Monday, November 06, 2006


So I began my college men’s coaching career this weekend at CCC. After a first round loss to Ohio State, Barrett informed me that the alumni were restless. One loss and the UGA alumni are already calling for my head – a slightly different scenario than when I started with the Emory women, a team that had never won a game at sectionals. In those days, I received congratulatory emails from the alumni following every tournament.

We have only had 1 week of practice and this weekend really made me realize just how different coaching here is going to be. At this point, I could insert some generic comments about how different it is coaching men instead of women. But really, the main difference is that I’m coming into an already established program with a lot of players that already know how to play. My last couple of years at Emory, every player on the team had learned almost all of what they knew about ultimate from me and the other coaches. They all had been trained since they started to play in the Emory system and it was therefore pretty easy to make adjustments during the game. As I tried to explain to Barrett after our first round loss – you can’t really blame me – it’s not my fault Stu can’t recruit. In all seriousness, it is going to be a substantial challenge to convert these players into doing things the way I think they should be done. There is also the question of whether it would be more prudent to just leave things as they are given the recent success of the program. Honestly, I don’t know – obviously my belief is that the way I do things is better otherwise that wouldn’t be the way I do things…but if the team crashes and burns this year I’ll deserve all of the blame.

In general, I was pretty pleased with the level of effort from the men this weekend. They really do play incredibly hard. I think if we can clean up the offense a little bit, we’re gonna be pretty darn good.

My general thoughts about the weekend – Wisconsin is for real. This is probably surprising to exactly zero people, but I was incredibly impressed with them. There man-to-man defense was disgusting and they’re shockingly disciplined with the disc. I haven’t seen the west-coast teams yet, but it seems like right now the Hodags have to be the early favorites to win this year. Colorado also looks really good. The loss of Adam Simon is definitely noticeable, but they’re very big and athletic – they will create match-up nightmares for anyone.

I only got a chance to watch the semis and finals on the women’s side. Emory is greatly improved after a coaching change. Their top end players are exceptional and they have a few solid role players. Of course, I believe their system is strong. Their depth is still a big question though. In terms of the AC right now it looks like once again it’s some order of Georgia, Florida and Emory at the top. On the national scene, Wisconsin looked very good to me. Stanford seems to be in something of a rebuilding year, but it’s Stanford so they’ll be good.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Chain at Nationals

There will undoubtedly be those who consider Chain’s success at nationals a fluke. Those who think Chain’s run was legitimate might still say that a single tournament is too small of a sample size to draw any worthwhile conclusions. I think both of these criticisms are at least potentially reasonable – let that serve as a caveat for what follows.

I think Chain’s success at 2006 Nationals was primarily the result of two strategic principles. The first is that relentless (perhaps reckless) aggression is a powerful strategy. The second is that the point at which the replacement value of a fresh tier two player exceeds the value of a fatigued tier one is somewhat closer to 60% of points played (for the tier one player) rather than 50% of points played.

In an earlier post, I defended the value of relentless aggression. There my argument was basically two-fold. First, I argued that The Rule demands that all things being equal, a player should throw a longer pass rather than a shorter pass. 2) I also made the more controversial claim the advantageous implications of the huck extend beyond the calculation of giving your team the highest percentage chance of scoring this goal. This claim is based on the fact that once a team believes you are crazy enough to huck at any point they will over commit to protecting the deep cut opening up the underneath. The nice thing about this second point is that it can extend to later games in a tournament/season without your team even having to bear the burden of the additonal turnovers early in a game. I think FG and Sockeye both currently benefit from (2) due to their reputation as mindless huckers.

In any event, we (the blogosphere, although not sure I’m still a member) have had this discussion and I don’t mean to rehash old territory. Another facet of our relentless aggression was an insistence on forcing the disc upfield whenever possible. A dump has to be considerably higher percentage than a 20 yard gainer if the dump is to be justified by The Rule. Honestly, I still don’t think HnH is optimal in perfect conditions, but this year’s nationals was far from perfect conditions. I think that anyone arguing that a possession style offense is optimal in this year’s conditions (with the exception of Sunday) is either bad at math or simply not being honest with themselves.

The second strategic principle can basically be restated as “you should play your studs more than you are now.” Jim posted on this subject with some fictional numbers a while ago, I’m too lazy to find the link now, sorry. At early tournaments this year we had three considerable comebacks at the end of games when we just put in our top 7 for several points in a row. This led us to make the conscious decision to play our studs more at nationals. It sounds pretty obvious, but the current dominant strategy of splitting O/D has led a lot of top players to play only about 50 percent of the points. In most situtaions, your studs could play more than 50 percent of the points without fatigue impacting their play to the extent that it would make sense to put in your next tier of player.