IUF Response to 2020 Community Letter: Thank you for writing this letter and sharing your experiences from past Indianapolis leagues and tournaments. We want to start off by acknowledging that it took a lot of courage for all of the people that organized, signed, and wrote about their specific experiences. Shining a light on issues and raising awareness is a critical step, and we appreciate that you all have done this. The IUF Board of Directors held a meeting to discuss each of the points listed and the different experiences that were shared. While there has been an undercurrent of various issues within the community that we have attempted to address over the years, we have obviously been unsuccessful at creating an inclusive environment where all feel welcome and all feel empowered to speak up when they experience or witness transgressions and for that we apologize. Our most important takeaway is that there are a lot of opportunities for us to be better.
Here are some of the specific actions that we hope to take in 2021 -
We hope to formalize a code of conduct to hold captains, participants, and board members accountable before our next hosted event. We need to communicate very clearly that by participating in leagues and tournaments there is a certain standard of conduct that must be met. We want to make sure that this is clearly communicated before each event with specific instructions on how to report transgressions. We have heard the feedback that people do not know who to go to if an issue arises. We want to set-up multiple channels for people to give this feedback, and we want to think through the most constructive ways of doing this so that all people feel comfortable sharing their experiences without fear of retaliation. This is one of our top priorities and something that we see as crucial towards improvement of our leagues and tournaments. This is something that we want to get right, so we will definitely be looking for feedback from people that feel passionately and want to participate in the discussion.
Given the ongoing pandemic and the health concerns for the greater community, we want to put out a safe return-to-play plan for 2021. We will also be looking for input from those that might be interested in this.
We want to focus on equity in all facets and try to improve on racial diversity by making sure we are not causing any barriers to entry, and by actively trying to build up communities that are not as well represented.
We want to formalize feedback to make sure we are capturing input from those that play in our leagues and tournaments. We want to allow for anonymous feedback to make sure that people feel comfortable being honest about their experiences. We want to hold captains to a certain standard in order for them to captain in the future.
We want to formalize sponsorship applications, so that people know that we are willing to help when we are asked.
We want to send out meeting minutes and our actions/changes more consistently.
Another one of our biggest takeaways is that we have failed the larger community in communication and transparency. We noticed that some of the shared experiences are from people that have not participated in our leagues for a number of years because of their negative experiences. We have had internal equity discussions, made changes, and planned to make more changes in the near future, but parts of this letter have highlighted that we have not been effectively communicating those changes to people that have been turned away in the past. We hope to change that going forward by having more frequent newsletter topics about our Board’s discussions, the changes that we plan on implementing, and our larger goals and purpose. We hope that for those that have given up on IUF leagues and tournaments that you might give us the opportunity to improve and to hold us accountable if we do not.
We have included a list of changes and actions that we have made over the past few years directly related to equity. We have done this for context and transparency. We do not want to diminish the shared experiences, but we do want people to know that we have been working at many of the suggested items from the original letter for some time now. Even with all of these initiatives, we know there is more work to be done.
We started a women’s spring league as we had been hearing that newer women’s players may be more interested in playing with and learning from other women. This has been run for a number of years with help in the most recent years from players on the Indy Red. For 2020, we had planned on moving this indoors as weather had been an issue during April in Indiana. We planned on splitting up participants between experienced players and inexperienced players with training that brought everyone together to have a welcome environment for newer players.
We have supported Indy Red in various ways for every year of its existence. This is an important partnership that we plan on continuing going forward.
We have attempted to host equity forums at tournaments and leagues with varying degrees of success. We hope to make these offerings more common. One struggle that we have been trying to think through is the selection bias of offering these forums. The most likely participants may not be the ones that would most benefit from hearing this discussion. We think it’s important to continue and to expand these discussions for captains as well.
We have required all of our leagues to have both male and female captains on every team for at least two years now.
We require all captains to complete a background check and safesport training.
We have recruited captains based more on leadership potential than just talent. We adjust for differences in talent/ability/knowledge during the actual draft by adjusting the round that each captain must select themselves. For example, an experienced and talented player may have to choose themselves in the first round while a newer player may not have to choose themselves until the 5th or 6th round. We also allow captains to ask for help throughout the drafting process and have open discussions about players to help newer captains. Recruiting captains and filling 28 captain spots for summer league takes a fair amount of work. We sometimes have a hard time finding 28 people interested in being a captain, but we have tried to be intentional with who we allow that privilege. (As a side note, since there were a number of comments about the Alleycats specifically, we have not had a rostered AlleyCats player as a captain for the past two summers.)
We held a female high school league for the first time.
We planned on splitting our Summer league for 2020 into two sessions. Half of the weeks would be mixed as we always have, but the second half would be mixed and open league separately to allow for 4-3 or 3-4 ratios in the mixed league. Our current summer league usually only has enough participation to play 6-1 or 5-2 gender ratios on most points. We heard the feedback from female participants that they wanted a truer mixed format, so we spent a lot of time trying to plan for this past summer, and we were excited about the changes we were making. The details of this proposal can be found here: (https://drive.google.com/file/d/10dWyWTt2XIrb9-UNXx1uEsPa_wsMizTG/view?usp=sharing)
We offered first time female players free entry into our leagues to try to expand the total number of female participants in 2019.
We sponsored entry to the High School State championship tournament for a new IPS school to participate.
We have sponsored youth participants to attend the YCC tournament and play on our teams.
We have hosted and sponsored clinics at various events for both youth and new players.
We want to very clearly state that we do not expect the onus of solving issues to be on those that have had negative experiences in our community. We also want to be clear to interested and willing volunteers from all groups that we want and need help to succeed.
We need people that are interested in leadership positions on our Board of Directors. We have historically only had enough interest to fill the board seats with 0, 1, or 2 competitive positions. We will try to make sure this is communicated better in the future, but we are currently at the end of our one-year terms and will be looking for volunteers for next year. We are willing to expand the number of board seats, but have not yet had enough interest to justify doing so in the past. If enough people express interest before our election process, then the current Board can meet to vote on expanding seats. There is no prior ultimate or non-profit experience necessary to fill these roles.
We need volunteers. We often have ideas for potential clinics or equity forums or initiatives, but we need volunteers to turn ideas into action. The actual running of leagues and tournaments falls on a few individuals to complete a lion’s share of the work. More interested and willing volunteers will make our events better and will give us more opportunity to expand.
We need people that care about equity to volunteer as captains. We think this has improved over the last few years, but we still struggle to fill all spots, and we are left begging people to take on roles that they either are not prepared for or do not feel passionately about completing well.
There is no financial compensation for being on our board, and we are all volunteering our time to do this because we feel passionately about it. We all have priorities outside of the IUF (jobs, families, friends, hobbies, etc.) that take a significant amount of our time and energy. We as a board sometimes move more slowly than others (and ourselves) would hope. We have differences of opinions and discussions that take time to sort out. We understand this is part of the process. We do not have individuals making unilateral decisions, so our decision making and statements/responses take time. We do, however, believe that we are pointed in the right direction. We hope that some of you might be willing to help push us forward as well.
We will be sending out additional information about how others can get involved with both the Board of Directors and volunteering to help establish the code of conduct and safe return to play. The best way to reach the IUF is by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Our most consistent updates will be through social media on Facebook and Twitter. We will also try to expand the number of newsletter and emails that are sent to the wider group.
-The Indiana Ultimate Foundation Board of Directors
If you are interested in reading the full letter - you can do so here