Divide and Conquer: Bonnie Thunders on WFTDA Rankings
Last week, we brought you the inside track on the rankings calculator, courtesy of Teenie Meanie and Bonnie Thunders. This week we’re just looking at divisions and the new playoff structure. We spoke to Bonnie to put some of our questions about the system to her, as well as some concerns raised by DNN readers.
This is how it went.
DNN: Most people know you as a skater, rather than for your work with the WFTDA. Can you tell us a little bit about your background in the WFTDA and what you’ve had to do with this project?
Bonnie Thunders: I started as a member of the WFTDA tournaments committee and had a specific interest in divisions.
It was introduced back in 2009 at one of our annual meetings and sparked my interest from then on. I later became the director of the tournaments committee, under which divisions fell, and then we came up with some more basic ideas about divisions.
It fell into a more full proposal for a ranking system so that we could better rank the leagues in the membership of the WFTDA, and it grew from there. Now I’ve moved into more of an oversight role where I’m the gameplay manager, so I oversee the rules committee, tournaments committee, ranking committee, and some of the other gameplay specific committees within the WFTDA.
What question was the creation of divisions the answer to?
It really grew from having a lot of uneven play within the WFTDA and knowing that there were a lot of leagues at various levels. Even back in 2009 that was an issue, and we wanted to find a way to focus competition a little bit more evenly and encourage people to play teams more like them in skill level, rather than just geographically based.
And definitely for the fans because it’s much more exciting to see a close game at tournaments, so constantly trying to find ways to even up the competition, specifically at tournaments as well, as that’s the highlight and the showcase.
How well does the divisional structure, as it’s currently proposed, deal with that as you’ve still got the same 40 teams competing at division one tournament level as you did in regional tournaments?
Not talking at all about rankings, and just speaking to divisions, we all knew for a long time that all regions are not created equally, and there was definitely a skill difference between the regions, and having equal regional distribution at the regional tournaments was somewhat problematic when you would look at the teams that would qualify for championships based on simply their region and doing well in that specific tournament.
Knowing that we needed to have more fair representation of teams across tournaments, I do think this system does do that. The big thing that it’s reliant on is having a member-wide ranking as opposed to a more regionally based ranking.
Do you think that the loss of regional identity and the presence of vaguely local teams will have an impact on attendance for playoff tournaments?
That’s definitely been a consideration for the WFTDA. The WFTDA is very member-driven: the leadership of the WFTDA did bring this up as a concern to the membership, not only from a marketing perspective but also from a financial perspective for each of those leagues as well.
The thing that’s unique for the WFTDA that’s unique from other organisations is that it is the membership’s will. The membership really did support no geographic shuffling of teams to those tournaments even after knowing where those tournaments were going to be held [the majority of the 2013 playoff tournaments are in the eastern half of the US] so I see the concern, and I think it is a place where we can look to improve in the future.
But it is the will of the WFTDA and what the membership wants. I think the membership is really after fair play, and after a lot of years of feeling like play has been lopsided. Not just the west feeling like they’ve not had a fair shot at getting to tournaments, but among the teams that are in the 40-50 spots feeling like they didn’t have the ability to set up the best games to give them the best opportunity to get to a tournament. People just really want to see very even play. Straight up, what the ranking shows is what they want to see in a tournament.
I think that our bidding process is always evolving as far as what leagues and what cities we use for our tournaments. We are becoming a lot more active; last year was the first year we actually had a tournament director who was an employee of the WFTDA, and as we get more experience of having more ownership of those tournaments, I could see us directing where those tournaments are a little bit differently, and more seeking out bids rather than just waiting for the membership to bring bids to us.