Touring play differs from league play in four important respects:
- It is divided into Open, Women's, Mixed, Masters, and Juniors (Open & Women's)
- It is inter-city, not intra-city
- It is based entirely on tournaments, not a regularly-scheduled league
- It is not governed by any overarching body like TUC
As a result, the line-up and rosters (and sometimes even the names) of teams tend to change with each tournament, and there is no carryover of standings from one tournament to the next - though tournament directors do loosely base their initial seedings on past performance.
Most tournaments run for two days over a weekend: Saturday is used for round-robin pool play and Sunday for playoff brackets. Games are shorter than in TUC leagues (usually 1-2 hours, or to 13/15 points) but there are more of them: 3-4 on Saturday, followed by 2-3 on Sunday. A small handful of tournaments, including the national championships, run for three days or more (the world championships run for seven!).
The calibre of play, compared to TUC leagues, generally starts at the high-B level with the majority of teams composed entirely of A-level players. There are no differences in the rules of the game, though some top-level tournaments employ "observers" to make line calls and offer second opinions when players cannot agree on a call. They are usually only employed in the semis or finals.
And yes, touring players do cheer.
The touring calendar in Toronto generally runs from May to October, during which there are 5-7 tournaments available in each major division (Open, Women's, Mixed) within driving distance of Toronto (i.e. Ontario, Quebec, Michigan, and upstate New York).
Elite-level teams usually attend 2-4 additional tournaments in the United States outside the summer months, while lower-level teams usually attend 3-4 tournaments total, mostly in-province. For those who qualify and are willing to make the trip, the season culminates with Nationals in August.
Since ultimate is still an amateur sport, almost all the costs of touring fall on the player. Team members can expect to pay anywhere from $1000 to $3,000 (or more, if travelling to distant tournaments like Worlds) above and beyond what they would normally spend on league play. This includes things like transportation, accommodation, tournament fees, and extra apparel or equipment.
The touring community can appear quite "cliquey" at first to the uninitiated. The two most important pieces of advice for anyone thinking of getting involved in touring is to (a) be seen by higher-level players and team captains, and (b) get serious about skill-building. This can be accomplished in several ways:
- Get onto higher-level league teams. Use this website's Bulletin Board or your ultimate contacts to advertise yourself and to find out about higher-ranked league teams who need players.
- Attend skills clinics. TUC offers free beginner, intermediate, and advanced skills clinics - run by touring-calibre players - to its members. Most of these are in April & May, though there are some during the summer as well, including classroom strategy clinics.
- Go to pickup games. Many touring players attend pickup games on Sunday afternoons early in the summer season and during non-tournament weekends, and will take notice of promising new players. TUC will offer other pickup events throughout the year so keep checking the web site. You can also follow the TUC BBS for other informal pickup games organized by TUC members.
- Play in Spring League. TUC runs leagues over five-six weeks in April & May for players to get a headstart on the summer.
- Attend touring tryouts. Many teams run tryouts in March & April, and even if you do not make the team, it is good practice and they will (hopefully!) remember you the next time around.
- Correspond with team captains. Use the contact information provided on the Open, Women's, Mixed, and Masters pages to correspond with team captains and find out about their plans. They may have an opening, or need extra bodies to fill out the practice roster. Again, this gets you noticed and, if invited to scrimmage, will also help build your skills.
In 2001, TUC's Board of Directors determined that the Club should actively support Toronto's touring teams and approved a broad new Policy on Touring Teams to govern this initiative, the first of its kind in Canadian ultimate.
Explaining that support for touring teams would help encourage SOTG, improve player development, and increase the profile of the sport, the Policy laid out general guidelines for the Executive to implement each year:
- Teams are to operate independently of TUC
- TUC officers will facilitate communication between players looking to form or join new teams
- TUC will provide teams with training resources in exchange for volunteer time
The policy can be found here, and will continue to be reviewed and possibly modified every year. Here is the Touring Submission Form for Toronto touring teams that are seeking summer training field support.