Monday, April 17, 2006

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.


Seigs said...

Hey George,

Nice to meet you in person Saturday.

I apologize for the behavior of my guys. In the future, I'll make sure that they are always cheering in a respectful manner.

Good luck at sectionals.


gcooke said...

Hey Seigs,

I meant it slightly tongue and cheek and just wanted to set up the difference between when things were going good and bad for Dartmouth, so perhaps I laid it on too thick. I don't think my girls were offended at all.

Perhaps it is my competitive nature, but I get protective of my girls with only the smallest provocation. For example, early in the Tufts game, when we were having a lot of trouble with having any kind of O, their girls started shouting "Be ready for the swill!". Initially, this really bothered me as I felt they were commenting on our problems in a disrespectful way. I think, however, what they trying to do was make their players aware that in the case of a muffed or tipped pass, that the wind was going to provide second chances, so they should be ready.

I think that your guys were probably psyched for Macy and did not mean any disrespect toward my players directly. I think my "philosophy" is one that tries to balance celebration of positive achievement with the sense that "we are just going about our business". As a team, for example, we do not believe that, for us, a cheer when we score a goal (would it be something like 'WHIP"......"TAILS"?) maintains that sense of balance, and, in fact, we joked this weekend that if we developed such a cheer that I should be fired. Another example for us is that when we would work hard to score upwind goals, we would quietly celebrate that achievement, but we would quickly say that we had only done 50% of the work. The other 50% was scoring the accompanying downwind goal.

While I respect the fact that teams need to achieve whatever mental and emotional state works for them in a manner that they need, I do believe there is power in maintaining an even and controlled emotional state. I feel the power comes into play in a number of ways. As an individual, I feel that a steady state of intensity allows for greater success than the reliance on emotional froth. As a team, there is nothing better than playing well enough to shut up an opponents loud sideline, and nothing scarier than playing a team that doesn't hand you a volume meter as an indicator of their success. I view sideline chatter as a means of communication, not psyche.

Now, this does not mean that I don't get close to the line, but I assure you that my girls are about as respectful as one can be and I learn from them. When we scored that 4th point in a row, my saying to my team that we should enjoy the rare opportunity to make Dartmouth run back to the line was intentionally said in a very private way. While I can put myself on a pedestal in terms of discretion, I am quite sure that my girls did not need to be aware of my petty gamesmanship.

I am getting better, as a coach, on holding my tongue and editing what is going through my brain. I try very hard to not make calls for my girls ("Call that foul!!"), although I still falter. I believe the onus is on them to know the rules. I was able to restrain myself from shouting "Enjoy going through this gift of defense" when Tufts gave us their 1-3-3, so that was a major demonstration of maturity on my part. Lastly, maybe I am overthinking, but I am very aware that as one of the few male presences on the sideline (and I have a loud voice) that I need to make sure that what I say is appropriate and not even close to dominant.


Seigs said...


I appreciate your comments and your Zen-like attitude towards the game.

As one of the star players / captain / coach of my team, I have struggled immensely controlling myself emotionally this year. (The fact that this year is my "last chance" and the high expectations I had for my team has played a role here, too.)

Could elaborate but I'm late for class.

See you around.


gcooke said...


Enjoy class. We actually get the day off here in MA due to Patriots Day.

I hear you. While far from a star on 6TM, I also struggled with maintaining balance, but I think it was for different reasons. I think my issues with expectations are well documented. For you, it sounds like the struggle is with a sense of dissapointment as it is becoming clear that it is getting too late to develop goals for combating problematic areas. Hard stuff to deal with.....


gcooke said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
LittleOrphanAnnie44 said...

I apologize for "interrupting" the conversation between George and Adam and also touching upon a subject that is off-topic:

but really...what's happened to Dartmouth these last few weeks? A loss to Amherst Regional and Boston University...

Seigs said...


I don't make excuses for my team. What happened? The other teams played better than us.

Go ahead and count us out for Regionals if you'd like.

gcooke said...

Hi LOA44,

Thanks for jumping in.

In terms of those specific losses, I don't know about the BU loss, but I am not sure that a loss to ARHS can be considered a problem most any college team. While their advancement to qtrs at Yale Cup 2-3 years ago shocked everyone, if ARHS was at Yale Cup this year....I would have seeded them in the top 4.

We are clearly still in the day where a college team upsetting a top club team is a shock, but those days are fading when it comes to the college/high school dynamic.


Seigs said...

For you, it sounds like the struggle is with a sense of dissapointment as it is becoming clear that it is getting too late to develop goals for combating problematic areas. Hard stuff to deal with.....

Too late? We have 3 weeks, which I think is plenty of time to fix our problems, the biggest of which is just catching and throwing 10 yard passes.

My issues, I think, are ego-driven. I am probably too invested in this team as its only past All-Region player, and one of its captains, and its de-facto coach. When the team loses, I take it very, very personally. I also predicted us early to do very well and (foolishly) posted my predictions all over the Internet. Got out of that business, but too late.

Anyway, you live, you learn (cue the Alanis Morisette). I was much better this weekend than in the past, but I have a ways to go still in terms of controlling myself when faced with adverse conditions over which I have only have partial control.

Mr. Pickles said...


Why do you take every possible opportunity to be condescending towards the Brown men's team?


gcooke said...

Hi Kyle,

I will take your question as serious. While I hope to explain my answer, it is my hope that I do not come across as defensive as I think the question is legitimate.

1) Unless I am mistaken, this was the second time I have made fun of Brown. The first being in my post about summer league and the comment about Nate and Ted. I believe I also praised the Brown program in this same post, so I consider that a wash and I hope that my comments did not come across as condescending.

2) The reason I even brought up that whole tangent was because I happened to overhear how they made their calls. If it had been another team (and I am sure many other teams rely on their coaches for this type of organization), I would have brought that up, so I think my comments were circumstantial and not a systematic attempt to belittle Brown.

3) My initial reaction, when hearing the coaches make the calls, was to contrast it, in a serious and respectful way, to the way Wellesley does things. I feel comfortable saying that I was able to compare both the "positive" and "negative" aspects of doing so. For example, there are times where I feel I am not clear enough with my girls because we do not have a system in which I tell them what to do.

So, I could have embraced both sides and remained happily self-deprecating if I had said something like "I was surprised to see that Brown coaches made the calls (as opposed to my wonderfully vague zen-love style)".

I think the next sentence, which starts, "my empowered girls" is a bit of an acknowledgement of this.

Seriously, I view contrasting styles as an opportunity to learn.

4) I was aware of 3) when I wrote the post, but I decided to heckle, which is #4. I do not engage in active heckling on the sideline and I do not partake in the in-jokes of the scene. This blog is my forum, so I decided to get my little dig in.

5) I think condescending is a strong word and does imply a sense of superiority. I think I should be viewed as nothing but foolish if I truly believed I was in a position to comment on the Brown program from a position of superiority. Clearly, my track record both as a player and a coach does not give me the right to judge a program that has been so successful over the years. I think that perhaps the fact that I even picked on Brown is an indication of my respect for them and for my confidence that they will be able to withstand the onslaught of my comments.

6) Brown is an easy target. I think teams at the top should expect no less. When I was on the sideline during the Brown-Harvard semi, there were Harvard fans that were complaining bitterly about the calls that Brown was making, even when the Harvard players uncontested. I did not agree with their comments, and I would expect that Brown should come to expect that everyone wants to take them down. They are fortunate enough to have the talent and the systems in place to achieve yearly success and I am confident that my ribbings, which are intended to be gentle, will be considered as "things that don't matter" by the Brown faithful.


Sam TH said...


Apropos of Kyle's question, why do you find their coaching surprising? That level of involvement by coaches is both quite common in high-level college men's ultimate, and in my view quite reasonable. Bill Belicheck calls the plays for the Patriots, after all. I think it's only a matter of time before this happens in both womens college and in club (open and womens).

Mr. Pickles said...


It was a serious question. I find it interesting how on Brown's "off" years it seems that some take their opportunity to pile on Brown (see the RSD posts following Brown not qualifying for Natties in 2002). Maybe, it's the same year to year and it just rolls off when Brown wins the region.

I am actually curious as to whether Brown is seen as not being respectful to teams/players/coaches in the northeast and so is deserving of the extra heckling. Or is it just that they are traditionally good and so when they don't perform up to that expectation they deserve the heckling. It sounds like the later according to your point 6.

Thank you, Sam TH, for taking my comments on a more relevant thread for the majority of the readers and I would comment that the more the coaches can contribute in terms of leadership (e.g. calling the pull play) the more the players can be freed to focus on their individual play.

This, of course, depends on personnel and your goals for the team/season. For example, my top goals for the high school kids that I coach are that they love the sport and that they gain knowledge so they can lead in college (for teams that likely won't have coaches) and so I let them make a lot of their calls themselves.

I would guess that Brown players already love the sport and have the knowledge and so the main goal would be allowing the team to play as well as possible which is why the coaches take as much authority as possible.


gcooke said...


I think your comments about piling on give me a bit more perspective about your concerns. I consider myself outside of the social Ultimate scene, and pretty unaware of the story lines within the men's scene. I am aware of bad blood toward Brown, but I am not aware of the specifics. I can see how my comments could be taken in the context in which you refer, but I must plead innocence. I don't view myself as part of the mob, and my teasing is meant based solely on my relationships with the few Brown players and coaches that I know.

To directly answer your question, I do not have a viewpoint on whether Brown is disrespectful, and I feel that my own personal heckling, which, as I said, I view as outside of the "accepted norms", is within the appropriate limits of what Brown "deserves"....from me.

To get to Sam TH's comments,

I guess I was surprised because it is different than the way that I operate, and I actually was not aware that coaches did this. Wellesley has a history of being self-coached, and when I accepted the job, it was understood that we enter into dialogs about the best way to proceed, both when calling lines and otherwise. Whether this is the BEST way, I have no clue. I do feel that my girls are empowered to feel a lot of ownership.

It might be the case that the best way to maximize a team's competitive potential is for the coach to call the pull plays. I see now that my 'humor" has lead to the impression that I am condemning this type of involvement. I make a lot of hasty decisions in my life, but as I said before, my surprise, lead to considering the positives and the negatives of such an approach. I took a point of view in order to make a joke, but I have not had the time to contemplate the issue enough to reach a decision. Certainly there is a lot of eveidence to suggest that such an approach can lead to competitive success. Do I actually think that the Brown system is a result of lack of intelligence of the players. Of course not. But that is not the question. Again, the surprise came due it being different than my way (which is still in development).


Wicks said...

"Do I actually think that the Brown system is a result of lack of intelligence of the players. Of course not."

You would be surprised...

gcooke said...

Oops. I forgot the most important reason:

7) Wicks. I have a life long unattainable quest to one up Nate. Never going to happen as he is smarter and quicker (off the field) than me. In any case, fans out there should appreciate me trying to heckle him, but then leaving holes big enough for him to skewer me......


Gambler said...

On the topic of coaches calling plays and strings vs. the players figuring out themselves what would be the best play, I've had a little taste of some of the costs and benefits of both methods while coaching Stanford.

Superfly has traditionally been a rather "top-down" team where the coach(es) had a lot of involvment in setting match-ups, calling pull plays, suggesting stopped disc plays from the sideline, etc. This always seemed to make sense to me from the standpoint of best utilizing the coaches' knowledge, experience, and scouting. It's also worked pretty well.

However, earlier this year I realized that a team can come to depend on that level of detailed instruction and players can avoid thinking for themselves. As an example, Robin and I were shocked when we realized that if we didn't explictly designate defensive match-ups, often the lines we called would just match-up against the opponent they happened to be across from, not paying attention to to relative skill. Once we realized that players had forgotten to take ownership of their own match-ups, we've made it a team goal to be actively thinking about match-ups while waiting for the line to be called.

You would think this would be obvious, but it turned out to be one of the unintended consequences of having the coaches set-up defensive match-ups in big games. As a result, I think there needs to be a balance between the coaches and players involvement in strategy.

gcooke said...

re: thread with Seigs and my "too late" comment- I probably made too many assumptions with that comment, and I agree that if the problem is throwing and catching then a lot of work can be done in three weeks.

It does bring up the question for me, when is it too late to change big picture items like systems or certain big goals?

re: Gwen's comment- In terms of competitive success, I view Stanford as the gold that is good perspective.

I think some of the reasons for our doing things differently are:

-small team (about 12-15 super committed players) and no B team
-need for players to think for themselves when I am not there

So, when I am there for our big tournaments:

-with a small squad, our strings are pretty obvious
-they are used to the dynamic of calling their own subs
-I will suggest plays off a stopped disc
-we figure out the force together, although sometimes I will tell them what it should be
-I will make them aware of the match-ups they need to be concerned with
-I discuss adjustments
-I make suggestions about overall priorities for the upcoing point

Maybe the following question should be a new post:

I assume that Ultimate is like basketball in that there are times of structure and times where players need to think for themselves. While a team might have general rules for times when you are in "flow" (like...cut from the back of the stack), how does a "top down" team manage those moments in which a player must think? Some quick examples come to mind: whether to fast break, adjusting the mark after getting broken, many other aspects of playing D, when you are 2-3 passes into flow, etc.


parinella said...

7) Wicks. I have a life long unattainable quest to one up Nate.
Right answer, wrong reason. Actually, you don't even need a reason, just "Wicks" is enough.

Even in a "bottoms up" team, some will know what the better call is more than others. Generally, these are the ones who will be making most of the calls on offense anyway. What the coach can do to help the others is to identify which plays work well in which circumstances. Say, "When we're trapped, plays A and B are the best, C is ok, and D is a guaranteed turnover."

gcooke said...

Jim wrote:

"Even in a "bottoms up" team, some will know what the better call is more than others. Generally, these are the ones who will be making most of the calls on offense anyway. What the coach can do to help the others is to identify which plays work well in which circumstances. Say, "When we're trapped, plays A and B are the best, C is ok, and D is a guaranteed turnover.'"