What if the Minnesota Timerwolves had to play Macalaster College and a YWCA pick-up team on their road to an NBA Championship? What if the Commissioner of MLB also governed little league and summer softball league? Those levels of play differ so much they are hardly the same sport. Yet in the Club Series of Ultimate, players from all levels comingle on the same field. The best players in the world compete against absolute novices. It is all governed by a single organization, and usually only a skeleton crew of volunteers oversees the proceedings. This creates community and growth, but also creates tension. We use the term "Spirit" to negotiate the tensions that result.
Most disputes over Spirit are not about cheating. Overt, systematic cheating is so uncommon that it is shocking when it happens. Most games don't need observers. Most Spirit debates involve different cultures of play mixing in the tournament setting. Some people play Ultimate primarily for the camaraderie; others would switch teams in a flash if they thought it would get them more wins. To each the other seems to have no clue what Spirit means. Some teams uphold meticulous pivot foot standards and blow off incidental contact; other teams pay no attention to travels but expect a truly noncontact game. These teams seem to have no respect for each other's Spirit. College teams often bring a level of sideline psyche that feels taunting and aggressive towards their opponents, but is part of high level college gamesmanship. When a high school team brings that energy it seems unspirited and cruel.
Juniors, College, Club, Masters, Mixed, Open, Women's. Each level involves players with different physical and emotional maturity, different experience levels, different life circumstances, and different reasons for playing. Put them all in a blender called the UPA and hit puree. Sometimes ugly, sometimes frustrating, the tension that results is discussed using the language of Spirit.