The Huddle

The Search For An Executive Director


What do we know about selecting an Executive Director for a large non-profit governing body? Essentially, nothing.

I can only imagine the difficulty in reaching out to a global marketplace and trying to find that single best person to fill a complicated role. Matching skills with future goals is hard enough, let alone trying to find a person that has all of the skills, and will work for your asking price.

In my discussions with UPA members and administrators, price is a major issue; people with the skills that we want as an ED are usually taking a step down, salary-wise, and they are doing it for love of the game or because the job is an especially good fit for them.

Sandie Hammerly was the longest standing ED in UPA history. She presided over a time of tremendous growth and massive increase in player numbers around the USA and beyond. She wasn’t perfect, and despite her success her harsh working style rankled with UPA administrators and members over many issues. Sandie was an iron fist, which is exactly what we were looking for when we found her. Coming from another sport, and with a history of leading non-profits with determination and a nose for protecting the organization’s rights, Sandie was the right choice to lead a UPA that was increasingly dealing with outside for-profit institutions that might otherwise have leaned too hard on the UPA at a cost to us all.

Before Sandie, Joey Gray was an excellent ED at developing bonds to the greater Ultimate community. Like, say, Mixed. But she wasn’t as well equipped to deal with hungry corporations, so when she was done we went looking for (and found) Sandie, who was ready to play tough. The gains we’ve made in the past 5 years cannot be ignored, nor can Sandie’s direct contributions to them. For every coach or team that didn’t get along with Sandie well, or every would be collaborator that was irked, there was a contract or negotiation that was handled professionally and resolutely. From Ben’s experience with CSTV broadcasts of the College Championships, it is clear that without Sandie the game would have been portrayed extremely poorly by a group of editors with little invested in the growth of the game. It was Sandie, by persistence and demanding perfection, that kept those broadcasts useful.

We are in the midst of our next ED search, and it remains to be seen what the UPA has determined are the most important criteria. Even with perfect criteria, there is no guarantee that a qualified individual with the right skills and the right price exists. Given the limitations (and understanding that priorities in these areas mean likely taking on weaknesses in other areas), we propose that the UPA focus on three main strengths.

Most important, to us, is finding an Advocate for the game. We want someone that can walk into a room and really sell Ultimate, both to outside parties and also to the players that have such a stake in the game. The biggest question here: Does this necessarily mean a present or former Ultimate player? We don’t think it is necessary, but non-insiders will need to be able to develop and portray a profound appreciation for the game. This is something that Sandie was never able to do as well as we wanted (keeping in mind that this was seriously de-prioritized when we were hiring at that time). We need a Salesperson.

Secondly, we need an ED that can consolidate the UPA’s view into media outlets. We want an ED that will talk to us. Website announcements, UPA newsletter articles, something…we feel that a major problem with the current state of the UPA is that most of the great things that are being done are almost totally secretive, unless you already know where to look. Did you know that a GrandMaster’s and Women’s Master’s tournament was held this past weekend, driven by the UPA (after intelligently taking up the momentum built up by other Master’s advocates)? Publicity is paramount, and as much as we need a great director we need someone to tell us where that direction lies. We need a Speaker.

Thirdly, we need to develop the UPA into an institution that can join the Ultimate players, coaches and developers around the country. Someone must be able to find a way to leverage the UPA’s resources (both financial and, perhaps more importantly, influential, computational and mechanical) to help the small groups around the nation…and world? As it stands, the UPA is an initial developer of programs. It could be more effective by broadening the tendrils of intelligent support for independent program developers, allowing the UPA to act as a meeting place, a coordinator, an administrator of people from different backgrounds and ideas to bring great ideas forward. We love the UPA Innovation Grants Program (as should be obvious, since we received a $750 grant for this site) but we want the UPA to be, at it’s heart, an Innovation Grant Collaboration. Where would we be without Rodney’s online tools or the NUTC camps or the UCPC or Ultivillage? Where is the next great idea, and when it comes out, will the UPA have a Director than can recognize and support its value? We need a Joiner.

In a perfect world, we take those three skills in a former player who loves the game, works tirelessly, speaks passionately, and wants to work for lift tickets in Colorado. Given that this is unlikely to be in large supply, we trust that our Board is looking for the best Director possible, and we wish Sandie Hammerly well and send our gratitude to her for her long and fruitful reign.