Monday, October 31, 2005

Checking Out Real Ultimate

I had a few minutes during the tournament to run over and check out some real Ultimate. Meaning Open. I decided to grace the Dog/Sockeye power pool game with my presence and root for my Boston blogmates. I had, up until then, not much chance to see Al and Jim work during "Jim's Tournament", as I believe he called it, so I was pleased to be rewarded with a big upwind backhand from Al to Jim for a goal.

As I arrived at the field, I took my usual spot at the back of the end zone on the opposite side from the Crow's Nest. The crowds are thin there, so it makes for good viewing. I sat down to see 14 players standing around discussing a call, and I was able to decipher that Sockeye had the disc very close to goal that I was sitting at. The next 5 minutes was a real treat. There was about 30 seconds of Ultimate and 4:30 of arguing about an all-you-can-eat buffet of foul calls. Certainly this bodes well for Ultimate on TV as there was plenty of time for instant replay for those football viewers that can't pay attention the first time through, and, additionally, PLENTY of potential for commercial breaks. I awoke from my nap in time to see Fun Boy make a great lay out block in the end zone, and I think he might have been able to complete a pass before a series of little touch fouls erupted from the clusterfuck of bodies trying to get out of the way or get a block. I remember thinking at the time that I thought only folks in the MIxed Division called fouls on so little contact.

Very late on Saturday evening, Jim showed up at our party, and I had a chance to mention to him how impressed I was by the "action" that I had seen. I was not dissapointed as he responded, "Well, at least we can complete forehands". I said, " between foul calls". There was a brief pause as he cracked a smile, then added" well....fuck you". We all laughed and I , of course, ceded the debate to the intellectual prowess of his final argument.

On a serious note, I was able to get around and check out very good Ultimate from pretty much all the divisions, and I do believe that Nationals is a gift. The wind on Sunday was very difficult and that made it hard to showcase the best that the sport has to offer.


Brass Monkey vs SWSD

At the time, and I think I am also correct in hindsight, I felt that the Brass Monkey/SWSD game was going to have a significant impact on how the tournament played out. Perhaps this is the result of limited perspective, as my team was going to play the loser in qtrs, but this tournament would have been very different if Brass Monkey won that game.

The initial impact would have been that both finalists would have been in the same pool. I think we would have had a real battle with SWSD to see who would play CLX in semi's.

Another interesting thing was the addition of wind on Saturday. This really hurt a bunch of teams that were cruising along on Thurs and Friday.

Speaking of wind, there was a lot of debate in the Crow's Nest on whether the Mixed final would get to double digits. After the first few points, the concern became whether there would be a halftime. Luckily, things moved along quickly at the beginning of the second half, and not only did we get to 15, but we didn't have to give out SOTG awards and the medals at the same time.


Saturday, October 01, 2005


One of the things that I have enjoyed about Ultimate is that it is a springboard into other interests. Specifically, training and sports psychology. My limited knowledge of sports psych has been largely informed by Alan Goldberg (, and John Thompson's book 'Shooting In The Dark".

I have found Goldberg's discussions of expectations and goals to be helpful and applicable to Ultimate. I apologize in advance for the lack of original thought in the regurgitation that follows.

When I was making a "living"(probably better described as a "dying") as a musician in the 80's and early 90's, expectations were particularly insidious. I remember driving to gigs thinking "This is going to be a GREAT gig. The place will be packed. We will rock, and people will love us. Fame and fortune will quickly follow!!!!". Needless to say, the actual experience inevitably paled considerably as compared to my fantasy. No one would be at the show. The sound sucked. We sucked. And this is the problem with expectations: they are largely fantasies focused on things out of one's control. Many Ultimate teams and players struggle with expectations. The problems with expectations are: they can create passivity ("Making Nats this year is a matter whether I work hard or not"), pressure ("God damn it! How can play so BAD??? We are a GOOD Ultimate team. We HAVE to play better!!!"), and provide no structure for improvement("We are a good team......because.....well...we said so").

My experience is that my enjoyment and view of an event is in an inverse relationship to my expectations. I find that I usually enjoy an event/work/Ultimate a lot when I go in feeling like I/we/it will be bad/suck/dissapointing. For example, say I am on my way to my wife's work party at Christmas time. In general, I approach this party like "This will suck. Standing around with a bunch of Social Workers over egg nog will be a bad time". This attitude does not endear me to my wife, but it is hard to have a bad time when I am expecting the worst. Most of the time I walk out of there saying, "That wasn't so bad after all", and my wife feels smug because I was everyone is happy in the end. Now, if I was solely driven by expectations, specifically low expectations, I think least what I was expecting...would be pretty grim. There is an area of focus that can help, however, and it is summed up by this mantra: maintain LOW expectations and HIGH goals.

High goals are wonderful. They provide structure, challenge, hope, and excitement. What I really like about Goldberg's presentation of goals is that he divides them into Outcome Goals and Process Goals. I coach the Wellesley College Ultimate team, and the girls and I have found embracing this method is a helpful way in defining what we want to get out of a season. Outcome goals are things like "We will qualify for Regionals". They essentially focus on the "uncontrollable" elements of the sport. Process goals provide the means by which Outcome Goals can be achieved, and this is where the power lies as they focus on the "controllable" elements. Things like "we will throw x number of forehands and backhands per practice", a solid plan for conditioning, and "we will attend x number of tournaments per year".

So at the beginning of each year, I sit down with my captains and we make two lists: one for Outcome goals, and one for Process goals. We do not discuss expectations.