Thursday, May 26, 2005

History Question

Since our blog seems to be overrun with (old) Boston players, maybe one of you can answer a random question for me: What was the first team to run an O team/D team split? Based on the parenthetical note here , I’m guessing that Boston was running O/D in 1995 while Seattle, the team they played in the finals, was not….just wondering.

It seems like most of the top open teams have adopted the O/D split, while the elite women’s teams, at least the ones around here (Ozone, Backhoe) have resisted the split. Any ideas on why this is? Is this trend changing? Are the west coast women’s teams going to O/D split? Are any open teams considering making the switch back?


parinella said...

The year was ... nah.

Platooning (lefty-righty) in baseball started sometime in the early 1900s. Lately, I think some teams do advanced platooning (groundball/flyball matchups, weaker fielders when a strikeout pitcher is on the mound). Football had a gradual trend away from two-way players, with the last full-time one being Chuck Bednarik in 1960 (at least in pros; in high school, you have kids who play the whole game).

As far back as I can remember, there was some level of platooning in ultimate, but it was confined more to one-dimensional players. There are two questions here: when did good all-around players begin playing exclusively (or nearly so) on either O or D, and when did teams start having distinct O and D squads? (And a related distinction is when it started and when it became common?)

NYNY in 1991 ran the same four-person play every time just about. It came as a surprise to me when I noticed this on a film, but it seemed to be common knowledge to the Titanic guys whom we Earth Atomizer guys had just merged with. I remember Mike O'Dowd being the D handler on Windy City in 1991.

We've had O/D squads since at least 1992, but I think they became stricter when we went to the 25-man roster in 1999 (or maybe I just got older and they stopped playing me on D so that's what I noticed). If you have only 18 guys who can play, you can't afford to have strict O/D, which is one reason I suspect that the women don't platoon as strictly (although they're hurting themselves if they don't do it some).

I think the optimal roster size might indeed be 17-19, if they're all healthy and can attend and play at every practice. With a larger roster, you play the 25th best guy instead of the 17th best guy or the 7th best guy some of the time, and you probably sacrifice more in quality than you get back in freshness. The best size depends on how sharp the dropoff is, what level of competition the team will face, how healthy everyone is, how much duplication of talent there is, etc.

Miriam said...

I was determined to implement "platooning" this past season on the UMich women's team. Martha (my co-coach) and I had some long talks about it with Ricky (of BAT and MagnUM coach). We thought we had a good grip on how to implement it. We were also blessed with a very deep team this year so we did not have drop-off issues.

In the end, we mostly scrapped it for a couple of reasons-

1) In women's college ultimate (and to a certain extent in the club game even at the highest levels), there are still a decent number of turnovers. Enough so that after a while, many points are not strictly O or D anymore. Specialization just isn't useful.

2) The players didn't like it. They didn't like being in for a point and then being subbed wholesale. They had a hard time turning their game on and off so often. They didn't like being defined (confined?) as O or D players. It was especially painful in strong upwind/downwind games. The O line had monster long points going upwind but would inevitably have an unlucky turn and get scored on. Even though I told them they did very well, not scoring was hurting their confidence.

We ended up with a sort of hybrid system. We have certain handler combinations that we like together and in certain conditions. And same with the receiver combos. And we had certain lines that we would put in for particular D schemes- person or zone. And we would definitely leave lines in for a good number of points so that they could establish their flow and, when applicable, play both upwind and downwind. We started scoring a lot more upwinders.

In retrospect, I also think it's a good thing when developing new players to not limit them immediately. I've seen so many player development trajectories that I never could have predicted. Maybe my predictive skills are very bad. But I'd like to think that given a freer environment with more opportunites, you end up creating a more complete player.

Anyway, I realize that the original poster was asking about the history of such strategy in the open elite game and so this is rather off topic. It's more of counter example showing that what works well for one group may need to be modified before it can work for another group.

Anonymous said...

To follow up on Miriam's post, but from a college open perpective:

The amount of platooning depends on the team you have in any given season. If you have a deep team with players who have well-defined skill sets, you will have O/D teams. If you have a team that is more top-heavy, you'll have more players playing both ways.

My biggest thing is that I don't like having my offensive handlers play both ways. In a big game, they'll be playing more points, and if they're tired, the offense just wilts. If they stay fresh, the disc doesn't stop moving. We NEED to score easy offensive points. If they just busted their asses for a long d-point, we may need to waste a TO.

And, in college open, just like in women's college, there are likely going to be 2-3 two-way players on most (all?) teams. Not to say they play every point, but that they play 3 out of 4 or so.

"In college, everyone can play defense."

gcooke said...

Continuing with the college theme.

I haven't seen many women's college teams that can platoon. I coach Wellesley College, and I just don't have the depth to platoon. In fact, I had trouble in that I needed to run my D line with 3 handlers too much of the time. I tried some 2 thrower/5 runner D lines, but they would struggle against zone if they got the turn. We started working on a 2 handler zone set so that we could run a 2 handler D line.

We lost a top Amherst high prospect to our waitlist, and she decided to go to......UMich! So, Miriam, enjoy working with Emily will not want to sit her often!


aj said...

I guess the impetus of the post was that I've been thinking about instituting it with the Emory women this year.

In the past, we definitely have not had the depth to do it and honestly I’m not sure that we’ll have the depth to run full O and D teams this coming year either. That being said, I still think I’m going to give it a try. I think it could be a painful transition initially, but in the long term I think it actually builds depth because we’re going to be putting more players in positions where they have to contribute in order for us to succeed. I still have a relatively young team (of my 15 returners, 14 of them will return again the year after next) and I am hopeful that any growing pains this next year will be rewarded with increased depth in future years. I guess in my mind, mass platooning is just a superior strategy and it seems like the first teams to do it will have an advantage while other teams scramble to catch up. It’s also possible that the number of turnovers in the college women’s game make the strategy less sound – if you’re going to score an equal number of your points on offense and defense it doesn’t make much sense to make your d team twice as big as your O team. The stats I have from our games, still suggest that the receiving team scores a higher percentage than the pulling team. Perhaps the O/D split goes hand in hand with a possession offensive based strategy? Anyway, we’ll see how it goes – if I get fired I’ll be sure to let you guys know.

gcooke said...

"Perhaps the O/D split goes hand in hand with a possession offensive based strategy?"

Interesting. I am really rpoud of the way my girls (again, Wellesley) are adamant in wanting to develop a possession based O, and not huck and play D. I do agree with AJ that if my team were to develop more confidence in their ability to maintain possession that there would be more opportunities to platoon.

We are like Emory in that we are in year two of rebuilding, and I have to say that it was great to have a few players develop skills like accurate long throws and backhand break marks. This to me had a great impact on our options and ability to maintain possession.

Miriam said...

Hi George-

We are indeed excited that Emily is coming to Michigan. She visited this past Spring.


Julia said...

Are you talking about Ebay? Emily Beecher? Wow. That's more than a pick-up. After seeing her play with Amherst this spring (I helped with the Paideia girls), I would put her on my club women's team.

Julia said...

I'm sorry. That wasn't very "blogging" of me, so I'm going to change to the topic at hand, which is something that I have wrestled with: whether a women's club team should implement O and D teams (at least to a small degree). I don't know whether some of the bigger names in women's club (Fury, Godiva, Riot) do it. It's never really on my mind when we are playing one of those teams, but maybe I should pay attention.
I think a team like Ozone could do well with it (at least on a small scale), like certain handlers only in on O to preserve them for making good decisions and ready for quick movements on the field. Would it kill the confidence of newer, less experienced players if they were relegated to the D team until they become more comfortable on the club scene? All of this has started me thinking....