Monday, January 30, 2006

Developing a Training Plan-Part 2

As requested, I uploaded a sample of a training plan spreadsheet to my webpage. It should be pretty easy to follow as I tried to make sure the nomenclature follows these posts. I only filled out through the first peak, and it is important to remember that this example plan does not include strength training.

Now that we have established the number of hours per week for our training period, we need to step back an examine the types of workouts we are going to do. This plan uses heart rate as its metric, so it is necessary to purchase a heart rate monitor. This section is straight out of the Sleamaker book. The plan is divided up into four intensity levels. Intensity levels are defined by a heart rate range and by type of exercises. There are physiological benefits to each range, but I am going to save that for another post.

To calculate your heart rate ranges, you need to know your Measured Resting Heart Rate(MRHR), and your Estimated Maximum Heart Rate(EMHR). Your MRHR should be measured first thing in the morning after you go to the bathroom. The simple way to calculate your EMHR is to subtract your age from 220. Once you know these, you can calculate your Heart Rate Reserve(HRR), which is EMHR-MRHR. All the limits of the intensity levels are calculated as HRRx(x%)+MRHR.

Level 1:
Lower Limit=HRRx.6+MRHR
Upper Limit=HRRx.7+MRHR

Exercises: Long, slow distance runs. They are called Overdistance(OD) runs. Strength workouts.

Level 2:
Lower Limit=HRRx.71+MRHR
Upper Limit=HRRx.75+MRHR

Exercises: Long runs. They are called Endurance (EN) runs. Strength workouts.

Level 3:
Lower Limit=HRRx.81+MRHR
Upper Limit=HRRx.9+MRHR (This number should be close to your AT)

Exercises: Intervals, hill runs, most stadium runs, plyos. In my spreadsheet, I split up these exercises into separate workouts.

Level 4:
Lower Limit=HRRx.91+MRHR
Upper Limit=HRRx1.0+MRHR

Exercises: Sprints (less than 400m), some stadium runs, some plyos, agility work such as shuttle runs.

Up until this point, this plan is just the same as a plan for training for a 10k or a marathon. When I first read Sleamaker's book, I was concerned that the focus on endurance was inappropriate for Ultimate. I decided to contact Sleamaker, and he graciously helped me tweak his plan. So, what follows next is your opportunity to customize the plan to suit your needs, and make it a plan for Ultimate.

For each phase of the training period, we need to assign a % for each intensity level. There are some typical rules of thumb, but, as I said, it is customizable. I put out percentages for all the phases through the first peak on my spreadsheet. Typically, for the first couple of base phases, the focus is on increasing your bodies ability to process oxygen as you develop a foundation. So, for my plan, I assign 66% of phase 1 to OD, and 33% to EN. To take it back to the example from the first post, we figured out that for the first week of the plan, the total week hours is 2.78. Therefore, your OD total for week 1 will be (in minutes): 2.78(total week hours)x.66(OD %)*60(to convert it to minutes)=110 minutes. EN will be: 2.78 x .33 x 60=55 minutes. As you apply these percentages to each week, the times of the workouts will increase as the phase percentages increase (from 23% to 26% to 29%) to the peak in week 3. Your total OD workout for week 3 will be:

110(total year hours) x .11(phase %) x .29(week %) x.66(OD %) x 60(minutes)=139 minutes.

In terms of doing the workouts, I try to do the OD and EN work in as few workouts as possible. In other words, I prefer doing one 139 minute workout rather than 3-4 shorter workouts. For the INT work, there are a lot of variables in terms of length of each rep as well as the time of recovery. For my first INT workouts of the year, I do 2 minute reps with 2 minute recover. I ramp this up during the year, so that by the summer my reps are 6 minutes long (or more) and the recovery time is about 3 minutes. When you run the numbers for your spreadsheet, you might feel, at first, that the time allocated for your speed work is too short. Remember that these are very intense workouts. I will sometimes combine a stadium workout (INT) with my speed workouts(Speed) in order to get a full 45 minute workout. Lastly, remember that you are also weight lifting and probably starting up your Ultimate practices, so while it seems like it is not enough.....things get very busy.

The idea is to slowly decrease your intensity level 1 and 2 workouts as you mix in your level 3 and 4 workouts. By Intensity Phase #1, my balance is about 70% levels 3 and 4 to 30% levels 1 and 2. By Peak Phase #1, I am no longer doing intensity level 1 and 2 workouts.

The main suggestions I received from Sleamaker about making the plan appropriate for Ultimate were:

1) increase overall percentages of level 3 and 4 workouts as compared to the typical endurance sport. In Sleamaker's templates, he usually allocates a max of 25% to level 3 workouts. For my plan this year, my level 3 allocation for Intensity Phase #1 is 65%.

2) start the level 3 and 4 workouts a bit earlier than endurance sports. We need to keep tabs on our bodies to make sure we don't get worn down, but it is a good idea to get those fast twitch muscles firing. I begin mixing in my intervals at the beginning of Base Phase #3 (roughly mid to late January).

I am going to get into some additional aspects of this training plan is later posts. Some of the topics will be:

-integrating strength into the plan
-physiological benefits of the intensity levels
-fast twitch vs slow twitch issues


Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Developing a Training Plan-Part 1

I have been working on this post for a few days, so it should sit well with Gwen's post about conditioning for Ultimate.

I have found that having a good training plan keeps me motivated and on track. It adds focus and reminds me of why I am doing what I am doing during each particular phase. This post will go into the basics about developing a training plan. Part 2 will add some specifics.

A good plan begins with good goals. Gwen quickly got to what I think are the two primary goals of a good plan for Ultimate:

1) Increase aerobic capacity- This means develop a solid base. It also means testing yourself close to your Anaerobic Threshold(AT). Some aspects of strength are here as well.

2) Increase speed, power, and explosiveness- Mostly anaerobic work, but some strength.

Once you have identified your goals, you need to look at the time period in which you have to work, and where your peak(s) will be. This is your training period. If you are in college right now and don't have a plan, this means that your training period begins today and your peak will be somewhere in late April. For me, my training plan begins on Dec 1 of each year, and concludes on Nov 30 of the next year. I have two training peaks, one in May and one in October. I do the double peak because I want to be ready to compete in tournaments in the summer. I found that without the early peak, I was susceptible to injuries because my body was not ready for the rigors of early season tournaments.

The next step is to divide your training period into phases. I identify my phases as follows:

1) Base- The focus is on increasing aerobic capacity and strength.
2) Intensity- Works on AT, speed, and strength.
3) Peak- Speed, power, agility.
4) Season- Focus is on supporting playing Ultimate
5) Rest

I find it convenient to allocate 4 weeks to a phase, but this can be tweaked if you are crunched for time. So beginning on roughly Dec 1, my phases are: Base1, Base2, Base3, Base4, Intensity1, Intensity2, Peak1, Intensity3, Intensity4, Peak2, Season1, Season2, Rest.

Now it is time to figure out how much time you want to spend training. Rob Sleamaker, author of "Serious Training for Endurance Athletes", calls this your Year Hours. Apparently, Olympic Nordic skiers can spend 700-1000 hours per year training. I found my peak (not including time spent playing Ultimate) to be about 250 hours per year. I have tweaked this metric now so that it does not include strength training. I only map out my aerobic and anaerobic work with my year hours, and for this year I am planning on 110 hours.

We now need to combine year hours and the phases. We need to allocate percentages to each phase. This is the first acknowledgement that our metrics are intensity and time (not distance and rate). Base periods will receive more time than peaks, for example, but the intensity of peak phases will be much greater. Each phase is given a percentage of the total year hours. My allocation is as follows: Base1(11%), Base2(12), Base3(12), Base4(11), Intensity1(9), Intensity2(9), Peak1(6), Intensity3(7), Intensity4(7), Peak2(6), Season1(5), Season2(5), Rest(0).

Next comes monthly periodization, which is important. This can be tweaked during your training period or phase to accommodate unanticipated changes in your schedule. In general, though, you want to maintain consistency with periodization. Each week of a phase receives a percentage of total workload of the phase. A common and effective allocation is: Week 1 (23%), Week 2(26%), Week 3(29%), and Week 4(22%). As you can see, periodization increases your workload as you proceed through each phase, and then gives you an "easy" week to rest up for the next phase. Building your capacity is achieved through slow and steady change.

I find it helpful to organize my plan with a spreadsheet. After entering a few formulas, I type in my year hours and all of the above numbers are calculated. So, at this point we have:

-A defined Training Period broken up into phases
-Total Year Hours
-Each phase is allocated a percentage of the Total Year Hours
-Each phase is periodized

If you have actually followed along, you should be able to calculate how much time you will spend for each week of your training period.

For example, to calculate the amount of time for my first week of my training period: (Total Year Hours(110) x Base1 %(.12)xWeek1 % of Base1(.23))= 2.78 hours. Just a reminder, for me, this number does not include strength training.

The next post will go into intensity levels and how to allocate specific workouts to specific parts of the training period.


Monday, January 23, 2006

Combating "take what you are given"?

As a cutter, I love it when a defender not only tips their hand early as to how they are going to play me (fronting, backing, etc), but is unwavering in their commitment to fronting or backing, etc. I am aware of the tenet "take what you are given" both from general Ultimate knowledge and it seems to find its way into many football articles these days. There have been times when I have a defender that is commited to backing me, and, off a stopped disc, I am able to walk him 20 yards downfield and then make an in cut for good yardage.

How many players and/or teams deliberately hold their cards close to the vest on D in order to not advertise "THIS IS HOW I AM PLAYING YOU"? I think there is a lot of value in not only playing "flat"(my word for not fronting or backing) before the disc is in play, but also, especially with a savvy cutter that likes to set up their cut before the disc is in play, to use a small amount of motion to disguise what you are giving the O. Using my example of a defender backing me, I have never had a defender back me, let me take them out 30 yards (too far away for a useful away cut), and then, as the disc is put into play, switch to fronting.

Now, we all know that there are 3-4 principles about cutting, including specifics about what to do when you want what the D is not giving you, but at a basic level it seems with some small tweaks the D could at least force a cutter to have to go beyond principle #1 every once in a while.


Thursday, January 19, 2006


Obviously, with the "Adjustments" and "When does a run begin" posts, I am thinking a lot about game management these days. This post is about preparation and, as usual, is basically a comparison of our sport to other sports. Certainly, football gets a lot of press about the importance of coaching, specifically as it relates to preparing the teams for upcoming games. I think baseball does this as well, primarily it seems, around tweaking the lineup based on who is pitching. I am unaware about the amount of preparation that goes into sports like soccer, hockey, and korfball.

I would hazard a guess that there is little or no advance preparation in our sport at this point. Cash27 alluded to this in my "Adjustments" post when he said that one of his teammates does a 10-second scout of the team they are about to play. While this is quaint, funny, and probably even an appropriate amount of scouting for our unsophisticated times, it seems that we are putting a lot of pressure on ourselves by requiring a high level of game time scouting.

I spoke to Josh Greenough about this, and he described how he used film to break down the O, D, and tendencies of Pike for Nats 05. He said to me that Jam was very prepared for their game, and that they were able to set-up the match-ups that they wanted ahead of time. He did not go so far as to say that the preparation was THE reason that they had a lot of success in the game, but he would admit that it helped a lot.

I think using film to scout will become more commomplace with time. I also think "real" scouting at tournaments might become a job. Now, in today's environment it might be easy to say "Hey, we play these guys all the time. We know what they will do". This might be the case, but there is probably a similar familiarity in the NFL. Bill Belichick has a remarkable record against teams that he is seeing for the second time in a season (this past weekend notwithstanding), and I am sure that they pour over the film just as much for the second game.


Saturday, January 14, 2006

Board Meeting Social Evening #1

As usual, I tossed around in the bed at the hotel starting around 4am. I don't sleep well in hotels on the first night, and the time change just enhances the problem. I finally got up at 5am and found this computer in the business center. At dinner last night, there was a lot of talk about blogworld.

I decided to fly into Denver early as I wanted to see the new UPA HQ. The new office is located in the SW part of Boulder now. Not quite as much character in the neighborhood, but a nice space for the UPA. There is good space for storage, and everyone has a nice office. Lots of discs on the wall. There is a nice, framed montage of discs, photos, and a medal from the World Games. Everyone is pretty busy at HQ. New Board Member Ricky E said to me that UPA members would be impressed by the commitment to service by the staff, and that a visit to HQ would make everyone appreciate what the UPA does for us. I decided to bother Kyle first. We spent time talking about the blogworld. Kitt came in and discussed some programming changes she was working on. After talking to Kyle for a while, I floated over to the video tape library. It is a bit small, but nevertheless an intersting experience. I watched some of the 98 College Open finals to try to find my friend Jay Clyne. Then I watched some of the UMASS/Stanford final from 1986. Kyle came in and we discussed how these teams would not make it to the second day of sectionals these days. The O was pretty disorganized, the throws undeveloped, and lots of basic errors on D (running past the mark, etc). Next came the finals of Easterns 1986, Titanic v Spot. Everyone is very young and skinny.

Will came in at that point, so I turned off Disc 4, and we talked about a variety of topics that will come up this weekend. Elizabeth and Tommy showed up and we all went to dinner.

The restaurant had an hour long wait, so there was plenty of time to talk. I spent a long time talking with Elizabeth. I am so impressed by her organizational abilites as well as her thoughtful commitment to good ideas. We discussed the differences between our first meeting 4 years ago and now. Both of us felt that there was a lot of time mis-management and we were both put off a bit by the sense of hierarchy in terms of perceived status. Both of these things have changed over the past 4 years. The Board has put proceedures into place to maximize efficiency in terms of things like the budget and proposals. There is also a diminished sense of anyone being more important than anyone else, and I think Elizabeth's perspective as an organizer has gone a long way in helping us move forward.

We sat down for dinner and other folks showed up. It was great to see Henry, Todd, and Josh again, although I did not get much of a chance to see them. I spent a long time talking with Sandie about the World Games experience. I finished up the night talking with Will about blogworld. I brought him up to speed and then mentioned that I had been thinking a lot about Idris' post in May about matchups as well as some stuff about stats. We talked about matchups for a long time. I looked over Idris' article and realized that I had mis-interpreted a few things, and it seems like Will and I ended up in a similar place (match-ups don't do that deep as D players switch their mark and that teams are not advanced enough yet to systematically take advantage of favorable matchups).

Realizing that I was going to get up at 5am, I caught a ride to the hotel, and that was the end of the evening. I have said it before, but I am humbled to be able to come out here and spend time with intelligent people whose passion for Ultimate is consuming. I look forward to spending the day working on Ultimate. What could be better?


Thursday, January 12, 2006

2 Hour30minute Tour/Off To UPA Board Meeting

Like last month, today was long run day. Much nicer than a month ago. 50 degrees and sunny. Awesome. I wore shorts. As it was not as cold, I was able to keep my pace down to around 134bpm for most of the run. The interesting thing is that my calorie total was almost identical to last month, even though the run was 13 minutes longer.

Getting all my workouts done by today means a nice break while I head out to the UPA Board Meeting. Should be fun. I enjoy the ND meetings very much and we seem to get a lot done. Thanks to everyone for sending in your porkbarrel requests....I will try to get to them all......


Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Removing Spectators

Last week I was glancing through the paper, and I was reading the sports page about the Celtics game the previous evening. What caught my eye was a brief paragraph that discussed the removal of a spectator by one of the referees. I actually didn't know that basketball refs are empowered to remove fans. I recall seeing a sports list show about the worst fans. A couple were basketball fans, and I don't recall any discussion of them being removed by the objects of their slander. In the article, the ref said that the spectator in question was loud, profane, and was sitting among a group of families with small children.

Of course, I started looking at this in the context of Kyle's article in the newsletter and the controversey around the heckling for the women's finals. I think Kyle's article is very good, and the call for heightened self-policing makes sense for an event that is attending pretty much solely by the participants.

As with any discussion about public behavior and manners, the line between good taste and offensive behavior varies with every person. I think the time is coming fast when our behavior is not just viewed within the walls of our insulated community, and that each attendee will be held to some defined standard of public decency. The art of heckling will come under scrutiny, but, maybe, limited parameters will enhance the creativity. While there will probably be tension between self-policing and an externally defined set of expectations for public behavior, hopefully folks will meet the challenge with minimum of ejections or apologies on RSD.

I think the most creative heckling I experienced was at Cornell hockey games in the '70's. As there is nothing to do in Ithaca mid-January, the game was the event in town. Lynah Rink was basically a tin shack. Very loud and raucous. The fans threw sieves out onto the ice after each Cornell goal, they blew loud airhorns, the band was rocking, and the crowd had very creative and publicly known cheers. The most hated opponent was Harvard, and the Cornell fans pulled no punches. Live chickens and fish got thrown out onto the ice and the cheers became more and more lewd. Even then, in the late 70's, with a sense that our behavior should not be regulated, the refs and Cornell officials had to draw the line, and a series of penalties including forfeiture were devised if the fans got out of hand. While the games became slightly more tame, the fans did direct themselves in more creative and less hostile ways. So, as Kyle described in the article, be aware of your behavior. I tend to view what I say, or yell, from the sidelines in terms of how would my daughter react. Is the language being used something that I feel comfortable with her hearing? Again, the line of standards is different for each of us, but this is what works for me.


Friday, January 06, 2006

You Don't Know What You've Got Until Its Gone......

I had an interesting experience yesterday in which Idris, due to a programming error, removed me from Ultimatetalk for several hours. This post is about my reaction to that experience, so if you can't bear to read about me sucking up to Idris and bowing to the Temple Ultimatetalk, please move on...........

After I got my daughter off to school, I made my way upstairs with my coffee to do my normal routine of checking my e-mail and seeing what is up on Ultimatetalk. Just a normal morning during this slow period in my work. Nothing going on with e-mail, so I cranked up Ultimatetalk. No new action, but then I noticed that "Holy Shit! I have been downgraded from a "contributor" to "other sites". Those who know me well know that I am extremely sensitive to caffeine, so things started to happen quickly. First, I sent an e-mail to Idris titled "Downgraded?", and the text was "What's Up?". Simple. Maybe even a bit coy with very little entitlement. This being 9am EST, I knew that I was going to have to wait awhile until the other coast got up and checked out the internet.

The next hour was pretty much insufferable. First, there was concern and anxiety. Why had I been removed from Ultimatetalk? Were my posts really that bad? Why didn't anyone just drop me a line to say that I am boorish? Maybe it was that I have been posting too much lately. Or posting too much inane drivel. My thoughts were racing at top caffeine speed. Jim had casually asked me at a party the other day how I had got onto Ultimatetalk. Paranoia set in. I was on his list, right? Maybe this was Al and Jim's doing.......

Anxiety turns inevitably to anger. Ok, what is it now, Ultimatetalk for Elite Open White Males? FUCK Idris and those other elite bastards. I will form my own Ultimatetalk. For the common player. Kenny just shows up and takes my spot, WHAT THE FUCK!!?

Anger takes so much energy, though, and I lost focus. This turned into resignation. Well, being an "other site" is not that bad. I check The Pups, Marshall, and Gwen every day, right? The pups might even have the best discussions going. Maybe I should just stop blogging.

Then I get an e-mail.

It is from THE BIG I.

I open it.

He says "Whoops, sorry, mate......programming error on my part". BOOM! Everything is right with the world again!

Now comes the sucking up part. Losing something you value reminds you that it is precious. I thank Idris for creating Ultimatetalk, and I hope I able to do my bit in some small additive way with humility and perspective.

Finally, the experience made me realize that, despite my anti-hierarchy leanings, I view being a "contributor" as more significant than being an "other site". I apologize for such arrogance (probably the least attractive of human traits). This violates not only my desire to not buy into hierarchies based on subjective criteria, but also shows a disappointing lack of the aforementioned humility. My only out is that I can claim, as I said earlier, to actively read the "other sites" almost daily, and I am grateful for their thoughtful and interesting posts. Gwen's site is great in its focus on women's Ultimate, the Pups have great topics, Marshall has not been posting much recently, but he is always insightful, and hh, well, it is always a great adventure. I think including these sites on Utimatetalk enhances the site greatly.

Thanks for your indulgence.


Thursday, January 05, 2006

When does the run begin?

I have been thinking for a few years about whether it is possible to identify, in real time, when your opponents run begins. These thoughts largely stem from my inability to remember 6TM's turnover at 12-9 against CLX in the 04 semi's. The experience of this game also taught me that a 3 goal lead is not a safe lead.

The problem is that your opponents run begins when you are on defense. I think it is easy to say that the run begins with a break, but, if that is the case, then they began the point by pulling to which case you were on D when they scored the previous point. In a sense, it seems easy to say, when your opponent has scored on your D that "they were suppossed to score" or "it's OK, we are trading points". Of course, there is now the normal pressure and expectation that your O will socre. If your O gets broken, well, now it is time for the red flags to go up. But, in many cases, it is now a one point game, and their D is on a roll.

Perhaps the concern is actually not being able to identify that a run is beginning. Certainly, most runs are discussed with the clarity of hindsight, but maybe the D getting scored on is actually not acceptable, no matter if it begins a run or not. So, while is it convenient to discuss runs in the context of explaning the way a game went, maybe the game-time focus is on achieving the team goals on a point by point basis.


Wednesday, January 04, 2006

It looks bad for some of us.....

Jim, Ken, Aj, Tarr and others had a chat about whether Ultimate is exciting anymore.

Tim's post also discusses parity since 1999.

This article here could not have been much better timed.

I am feeling really good about my seedings for nats this past year.........



Belichick has made a name for himself not only for his preparation, but for his ability to adjust mid-game. As I have said before, I think we default too often to habitual and, therefore, predictable behavior. I think there are enormous opportunities for a team that has the ability to adjust quickly. There is debate, however, about the necessity of adjustments. I spoke with Gwen over the summer about the need for making adjustments. Gwen said that at Stanford, it is all about them. They do not adjust. They believe in their system. It has been proven and tested over time, and it works. The challenge is to implement it correctly. These were not her words, just my interpretation. Now, even I, with my storied and robust coaching career, had trouble arguing with their track record. I have been thinking a bit more about adjustments, however, as I have trouble letting go of my inane little concerns, and I think our discussion was as product of different interpretations of the word, as well as different views about the scope of adjustments.

It seems to me that adjustments can be broken down into a few categories (this list is not meant to be comprehensive): individual, team, offense, and defense. I would argue that these can be organized (purely subjectively) from simple to complex as follows:

individual offense/defense
team defense
team offense

Any good cutter, it seems to me, with even the most basic knowledge of "take what they give you" is essentially reacting and adjusting to the defense as they make their cut. A good defender learns the tendencies of her charge and adjusts to make life more difficult for them. It seems to me that almost all teams either have the ability to do this, or, more likely, do this already. So, while Stanford might not make major system-wide adjustments mid-stream, I bet that on an individual level, they are tweaking their schemes as the game progresses.

Most teams I have been a part of engage in some form of team defense adjustments. Sure, I have, on occasion, played on teams that do not acknowledge anything but force-flick, but this, thankfully, is not frequent. Not only do teams throw out a variety of defensive looks during a game, but subtle tweaks occur in between points or during halftime. Frequently, these adjustments have to do with the mark as well as positioning downfield. I can recall numerous times in which both the large scale as well as subtle team defense adjustments have contributed to wins.

Adjustments to team offense are another story altogether. I have feeling that this is what Gwen was referring to in our conversation. I can say with certainty that I have experienced a system-wide adjustment in a team's offense only once. It occurred, in the most unexpected place, at Fools in 02. I was playing with Short Fat Guys in the semi's against WeSwill. WeSwill had tremendous success against Bomb in qtrs with big lefty throws from Jason Haas and Mooney. They ripped Bomb apart. We went in and played force backhand, our D was able to convert the breaks, and we went up 6-2. They began the game as they had finished against Bomb, but the big throws were not working. Around this 6-2 point in the game, Mooney and Haas started to sit a bit more on O (Mooney still played great on D and did make some big plays), and we started to see a lot of Stu (little Stu from E-pig) and Regetz. Not only did they show us the shorter guys, but it was all about the short game. Dump and Swing, give and go's, etc. This started a run for them and we ended up losing the game. I spoke with someone, maybe Lyn, a few months later, and I asked about whether putting Stu and Regetz out there was a conscious, planned decision. He said, "Yep, that was all Mooney". Am I mistaken that this is a rare occurence? What do teams do when the O goes wrong? I think it is a difficult proposition for teams to alter their offensive philosophy mid-stream.


Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Education of a Coach

My brother is a real Head Coach. He is the coach of the Brown U crew team. We enjoy discussing sports and coaching. The differences between coaching Crew and Ultimate are vast, but we discuss many aspects such as mental toughness and training. We frequently give each other sports books as gifts. This past holiday, he gave me "The Education of a Coach" by Halberstam (I enjoy reading sports books by "real" authors like this guy and John Feinstein). I am not a big Patriots fan as my contrarian nature recoils against provincialism, but I am a big fan of Bill Belichick. This book is well-written and very focused on the education that the elder Steve Belichick provided for his son. The book is as much about Steve as it is Bill, and Steve was a very interesting character. He stayed away from the limelight and glamour of a Head Coach position, and instead focused his life on what he was good at, which was scouting and breaking down film. His obsessive interest was passed on to Bill, and his success in preparing his teams has been well-documented.

As usual, I spend time trying to relate the book to my job as a coach. It is interesting how much the Belichick's strengths play pretty much solely to the defense, although this is not that surprising considering Bill's years as a D coordinator. While there are significant differences in the parameters of being a football coach vs an Ultimate coach, the book does make me ponder if there is a lack of defensive sophistication in Ultimate. Now, a defensive team in Football benefits from each plays re-set, thereby giving the D a chance to see the O's cards right before the play begins. I do think that an Ultimate team does have a similar opportunity when it is about to pull to not only see the O players (and their tendencies), but to also have a chance to make a call and change things up.

The book stresses how much time father and son spent watching film. Over and over again, looking for clues and tendencies. Steve said he begins by watching the center. That is where the direction of the play begins. Of course, I thought about the possible uses of video in terms of preparation for Ultimate. I think there might be untapped opportunities in terms of preparation for our sport.

Steve was unique in terms of his work ethic and methods. He is described as someone who saw scouting and film as and end in and of itself. Most other scouts had higher aspirations, and, apparently, you could see this as the scouts viewed their work as done on Saturday, while Steve (and young Bill) would sit and analyze each play to check on the quality of their work. Steve was also unique in that, while most scouts looked for the oppositions weaknesses, he looked for the way to take away their strengths. Bill certainly inherited and perhaps the best example is the 01 Super Bowl. Not only did the Pats drop 7-8 DB's back (thus inviting the Rams to run), they decided that Faulk, not Warner, provided the team's rhythm. The mission of the team was to knock Faulk down at every opportunity, and Bill spent the week of practicing yelling at his D "Where is he? Where is he?" as a continual reminder of their task. So, the first thing I started to think about is it just a matter of, say, for a team that likes to cut underneath to force them away. Certainly, the idea of making a team uncomfortable like this is pretty obvious, but are there deeper levels of awareness in terms of knocking a team out of its rhythm? I do feel that Ultimate players are creatures of habit and very willing to reveal their tendencies, so there are opportunities on the defensive side of things and that Ultimate is not necessarily all about the O.


Monday, January 02, 2006

Embrace the Tweener

This past fall, Adam Goff and I had a continuing debate about the Tweener. He would frequently, like every time we got in a huddle, try to tween folks, and his pleasure in doing so became increasingly annoying. He would rejoice with every successful Tweener, and crumple in the agony of defeat when each roller missed its target. After I while, I set out to diffuse the situation by Welcoming the Tweener (the sexual conotation of the name does not escape me). Basically, when I saw it coming, I would open wide and receive. This was highly successful. There was no joy in it being so easy or so embraced. He tried to convince me otherwise as we debated the merits of Embracing the Tweener, but I could tell by the dull light in his eyes that it was true.

While it is a fictional account, I think one of the best examples of Embracing the Tweener is Eminem's last rap in "8 Mile". Nothing like rolling out the laundry list of your flaws to disempower your adversary, and to bond with the audience as I think most of us can relate to the everyday failings of life.

When I was a kid, I had a lot of trouble Embracing the Tweener. For every teasing charge that I vehemently denied, the pack of sharks grew in fury as they began to smell blood. I am not sure that I had a sense of humor back then, and any semblance of one certainly did not include self-deprecation.

I think each of us, either sub-consciously or not, draws a line in the sand, and if someone crosses that line, we take offense. It is the nature of the Tweener to one-up its way close to that line and test the waters. I think a mature player does a relatively accurate assessment of their on-field strength and weaknesses, but I don't think we have done a similar inventory about where our line in the sand is when it comes to the Tweener. I had a brief discussion about this with Russ Bogan last night, and he said, as a lawyer, you must acknowledge the arguments that reveal your weaknesses. This makes you strong.

This is not to say that I am continuously successful at acknowledging my weaknesses, nor that I am able to always Embrace the Tweener in less mundane circumstances. This fall I did get pretty tired of the "old guy" comments. The various Viagra, inevitable suppository, and nap jokes as well as one of the younger folks dubbing me "Grandpa George" did wear a bit thin. I think I had brief lapses in my awareness of the relentless nature of the Tweener, but, not to worry, even my few vaguely successful moments on the field were greeted by comments of "Wow, good job, that gives me hope for when I get old". I think I was able to get through it with a chuckle and my dignity intact, but it is easy to forget that having the courage to Embrace the Tweener takes energy and a perseverence equal to the incoming Tweener. Just wide.....and receive.