Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The Thing That No One Is Talking About.........

..........is Worlds.

(Just a quick note, this post is from the viewpoint of me an an Ultimate player and not as National Mixed Director. The opinions I voice on policies are not meant to represent official UPA policy or positions. I have gone through and corrected some facts that I may have misrepresented).

And I am talking about both Junior Worlds and WUCC's. Could 2006 be the benchmark for Worlds insignificance? The Aussie's printed an ad in the UPA newsletter which says "Aussie's win Worlds. (This could be the headline if you don't go)". I mean, could there be a better voicing of the deep seeded anxiety that no one will care who wins this thing if the good old US of A doesn't show up than this ad? OR.....is the word on the street that I am getting totally wrong and everyone is planning on heading Down Under, basically leaving the pickings of Nats to the second tier teams, and making 2006 the "asterix" year (as in: 2006 UPA Club Champions- Kaos* *Everyone else was at Worlds).

Now, it is certainly not cool to harsh on Junior Worlds, and that is not my intent. The kids are the future of the sport, but did WFDF want to eat its cake by deciding to adopt the 4-year rotation AND then, realizing that many Youth players would not get a shot to play, introducing the stand-alone Youth Worlds that so far (in 02, the US of A did not send teams to Latvia to compete...anyone know who won that event?) seems to be barely viable? I have good friends working very hard to make this event a success. I applaud their efforts and would muck right in, but working at NUTC for the three weeks prior just makes it impossible. The problem really isn't with the organizers, of course. The TD's and BUDA know how to put on a great show, and Devins will be a wonderful, if hot, location. It just seems that there are barely enough teams to make this a significant event. It kind of reminds of its infant sibling, the YCC's. There is no doubt in my mind that, in time, these are going to be great events, and it is probably appropriate that they are suffering with the always troubled transition between small and established. However, while it is great to have a vision of the future, this event is struggling right now with a lack of depth, and this was driven home by the recent letter I received asking for funds to get some extra teams to the event. Again, the Ultimate community has shown its generous nature by sponsoring players from South Africa when they attended NUTC. Their presence made camp better, and I sincerely hope that enough funds are raised to bring some extra teams to Boston this summer. I do look forward, though, to a time when there are more teams looking to get in than there are spots available.

If the purpose of WUCC's to have "established" club teams compete against one another, then is it somewhat disturbing to see that WFDF has approved two sets of roster rules for US teams in an effort to, I don't know, get more teams there? (In reading through the document sent by the UPA to its qualifying teams, there is the following language: "Please note that the World Flying Disc Federation significantly revised its Roster Eligibility Rules for the 2006 WUCC. Unfortunately, the changes implemented by WFDF do not translate well to the UPA’s competitive structure and definition of club teams. WFDF guidelines for team rosters were designed for a club system that is quite different from the UPA’s system. In order to meet the UPA and WFDF’s goals of sending true “club” teams to the WUCC, and in order to make the rostering process clearer to US teams making plans to attend, the UPA requested and received the following revised roster eligibility rules from WFDF." See my comments below for the revised rules. I guess it remains to be seen whether these specific rules will result in true club teams, or ringer teams, attending) Rule set A is what we have come to expect: basically everyone has to have played on the team plus you can add 3 ringers. Rule set B, otherwise known as the "come with whoever you want" rule set, says that 50% of the team must have played in 05-06, and then adds varying percentages of geograpically-based restrictions. Then there is the whole impediment of the tournament fees. First, WFDF opens up registration on March 5, and the early fee is due by March 31 ( I am pretty sure I haven't been left off the e-mail list, and, if that is the case, 6TM hasn't even begun to think about things like tryouts for this year). If you didn't qualify, but want to be waitlisted, you get to pay AU$500 for that. Then there is the AU$400 individual player fee. All of the above is in the context of what pretty much everybody is concerned about, which is, holding Worlds two weeks after Nats. Jim's posts back in November about "Are you ready for Worlds?" on the the day that WUCC's would start in 2006 clearly drove the point home. I am concerned that both of the events are going to be watered down.

So, what is going to happen? Well, I think there is going to be a big difference between the Mixed Division and Open/Women's. Most of the Open/Women's teams I have talked have said, "There will be some kind of team going to Austrailia". So, I think "Jam" will be there, but as to who is on the field is anyone's guess. I know of a few Mixed teams that are skipping Nats for WUCC's, and, in general, Mixed teams seem to be taking the WUCC opportunity somewhat seriously. Perhaps I am an alarmist or simply a worrywort, but if the top Mixed teams skip the UPA's then it does not bode well for 2006 as the division is still wrestling with credibility when it comes to quality. In general, though, I think that the tournament will be attended by a lot of folks who want to go on a big trip, and, as a diversion, play some Ultimate in Perth, and, as a result, it might be hard to make the case that the tournament placed "established" club teams from around the world in competition with each other.


Wednesday, March 15, 2006

First Outdoor Practice

There is nothing quite like the humility of the first outdoor practice in the spring. After months of carving outside-in passes into tight spaces, we now all realize we are not quite "all that". It happens pretty quickly. I think the first 20-minute point drives it home effectively.

It is easy, however, to focus too much on the throwers. Reminders to be: chilly, patient, etc. abound. I think much of the work needs be done downfield, though. After months of playing in smaller spaces, our downfield cutters are used to a) getting the disc in small spaces because the throwers can put it there, and b) not having to work hard in a large space. So, while our throwers certainly made some bad decisions, there were a lot of "coverage sacks" as well.

Regardless of whether we are able to get outside for the rest of the week, I think it is time to institute the "no pass over head height" rule. This will place the onus on the girls downfield to create good lanes as well as work early to get open.

At least we were able to get some zone D reps in........



Tuesday, March 07, 2006


Team and players often want to be intense. In many a huddle, I have heard "We need to raise the intensity!". I think we all have an idea that intensity is a positive thing, but do we all have a common understanding of what intensity actually is? I am not sure. I just finished reading Phil Jackson's book "The Last Season", and there is a definition of intensity that made me question my assumptions about the meaning of this word. I think I have mostly associated intensity with aggressiveness, and, I guess, I sort of thought that full intensity walked close to the line of lack of emotional control. I also have felt that emotion and intensity are difficult to manufacture on the spot. You either have it or you don't. The team is either fired up or not.

Phil Jackson's definition of intensity is a much more empowering concept than the assumptions I outlined above. He says "Intensity is full alertness and a commitment to execution and fundamentals". Powerful stuff. So, let's break down the two components of this definition.

-Full alertness--Many Ultimate players are habitually driven. This is a natural result of training-based muscle memory. However, habitual mental behavior shows a lack of awareness or alertness. I have been working with my girls on not habitually running to the same place on the field when receiving a pull. They need to be actively aware of the situation: where is the disc going, what is my job, how fast is the D coming down, are they playing zone, how do I clear for my cutter, etc. A player needs to process all this information quickly and then get into the place they need to be.

Being alert also means having the ability to concentrate. Concentrating while playing without thinking too much is a challenging paradox. We are trying to work on our ability to concentrate during focused, short periods. We will identify that we were able to concentrate of good marking for 3-4 points at the last practice, so our goal for the next practice will be to achieve focus for 5-6 points.

I think alertness is very important for the sideline players. An alert sideline player will be helpful to her on-field teammates, but will also be aware of the game "environment" when it is time for them to play.

-Commitment to execution and fundamentals-- I think these are included as part of the definition of intensity because they place the player within the context of the team's systems with the skills necessary to fulfill the team's plan.

I find this definition of intensity to be a potentially greater positive and empowering means of encouraging players to be at their best when compared with the more emotional and aggressive definitions of the word.


Saturday, March 04, 2006

Games with a Story #1- JPHOF vs Brown, Summer League Game

My re-intoduction to Ultimate came in 1993 via a humble pick-up game in Jamaica Plain. The game and the friendships grew, and then in 1997, we formed a summer league team called JP House of Frisbee (JPHOF). Fun team. We had some pretty good players, but the team was special beacuse folks were quite selfless and that seemed to lead to the team getting the best out of folks.

By 2002, we struggled a bit with numbers. Folks had busy lives, and it was rare for us to get more than 9 out to a game. We toyed with the idea of limiting PT to the first 7 that showed up for a game. Our field was a slanted pasture by the zoo that was decimated by its use as a carnival site.

One week, we had a game scheduled against Brown University. I thought it was a bit odd that Brown would field a summer league team, and it did turn out that this was the only game that they got together for that summer. JPHOF straggled in, as usual, at 6pm. One thing about the summer leagues games is that the traffic is horrible at that time of day. The team was a motley crew, dressed in black, with various dogs and children running around. No sign of Brown. I think we did have a cell phone for them, and it turns out that they were driving up from Providence. As finding this field is tricky for even the seasoned Bostonite, we settled in, figuring that Brown was going to be quite late. We had 8 folks lying around when the first of the Brown cars show up. No problem. We will start when they are ready. I see John Jay, who I coached while he was at Newton North, plus Rebecca Simon (not playing due to an injury, but along for the ride nonetheless) and we exchanged hellos. We became aware of how well they were dressed. Nice new Brown uniforms with numbers. The whole deal. Next came the realization about how good these kids were. All kinds of weird warm-up throws that we had never seen. We're thinking, "Boy, Nathan and Ted really have a machine going on down there".

The game starts and it is a bit subdued, sort of like both teams are calibrating the experience. They are able to score and have, of course, solid fundamentals, but we are also able to score, by a few individuals stepping up to their potential and making big plays. JPHOF never shied away from junk D (in fact, despite those who say that zone to man transitions don't work in Mixed, we were able to hang on with much better teams doing just this), so we decide to pull out a 1-3-3 as they were effective at setting up their isolations. I must say that in the most surprising moments, a 1-3-3 works wonderfully against teams that should clearly be able walk through this gift of a defense. This was one of those times. For some reason, Brown started floating long passes that our backline was able to vacuum up. My thinking was now shifting from admiring the machine to "What are Nate and Ted doing down there?" We took half, and as I could see that John was getting pissed, it was game on.

We trade throughout the second half, but we are always up by at least one as they couldn't get that last break back. We were running a 3-1-3 spread offense that is effective as we are able to get throws off to the iso, and then a couple of our women were able to make long continuity cuts. This, in a sense, summed up JP; we were able to do "sophisticated" things with pretty average players partly, I think, because the atmosphere one that was interested in the process of improving. Brown runs man most of the game, and they like to set up the same match-ups on D, so I have tall Franz on me most of the time. This created problems for me on D, but I was able to mix up what I did on O enough to keep involved.

Finally, it is 12-11 us, game to 13, and we pull to them. We are going down the slope, so they are going to have to work up hill. We play a standard cup zone and hold it the whole way. John runs the show, and they score after about a hundred smart throws. They erupt in celebration. Fists pumping, everyone on the field, etc. we trudge back downhill, and I say to my teammates "What ever happens in this next point, let's remember that this game was fun and that we played well. Do not be timid. Have fun." We set up our 3-1-3, and one of our women, who was not the most confident player, makes several tremendous in-cuts for yardage out of the back row. We were able to make the best of it and punch it into the corner for the win.

After the game, the woman who made the cuts in that last point, thanked me for diffusing the tension before the last point. She said it made it easier for her to play. That's what I liked about my team.

I hung out for a while with Rebecca, Franz, and John, and then, as the dark settled in andd the bugs came out, it was time to make a quick exit and head home.

This was the kind of game that made summer league fun, but I have been having trouble over the past few years finding that place again, and, as a result, I am giving serious thought to not playing this upcoming year. The great thing about BUDA summer "club" is that there are opportunities to learn from very good players. It is hard not to want to take advantage of this opportunity.