Monday, June 20, 2005

QotW: Why do you play Mixed?

In response to AJ's post about coed I thought I'd ask our mixed readers out there why they've chosen to play mixed. There has been a lot of speculation about players who can't make elite open or women's teams playing mixed for a shot at Nationals, etc. I certainly think there is some merit to that argument. I think, down here in Atlanta, that a lot of young players who want to get better are playing mixed for the experience, to get better and one day play open or womens.

Personally, I prefer mixed to open. Maybe it's because I started playing Ultimate in leagues rather than at college. It's always been more comfortable for me. I also tend to see open as more, "I'm faster and can jump higher so I win," where I feel mixed encourages more strategy. The level of competition factors does probably factor in for me though. I could probably make Chain if that were my goal, but I'd never have the role I have on Rival. Perhaps I'm settling, but I'm happy and still motivated enough to work hard trying to get better.

So, why do you play mixed?


Tarr said...

Four seperate points:

1) Interesting thought about learning in league vs. learning in college. I do see mixed as having some strategic elements (especially on offense) that open lacks, but it also lacks some strategic options that open has (espeically on defense). I would also add that anyone familiar with Hang time would have a hard time arguing that open has a stranglehold on the "jump higher = wins" style of play. Heck, you could say the same about Chad Larson.

2) You should remember that it's only in ultimate hotbeds like Atlanta that you can easily make a choice about Open vs. Mixed. Here in West Lafayette, I've made choices each fall based heavily on what those around me were doing.

3) When I move out to Colorado shortly, I will probably try to stick with Bad Larry (assuming they will consider a late pickup). Now, I'm confident I'd have a lot of fun playing with those guys. But I'd be lying if I denied that I saw them as my best chance to play in Sarasota. If I thought I could make Bravo despite missing the regular tryouts, I'd probably be trying to play with them.

4) Maybe you and I (and AJ, and Martin, et cetera) are the wrong people to ask. The people I really wonder about are the women. I've said more than one "Of course I don't mind playing mixed - I'm a guy." Frankly, a lot of mixed play doesn't seem very fun for the women. At Poultry Days, I saw some of the players I coached at Purdue (players who would probably make all but maybe three women's teams in the country) get ignored for points at a time. A male player of their level would never have to deal with that.

Bill said...

Thanks for bringing this up Wood. I made the switch to Co-ed after I moved to Atlanta from Boston. And after my third surgery brought on by Ultimate in two years. That was a big part of my playing Co-Ed.

I found that a number of the players I'd play against in Open Tournaments had a bad combination of aggressive behavior/poor body control. This was leading to more injuries than I liked. Co-ed still has this behavior, but not to the extent that Open does. Since I started playing Co-ed pretty exclusively, I haven't suffered any major injuries. And with where I am now in my playing career, that's pretty important to me. Just trying to avoid more Rehab.

Just a note on the above; I don't mind the aggressive behavior at all, it's much more the body control issue. A lot of the 2nd/3rd tier Open Teams seemed to encourage the aggressive behavior without teaching the body control.

Apart from that, Wood's other post covers my other reasons pretty well.

Tarr - Have you gotten in touch with the Bad Larry Captains yet? If not, let me know. I can put you in touch with the right people.

bill_burke73 at

wood said...

I've been fighting the women in mixed stereotype for a while now. I think many mixed teams do just what you suggest, tend to ignore their women. I don't think it's necessary though. On Rival we've always tried to involve all the players on the field. I think it's easy to say, our best guys are more athletic than our best women so we should use our guys more. You've got to look at the matchups though. A lot of offensive strategy in mixed is involving the players with the best matchups, not just the guys. I think it's important that a team be balanced enough to take advantage of whatever matchups warrant.

Still, recruiting women is tough. We've generally had to take less experienced women and coach them up. I think we work on improving individual players a lot more than other teams. Often, these players will move on to women's, but occasionally we hook a few who stick around because they truly enjoy playing mixed.

Lauren said...

I can give you a female perspective, although these are just my own feelings, definitely can't say I represent all women.
I've played coed the last three years and have enjoyed it. Although I will admit that I do enjoy the actual on the field play of women's over coed. Guys looking off girls is always a problem no matter how hard a team tries to avoid it, and it's just a fact that I can not make as big a difference on the field as a man.
So obviously there are other factors that keep me in coed. One being not making ozone when i tried out, although even if I were to of made it, I probably couldn't of afforded it. Coed definitely has more of a fun party atmosphere which is more what I'm looking for these days.
So that's why I play coed...not to mention Wood, he's very convincing.

wood said...

I think it's interesting that you think there are less strategic options on defense in mixed. I think zones can be a lot more effective in mixed than open. Zone to man is tough, and it's harder to switch, but we run a variety of different zones.

Jon said...

I'm often tempted to play open because I know the higher level of competition would probably make me a better player. However, I've always stuck with mixed, because in all my experiences the spirit in open has been pretty dreadful. Repeated fouling on the mark, automatically contesting every call, etc. Not that there aren't these kind of people in mixed (they particularly come out at pick-up touneys like Mars) but it's less prevalent by far.

Katie said...

I'll try to give you another woman's perspective. First off, some background. I just finished my 4th year of college ultimate, so I've played plenty of ultimate with just women. I'm 5'10" so I have a good chance of being one of the tallest people on the field in a women's game, but in a coed game, there will be a gazillion people who are taller than me. So perhaps it's a little odd that I play mixed.

I feel like my team does a really good job of throwing to the women. Maybe they even throw to the women too much. Some of the guys who haven't been playing coed long enough haven't really learned that you have to be extra careful about throwing deep to a woman, and you have to make sure that there isn't a guy anywhere near who could get a poach D, because the guy on D will be a lot faster than the woman.

I feel like we definitely try to punish teams that don't use their women, and I think there are plenty of good strategies that should prevent teams from doing really well without using their women in the future.

I have definitely had unfortunate experiences in coed with the kind of poor body control Bill observed in open. The problem in coed is often that a guy sees his female teammate getting schooled, and decides he can zoom in from far away and get a poach D, but he's coming at an odd angle, really fast, and he didn't see it soon enough to get a clean D. And so he destroys the woman who was getting open. The size and speed make the collision a little worse, but the big problem is the angle of the collision, caused by a poaching situation that probably wouldn't come up in open or women's.

A lot of why I play mixed is just by chance, of having found a team that I like in mixed before tryouts began for the women's team that I had expected to play on. But the fact that the local open scene got all mixed up so that my husband joined the mixed team as well is incentive to stay.

I do have to admit that another reason I joined mixed is that I always have some lingering injury from the college season that hinders becoming as fast as I expect I should for a women's team, but I don't feel that pressure in coed. I assume that if I played for a more realistic nationals contender, I would feel more of that kind of pressure.

Anonymous said...

Another female perspective: I've also just finished playing 4 years on a college team, only I played on an open team rather than a women's team. Having learned to play ultimate with a bunch of guys, I enjoy the deeper, more athletic, male-dominated mixed game. I do occasionally play women's ultimate, and I've found my height and cutting ability to be big advantages, but that my throws are not as precise as they probably need to be for that style of play.

There are definite advantages to playing each. I don't know if I would say that one is more difficult than the other, that really depends more on the level of the teams you're competing against. It has more to do with two different styles of play.

But I'm sure some women prefer coed in order to play on a team with their significant other or avoid the potential cattiness that can result from being on a team full of women.

Alex de Frondeville said...

I think the idea about mixed having more strategy is a canard. What mixed has is far more limitations on what can be accomplished with the available personnel. It requires more thought to work within these limitations, but I don't call this more strategy. The Open division can do things that mixed can't because of the skills, talent and athleticism and I think THIS opens up new levels of strategy.

Tarr said...

Defending myself from both sides of the aisle. Wood first:

I guess the way I think about it is that the main additional strategic element in mixed offesnsive play is preventing the male-on-female poach, and exploiting the female-on-male non-switch. I think this problem forces you to think critically about your offensive structure in an effort to turn this into an advantage as oppose to a disadvantage. Teams that are smart about this can crush more talented teams that jus line up in a stack and ignore their women.

Defensively, this also makes you think about what you can run, but mainly I think it limits your options. I think it's very difficult to run spead, clammy zones in mixed (at least if a team has competent women) because without a cup in the way it's too easy to find and exploit cross-gender matchups.

Tarr said...

And now on to the count -

Alex, I'm not sure how you're defining strategy here. Strategy, to me, is finding the approaches that make your team successful. I think that mixed presents a whole host of issues that open and women don't have, which make for interesting (to me) strategic questions that should be dealt with.

Granted, most of these issues have to do with the enormous athletic range on the field. Maybe you don't like the aesthetics of this, maybe you don't find it to be an interesting strategic question, or maybe you don't like the sort of ultimate that results from the current prevailing strategies. But saying that these additional strategic issues don't exist seems silly.

Jim (or was it you?) seemed pretty proud of the "Tea Cup" strategy for summer league. This is a good example of mixed-specific strategic innovation. I don't think this sort of strategy would be effective at the current levels of club mixed, but that's not really the point. (Although that arguably was the point in my reply to Wood.)

If I extend your argument that strategic depth stems from having fewer "limitations on what can be accomplished with the available personnel", would the logical corrolary be that women's has still less strategy than mixed?

heacox said...

Lauren mentions something that I think has haunted the Atlanta scene for the past several years--when players don't make the top team, it is often more appealing to go play with the ladies (or the fellas), especially if that team can score a bid to the Big Dance, rather than languish on some second-tier team.

Anonymous said...

Hey y'all, it's Katrina. Sorry this post is coming a little late. I've had all kinds of thoughts about co-ed. As a female player and competitive person, I hate a lot of things about it. I hate knowing that worse players than me can dominate me because they have 100 pounds on me. I hate when I feel like I have to back down not because I'm afraid of contact, but because I'm afraid of getting pulverised. I hate that I have to depend on my guy teammates to create space for me so that they're defenders don't make me look like a fool. So, why did I play so much co-ed? Well, I first came out because i didn't have the confidence to try out for women's teams when I wanted to play club. I came out for co-ed tryouts becuase they "need" women. When the second year came around, it wasn't a hard decision to choose my co-ed team again. even after my concussion. strangely, something became more important than my ego as a player during that first club season. overall, i enjoyed playing ultimate on that co-ed team. i liked the leadership. when i compared teams, i liked the leadership style on the co-ed team better than the style i heard about on the women's teams. i thought the leadership style on this co-ed team thought much more about strategy that tried to include all teammates with very different skills. i learned a ton about ultimate, improved as a player, and truly enjoyed my experience on Rival. But, I will not be living in Atlanta again anytime soon, so I doubt that I will play club co-ed again. As more of a runner than a thrower, I look forward to someday playing with women where I feel like a stronger factor on the field. Overall, I learned a ton about defense on co-ed and improved immensely, but for me, I don't think I can improve offensively until I play womens. last thought- i'm a pistons fan. regardless of gender, i believe in team playing, both offense and defense. i will continue to choose leadership styles that believe this.

Gainesville sucks said...

I play coed because I am old and have a kid. Oh yeah..apparently I do not like losing to Chain and Doublewide anymore.

PS. I saw the Count playing masters in Boston.

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Chad said...

I agree with Play Coed is excellent and I play because of them!