Sunday, April 23, 2006

06 Metro Boston Women's Sectionals

For the Whiptails, this story begins last weekend at Yale Cup and involves a subplot that I didn't get into in my recap post. Going into that weekend, the team goals were clear: advance to pre-quarters and give it our best shot for quarters. However, we were also aware that the tournament had direct seeding implications for Sectionals...and Regionals. One of the things we have been working on as a team is grappling with a paradox of athletics: how to remain in the moment when you aware of that your actions, in the present moment, impact what occurs in the future. I think separating outcome goals and process goals can really assist players in developing the maturity to manage this paradox. As a team, we are having much clearer discussions about what might occur in the future, based on possible results, but I have been so impressed that the girls do not develop expectations and are able to remain focused on the present task at hand.

So, going into Yale Cup, I was aware that it was likely that Metro Boston was going to be, in the words of Adam Tarr, the "dreaded" 9 team/5 advance format. For those of you not up to speed, it is a pool of 5 and a pool of 4. The winners of the pools play one game on Sunday for 1st and 2nd. The other 7 play in a round robin to decide 3, 4, and 5. My goal was to place higher than Harvard and Northeastern and snag the coveted 3rd spot behind Tufts and MIT. I have the greatest respect for MIT, but, this year, I felt that the only shot we had at the championship game was to be in MIT's pool at Sectionals, not Tufts. I feel that my speculation was correct based on the the end results at Yale Cup (10-5 loss to Tufts, 9-7 loss to MIT).

Beth N, being the great SC that she is, rewarded teams for their hard work at Yale Cup and used those results to seed Sectionals. We, as predicted, were seeded #3, and while we felt we earned it, we by no means felt entitled to that spot. We felt very well set up to achieve probably our primary outcome goal for the year: qualify for Regionals. Pool A was Tufts,
Harvard, BU, Brandeis, and BC. Our Pool was MIT, Wellesley, BU, and Tufts B. I spent a fair amount of time talking with my captains, Nell and Naomi, about how we were going to approach the weekend. I felt we developed a solid plan for subbing and tactics, and we had a brief meeting after one practice to over with the team what we were planning. As the week progressed, the weather forecast for Sunday got worse and worse. By Thursday, it called for an inch of rain and 20-30 mile an hour winds. Clearly, winning our pool and avoiding playing four games in crap weather became more urgent.

Our start time, due to the fact that we were in a pool of four, was a very civilized 12:30pm, and our opponent was Tufts-B. Our plan was to open up the rotation and rest some players that were a bit tweaked. The conditions were a bit windy, but we were able to score upwind goals and beat them 13-0. They went on to have a tough day in that they did not score a goal, but the girls on that team are getting great experience. It is their presence that leads to the solid foundation upon which that program enjoys great success. I would love to have a B team like Tufts-B.

The next game was against BU. We had beaten them in a scrimmage two weeks before, so we felt we could beat them. We did want to manage our rotation, though, and save legs for MIT. We came out strong and took half 7-3. In the second half, we went up 8-4, and then I felt like our rotation lost some focus, or. perhaps, BU dug their heels in and scored on an upwind goal after we had trouble getting organized after a turn. Before you know it, is 9-8, 12-10 good guys receiving. We were able to trade it out to cap 12-10. I spoke to Nell about whether she felt our confidence was rattled, but she felt we were fine.

So, now comes the death match. I think we won all our flips during the weekend, and we choose side each time...going downwind. MIT pulled to us, but we couldn't score. They basically ripped though us and scored on a big upwind flick. They scored downwind to make it 2-0. We receive going downwind, but can't score. They go upwind again with ease, and as one of their players catches it for the goal, I say to Nancy "We are taking a time....." There is a call. Disc goes back. Turnover. We score downwind. We get a chance to set up our zone and we get solid play from Snitch, Jersey and Tyke. With LB as last, Nell and Langdon can push to the difficult wing spots. MIT seems to make some mistakes, and we are able to get it to 3-2, good guys. Our rotation is very tight at this point, maybe 8 players. Our sideline is wonderfully selfless. Active, engaged, and trusting that the right decisions are being made. We discuss before pulling it that we sometimes give up runs during the second part of the first half. We decide that we won the game to three and now it is 0-0, game to 4. Both teams are playing well and battling hard. We manage to take half 7-4, and Beth informs me that cap will go on in 15 minutes. I felt that the game was going to go to cap, so we needed to maintain that buffer. I made the team aware of the cap, but I told them that we could not play for the cap....we had to earn the win.

While we had some unfortunate turns on goal attempts, MIT also had goals that were dropped. MIT had some very good displays of sportsmanship, the most noteworthy being Darlene uncontesting a strip call by Angie that the MIT sideline clearly felt was not a strip. We ended up scoring upwind in a series of points in which both teams traded upwind goals. After MIT scores to make it 8-6, Nell calls a timeout because we need to refuel for the last several points. I look at my watch. It is 5:12pm and the cap is going on in three minutes. Now, I think it can be unseemly to "play the clock", but I think it important to keep in mind what is at stake: achieving our goal of qualifying for Regionals and avoiding playing 4 games with 11 players in the cold rain. The next point has a lot of turnovers. MIT gets close to scoring, but can't convert. I can hear the people gathering saying how hard the teams are playing. We can't convert. Then, finally, Naomi throws a big backhand around the mark to Tyke, and it is 9-6. I look at my watch and it is 5:24. One minute to hard cap. I go over to Beth to confirm what is going to happen. Beth remarked to me frequently over the weekend how much she loves this event, which is, for many of the teams in our section, the big tournament of the spring. She is also clear about the rules and their implementation. She spoke to Nancy and Nurit and we played the point. They scored...hard cap went over...9-7. That always feels like a strange way to win. That does not take away the fact that my girls worked very hard and played well against a very talented and experienced team.

As it turns out, the weather was not so bad today. Our game against Tufts (who won their pool) was at 11:15am. The game started, as Josh McCarthy put it, "very clean", and we traded to 2-2. Our O seemed a bit edgy, though, and we took a lot of deep shots. I think the decisions were good ones, but we seemed a slightly frantic. As the first half progressed, we began to have trouble with their cutters and they seemed to be very good at taking what we gave them. We kept trying to adjust, but if we overplayed the open side, they dumped it and went around the other side. I mentioned in my Yale Cup post that they seemed "high strung". I do think that they were much more calm in this game. We did have some success playing zone against them. We were able to force some risky throws, but they were able to come down with them. They took half 8-4, and we ran out of gas. They closed it out with a 14-4 win. Alicia and Sangwha (the Tufts coaches) are quite the pair, though. Alicia came over and gave me a big old hug after the game, but Sangwha, as usual, never has the time to shake my hand. And I have been her freaking teammate for the past two years. I thought Tufts played very well and are right where they need to be heading into Regionals. I was very proud of my girls for going out and achieving what they wanted to do. They showed a remarkable ability to remain focused.

I had a chance to peruse the SRT and, based on the results from our region, I will take a whack at seeding the top 9 for Regionals.

1) Dartmouth- beat Tufts at Yale Cup
2) Tufts-obvious
3) Wellesley-has to be seeded higher than MIT
4) MIT-Beat Brown at Yale Cup
5) Brown
6) Northeastern-has to be seeded higher than Harvard
7) Harvard-beat Vermont at Yale Cup
8) Vermont-
9) Yale


Monday, April 17, 2006

Ultimatetalk Chat Request Line: Planning a Practice

Dave requested on Ultimatetalk Chat that someone post about planning a practice. I will give it a shot, but I acknowledge from the start that probably the most interesting thing about this subject is an assumed variety of perspectives and experience. I hope that folks comment on this post as that will most likely enhance my limited viewpoint.

When I first started planning practices, I struggled with the responsibility that allocating precious time to any task/skill/drill/scrimmage essentially defines that skill, etc, as a priority. So, while it is important to be able to plan a good practice, it might be even more important to define an overall plan for how your practices are going to develop over the course of the season. For example, at Wellesley, we are developing a "template" for what we are going to focus on at practice as we move from Sept to May. In the fall, the priority is teaching skills to new players. Most of our time is spent on throwing and catching. By April, however, much more time is spent on discussing tweaking our zone O, for example. We still work on throwing and catching, but the amount of time devoted to these skills is diminished when compared to September.

When looking at planning an individual practice, I think there are five components that make up a good practice. The amount of time spent on each will vary during the season, but all probably come into play at all practices. The five components are:

skills and drills
team strategy


I design my practices to flow in roughly the order above, and I work conditioning into the various phases.

1) Warm-up- Clearly, this involves some social throwing as folks gather, but I think a defined start to a focused warm-up process is positive. I also think that as the season approaches that a team can warm-up like they warm-up for games and this develops a positive routine. I think the typical jogging and stretching routines work well, but I am a firm believer in the various "active warm-up" routines that many teams do. I stole many of the exercises from Mike Namkung/Team USA via Gwen Ambler and added them to some of the exercises I learned from Bryan Doo. These exercises involve a variety of motions like lunges, shuffle runs, backward runs, etc, and also work on balance and footwork.

After the players heart rates have been elevated, I think warm-up can provide a nice segue to skills and drills. Typically, these are activities such as 10-throw, speed flow, go to, break mark drill, etc. To me, they serve the dual purpose of continuing to warm-up the athletes, but also working on fundamental skills.

2) Skills and Drills- After the "transitional" warm-up drills are complete, I think it can be beneficial to spend the early part of practice working on specific skills that need to be developed. This post is not an attempt at a skills and drills manual, but a few that come to mind could be cutting drills, dump drills, etc.

3) Team Strategy- It can be important at points in the season to allocate time for "walk throughs". This is time spent getting everyone on the same page on the details of things like stack spacing, set plays, and zone O and D. Time may be spent here doing specific run throughs/drills to get in reps on the ideas you are working on.

4) Scrimmage- Not much to say here. Hopefully, a scrimmage can build on the points you have been working, and you will be able to work on your execution. I think many teams approach a scrimmage as "the fun part of practice" and can lose focus.

5) Conditioning- Typically, conditioning in practice is sprint/fast twitch work. I think this is fine, and I like to weave conditioning into the practice and I find that conditioning can provide a good transition between your phases of practice. I also like to do things like: game to 3, shuttle runs, game to 3, sprint relays, etc, before doing a longer scrimmage to end practice. I know a lot of teams do sprints at the end of practice and I think this can be valuable as well.

In terms of the length of practice and the time allocated to the five components, I think that the minimum amount of time for a great practice is about 2 hours and the maximum is around 3 hours. As I said before, I think the time allocated to the five components will change during the season and its determination should come from a overall plan for what you want to accomplish between the beginning and end of your season.


2006 Women's Yale Cup Write-Up...from my perspective

Great tournament this weekend. Beautiful weather. A plethora of teams playing in their final games before the Series. I do not have much to say about the teams that Wellesley did not play, so I will just reiterate the rumors and stories I heard.

Saturday Pool Play:

Pool A: My understand is that Tufts rolled through their pool, although Alicia, the Tufts coach, said they had a bit of a struggle against Brown. Tufts, Brown, and Harvard advance to the champ bracket, Williams and Smith drop.

Pool C: At first I thought that this was the Pool of Death, but pool B did put all their three champ bracket teams in quarters. State College, Rochester (I heard they played very well on Saturday), and Vermont advanced. Northeastern dropped, but I don't think they feel too ruffled. There is no question that this was a hard pool, and they know that they are a talented team.

Pool D: There was an untrue rumor that Middlebury beat Cornell. Cornell, in reality, won the pool. MIT and Middlebury did advance to pre-quarters.

Pool B: My girls had set their goal as pre-quarters, so we had set our sites on Skidmore and UMASS as "must wins". We did have to play Yale and Dartmouth in the first two rounds though. One of our goals for the season is to get to tournaments early and warm-up properly. While some of the girls left on Friday, most left Wellesley at 5am. We were all at the fields before 8am. Awesome. Our game against Yale started a bit rough as we were having trouble matching their cutters speed downfield. We went down to a 2-3 point deficit, and then we decided to force backhand to prevent inside out throws, deny the backhand dump cut up the line, and take a few steps into the open side as a buffer. We were able to get some turns off of difficult forehand dump passes, and we were able to crawl back to 6-7. I was a bit concerned about our scoring efficiency, and the amount of energy we were expending at this point. The game was capped during halftime, and we able to score three points in a row to steal away a 9-8 victory. Yale had a rough go of it after that as they went 1-3 on the day. My friend coaches the Yale team, and she is also on 6TM, so we hung out in the evening and she said that Yale is at a real gut check moment at this point.

Our next game was Dartmouth. We ran an open rotation and made a determined effort to conserve energy in this game. One thing I am proud of is that my girls call their own subs. We have small enough roster to do this, but my girls are amazingly selfless and seem able, across the board, to get appropriate lines out on the field. Coming from this type of culture, I was a bit blown away, when watching the Brown men play, that the coaches call subs AND THE 4-PERSON PLAY, etc. And I thought you had to be smart to go to that school. Anyway........ My empowered girls scored the first goal easily, but then Dartmouth got cranked up and ripped off a 7-2 lead. We had no answer for Macy (sp?) during this run as she got many scores and D's. I got pissed at this point that I had to walk around 3-4 Dartmouth guys that were in my way on the sideline that were egging her on in a way that was mildly disrespectful to my team. We were really struggling with their horizontal stack during this run. At some point, however, we were able to play some zone, and, lo and behold, we went on a 4-0 run and brought it to 7-6. As we scored our 6th goal, Dartmouth was pissed and they ran back to the line in that "OK, we're not fucking around anymore" kind of way. I made sure my team enjoyed watching that, and I went back to the sideline to enjoy the now quiet group of Dartmouth boys and strap myself in for the Dartmouth run. It came...sort of, and the game was hard capped at 12-7. We set for ourselves the goal that we wanted to score and not let them win with a goal. We did and they won 12-8. I am sure that my small little victories seem petty, but in a game against a very talented group of athletes, I will take what I can get. I told Mike, their coach, that I thought Dartmouth is the best team I have coached against at taking what they are given. And they do it quickly. We set out specific goals for our D as we set up our lines, and we knew what our weaknesses were. They took what we gave them in a surgical manner, so I think they are quite an impressive team.

Next up was Skidmore. I am working on scouting teams, and in doing so, I saw that Skidmore runs a split stack and Chelsea or Hammer throw it long. We decided to back their receivers and make them beat us with throwing and catching a lot of passes. This worked well and we won 11-5. We struggled with our efficiency in this game and I was worried about being tired for the UMASS game, but we had a we could rest up.

The UMASS game was another upwind/downwind affair. We focused on protecting our upwind goal and we played a lot of zone. We won 10-5 and achieved our goal of making pre-quarters. The girls were quite tired, but, overall, had maintained a high level of intensity (the kind from my previous post). I enjoy the fact that we have good smart, quick conversations on the line. The atmosphere is one in which folks can speak their minds, and we usuallty get good ideas out of the process. We deiced to rest up, eat a lot, and get to the fields early.

So from our pool, Dartmouth, Wellesley, and Skidmore advanced. Yale and UMASS dropped.


I didn't watch many of the games on Sunday, so the SRT will just have to do if you are looking for general results.

We showed up, on time, at 10am for a 10:45am game against Vermont. UVM beat us twice at Savannah, so we really wanted to redeem ourselves and make quarters. They showed up at 10:35am, so I really felt that they were not going to be ready. It was very windy, so Nell and Naomi, the captains, and I went over which goal we wanted to defend if we won the flip, which we did. We received going downwind, and scored. We decided that passes within 25-30 yards of the upwind goal had to be 100% or we were going to look long. We pulled to the them, played zone, and I surprised by their willingness to throw hard passes in their half of the field. We were able to get a D on one of their swing passes, and then punch it in for the upwind goal. 2-0. We took half 7-2, and then won 11-5. We felt pretty good about a smart, but not pretty, win.

Our quarters match-up was Tufts. They came out VERY hard aginst us. Loud sideline. They broke our zone after a couple of chances and went up 3-1. Our O seemed very hard to execute as they play good man D, and it was hard to complete passes in the strong wind. My girls did not fold, though, and they worked hard on both sides of the disc. They started getting open when they really cut well, and we came back to 4-3. They went up 5-3, and then came down in a 1-3-3 defense. We were able to go through this, but had trouble with our endzone O, so they went up 8-3. We traded to cap, 10-5. I mentioned to Alicia, the Tufts coach, that I think that Tufts seems very high strung and wrestling with expectations. I meant this in no way to come across as disrespectful to her talented team. She and Sangwha are friends and I hope for their success. My impression is that they seem much more mentally frenetic, and therefore less scary, than a team like Dartmouth.

Our last game of the day (Skidmore forfeited to us) was against MIT for 5th place. We went up 2-0 as we had success with our zone, and then they cranked it up and we had a lot of trouble with both our O and matching up aginst them playing person. They took it to 5-2, and LB said on the line that we should "get back to having fun". We decided to take some long looks, and play zone again. This brought us to 7-6. They scored to take it half, and then we traded to a capped game 9-7, MIT.

So it was very good weekend for the Whiptails. We played very well and achieved our goals. We have a bunch of stuff to work on this week as we get ready to do it again at Sectionals next weekend.


Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Club Reshuffle #1- Godiva is disbanding

Like the re-emerging buds of spring, rumors of changes in the make up of club teams are ripe in their speculation and sense of potential. I think the first rumors I heard were on the alt-RSD Ultimatetalk chat section. These initial rumors mainly centered around West Coast teams. This talk spilled for a moment onto RSD, but it seemed to carry the weight of the typical beginning of the season optimism.

Then....this evening...comes the following RSD post under the title "Godiva Rides off into the sunset.....":

"Boston women's Ultimate is getting a shake up this season: some leaders
from Godiva and Brute Squad are joining forces to form a new
competitive women's Ultimate team. We have a shared vision of a team
that will incorporate the strengths of Godiva and Brute Squad and leave
room to develop and employ new strategies. Our goal is to create a team
that will continue to compete at the highest levels of the game while
integrating diverse talents, implementing dynamic strategies, and
having fun along the way.
We are interested in players with various backgrounds and experiences,
ranging from up-and-coming high school and college players to veteran
club players. We welcome women who are eager to learn, develop and
compete at an intense level.

Open tryouts will be held in the Boston area every weekend in June and
culminate with the Boston Invitational tournament (June 24/25).
Times/location to be announced. If you have a scheduling conflict,
please contact us and we will do our best to accommodate your
individual situation.

In the meantime, we hope that you will join us for pre-season training
sessions and/or tournaments so that we can get to know one another. We
will be playing at Henelopen on April 29/30 -those interested should
email one of the contacts listed below.

Please email Peri Kurshan ( or Betty Smith ( if you are interested in trying out, would like
more information, or have any other questions.

We are looking forward to an exhilarating new season and hope that you
will join us for the ride!
-VY Chow, Nancy Sun, Nurit Bloom, Betty Smith, & Peri Kurshan"

I was reduced to a superficial ""

I am certainly not the person to offer any perspective on the Godiva legacy. There are many, many players out there that are better writers and much more qualified than me that, I hope, will be able to put this change into context. My extremely limited offering is that this team defined, for me, discipline, competitive drive, and high standards.

From my outside viewpoint, I can understand the change, even if it feels like we have lost something. I hope the best for this new team, and, like the newly developing spring, it sounds like it will be chance at a fresh start.


Monday, April 10, 2006

2006 Women's Yale Cup Preview

I will try to do my best ICUltimate impression and write up preview of Yale Cup this weekend. Mine, however, will be uninformed as I have been in the gym with my girls devising wonderful strategery, and, as a result, I have not had much of a chance to see any of the teams play. Well...a little publicity never hurts, I guess.

Speaking of strategery, I am working on a couple of especially devious plays that are designed for Yale and Tufts. There are two plays (run differently depending on which team we are playing), but they come under the same name...which is "Boat Race Loser". Keri and Joggles can inform you as to the derivation if you are curious.

Keri has done a great job in gathering together a very competitive field in what should be a superb preview of both NE and ME Regionals.

From the ME are State College (My understanding is that they are still suspended as a college team), Skidmore(#13 in the region), Rochester(#7), and Cornell(#3). Missing are Delaware and Swarthmore, but this will be, obviously, a good chance for these teams to get a look at good competition before Regionals.

The field from the NE is great. ICUltimate has a nice pre-season article here You have the big three: Tufts, Dartmouth, and MIT. All have traveled to tournaments in the spring and are ramping up for Regionals. Tufts brings a top 15 ranking in (I use the RRI as I like to see my team have a bigger number than the UPA Rankings) plus a win at Ultimax and a top 8 finish at Vegas.

Then there is a whole pack of teams that will use this tournament to calibrate where they stand. Yale, Northeastern, Brown, Vermont, Harvard, Amherst, Wellesley, Middlebury, BU, etc.

Seeding will be interesting as there are not that many results yet, but a quick SRT work up reveals the following seeding order:

State College

Is this "good"?? I have no idea.......

Ramona's website says that the tournament will have pre-quarters on Sunday. I won't attempt a guess at who ends up there, but I would guess that State College, Cornell, Tufts, Dartmouth, and maybe MIT are locks for quarters, although one of these teams will have played in pre-quarters. This leaves quite a few teams battling for the remaining 3 quarters positions.

I just checked the weather. Looks nice...chance of showers on Sat. Looks like teams will be able to get some zone reps in.

Should be fun......


Monday, April 03, 2006

There Is Always An Excuse

A few months ago, I chatted separately with two captains that took their teams to the same tournament. At this tournament, it poured rain on Sat, and was nice on Sun. One of the teams did very well on Sat, but not so well on Sunday. This captain said to me "I wish it had kept raining on Sun!". The other captain said to me "We underachieved and the rain on Sat was a big part of the problem".

To me, there are several layers of problems here:

1) Teams embrace the uncontrollables- There might not be a better example of an uncontrollable than the weather, and I hear teams frequently making excuses for poor play based on the conditions. I have done it myself as well. In 2001, I captained a team that might have been the best conditioned team I have ever played with. What we lacked in talent (which was a lot), we made up for in conditioning. We went to Nats that year, and guess was REALLY windy. Well, needless to say that conditioning was not really a factor, and I found myself saying later "I think we would have run teams into the ground if it wasn't windy". Part of dealing with uncontrollables is being prepared (read: process goals). I recall hearing that in 2001 that BRU (made finals) spent time practicing their zone offense against a 8 man zone and did not allow passes over head height. This was while my team was running shuttle runs. There is a big mental part of this as well. When it is cold, rainy, and windy, I say to my girls " The team that enjoys playing in the cold, wet rain the most will have success today". So, it is a matter of being prepared, but also not letting the conditions be a mental road block for success, or, in the case of the first captain in my example, a necessity for success.

2) Play like you predict- If your team believes that it must be raining for you to have success, then you will play as such. This is really the same as the mental component that I mentioned above. When I first started working at Wellesley, I frequently heard "We're not a morning team", or "We're not a first half team". These aren't options anymore, and we have actually have the following as process goals: get to tournaments early, and warm-up well.

3) Unrealistic self-assessment- How often have you heard the following: "we finished 10th in 02, picked up some talent, finished 7th in 03 and 04, picked up some talent and would have done better in 05, but ________ (we had injuries, it was rainy/windy/sunny). At some point, the sight has to be turned on oneself and a candid self-assessment is needed. There is always an excuse for underachieving, but each of us is never the is the other guy. After years of finishing 9th at Nats, I finally realized that "maybe the team that I am capable of 'starting' on is not talented enough to make semis at Nats". A few months later, I had the opportunity to be a role player on 6TM, and we made semis that year.

4) Better goals- Every team says "we finished x last year, this year we have upgraded the talent, and we are looking forward to making noise at (sectionals, regionals, nationals)". Easy to say...hard to do. Especially without good goals (especially process goals). I have talked about goals enough in my posts, but in order to get over the hump of excuses and embracing uncontrollables, you need to set very good and detailed goals for yourself and your team.