Sunday, September 25, 2005

the season so far (mixed haters ignore this post)

For some reason, as the UPA season heats up, we once again are seeing that all the talk on RSD is about the Mixed Division. Sure, some random guy wondered about why Kaos was seeded higher than Jam, but he was successfully and rightly put in his place in the proper RSD way. Contrary to this stimulating Open action, there are several riviting threads about the seeding for various Mixed Regional tournaments. We even had Dusty S come in, despite his "lack of interest" in the Mixed Division (what? Is there nowhere else to go? Oh yeah...there isn't), and pontificate on his perspective of the South Mixed Regional Seedings. Christ, if that kind of input does not legitimize the division........what will?

All we are misssing is The Saints' predictions for Mixed Nationals qualifiers. I bet we are waiting until all the Sectional results are in. Well, at least that gives me something to look forward to this week.

I, of course, attribute all of this interest directly to my intense efforts to make sure that every single one of the Sectional tournaments is correctly and accurately reported on the UPA SRT...well in advance of the event. To me, the SRT, is the only real-time documetation of the Series. Kind of like the standings in baseball. So, the better the info...the more the talk.....

So it has been an interesting season so far. I would describe it as "Cracks in the Armor". Here is how our 04 quarterfinalists have fared so far:

1) Shazam--Pretty good at rebounding from the loss of Eric, Finn, and Aaron. Lost two games with a half squad (Don't we all have excuses when we lose? what is a half squad?...and why does it matter?) to Brass Monkey in Aug, but redeemed themselves by winning Labor Day. Was down 12-11 to Bezerkerpiggy (my pick-up team beat them at Potlatch 15-6) before digging down deep and winning the Section 13-12. All I can say is, if we are lucky enough to play them, that I can't lose to someone that was a CAMPER at NUTC while I was Ass. Director.

2) CLX--I hung out with Kevin at CHC, and he talked about this team called Meth from Iowa. Said they were going to be very good. I just looked at yesterday's results from WP Sectionals....Meth beats CLX in pool play 13-9. I don't know...I think CLX will pull a 6TM and win the Section.

3.5) 6TM--I know we are listed as the second 3rd place finisher in the official results, but even though BM had a better record....we did beat the Champs. So I list us first here. Still finding our way and settling into the groove. Got CLX off our backs... a little bit, but lost to Mr Whatever and Moe at CHC. Lost to Chinstrap 13-5 at Sectionals on Sat. Got pissed, played real D on Sunday and managed to win the.....Section.

3.5) BM--Wins the Section as they should, but what about that first day at Labor Day? Now with Finn on their team, they will at least have someone who will talk a lot about himself...uh...I mean, the team.

5.5) Holes and Poles-- Totally psyched they are even playing in the Series this year. I felt like a total jerk when, on the day that Katrina hit, I wrote their contact in the morning and asked him some inane question about CHC logistics. I wrote back and apologized for being clueless.

I think the South is going to be tough with Hang Time and Hot & Sweaty battling down there. Let me just say that Hot & Sweaty is quiety going about there business with not a bump in the road so far. They came up to Boston and were not challenged, and have not lost a tournament...ever. The only crack in the armor I am concerned with is Hot & Sweaty's depth at a tournament like Nationals.......

5.5) Bad Larry--I spoke with Q, and he said that they are "all over the place". Picked up some friends of mine (Flock, Bill Burke). Ok. showing at Lavbor Day. The real question is will the Gendors challenge the lock on the SW of BL and......

7) DTL--Now that they have been coached by Ted Munter, they should be rocking. Played very well at GRUB. Looked just OK at CHC.

8) B+(now Gorilla Foot).....did what they do and won Chesapeake. Did what they don't do...and lost to Ono (a solid team) in semis at Sectionals. Finished 2nd. BWu said that he doesn't think that the MA teams are going to be a strong as they were in years past.....

So, that is a lot of Sectional losses and close games by our top 8 from 04.



There has been a lot of talk on RSD about seeding. Some of it is about how folks feel certain tournaments should be seeded. Other points are about the criteria and parameters for seeding. Interesting stuff. Here are some things I discuss with my coordinators when it comes time to seed UPA sectionals and Regionals.

1) Seeding is reactive, not predictive.

Subtle point. I am terrible at NCAA type brackets. Folks who care, and think that seeding is predictive, think I suck at seeding. I probably do, but at least this gives me an out. In my two years of seeding Nationals, I have successfully created a legitimate "hell pool" each year. In 03, it was pool A (seeds 1, 8, 9, 16). They finished 2nd, 9th, tied for 3rd, and 6th, and the pool featured two double game point upset wins. In 04, it was pool B (seeds 2, 7, 10, 15). They finished 8th, 5th, 2nd, 10th. Pool play resulted in several double game point victories and a 3-way tie first. This is the kind of stuff that makes one proud.

Seeding is a relative strength ranking of the teams based on past data. The UPA SRT has been great in helping to provide a database of results, but the data is not at all comprehensive. Many teams and tournaments do not report results. When it comes to seeding Regionals, many teams have only their Sectional results to report. In the face of lack of data, seeding becomes subjective, and this is where data like past history, for example, can provide a guide.

Perhaps I will seed Nationals based solely on the RRI this year. That would create some great drama as the results from Regionals came in...and would provide incentive for reporting results next year.

2) Rank the teams, as best you can, in order of relative strength. I think it is useful to generate such a list without adjustments for Regional/Sectional rematches, but with respecting Sectional finishes.

3) Consistency. I view this as a mandate of my position. I try, when discussing seeding with my coodinators, to apply the "rules" of seeding equally and consistently across the sections and regions.

4) Tweak to avoid Sectional/Regional rematches.

The importance of this varies wildly from person to person. Regional rematches in pool play at Nationals can impact Wildcards. I have talked with players who insist that rematches are to be avoided, and, for example, that the teams from a Section or Region must be evenly distributed across the pools (so, if a section sends 4 teams to regionals, then 1 team should be in each pool).

My view is that the purpose of Sectionals and Regionals is to qualify the best teams to the next stage. The Formats Manual is a study in consistency in trying to achieve this purpose. I think seeding should be handled with equal care and respect. If, after ranking the teams, the seeding can be tweaked in a manner that does not create obvious over- or under-seeding issues...then make the change.


Wednesday, September 21, 2005

re: zaz's "we're bad" then on to training

Zaz's post on "Big Time Sports" is very interesting (, and I agree with the sentiments. I think Al ( misinterpreted what he was saying. To me, Zaz is saying that a higher presence of over-40 year olds in our sport, as compared to other sports, is a sign that our sport is not at the highest level, athletically speaking. Al and Zaz seem to be saying the same thing. 40 year olds can still play!!!!!...but Zaz seems to think that is not a good sign.

Zaz has his list of basics that our sport is a bit behind in, when compared to other sports: skill, athleticism and discipline. I would like to add training to this list. I would like to be specific and talk about two aspects of training: volume and strength.

I work for myself, and this, fortunately, allows me to make my own schedule. This is out of design, however. I realized, when I finally found the work ethic I lacked as a young adult, that there was no way I could train properly for Ultimate and have a full time job. My wife and I had to make adjustments in a our schedules and our spending habits to do this, and I hope it has been worth it. The SERIOUS training book that I use has, at the beginning of developing a training plan, the term "year hours" to describe the amount of time spent training during the year. The author goes on to list what the year hours are for endurance events and ability. Most of these are events like nordic skiing and marathons, not team sports. The year hours for "average competitors" is between 200-300 hours. Elite and world-class nordic skiers log 500-1000 hours per year. My most OCD period of training occurred a few years ago. This would involve training even when I was on "vacation". I would get up at 6 am drive 45 minutes to the nearest gym, return at 11am, then go out for an afternoon aerobic workout. Needless to say, I felt that things got a bit out of control and my wife hated me. However, even with my flexible schedule and with OCD, it was hard to manage much more than 250 hours of non-Ultimate training (meaning I didn't count practices or games). Bill McKibben, in his book "Long Distance", also talks about being consumed by his training routine (the book is a diary of year in which he trains for Nordic skiing at an Olympic level of volume). So I would like to add lack of training and preparation to Zaz's list of what makes us bad.

I have not done comprehensive surveys, but I am generally amazed by how few Ultimate players do any kind of weight training. There is a hint to the benefits of weight training in a book about Michael Jordan. MJ would shift his plan such that during the season, his focus would be on the "weak points" (ankles, groin, wrist, etc). I have found weight training to be an effective means of injury protection. I was lucky to hire Bryan Doo (played with Dog, now the strength and conditioning coach for the Celtics) a few years back, and he gave me a great, 16 week strength plan that has a variety of workouts. I shift the workouts around so that I am doing foundation work in the winter and plyos as the season comes along. So, again, this is a sub-category to lack of training...and another reason why we are bad.

I am not trying to say that folks should be like me. Those of you that have seen me play will probably realize that they should specifically not do what I do. I have found, though, that higher volumes of training and incorporating strength training have been beneficial.....even if it is confined within the glass ceiling of mediocrity.


Thursday, September 15, 2005

UPA Score Reporting Tool (SRT)

I am in love with the SRT. During the fall series, I spend more time with it than I do with my wife. Rodney Jacobsen has developed a great tool that, I think, goes a long way toward creating a sense of a year long season.

There are two major upgrades this year:

1) Seeding grids--If you go to the main tournament page, and click on the field that reads (in bold and underlined) "9 Open Teams", or "16 Women's Teams), a grid will come up. Here is an example:

The grid gives you a quick glance at the overall head to head results, and it also provides its take on seeding the tournament. It is important to note that the SRT does not weight a higher finish at a tournament.

If you click on one of the squares, a head to head comparison of the teams comes up.

2) Import Formats-- You can now import a format into the SRT. After you have created your tournament and entered in the number of teams, you are given the option to import any format for that number of teams. Click on that and up comes the full pool play and bracket schedule.

It has been interesting to note that there is gamesmanship on the SRT. Not surprising. Sometimes teams, that are not at full strength, change their name for tournaments so that their results won't hurt them later in the season. I just noticed that Hot and Sweaty, a Mixed team from the south, entered in a result which dropped them in the RRI ranking...and the result was a win! Today, that result is gone, and presto....back up they come.

So there is work to do in terms of continuity and reliability of the data, but Rodney gets a big thanks. Adam Tarr, as well, as he entered in many of the format templates.


Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Josh's Request-Sprinting

My, this is exciting. My humble little blog has some action!

Josh, I know exactly what you mean by springy legs...or, I should say, lack thereof. I, too, have felt this for much of this year. I have also struggled with the questions of overtraining vs. undertraining.

I have noticed that in my past two tournaments that the excitement and adrenaline of playing has really helped to make my legs feel loose and that that extra gear is still there. At CHC, I felt that my focused training (being able to go 100% for a full point 4-5 times a game) carried through for most of the weekend.

In any case, here are some specific thoughts about your questions:

1) Form--I have actually never been much of a form guy. In anything. I have trouble analyzing mechanics in most thing. I think it is good that you spoke to Michael as he has much more awareness of the physiology than I do.

So, I notice that my arms start to wave around a bit when I get tired. I also notice that I need to be more aware of getting up on my toes. You mention some issues with the specifics of getting up on your toes, but, for me, it is more about not running on my heels when I am tired.

I also notice that I don't like to bend at the hips when I moving on the field. Start and stop stuff has always been hard.

So when you are at the track, think about your arms. They should be close to your body. Your legs will follow your arms, so pump them hard.

2) Training--It sounds like you have a good handle on the overtraining issue, but what about periodization?

A good training plan not only incorporates the peaks and valleys of the year, but it will also account for peaks and valleys within each training period. I break my training plan into 4 week cycles. I try, as much as I can, to have the first week be about a 1/4 of my total months work. The second week is slightly more, the third slightly more, and then the fourth week is the "off week" at about 18-20% of the total months work. What is great is when this off week lines up with a tournament. You get a nice 3 weeks of work, then ease into the tournament.

It sounds like the bulk of your work is Ultimate these days. I know it is hard to find the time, but I think you should be doing some kind of work 6 days a week on your "on weeks". It might be that you have 1 rest day, 3 practice days, and 3 training days. I also find that variety in those three days of training can really help to keep things fresh.

In terms of rest, besides the 1 day of rest each week, I would rest 2-3 days per tournament.

3) Mental Focus--After seeing you run this summer, Josh, there is no question you can fly. Focus on the things you can control: your conditioning, sleep, and nutrition. This is the time of year where you need to be relentless in these matters. Even at 25. I don't think I have ever been to an Ultimate party. I am usually asleep by 10am...even on the road. I have a tournament morning routine that borders on OCD, but it makes me feel comfortable with being prepared. I get up three hours before game time, take a hot shower in which I stretch, eat a big breakfast 2 hours before game time, and warm-up satrting an hour before game time.

4) Hydration--Last year, I played in two August tournament in high heat, and we only had 10-11 folks. I think I was chronically dehydrated for 4 weeks. I found a direct correlation between the amount of water/gatorade that I consume and the spring in my legs. I try to continue this hydration every singlke day, but I lose focus.



Thursday, September 01, 2005

UPA Series Restructuring

A big upcoming project for the UPA National Directors will be looking at a reorganization of the UPA Championship Series. There have been many suggestions about a possible model. Different divisions, a European soccer model (teams move up and down between divisions), teams earning byes to Sectionals based on previous years', plus others, have all come up.

My initial approach to this task will be to view restructuring as an enhancement of a UPA membership. I think there is some sense out there that other than the Champ Series and newsletters that go missing, that a UPA membership could have more bang for the buck. I have no idea about what other sports organizations charge and what services they provide, but, for the moment, I am going to take this criticism seriously and not treat it as whining. So, for me, ideas about restructuring will have to enhance the benefits of membership in general and not cater to specific interest groups.

I think the development of a sense of a season could be a real benefit of restructuring. Members could get more events for their money. The UPA currently sanctions events, and I think it is great that the UPA is able to provide insurance, etc, but there is always a bit of grumbling about why folks have to be UPA members to play at a tournament. I think some of these feelings could be mitigated if the event was part of a larger series of events. Now, there are some real issues to face. Rosters, for example. When would they be due? Teams playing in the UPA Champ Series have very different timelines. Some teams complete their try-outs by early spring. Other teams are just getting going in August. The UPA Score Reporting Tool (SRT) is a very helpful step toward the sense of season as it tracks results and provides rankings, but there is also much consistency missing. Teams change names to hide results, and many events are not reported. Certainly, the SRT is a major step forward, but there is a lot of work to do.

There have been ideas about incorporating local leagues into the new structure. The general idea is that league play would serve as some kind of qualifier. I think this idea has potential for bringing in new UPA members, but, again, there are many questions to be resolved about the continuity between teams that participate in local leagues and teams that participate in the Champ Series.

I am wary of restructuring serving to cater to the elite level teams. Ideas such as teams earning spots to Nationals directly based on previous years' results do not resonate well with me. There is also the "Why does Furious George have to play high school teams at sectionals?", and "Why does Sectionals have to be 2 days when we know we are going to qualify for Regionals?" whines. I think elite teams, for the time being, need to remember that for the teams that do not qualify for Regionals, Sectionals is the season. I also believe that there is a benefit to elite teams and high school teams playing one another, at least in the present series structure that we find ourselves.

So, in summary, the idea of restructuring the champ series is appealing to me if it enhances a UPA membership. I think that a better sense of an Ultimate season could be the fundamental enhancement that drives restructuring.