Quite simply, it has been a great summer to be an out of touch ultimate fan. For those of us who aren't traveling to these great tournaments/exhibitions, it is wonderful to see the footage shot from a steady camera at a good angle. Even waiting a few days/weeks to see the games is fine since I'm not really in it for the final score. It is all about watching the technique and strategy.
So here are a few of my unorganized thoughts about the video. Kyle is going through the NexGen videos one by one if you want to check that out for more detail.
NexGen: They looked real good. I was surprised by their wins, even if they were against early season/understaffed versions of elite teams. It made me feel like the separation between elite college players and elite club players isn't as wide as I would like. Especially when you look at those members of NexGen that are getting starting O-line roles on the big club teams. Their style seemed a little erratic at times, and maybe a little huck happy, but they were good at moving the disc and seeing the whole field. I saw a lot of high release throws, especially for short breaks. The big thing that I didn't like was all of the spiking. I understand that these are excitable kids playing in big games against (in many cases) their idols. But the amount of spiking, and the intensity makes the video hard to show middle/high school kids since they are so impressionable. Shame, because there are some great gems in there about breaking the mark, seeing the field and hustle. Unfortunately our middle school kids will mimic anything they see and while some of the more team-oriented spikes were fine (George doing the bus for example), the kicking and elbow spiking is too much.
ETP: This is much more my style. Teams are gearing up for the season, strategy can be seen and trends detected. It has been a few years since I have been to or really watched Nationals, but in that time it seems like everyone has adopted the sideline stack iso pull play. Even Sockeye seems to pull everyone to the line immediately after the pull. I'd figured this was going to happen for a while, as defenses get used to playing against horizontal stack it makes sense that offenses shift to be fresh. In football we go from cover 2 to press ever few years, why not in ultimate. Since the 00's were a decade of mostly horizontal and defenders tend to be young, todays crop of elite open defenders don't have a lot of vert stack experience and it shows.
Watching the games it looks like most teams can't really hold a mark and defenders are constantly caught on the wrong side of their guy. The marking makes sense. Teams were afraid of the long ball and the center under cut from years of H, so the adjustment was to go flat and poach off of the side handlers. Great strategy for horizontal stack ends up being terrible for vert. Reset defense seems poor, and like I said marks aren't stopping anything. Typically the breaks are coming around the mark, but I'll get to that later. Right now it looks like the marks are going for frustration rather than containment. Hoping that by getting the thrower to go with their 4th option they can get a misread or miscommunication turn. That sounds like great defense, and often is, but unlike and H, there are multiple lanes in a vert stack and often defenders are getting caught on the wrong side by an overly mobile mark. I'm sure defenses will adjust, but that may be a big difference maker at Nationals this year. Not at the top of the heap, but which 8 teams get into quarters may depend on who can run a good vertical defense and actually contain the disc. Right now it looks like Revolver is the best at it, but I haven't seen any footage of Chain.
Revolver also seems to be running this offense the best. They move the disc laterally well, in part because they know how to set up the swing cut well (just like Jam did in '08) and seem to have a knack for being where the thrower is looking. Most of the offenses I see (particularly out of the mid-atlantic) aren't on the same page yet. The thrower is flipping through lanes quickly, but cutters aren't in those lanes fast enough. The difference that I see out of Revolver, Sockeye, Ironside and hopefully Chain is a commitment to stack management so that they consistently get the swing when the window is available. One other note about offense is that most of the breaks I am seeing by 2nd tier teams are around and high. Revolver, Mark Sherwood and Mac Taylor in particular, is well utilizing the quick inside break. This gets the disc upfield and typically leaves the thrower with a longer time to throw before the mark gets there. Those are big differences, especially as teams ty to get flow downfield.
There is plenty more to say, but I want to watch the Labor Day footage first.
On a more coaching note, Middle School season is here and off to a good start yesterday. Having Jess Cofrin (new Women's Head Coach) helping is a great asset, especially for the 50 kids we had yesterday. I've got some good ideas for how to teach these new players space and flow. I'll comment on those after I get a chance to try them out.