discusses, this country has had "una cultura de justificación de la violencia y de la venganza"), the isolation from other international ultimate, and the lack of restraints or sanctions on those given power within teams.
In my next post, I'll offer an inkling of a proposal aimed at one of these factors. I have started to share this idea with the movers and shakers of Colombia during my time here, and see what they think of it. So far the responses have been supportive.