Tuesday, August 30, 2005

0 for three 4

So Chain went up to the Chesapeake Open this weekend. As expected we lost in the finals 15-14 to Ring. We definitely had some chances to take control of the game, but we didn’t really capitalize. Games against Ring really seem different to me than games against other teams. They’re just SO physical, I generally feel like I’ve been beaten up after I’m done playing them.

Anyway, all and all it was a decent weekend for us. We finally got the DoG off of our backs, absolutely crushing them, 15-14, in the final game of pool play. They were missing a few key players – unfortunately the absence of both Jim and Alex really cuts down on the potential cross blog schmack talk. I fully expect to read about it if they should get some revenge this weekend in Santa Cruz. Come to think of it, I haven’t had a lot of success against the other members of the frisbee blog world. Lukegot the better of us several times back in his Sockeye days, andIdris and Jam worked us over a few times as well. Thankfully, we were able to sneak past Zaz and Machine this weekend, which is good because it’s important to keep these upstart bloggers in their place.

Random Thoughts/Notes on the Weekend

*It’s kind of depressing to see former Chain players being big factors on other teams – Barrett (DoG), Brooks (Ring), Joel (Pike), Timmy (Machine), were all there this weekend – come back to Atlanta!
*When you stop doing something a lot you stop being good at it – I swear I used to be able to jump and play respectable defense – a summer league wasted playing dump has ruined my usual practice jumping for garbage passes, and two seasons of offense has me thinking “there’s always next point” when we turn it over.
*When we signed up for the Chesapeake Open we were promised “the sweetest fields on the East Coast.” The fields were something other than sweet, but the tournament was fine because there was plenty of water and the format wasn’t crazy. That’s really all I ask for in a tourney – water and a reasonable format.

Random Thoughts/Notes on the Blog
*You sent me a question – I haven’t answered it – sorry, I’m lazy…I’ll get around to it eventually. Some of these questions are pretty damned involved. I’m not sure I feel qualified to answer them. Of course that won’t stop me from making something up…I’m just saying.
*Wood – where have you gone? Come back and post again.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Expect More Get More

Colleges are just starting to open up again which means frisbee practice is starting up again. I’m always a little torn at the beginning of each season. On the one hand I want to push the ladies to work so they can improve, but I’m always afraid of scaring off the new players. Here are some random thoughts about player retention.

One of my coaching mottos, stolen from Pete Carrill’s book The Smart Take from the Strong, is expect more get more. Carrill’s idea is that a coach should never allow a player to get complacent. We as coaches should continue to present new challenges for our players. Obviously, we need to be realistic with this - it’s not going to be helpful for us to make demands on a player that they can never achieve. But we want to always be pushing our players. I’ve had players tell me that I’m never satisfied with the way they play. I tell them that I’ll be satisfied when they’ve reached their maximum potential as a player – of course seeing as they’ve only played at most five years, they’ll probably reach this maximum potential long after they’re playing on my team. Last year, in appreciation of my approach to coaching, the ladies got me this book, which I think really sums up the amount of respect I get – but I digress.

In any event, it’s perhaps counterintuitive, but I actually think that starting the season with a serious attitude actually leads to higher player retention. When you think about what kind of people we’re trying to attract I think it makes more sense. The players who are going to be most successful are the players who are most interested in working hard. When we start off the season by just goofing off and trying to make sure everyone is having a good time we actually run off these types of people. Last year, I had a girl who had played field hockey her whole life quit the club field hockey team to play ultimate. The reason she gave was that they just weren’t hardcore enough. If we start the season with the attitude that we take what we do seriously we will attract the more serious people. Anyway, I’ll probably have run all the new players off by week two, but we’ll see how it goes.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Team USA Interview--Mike Namkung

Mike has spent the majority of his decade-long club ultimate career playing for the Santa Barbara Condors. In addition to his extensive ultimate experience as a player and captain, he has coached youth ultimate for several years, which has included teaching ultimate clinics in Mexico and Cameroon. He is himself an artist who teaches language and visual arts in California.

How do you bring together some of the best players from all over the country into a cohesive team? Was team-building (as opposed to skill work) a major focus of the practice sessions? What did you learn from the Atlanta and Seattle teams you played against?

Ted did have us play a lot of monarch. But mostly we did skill work and scrimmaging at practices. It was not an official thing, but we did like each other and we partied together every time we got together—that helped bring the team together quite a bit. Playing Atlanta and Seattle teams mostly exposed what we needed to work on in terms of strategy and approach to competition. Nothing too specific, though.

What’s “monarch?” Miranda mentioned this as well.

Monarch is a game played with one, two or three soft cloth discs in an ultimate field end zone. It's basically a big game of tag. the boundaries of the game are the lines of the end zone. One person starts as "It." Just for the first tag, that person can run with the disc. When he hits someone else with it, now those two people are both It. They must pass the disc back and forth (no running with the disc) and work together to tag more people with it. If you are hit with the disc, or go out of bounds trying to avoid being hit, you join those who are It. Basically, the goal is the be the last person to elude the growing ranks of the Its. That person is the monarch, and if you play another game, she starts as It. Ted would always throw in a second (and sometimes a third) disc once there are lots of Its--then the game starts moving fast and you have to keep your eyes open for more than one attack. Good fun. We would play monarch a lot instead of doing drills to warm up for games.

How did Poultry Days and Potlatch help you all prepare for the World Games? What were the differences in the game you all played against Canada at Potlatch and the one you all played against them in Germany?

Of course [Poultry Days and Potlatch] helped us practice playing together in a tournament format. At Poultry Days no one really challenged us, so that tourney was more about us playing together and getting to know each other on the field better. Potlatch had a much higher level of teams, so we got to work more on adjusting to what other teams were, which was good practice for the World Games for sure. I don’t think there was much of a difference between our two games against Canada. If anything, playing them at Potlatch gave us confidence that we could beat them in Germany.

What were the strengths of the other teams at the World Games? What was Team USA's "edge" over the other invited teams? What was playing with such a small roster like? What made Australia so competitive? How did you all, as a team, approach their unexpected performance?

Our edge over other teams was our cohesiveness. We played as a team (used all of our men and women effectively) better than most other teams. I got the sense that all other teams were a little male dominated. Australia was the best at using women on the field, which is always the big challenge, cause there are fewer of them on the field, and guys tend to cut off women in coed because they play a much faster game. But even Australia ran their offense through their men mostly. We were the only team there that ran our offense through a woman handler (Deb). All other teams had their women almost exclusively downfield it seemed. Australia was good because they were composed of outstanding players, and they used all of their players effectively. And they were big. Four of their men must’ve been over 6’4” and their women were tall too. I wouldn’t say Australia’s performance was unexpected at all. Their men and women both did well at Worlds in Finland last year, and we expected them to bring it to us. So how we approached them was like how we approached all other teams—play our game and make strategic adjustments to counteract what they did well.

How was playing mixed ultimate at this level different than playing open? Did you all find yourselves employing different strategies and tactics than in the single-sex games? What was the spirit like at this level of competition? How did it compare to UPA Nationals or Worlds?

As I said, the biggest challenge with our team was that men and women move at different speeds—so it was a constant challenge to get our timing right when men threw to women or vice versa. It required a much greater awareness of how everyone was moving on the field. We tried using strategies that would help us with this, but in the end I don’t think we were doing anything drastically different from our single-sex games. being more aware of timing and spacing was the biggest thing.

Spirit at the World Games was great. Compared to Nationals or Worlds, it was a whole ‘nother world in terms of spirit. Very few arguments, and it seemed like much fewer calls, too.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Hall of Fame

Martin and I spent the better part of our drive back from High Point talking about the ultimate Hall of Fame. Ultimate provides some unique challenges when it comes to figuring out who deserves to be enshrined. Martin and I came up with three big reasons people get inducted into various Sport Halls of Fame: 1) Championships 2) Crazy Big Stats 3) Changed the way the game was played at a particular position/dominated his position for an era. We pretty much know who was on the various Championship teams, so I think it will be an easy argument to get the top players from those teams into the Hall. The question of how you justify putting players in the Hall who weren’t on those top teams is more problematic. At this point ultimate has virtually zero recorded stats. Individual teams keep stats, but you can’t really use those as justification – there’s a big problem with knowing how good the data is from team to team. Beyond that, I question how meaningful the stats we keep really are. In terms of dominating a position for an era – that’s also a tough one. Ultimate really only has two positions at this point – handler and cutter.

In Atlanta we could only come up with one man (there’s probably a few women) who seemed like an obvious Hall of Famer – Stu Downs (if you’re reading sorry to make you the poster boy Stuart). We ran into a problem when we started to come up with a really strong argument to justify what seemed like our common sense view that Stu belongs in the hall. 1) He’s never won a championship. (Begin aside – Stu was on the Keg Workers when they won worlds, but there’s the question of whether that should count or not. This is especially true if you want to make the eligibility rule something like “a player becomes eligible for the Hall of Fame beginning five years after his final season in open/women’s.” If the eligibility rules view Masters as a game akin to Tennis’s Legends series it seems weird to give a player credit for a championship in that division - end aside).. Of course, he was able to get to natties numerous times and that should definitely count for something. 2) We don’t have any stats. 3) Maybe you could say Stu dominated the game at a specific position. He’s still one of the best middle middles around.

Another question we had was – could a player be eligible for the Hall purely based on what he/she did in the mixed division?

Anyway kind of a fun topic, if anybody has any thought let’s hear them.

Team USA interview--Miranda Roth

Miranda Roth was originally selected as an alternate for Team USA in the 2005 World Games. When Kristen Unfried had to withdraw from the first team due to a knee injury requiring surgery, Miranda was selected by the team to replace her.

Miranda is a graduate of the renowned Paideia School ultimate program in Atlanta, received the Callahan Award in 2004 while playing for Carleton College and won the 2004 UPA Club Championships with Seattle Riot. In addition to coaching on the high school and college level, she volunteers for the Epilepsy Foundation Northwest and is better than Tom Rogacki at beer pong.

What was the team selection process? Were there tryouts?

We didn't have tryouts. I think the committee was watching us mostly at Club Nationals. They had mentioned that there might be tryouts, which I think there should have been, but they were never held.

What qualities did the selection committee emphasize?

I don't know about the selection committee. It was never really open info what they had judged us on. If I had to guess it would be something like spirit of the game, ability to work as part of a team, talent, athleticism and experience.

What effect did the roster limit have on who was selected?

I'm sure there were at least 30 people that could have made this team, especially considering there were 8 alternate spots. It was clear at all our practices that any of the alternates could have had a spot on the team, too. If I were to do it, I would have invited 30 people to a tryout, chosen 20 to practice together, then chosen the team and alternates later on in the process.

How was gender taken into account?

Well, there were 5 women on the team, 4 women alternates, 6 men on the team and 4 men alternates. Women did have a little bit easier time in terms of not having to play all the time, but there still weren't that many of us.

Practices--How do you bring together some of the best players from all over the country into a cohesive team?

We did a lot of scrimmaging at practices just so we could get as many reps as possible seeing where people liked to be and such. We still ended up with many awkward positioning things--like we really didn't have that many handlers or O players at all, but it worked out ok. I think playing monarch all the time helped, too.

Was team-building (as opposed to skill work) a major focus of the practice sessions?

Yeah, we definitely drank together at every opportunity. This was a huge part of team building in addition to the chalk talks, meetings and fun games we would have at practices. We also did a lot of [trash]-talking over email.

What did you learn from the Atlanta and Seattle teams you played against?

They sort of helped us get real with our playing. Chozone nearly beat us because we were playing like crap. We learned that we couldn't just walk through any game and expect to win because we were some all-star team. In Seattle, Rockeye was an easier game for us but it taught us how to play big in front of a crowd and put a game away when we had a lead.

Tournaments--How did Poultry Days and Potlatch help you all prepare for the World Games?

Poultry Days was very good in terms of team building (chicken dinners and getting drunk and nearly ending up in the lake, well one of our tents DID end up in the lake) and also respecting teams that weren't necessarily dangerous competition—lots of ambassador work. Potlatch was a good experience for lots of reasons. This team needed to lose at some point and luckily it happened at Potlatch instead of in Germany. It was a reality check that I wish hadn't had to happen, but I think it was for the best, though. Also at Potlatch we had a great game in the showcase against Canada but it was sweet to win that one.

What were the differences in the game you all played against Canada at Potlatch and the one you all played in Germany?

I think in Germany we came in with confidence and crushed whereas at Potlatch we were still unsure of ourselves and how we ranked against other national teams. We definitely were in Canada's collective head in Germany, which totally helped.

World Games--What were the strengths of the other teams?

Japan—quickness, very low throws.
Germany—spread offense.
Finland—solid women.
Canada—experience, spread offense.
Australia—height, talent, great throws, solid women.

What was Team USA's "edge" over the other invited teams?

I think the bottom of our roster was much better than the bottom of other teams rosters. And if you had taken the next 11 people from each country and had them played we would have killed everyone. Also, I think we had practiced and prepared a lot more than other teams.

What was playing with such a small roster like?

I think some individuals on our team had a very hard time with it. Some of our team is used to just playing O or D or being very specific role players. For me, it was actually fine because I had just come off the college season where I played almost every point.

What made Australia so competitive?

Their height was quite the obstacle. They had four guys as tall as Chase who could all jump. Not that our guys couldn't handle it—they did—but it was scary when you see Chase or Jeff get beat deep. They also had one very tall woman, Diana that was good and Sarah was amazing—she could run all day.

How did you all, as a team, approach their unexpected performance?

I think we were very lucky to have seen them play against Canada the first day. In this way we were able to take them seriously from the beginning and bring our best game. I think things might have been very different if we had seen them on day one.

How was playing mixed ultimate at this level different than playing women's?

It was actually a lot of fun. We did a lot of spread offense which I love and it was so great to be able to play with Chase, Zip and Bart especially. Chase, Zip and I have the Juniors ultimate disciplined cutting style and it is so easy to read off each other. Bart ("Lefty") has great throws and knows exactly how to time his throws to women. Sometimes it was a little stressful (at Poultry Days especially for some reason) to try to stay out of the way of huge guys on the other team.

Did you all find yourselves employing different strategies and tactics than in the single-sex games?

I think not many people had played spread offense before. We did that a ton and it worked really well for us. It is especially useful to set it up with a boy and a girl on each side so there can't be switches either way - seems like someone is always open. Plus we had big throwers that could throw basically whatever we cut for from the point position. We used some different plays, too, but nothing remarkable. We did a lot of transition defense that sometimes worked like a charm, but sometimes did not. It was tough to match up for gender on a transition.

What was the spirit like at this level of competition?


How did it compare to UPA Nationals or Worlds?

I think this was the most spirited tournament I’ve ever played in. Everyone was a little nervous having no referees in front of the Olympic officials, but they really weren't necessary. Really stellar spirit from everyone.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Team USA interview--Angela Lin

Angela Lin is a captain of Atlanta team Ozone and has been playing with them for nearly a decade. In 2001 she won a UPA College Championship with the University of Georgia, and was runner-up for that year's Callahan Award. In her spare time, she enjoys sleeping, the outdoors and reading 'Dragonlance' novels.

Angela was selected from the pool of 61 female applicants as an alternate for the USA 2005 World Games' team. She recently had the oppourtunity to share with Ultimate Strategy & Coaching about her experience.

What are your thoughts on the team selection process? What qualities did the selection committee emphasize? What effect did the World Games’ roster limit have on who was selected? How was gender taken into account?

So, there weren't really tryouts. The selection committee made all the choices prior to us all getting together for the first time (in March). It's kind of up for debate whether this as the best way to go. I think the UPA had intended there to be a tryout period but ran out of time. In some ways having the delineation between "starters" and "alternates" was good—as an alternate, you knew what you were getting into from the start. In other ways, of course, it could've also been beneficial to be able to pick 11 people out of the 19 after seeing everybody play together. Regardless, everybody handled what potentially could've been a weird situation with respect for each of our teammates and with the team in mind.

Practices--How do you bring together some of the best players from all over the country into a cohesive team? Was team-building (as opposed to skill work) a major focus of the practice sessions? What did you learn from the Atlanta and Seattle teams you played against?

For me, it was cool to get to play with so many awesome players. I think that we all respected one another from the start. There were definitely times when people differed in opinion on stuff (how plays should be run or whatever), but we worked it out. Practices were mostly for learning and working on plays, getting used to playing with our new teammates, running a lot, getting used to coed . . . so, more skill stuff than team bonding. Although any time you practice with a group of people for 7 or 8 hours a day over several weekends, you're bonding with them. And of course, after hours, there was much more team bonding to be had—eating, drinking, pole dancing, jumping in cold lakes, chicken dinners at Poultry Days, bringing it every night at Potlatch.

Stuff we learned from Chozone and Rockeye (aka Team Russia)--Chozone brought it strong against us in some windy conditions. They were the first team we'd played against together. They weren't afraid. I was proud of Atlanta. Rockeye, though missing several of their own players playing on Team USA, was certainly strong, and we knew we couldn't [mess] around. I think one of the important things we learned starting in Atlanta and kept emphasizing throughout was that we had to be smart and play our game against every opponent. High percentage completions, dictating on defense, play hard, have fun, be a team. the simple stuff . . . which sometimes isn't so simple.

Tournaments—How did Poultry Days and Potlatch help Team USA prepare for the World Games?

Besides playing against teams in Atlanta and Seattle, Poultry Days and Potlatch were the only times we got to play all together and not against each other in scrimmages. Poultry Days wasn't all that competitive, but gave us some good bonding time. Potlatch—a lot of bonding too, plus teams fired up to beat us. And the showcase game there was super fun. There were times when only the starters played, so they could get a feel for what it'd be like without us alternates mucking things up =). Tournaments are always invaluable for any team.

How was playing mixed ultimate at this level different than playing women's? Did you all find yourselves employing different strategies and tactics than in the single-sex games?

Definitely different than Women’s. Guys are just different to throw to, cut for, have on the field, etc. We had to make adjustments because it was mixed, but we didn't spend too much time at practice deliberating over whether a woman/man should play here, there, wherever. Not saying it wasn't a concern, just that we didn't really focus on it. In our spread (4 downfield cutters, 2 on each side), we usually put a man and a woman on each side. And in an hourglass spread, we sometimes sent only women (3) downfield with a guy as the center if we were dominating the other team's women. In the stack, I think we had tried strategically placing men/women in certain positions in the stack, but I don't think we ever really stuck with that sort of structure because it didn't end up mattering.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

0 for 3

So after losing to Ring 17-16 at the Furniture City Shootout, Chain is officially 0-3 in tourney finals this year. We lost primarily because I went with the unorthodox decision of throwing to a member of the opposing team at double game point. For all of those reading in hopes of picking up some ultimate strategy advice – I’d suggest using the more traditional approach of throwing to your team. This marks the second time in my career that I’ve made the double game point, tournament ending turnover. It’s a pretty terrible feeling. The first occurred at Poultry Days 2001. After throwing away the final pass and then proceeding to get scored on, I was hanging out with my team at the pool. This incredibly cute little kid comes up to me and tugs on my shorts. He looks up at me with these huge eyes and asks, “Mister, mister, why did you cost your team the tournament?” I look up to see my teammates laughing hysterically in the corner - they had bribed this kid to come and harass me. It’s good to know that when you’re feeling down you can always count on your teammates to stop at nothing to make you feel worse.

Anyway, all and all it was a pretty decent weekend for us. We were up to 17 able bodied players for Sunday, which seemed pretty luxurious compared to the 11 we’ve taken to the last two tourneys. We got to work on some stuff and the competition was pretty respectable – especially on Sunday (Potomac, BAT, Ring).

Random thoughts/notes from the weekend –
* The D team claims that they are no longer Chain Lightning, which now apparently consists of only the O team, but rather the Junkyard Dogs. The split seems to be amenable to the O team as well, who never cared for being associated with those ruffians.
* Seems like every defender (read raping marker) is arguing that the foul occurred before the throw and is bringing the disc back. I’m not sure what the answer is, but this rule is going to be the biggest argument generator until something is changed.
* I had a very strange foul called on me this weekend. I juked towards the disc and then turned to take my guy to the rack. My defender steps on my heel, trips and calls foul on me as I’m running away. First, he argues that if I had fallen down and the disc had gone up I would have called a foul on him. His next argument is that I was too close to him and that was the result of the contact. I tried to explain that as the offensive player, I’m actually trying to get away from the defense, not get really close…In the end we just had to agree to disagree.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

QoTW:Laying out – overrated?

Am I the only one that thinks that laying out is the most overrated skill in ultimate? I’m not saying that there is never a time to dive; I just think people put too much emphasis on it. Offensively, you’re always advantaged if you can run the disc down and stay on your feet – you can get a throw off much more easily, and there’s an additional difficulty in catching the disc when you fling yourself to the ground. Defensively, I think that most successful diving blocks come when the defender is running perpendicular to flight path of the disc (usually on a dump, off-man block, or a diving block in the zone). You don’t really see many good players have defenders dive past them when they’re cutting back to the disc. Gratuitous diving in this situation just leads to open hucks and breaks.

Anyway, that’s about all I got on this – any thoughts? Is diving super important?