Monday, December 19, 2005

One Coach's Plan for a Semester

Idris talked about why frisbee blogs are a good source of information (at the very least, I seem to be getting all my post ideas from Idris, whether that's good or bad), and I agree. I actually think it's a good first step in developing a solid base of knowledge that our sport needs before making the next step.

So...this weekend I laid out the plan for this semester for the college team I coach. I figured I'd post the general outline here, realizing that this is not the best plan for every team (or possibly even my team), but maybe there is a good idea in there somewhere that you can take, or maybe you can use it as a starting point. If anyone has any suggestions for changes/additions, I'd be interested in those as well.

Basics: We have 3 (3 hour) practices a week. Mondays and Thursdays are normal practice, on Tuesdays we scrimmage a local pickup team. We have a pretty small team, with 7-10 guys at practices, so the plan reflects that limitation.

Topics: A list of strategy/tactical points to cover, in the order I plan on teaching. The idea is to give at least one week's practice to each topic. In the past I've laid out how many weeks to spend on particular topics, but this year I've just got a list, if we need more than a week to cover it, we'll take it. Once I feel we've covered it enough, we'll move on to the next topic. The topics are pretty basic. It would be helpful to someday post specific discussion points and drills for each topic. One day hopefully. (Jim and Zaz's book is a good place to look for info on all these topics).

Dump-Swing/Dump Defense
Trap Dump/Dump Defense
Straight stack offense/Man Defense
Brick and set plays/Man Defense
Redzone offense/Man Defense
Redzone set plays/Man Defense
Zone offense/2-3-2
Zone offense/alternate zone defenses

If we get through all that we'll probably just review what we've done so far, or possibly look to add some new topics if need be (H-stack, more zone d's, more redzone setplays, etc.)

Practice Templates: A basic outline that we'll follow at every practice.

Speedwork (1-5 sprints/shuttles/starts/etc.)
10 Throw (10 flat backhands/forehands, 10 invert backhands/forehands, 10 outvert backhands/forehands, and 10 hammers)
1 Regular Drill (Not necessarily specific to the weekly topic, just working on general skills. ie 3 person marking drill, mushroom drill, throwing drill, etc.)
Discuss Weekly Topic (diagram on the whiteboard, hand out review material, answer questions)
Walk-through Weekly Topic
Weekly Topic Drills/Games

10 Throw
Warmup Drill (whatever you prefer, I see a lot of mushroom, but we use a goto drill)
Weekly Topic reminder/team discussion
Game/Weekly Topic Review and Questions

10 Throw
1 Regular Drill
Discuss Weekly Topic - answer questions
1-2 Weekly Topic Drills
2-3 Regular Drills
Game (ideally 7 on 7, more likely 3 on 3, hotbox, etc.)

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

What strategy?

I read this post by Idris, and it got me thinking about the low level of strategy in our sport. Take the idea that it is truly better (and I actually agree with this) to let a team learn how to flow and adjust on it's own, with little structure. This, to me, is a horrible indictment of the place our sport is at currently. In other, more established sports, you learn the fundamentals, how to make the x different cuts required in your sport, the right way to throw a ball.

Maybe I place football on too high a pedestal, but I'd love to have just a fraction of the strategy from football in Ultimate. How hard would it be to have a standard set of cuts, have players run the cuts, perhaps changing them based on a defensive 'hot read'? Is it simply a physics question? Does the disc move too slowly in the air to run a curl or post? I'd like to think we could just add on to the progression idea. I know player x is going to make cut y. I see how the defense is playing him, and know that he is going to switch to cut z. I can then make the throw to z before the player has even turned.

I know this happens, to a degree, at higher levels, but I don't think it's actual codified in the offense. There is so little consensus in our sport about the best way to do things, that we actually teach new players to try different (probably incorrect) things out because we're worried that we're wrong or we simply know that the next team a player is on will likely have a completely different philosophy. I'm not talking about the difference between the west coast offense and the run and shoot. At their core, those offenses are much more similar than what we do team to team, even if we're running the 'same offense.'

Teaching players to play dynamically makes your team better right now, and probably makes your players better over the next few years. But until we get to the point where we can teach players the right way to play, we're going to be stuck teaching them to play 15 different (non-optimal) ways and we're never going to have real strategy.

Strategy in our sport right now is limited to "create 2 on 1's", "get a step on your guy and jack it", "break the mark to get the defense on the wrong side of the field," etc. Maybe I'm silly to think that we can or should move to, "the defense is in an X coverage so I went to the Y hotroute to beat it."

What is the most advanced Ultimate offense out there? Does it work? and how 'advanced' is it really? What are the limitations in our sport that keep us from having more precise strategy?

Monday, December 12, 2005

Know what you want – Progression of Reads

So you’ve spent hours going over the game film of your team, carefully noting every possible strength and weakness. You’ve come up with the perfectly tailored game plan that highlights each area of strength while hiding all potential weak spots. You are a titan of strategy; it’s just a matter of time before your true genius is recognized and you replace Parinella on ultimatetalk. So why in the hell does your team keep screwing it up?

It’s important for players to understand the real world implications of a certain strategy. It’s one thing for a player to sit in a class room and understand the ideal version of your evil plan when you draw it on the chalkboard. Being able to implement the plan on the field is another thing altogether. When drawn on the chalkboard, all the available options can be viewed pretty much simultaneously. In the real world, seeing the whole field in an instant is not a possibility (as an aside…I find the longer I play the more of the field I can “see” – it’s conceivable to me that some of the old-timers are able to see multiple options developing at the same time and are able to make choices based on that – in any event, I can pretty much guarantee that none of the players you coach can do this). As the designer of the offense, it’s your job to focus your player’s attention in the right place. A progression of reads is simply setting the order in which a player should look at a particular cut. For instance, in the Evil Plan Offense, upon receiving the disc a player should (1) look to hit the deep cutter, if that’s not there (2)look to hit the underneath continuation, if that’s not there (3) look to hit the break, if that’s not there (4) dump the frisbee. Of course, the progression of reads in your offense could look very different depending on what you’re trying to do.

The main point is this – you know what spaces your offense is best at attacking - prioritizing throw options leads to more shots into the spaces that you attack well and that is a good thing.

Monday, December 05, 2005

How much is a yard worth?

I was reading through a bunch of the old stuff on my blog recently. It’s fun to see how some of my ideas have changed even in the short time (1 year) that I’ve been blogging. Anyway, in one of my first posts I said I was going to go through all of Billy Berrou’s stuff and pick out the good stuff. Jim beat me to the punch with this post. In Frank’s response to Jim he says something that’s interesting to me “First, take yardage completely out of the equation. It does not belong. Yardage is irrelevant…It's always about position.” In a sense, this is totally insane – you have to move forward (gain yardage) in order to score. However, it is true that it is oftentimes worthwhile to trade yardage to maintain possession and improve field position.

Anyway – here a couple of things I’m pretty sure I think about the value of a yard (relative to the value of field position and maintaining possession) –

1) The value of yardage decreases as the level of play increases.

2) The value of yardage decreases as conditions improve.

3) The value of yardage increases when a team is going downwind.

Here’s something I think I think about the value of yardage.

1) The value of yardage decreases the closer a team gets to the end zone.

Here’s something I’ll claim I think if people think it makes sense – otherwise I definitely don’t think it.

1) The value of yardage decreases when a team is going upwind.