Friday, July 29, 2005

Mail Bag - Blister Prevention

Today's installment of Mail bag comes from Jason Becker, coach of Francis Howell High School's Seven Sages Ultimate in St. Charles, Missouri.

Jason writes:

I have a question that I'd like to see addressed on the blog, although it doesn't specifically pertain to coaching, really.

I've heard lots of tricks and tactics that players use to avoid turning their feet to hamburger during hot summer tournaments. Everything from careful boot selection to a coat of Vaseline has been advanced--but what really works? As someone who is sick of sitting around for a week after tournaments, waiting for my poor little feet to heal, I'd really like to know how people deal with this annoyance.

Thanks for the blog. It's a fantastic resource for coaches in a sport with very little to go on (as of yet).

It is always nice to hear we are reaching the community, Jason. Now, on to your question.

Foot care, like sun protection, is an underrated part of tournament preparation. While the right footware is a topic worthy of its own discussion, there are many other things one can do to prevent blisters over the course of a grueling weekend of ultimate.

In high school, when I was doing six-mile cross-country training runs in the middle of the Atlanta summer, I would often develop blisters between my toes. My father, a long time runner himself, suggested I use Vaseline to reduce the friction on my feet, and it has never let me down for running or for ultimate. Before cleating up, I apply the Vaseline to all sides of my toes, the ball of the foot and around the heel. In addition, a little Vaseline is often more effective than a tape or bandage if you feel a blister coming on, because it won't come off when cutting or create additional friction in a new area.

Wearing proper socks, along with changing them regularly, will also aid in blister prevention. I prefer using Thorlo brand, specifically those made for tennis, as they have a lot of padding in the front of the foot that helps with the friction created by ultimate's footwork and cutting movements. Additionally, I often choose to wear a thin pair of liner-type socks underneath my thicker main socks (something I ported from playing soccer). While not only providing more cushion, this technique can also lead to a more secure boot fit which will prevent the foot from slipping inside the cleat, another problem that leads to blisters.

Changing your socks before every game can also help. A clean, dry pair of socks will go a long way towards avoiding the damp conditions that often cause blisters. If I am beginning play early in the day when the grass is still wet, I will also change my socks (and sometimes my cleats) in between warming-up and playing.

Some players will use a product such as Gold Bond Medicated Power to combat the potential dampness within their socks and shoes.

Finally, your blisters may be caused by a lack of padding and support in the cleats themselves. If your cleat has a flimsy insole, or one that has broken down over time, you may want to look into purchasing a pair of athletic insoles (I use those manufactured by Sof Sole) and fitting them into your boots. Athletic insloes can also improve cleat fit.

Jason, I hope I have touched on enough different methods of blister prevention here that you will be able to find one that works for you. Thanks for the question! I look forward to hearing comments from other visitors about what they have done as well.

Monday, July 25, 2005

College Divisions: Div II Nationals - Expansion of QotW

Chimpo's Question of the Week has sparked a discussion on the implementation of a 2nd College Nationals. Where does the line get drawn? Are teams in a second division in that division there the whole year or is it only determined after sectionals/regionals? Are teams allowed to move up or down at will? Will a 2nd Nationals even work? The previous thread is about whether divisions are necessary due to the expansion of the college division, so rather than redirect the conversation of that thread, we can use this thread to discuss how a 2nd Nationals would have to work.

Recent comments by Dusty, Heacox, and Jim Palmer have talked about making a 2nd (Div II) Nationals and having the splot occur at that point rather than at the beginning of the season. Palmer and Dusty have made good points about how the split could occur right after regionals to allow teams that didn't make nationals to still get good competition and continue their season. Heacox pointed out that tournaments like that have existed in the past and have failed because of a lack of attendance.

It seems to me like what has been put forth is kind of like an NIT tournament, where a good finishing at regionals but failure to make nationals gets you an invitation. Extra invitations can be extended as needed to get a full field of teams. The difficulty of that system is travel and interest. UPA College Nationals happens too late in the year, and a 2nd "less important" Div II tournament would certainly be less likely to get teams if it were that late. College Nationals is 3 weeks after the last regionals, maybe if it was two weeks instead it would be easier to get interest because we would be past the last days of school (Dusty, care to comment on the timing of Nationals and the end of school dates, it has been a while since some of us have been in college?).

Another issue is travel. It is a lot to ask the loser of a nasty 2/3 game in New England to hop a plane to California to play in another tournament. While this will probably lead to them declining the bid (which opens a bid up for another team), wouldn't they be more likely to go if the tournament was closer to home, say in Maryland or Virginia? But then what about the teams from the west coast? A 2nd Invitation-only nationals will (like Heacox said) have poor nationwide attendance because of the burden on distant teams (like HS Nationals was for a while, or maybe still is).

Perhaps an alternate solution is to have multiple tournaments. 4 lets say. Each tournament caters to two regions, taking the next 12-16 teams from the regionals of those two regions. This allows for more cross-regional play against good, but apparently not the best of teams. In order to prevent over-repeating matchups you could even switch the pairings of the regionals yearly in order to expose more teams to each other. Although this isn't really another nationals (more like a super-regional), hopefully having it quickly after regionals, and always somewhat closer to the participating schools would increase attendance.

I'm sure there are lots of problems with this idea, and probably lots of better ideas so have at it people.


Friday, July 22, 2005

QoTW: College Divisions

Today’s Question of the Week comes from Johnny Chimpo of Atlanta who writes:
i have a question for you and your bloggers:

Do you think it would be beneficial to create two or more divisions for college ultimate? As noted in an earlier post (the one about eligibility), smaller schools and private schools have a much harder time competing with large public schools or private schools with a well established reputations. Do you take the risk of less competition and divide the college game into two divisions? Three divisions? For both men and women?

I know this has been discussed before, but at what point do we create the divisions.

As I mentioned in the post you referred to, I think it’s just a matter of time before ultimate goes to multiple divisions. I think the question of whenexactly to go to multiple divisions is interesting. I also wonder how it would be implemented – in other words, do you just let teams play in whatever division they want to?

Some quick googling shows that only a few NCAA sports have all of their teams compete in the same division (I think just fencing, rifle, and skiing). Those sports have considerably fewer teams than ultimate (between 30-50).

Rugby is probably a better example, since it is also outside of the NCAA. Here is a link to their eligibility guidelines. They have two college divisions and three club divisions. From my quick reading, I think teams can choose which division they want to play in. It seems like a team can move from division to division from year to year, but I don’t see anything specific so I wouldn’t swear to it. A somewhat interesting sidenote here is that rugby also allows college players five years of eligibility – maybe this is where we got the idea?

Anyway, fun question. Anyone have any thoughts about this? Should we just leave all the teams together in the same division in the hopes of the Hoosiers scenario?

Thursday, July 21, 2005


First, a site note – thanks to everyone who has been emailing me questions and comments – no, I haven’t forgotten about you, I’m just lazy. I’ve received a lot of great stuff and I’d like to take the time to give it justice…so…yeah, I’ll get around to posting all of it on the site eventually. Sorry about the delay.

On a totally unrelated note, I was reading over on Parinella’s site about ultimate variants, and it reminded me of a game that we use to play when I was in college called Insultimate. I don’t think it actually teaches anything valuable but it is usually pretty amusing. As with most things, irresponsible consumption of adult beverages makes the game both more entertaining and more dangerous.

Field set up: Basically you have a scoring box and a clearing box about 20-30 yards apart, depending on how much you feel like running (shorter is usually better).

Basic Rules:
1) Five second stall count
2) Make it take it

Teams: The game is played with 3 teams of between 2-4 people. One team is on offense and two teams are on defense.

Object: The object of the game is for the offensive team to work the disc into the scoring zone against the two defensive teams.

The Insult: The game derives its name from the fact that if 2 defensive teams are unable to stop a single offensive team, they really deserve be insulted. After every goal, the defensive team starts the “insult stall count.” The scoring player has 10 seconds to insult one or all of the players on the field. There are two rules governing the insults: 1) the same insult can’t be used twice in the same game. 2) “you suck” is incredibly unoriginal and is not considered a legal insult. If a player (1) gets stalled without insulting, (2) repeats an insult, or (3) says “you suck” the disc is turned over.

Change of Possession: Following a turnover, the two defensive teams race to pick the disc up first. The offensive team is not allowed to pick-up the disc.

I’m sure I’m forgetting some of the rules, but that’s most of it.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Crunch! 1999

This was inspired by Jim's post inquiringing about Mixed strategy (

In 1999 Crunch!, the Atlanta mixed team I played with, qualified for Jockey UPA Nationals and finished 8th overall (ironically losing to Holes & Poles in the placement game) on the strength of our spread offense, our junk defenses and picking the games we wanted to win.

Hale Brown was the mind behind implementing these strategies. On both offense and defense, the position you played was often determined by your sex. In the spread O, a woman would always catch the pull (usually Jen Christianson) and feed it to the middle handler (usually Hale), who would then look to get the disc to one of our top men who was playing the down field center. The play was either have the center come back to the disc and then throw the score to one of the women playing a deep wing (usually Beth Ann Hanson), or just have Hale huck it to the guy playing center because there was not a concern about poaches from the female defenders.

On defense I remember the two junk D sets we used most often. One involved putting women on one or two of the other team's best male handlers. One of our men played deep to take away the huck while the women concentrated on making the cut back to the disc difficult. We generally marked up on the three best handlers our opponents had while the remaining four players played zone. The idea was to get a poach turnover after the disc got into the hands of a weaker thrower.

The other D was a vice where you were always in one of four spots if you were a guy and three if you were a girl. The was a man as all-time mark forcing into a woman (essentially a two person cup), one man playing deep, another woman playing somewhat deep on the break side (the "hammer stopper"), and the remaing two men and one woman playing for the underneath cut to the force side.

All of this, while not revolutionary, was effective in the mixed division's second year. The final component of our success was winning the games that mattered. I believe we were pretty honest about other teams having better overall players than we did, and while I wouldn't say we threw any games, we defintely opend up the rotation in the second half of a lot of matches (or reined it in tight if the game was closer than expected), especially at Nationals. Hale, being format-inclined, always knew what games were crucial wins in order to advance as far as possible. I remember that somehow we lost to Trigger Hippy, Red Fish Blue Fish and Blind Date (from Boston) and still ended up in the quarter finals on Saturday (losing to eventualy champs Raleigh Llamas), while I don't remember any team we beat those three days.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Mail Bag - Where to put your Stud

Today's reader mail comes from Seigs in Hanover, who writes:

My question really only applies to the men's college game. Here it goes: Is it better for your best all around player to cut or handle? Say you have one guy with the full toolbox--breaks, hucks, solid field sense--but he is also one of the best guys on the team when it comes to shaking his man downfield. Is it more effective to have a guy like this run the offense from the handler position or consistently get the disc for 20 yard gains?

I think this is an interesting question and I'm not sure that I have the best answer. I expect that this is a fairly common dilemma for college teams though, so hopefully some of our readers will post about how they've addressed it.

I think the answer is going to depend on a few things. First - what is your best player best at? All things being equal it makes sense to let people do what they're best at. Second - what is the supporting cast best at? If the supporting cast is heavily skewed either towards cutters or throwers it probably makes sense to have your stud help out in the area that you're weakest in.

Without knowing the answer to these questions, if you have one guy who is clearly your best thrower and your best cutter, you want to be getting him the disc a lot. But don't let him be lazy and just catch dump passes. Push him downfield, but encourage him to come back to the disc and bail out the offense if it's in trouble. If you feel like your non stud players are handlers who can throw decent medium range bombs, but don't really have great breaks, I think it might be time to break out some sort of spread/h-stack. Put your stud downfield where he can easily go to the house or come back underneath.

Anyway, I know this isn't the most thorough answer, sorry - good question though. I'm interested to hear how other people have dealt with this situation.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

QoTW - Kick or Receive

Assuming wind is not a factor – what do you prefer to do when you win the flip – kick or receive? Traditionally, I’ve been a fan of taking the ball. I’ve always thought of winning the flip and playing D as something college teams did. However, last year at Nationals (no wind) I think every team that won the flip against me selected to play D first. Anybody have any thoughts on this?