Monday, November 28, 2005

"You have to catch that, Bitch"

I was walking past Frisbee Central at Devens Field a few years ago during Easterns. I was going to get one of those steak tip sandwiches that they sell at the Boston Invite. As I walked past field 8, I noticed that Ring was playing Dog B (or X....whatever). Just as I approached the end zone, Ring put up a huge huck to one of their young, tall, fast guys. I remember thinking "there's a goal". The young guy was just past half field as the disc went over his head in that nice, floaty, "go get the goal" kind of way, but, just at this moment, a nice gust of wind took the disc quickly toward the end zone. It became clear that the catch was not going to be certain at all. The young kid, and Ray Parrish, who was about 10 yeards behind the young kid, both realized that he was going to run FAST. I guess in order to provide motivation, Parrish started to yell at the kid "Go get that, bitch", and "You have to run that down, bitch". It seemed to help as the kid shifted into another gear. He reaches the end zone line as the disc starts to die, and goes fully horizontal about waist high. His fingertips touch the disc, but both the disc and the kid crash to the earth. No catch. No goal. Ray, who is trailing the kid, straddles the kid, leans over, and yells "You have to catch that, Bitch!"

I brought this story back to my humble little div 2 corporate team a few days later. We decided, after much debate about cross-gender bitch calling, that we would work in "You have to catch that, Bitch" as much as possible over the course of the season. I think folks took us a lot more seriously as a result.


Perspective and Thanks

A couple of weeks ago my wife and I attended a funeral for the father of a friend of my 8-year old daughter. He had an interesting story as he grew up in Cambodia and mangaged to survive the genocide. He met death with a level of grace and courage that I can only hope for.

A few days later, I found on the web an old high school classmate of mine. She has been spending most of the past 15 years working for Doctors Without Borders. She spent a fair amount of time in Yugoslavia during the chaos.

My little family travels to Hartford, CT for Thanksgiving to visit with my wife's family. They have a lovely tradition of going around the table, just before desert, and everyone spends a moment telling what they are thankful for. Two years ago, some one said "Water". I have been pretty much intimidated since........

This year, with the help of the little bit of perspective given by the first two examples, I decided, rather than trying to one-up "water", to go the self-indulgent route. I was thankful for the opportunity to pursue the things that interest me.

I have been doing a better job of 1) acknowledging that I shouldn't take things for granted, 2) recognizing my unimportance in the grand scheme of things, and 3) frequently reminding myself of the things that I am thankful for. I think a healthy dose of self-deprecation goes a long way toward keeping things in check.

The author of the book "The Inner Game of Tennis" postulates that competition is a cooperative effort between two opponents to fully realize their potential.

So, be thankful for the opportunity to play our sport. It really is a gift. Also, don't believe the hype. You might be the MAN on your team. You might have just roofed someone for a goal or "made someone your bitch". Celebrate the chance to challenge yourself to your fullest potential, but always remember to step back and recognize the insignificance of your actions. Be humble.


Training: Day 1, plans for Day 2

Just a quick announcement that I am sure everyone was waiting to hear: my training program for 2006 began yesterday.

I started my year out with the basic strength training routine given to me by Bryan Doo. Lots of balance stuff mingled in with lunges, low rows, presses on a swiss ball, etc.

55 minutes, 395 calories. I noticed my head being much more into it than last year, and I am a bit sore today.

The plan for today is a 60 minute Overdistance run.


Tuesday, November 22, 2005


Do you have a vision for Ultimate for the future? If so, what is it? What do you see when you look out 5, 10, or 15 years from now?

I think that for many of us, a vision of the future is measured in terms of events that create a sense of legitimacy. When I was in high school in the late 70's/early 80's, I would play pick-up with the Cornell team. I can clearly recall the discussions in which it was put forth with absolute certainty that "Ultimate will be an Olympic sport in 20 years". Well, here we are, 25 years later, and that hasn't happened. Another pillar of legitimacy is a professional Ultimate league. Again, the failure of the WUSA raises red flags, especially since banking on youth awareness and popularity is crucial to both the WUSA and Ultimate.

It is hard, when considering a vision for the future, to not get caught up in the understood symbols of validity and legitimacy. I actually question as to whether modeling Ultimate on the current vogue constitutes a vision. I think there are folks out there that view adherence to "experiments" such as self-officiating as dooming us to a Promethean existence. There are times, like when I am playing a team of cheaters, that, I must admit, I agree that SOTG seems like an abject failure. However, there are also times when surrendering to the impatience of needing immediate validation fails to cherish the things that differentiate our sport from other athletic experiences. When I go into a school and teach clinics to a room full of 15 year olds that have never heard of the sport, it is helpful to have the self-officiating card to play as a means of getting their attention. I have thick skin, so I don't mind discussing respect and accountability with a bunch of skeptical kids. At least I have got them thinking. Sure, it hurts to be dismissed as "quaint", but, remember, Ultimate is like the rock band that you have discovered that no one knows about.

Media exposure leads to legitimacy, or at least that is what we have come to believe. Sure, it pisses me off to see poker on ESPN. I would love to be able to watch some Ultimate on TV. However, be careful what you wish for. If your motivations are based on wanting the general public to view Ultimate (and you) in a light of your out. I am not sure that I buy into the perception that sports like football and basketball are the panacea of the TV experience. If your vision for Ultimate is edited to accommodate the rigidity of the TV format, think about the impact and proliferation of TV on baseball. I think it is not a coincidence that the glory years of baseball coincided with the explosion of radio. Have you ever listened to hockey on the radio? I have, and it is terrible. My current thought is that there is great potential in webstreaming Ultimate. As I have said before, the CSTV webstreaming footage is my favorite website. The screen is tiny, the quality is terrible, the camera shots suck, and I have to suffer through Kyle's commentary and Ariel telling me how to throw a flick, but I just can't get past the potential. Can you imagine being able to go to a site and being able to select a quality game like......I was going to say the DOG vs Furious 02 semis, but that is just so obvious. How about the 98 Dark Horse v Red Tide game? Ultimate should embrace the challenge of using its unique assets to differentiate itself. Perhaps a new media, full of potential, is where we should hang our hat.

I do a lot of corporate events for my work. I see corporations struggle with balancing the need to put forth the things that make them different with the need to be familiar. I recall watching a show about Pixar, and the guys are driving around this big office space on scooters. No "veal pens" here. Offices that express creativity and imagination. Of course, the show made me think "If I decided to not be self-employed. That would be where I would want to work". Someone had a vision about a cool place to work. Don't take this time, in which your vision for Ultimate can make a difference, for granted. Finally, if you do have a vision for Ultimate, always view it with a critical eye. To what extent is it a belief system? What assumptions am I making? Is it dynamic and reactive to change? I have been lucky to know folks with vision for Ultimate. I admire their conviction, courage, and perserverance, and I appreciate them serving as role models.


Monday, November 21, 2005

Good resource for the 2-handler set

It has come to my attention somehow that Jim and Zaz's book, pages 137-145, offers a very good synopsis of the 2-handler set plus additional help if you are stuck on using 3-handlers. Thanks to those who pointed this out to me.


Zone O: 2-Handler set

There was an article several years ago about the death of the 3-handler set(3 handlers, 2 wings, a popper, and a deep). I believe that Al and Nathan wrote it, and it might have appeared in Chasing Plastic, I am not sure.

In any case, the article was well-written, and I agree that once a team goes with 2 handlers(2 handlers, 2 wings, 2 poppers, and a deep) against a zone that there is no going back to the traditional 3-handler, dump and swing mentality.

So, how predictive was this article? Are club teams primarily in 2-handler sets? How about Open college teams?

In college Women's Ultimate, most teams use the 3-handler set.


Friday, November 18, 2005

Look, but Don't Touch

I must have been is a weird mood the other day because I posted more to RSD than I have in total over the past few years. RSD is like my crazy extended family. If you answer the phone and are willing to speak with them about some inane family drama, before you know it, you are sucked into a black hole of need, pain, and hurt. Thank god for caller ID.

Anyway, the day started off fine as I was able to pontificate somewhat clearly on all the refined aspects of my knowledge. Slowly, though, as the dialog increased in pace and more and more folks put their hooks into the slithering thread, I started to develop a real "RSD Voice". Then I lost my mind and self-control. I started spewing out vile and belligerent retorts. I frothed on my computer as I made it a personal vow to skewer those that couldn't see the subtle nuances of my well-reasoned points.

I awoke from this frenzy when my computer made its "new mail" beep. One of my friends, who I just skewered, had, out of kindness for my plight, sent me an e-mail that basically said "What the fuck are you doing?"

My apologies seemed like non-Bounty paper towels in the face of a deluge. I had to promise that I would get back my "look, but don't touch" mode, and, once again, be thankful for caller ID.


Thursday, November 17, 2005

In The Trenches

Well, I just finished another year of work as the Youth Educator for BUDA. I gave a spring summary in this blog this past May, so I will try not to repeat myself.

If you ever want to feel good about yourself and want to give back to the sport, spend a day teaching Ultimate to 5-6 high school gym classes. A humbling activity if there ever was one. I most certainly need my nap when the classes are finished, and I wonder how teachers do this day in and day out.

It is my understanding that this program is one of the few outreach programs in the country. We face a large task in that we are trying to get into as many schools as we can in the Metro Boston area. Our big successes are Newton North High School and Lincoln-Sudbury High School. In both cases, the faculty has bought into the value of the sport. Both schools now offer Ultimate as part of their curriculum. We provide the clinics and a Teaching Kit (10 discs, cones, rules, literature, etc), for free, and in the case of Newton North, the faculty has said that they now have more confidence to teach the sport correctly. Both schools are welcoming to me as a visitor and do not carry themselves with a sense that I am treading on their turf.

The clinic agenda is short and to the point. I go over the basics of both throws, the kids practice the throws, and then we play. As I said in May, there is a lot of skepticism about SOTG. I think, when framed as it means to be respectful and that it empowers the players as referees, that they sort of get it. I hope that, for the most part, they feel that it is a real sport by the end of the clinics.

A lot of girls stand around in a clump, and the boys try to throw it as far as they can. At Newton, though, I had one team (the teacher divided the kids up into teams for a week long tournament) that realized that if they played real defense that they would have success. They had one good thrower, and two girls totally pumped to shut anyone down. The team rolled through everyone, and they were fun to watch.

When you stand in a gym with 30 loud teenagers, it feels like we have a long way to go. I think we only have the option to keep chipping away at the iceberg.


Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Crap Formats

One of the things I have enjoyed about my UPA job is that I have learned about formatting tournaments. I am certainly still in diapers compared to Adam Tarr, but I have enjoyed learning from him and the others in the formatting committee. I have great respect for their concern for fairness and well as their attention to detail. If you are a TD or tournament planner, I think the Formats Manual is a must read.

As I coach a college team at "social" tournaments, I am often presented with "napkin" formats. There are often serious problems with these formats. I suspect that a lot of the mistakes come with lack of knowledge or experience. However, when my girls asked one TD about a format, the response was "Its our tournament, we can do what we want". Not only does this acknowledge an awareness that problems exist, but it also signals that there was intent to take advantage of the organizational role. I am not going to guess as to what the intentions of a TD are, but if the intent is to gain an advantage, I do not understand how someone could put themselves in a position of upholding SOTG on the field, but clearly show disrespect in devising an unfair format. I have heard the "Hey, we are here to have fun and play some games...." rationale. It seems pretty clear to me that a team can have fun and "just play some games" equally well in a fair format.

I want to make clear that what follows next makes no assumptions about intent. It will point out some interesting wrinkles, but, honestly, my point is to say that players care about formats and is not trying point fingers or call someone a cheater.

So, exhibit A of crap formats is the tournament we played in this past weekend. The link is here:

The first thing that one notices is the decision to run it with 3 pools of 4. While the formats manual is very clear about the specific problems of doing this, I actually think that due to having only 4 fields, this is not a terrible idea.

The most significant problem is the way that the pools break into brackets. One notices that, for some reason, pools A and B graduate 3 teams while pool C gets to send only 2 teams. Again, I am not questioning intent, but it does raise a red flag when the the two host teams (Brown A and B) just happen to be seeded third in their pools. One would assume that the break between the C2 and C3 teams would be the 8-9 break. This would make sense as the top 8 teams make it to qtrs. Looking at the seeding, however, there seems to be no clear way to get to a place in which C2 and C3 can be seeded 8 and 9.

Looking at the brackets, the top game is A1 vs B3. So far so good. If one does a traditional snake (pool A: 1, 6, 7, 12: Pool B: 2, 5, 8, 11: Pool C: 3, 4, 9, 10), then this makes the qtr the 1 v 8 game. Let's look at the 2 seed, it is B1, down at the bottom of the bracket. Their opponent: C2!!. So not only does pool C send only 2 teams, but the the 2 seed. Again, if we are going with a traditional snake, this means we have the 2v4 game in qtrs. Seed number 3 (C1) is in the same bracket with the 1 seed, and they play A3, presumably the 7 seed. This leaves us with the 5 seed playing the 6 seed in the final game.

An additional problem with this bracket is that B1 and B2 are on the same side, meaning that, if one were to mis-seed and put the 2 best teams in pool B..... both could not make finals.

The other real problem is the seeding. I won't go into specifics, but Cornell at 5 is a joke, Yale above Wellesley (we beat them 12-3 two weeks before)doesn't work, and Brown-B at 7 is really an insult to everyone 8 and below.

So, I don't think it is particularly beneficial to be solely crtical, so I do have two alternate ideas. I think a strong possibility should have been 2 pools 6, stright into semis. 4 fields means playing the round robin in 8 rounds, so with semis and finals that means 10 rounds. A bit tricky, but possible. The other idea would be 3 pools of 4, but pre-qtrs on Sunday morning. This would have kept everyone in the ballgame, possibly corrected for seeding errors, and given 4 teams a bye for finishing in the top 4.

The teams that ended up getting screwed were BU and Yale. They finish 3 and 4 in C due to point diff, and then win the swill pool against, surprise!!!, Brown A and B.

In summary, if you are a TD, show respect for the teams that are taking time to travel to your tournament. Do the right thing and devise a format that is fair. If there is a need for deviating from standard fair practice, be very clear and upfront about why you are straying from the norm. Lastly, read the Formats Manual. It is a great resource.



As usual, there has been a bunch of discussion about Ultimate on TV on RSD. As usual, there are a wide range of opinions about the impact that TV exposure would have on Ultimate. Some folks feel that Ultimate should follow the football model, complete with refs and "jiggling ta-ta's", and this is understandable as football so clearly dominates the TV landscape. Other folks feel that it is going to be very difficult for Ultimate to get on TV with all the competition, and that our efforts should focus more on the areas that we have more control over, like Youth development, etc.

I enjoy watching Ultimate videos, and I think the CSTV web streaming content is wonderful. They have edited it heavily, but the 80 or so calls in the men's final do not slow down or negatively impact the experience, in my opinion. I would like to see more web streaming content available, and I ask my Wellesley College team to check out the CSTV material as it is a fine chance to learn about the sport.

When I watch Ultimate videos, I struggle with the camera angles and the fact that I can't see what is developing downfield. I think Stacked does a pretty good job of presenting the downfield action. I also appreciate the chance to watch the entirety of a game, even the most mundane portions, as I find the ebb and flows interesting. As I coach women's Ultimate, Stacked can also serve as a complete tutorial of the uses of a 4-person cup. This summer, when I worked at NUTC, we showed some of the Ultivillage DVD during rainy afternoons. I found the highlight reel format to be less than satisfactory, especially when presenting it to teens.

As I became aware of my dissatisfaction with the camera angles of the Ultimate videos I was watching, I started to view the mainstream sports on TV with a bit more of a critical eye. This has actually had a significant impact on my experiencing sports. In my opinion, from a technical point of view, basketball translates very well to TV. In a half court game, the camera can capture the motion of all ten players on the court. Even in fast break situations, the camera can get most of what is occurring at any given moment. This is not to say that I spend much time watching basketball, but I do appreciate that it can be covered well. Obviously, basketball gives us no help in terms of how to present Ultimate.

I played soccer as a kid, and I do appreciate the game. I think soccer translates pretty well onto the TV screen. Most of the action can be framed by a camera. The downside is that the camera shot is quite wide, so the viewer feels a bit distant from the action. I think that soccer provides a good model of how we might have to capture Ultimate, if it is played in large arena. The trade-off of distance in order to capture the bulk of the downfield work is worth it, in my opinion.

My experience of watching football has, unfortunately, diminished as a result of this awareness of camera shots. I now find it hard to comprehend how we accept missing all of the defensive back set-ups and downfield receiver routes. This came to head for me in the 2001 Super Bowl. The Pats kept throwing out 6, 7, and 8 defensive back sets. Madden kept remarking on how odd and effective they were. Yet, there I was, stuck looking at Kurt Warner, the offensive line, and the running backs. Finally, sometime in the third quarter, they threw us a bone and showed an overhead camera shot. It was remarkable to have a quick glimpse of a giant portion of the game that had been entirely missed up to that point. I spoke with a producer who shot sports the other day. He said that football is great because it allows the cameras to reset every play. I understand this, but I am finding the pace of football to be less and less satisfying. All the stoppages of play and the commercials are very frustrating, and, in my opinion, do not really provide a positive model for how Ultimate should be presented on TV. I think we need to be careful and not follow the herd.


Thursday, November 03, 2005

Blogworld as a positive resource

This Ultimate bogworld has the potential to be a great teaching and learning resource. I have used some of the teachings to great effectiveness with my Wellesley girls. Here are a couple that stand out for me:

1) How to teach players the hammer-

I have used Idris' method to efficiently teach my girls how to throw hammers. At Nationals, I was speaking with one of my 6TM teammates who plays for the Yale College team. We were discussing my girls beating them 12-3 at Coffee Cup. She said, "They kept dropping hammers over the cup!" Awesome.

2) Clam Defense-

Al gives a great historical and practical description of the clam:

I like the perspective, and I think this usage could be helpful in college women's Ultimate as teams tend to be a bit predictable starting the disc off a turnover.


Time to Retire?

I can hear the chuckles already. " play in the Mixed Division....doesn't that mean you have already retired?" (Sidenote: Don't you hate RSD posts that begin "Uhmm.....(insert smart ass remark here)". The uhmm is so smug). While I acknowledge such sentiment, it is clearly incorrect and is only really useful to ruffle feathers and bolster fragile egos. However, I think it might be a Universal Truth that if you are 41 years old AND are low down on the depth chart of a Mixed team, it just might be time to embrace one's mediocrity and hang up the cleats in an effort to avoid the 73 Willie Mays Syndrome. Of course, in my specific case, it would 73 Willie Mays without the Vic Wertz catch, the 660 home runs, MVP's, and basically the whole of the 50's and 60's.

Now, if you have read this far, the answer to the title of this post (and deep concern about my career path) must be keeping you at the edge of your seat. I will, however, defer to the wisdom of MC this past Saturday night at the 6TM party in which she said "Decisions about retiring should not be made in November and December". And, indeed, my thoughts have been changing rapidly since Friday or Saturday in Sarasota. I am considering 3 options:

1) Maintain the Status Quo--Perhaps the path of least resistance. Maintain the same level of conditioning and training as last year. Contribute to the team however I can, even if it is in a limited role. While I truly believe that role players provide a benefit to the team if they, at the least, fully challenge the starters in practices (I feel I was successful in this task), the harsh view is that I am essentially riding the team's coattails.

2) New personal goals/work harder--Perhaps I could address the lack of personal goals this past year by working harder this upcoming year. I think I could be motivated to try to bump myself up a few notches on the depth chart. This was before I was told by one of the subbers that my disc skills need to improve, however. I am pretty good at self-evaluation, though, so this isn't really news (see the mediocrity part). Unlike Al and Jim, in "my day" I was a D player/goal scorer. As I have aged, I think one could say that my transition to the other side of the disc has been far from graceful. Still, this option provides for clear direction and goals, and might be the most emotionally positive.

3) Retire--You know what "they" say: "If you can't do......teach". The most dramatic option. In the past, I have made similar decisions in a cold turkey fashion. I tend to cut my losses and move on. I have been nuturing the foundation of a viable path after playing, though, and I think I would get a lot out of it. Coaching, teaching clinics, my admin work, and the NUTC job are all rewarding and will serve to keep me involved.

There are other factors that will impact this decision. Family, work, the make up of 6TM this upcoming year, and 6TM's decision about attending Worlds (maybe I should ride out on the Australian sunset) are just some examples of external forces that will come into play. answer yet.....


Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Training: The Year in Review

My training period actually ends on December 1, but as I take the month of November off, it is a good time to review the prior year and evaluate how it went.

First, the metrics for 12/1/04-12/1/05:

This year, I added in Ultimate games and practices. This was probably a sorry attempt to bump my numbers up, but I thought it might be interesting.

Total Year Hours: 334
Total Calories: 149,763

Total Weight Training Hours: 47 (roughly 20%)
Total Aerobic/Anaerobic training hours: 142(roughly 40%)
Total Ultimate Hours: 145(roughly 40%)

My total non-Ultimate hours: 189
This is down from a high of about 250 hours several years ago, but only 16 hours off of my goal for the year. I think the major loss came from weight training as my focus and commitment were not there this year.

So the numbers are interesting, but do not tell the whole story. In general, I felt this was an off year, and I did not have the confidence in my conditioning that I have had in prior years. I think was due to several factors:

1) Lack of defined and focused personal goals:

I felt very comfortable in the 03-04 year as my conditioning resulted in an appropriate role on 6TM, and we had a great year on and off the field. Entering this year, I had very little resolve to improve on that model. However, as we added more depth on the team, specifically in the areas in which I contribute, and, my overall focus was off, my role and contribution diminished this year. I need to evaluate how to proceed, but I think a possible set of goals for 04-05 could be higher volume and more focused work in an effort to try to bump myself up on the depth chart. Or retire....but more on that later.

I rely heavily on my foundation work in Dec-March to get me to the place where I can benefit from quick twitch work in the late spring/summer. I think if I proceed with the above goals, then I am going to have to train "for real" this December.

2) Injuries:

Chronic Achilles tendinitis, small hamstring tweaks, and chronic tight hip flexors were omnipresent. I think I need to make a commitment to stretching as I have no interest in it at all.

3) Nutrition/Weight:

I love to eat and cook. When I started training seriously, I weighed 164 pounds. With real weight training and conditioning, I was able to get up to about 180 pounds at about 11% body fat. Some folks have questioned whether this extra weight was beneficial, but I felt that I had more power and spring at that time. In the past few years, my weight has been getting close to 185 and I am higher in my body fat count. I think that 05-06 will require greater attention to nutrition if I am going to train seriously.