Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Mixed Easterns

When Tommy Proulx first approached me about the idea about hosting a stand alone Mixed Easterns tournament, I was quite skeptical. I wasn't convinced that the division could sustain a tournament in this form. Luckily, I have never claimed to be a man of vision, and Tommy's idea has turned into one of my favorite events of the year. The opportunity for this tournament came when we lost the traditional weekend for the Boston Invitational to permit issues. In 2003, Tommy moved the Boston Invite to the last weekend in June, and it turned out that most teams preferred the tournament on the later weekend (again, to my surprise). As 2004 rolled into the spring, Tommy had the idea for Mixed Easterns, but the idea also included a Masters Easterns tournament as well as both the New England High School and Massachusetts State Championships. The result is a tournament that has representation of pretty much the entire cross section of our demographic. As my Brit friends say, "Brilliant!"

This year we have seen a surge in interest in Mixed Easterns and had over 40 teams apply. The seeding is almost done and the tournament information is here:


Adam Tarr was very helpful in working on the formats (we now have formats on the SRT for 40, 38, 36, and 32 teams), and it is a nice blend of teams from the NE, Canada, and the Mid-Atlantic.

What is curious is that the tournament has something to offer for teams that are in very different places in their seasons and history. There are brand new teams, Canadian teams ramping up for Nationals, and established teams looking at their new, 2006 rosters. I don't think it is a stretch to say that the development of Mixed Easterns as an extra early-season tournament is one of many reasons why NE Mixed teams have had a stronger showing at Nationals over the past 3 years.

Lastly, one of the cool twists to the tournament is that two top finishing teams qualify for the aforementioned Boston Inviational.

So, it should be a great tournament.


Monday, May 22, 2006

Club Reshuffle #2: Option #3-Golf Cart Boy

I know it has been a busy spring for me, but most everyone must be Really Busy has I have received not one inquiry about what the outcome is to my Nov 3, 2005 post, "Time To Retire?". Clearly, this is a global oversight on the part of the masses as I have come to rely on the trust I have in the compassion and caring of my fellow Ultimate players.

For the very few that haven't been waiting in anticipation like those waiting for the "Lost" finale, the post began:

"Time to Retire?: I can hear the chuckles already. "Uhmm....dude....you play in the Mixed Division....doesn't that mean you have already retired?" (Sidenote: Don't you hate RSD posts that begin "Uhmm.....(insert smart ass remark here)."

I then laid out what I felt were my three options for 2006 (and the future):

1) Maintain status quo- Same level of conditioning as 2005 and probably a similar, limited role on 6TM
2) "Chariots of Fire"- Work harder, with the goal of bumping myself up on the depth chart
3) Retire- Focus on coaching, the BUDA Youth Program, NUTC, UPA admin work

As I began training in December, I felt motivated and was enjoying the process. As I documented in this blog, I was committed to very long runs, and I felt more focused about my lifting routines than I had in 2005. I followed this track through February, and then I slowly started to notice that my desire to compete as a player was diminishing. It was an odd feeling. I was training and preparing like normal, but I wasn't feeling interested in following up on the field. So why the change in attitude? I started to reflect on last year, and I realized that I had not played very well in 2005. I remembered my dissatisfaction with what I had to offer on the field. Finally, I realized that while having limited PT was hard, the hardest part about last season was not disagreeing with the subbers decisions about my PT. In a sense, I had come very close to the feeling that "the team I want to play for, talent-wise, is the team I would get cut from".

Around this time I became very busy with work, a music project, and coaching, and my training started to lose focus. As such, I started to lose touch with the foundation of my motivation, and I actually kind of enjoyed not beating on my body for the sake of preparation. It was around this time that I really started to acknowledge to myself that I was going to retire, and, honestly, I can't say that it wasn't without a small part of a sense of relief.

I have made hasty and perhaps even impulsive decisions in the past. I think I have had the time to consider this pretty carefully, though. I tend, also, to not make these changes in a subtle way, as I am either in 100% or all the way out. I have been asked, for example, "Are you going to play Summer League?" I don't think so, at least for now. If I am not in the shape to challenge myself at the highest level available to me and I am not preparing to do so, I don't feel that it would be beneficial to go out and hack away.

So, what does the future hold?

I do see myself focusing on moving forward as one of the unheralded benefits of mediocrity is that there are no "Glory Days" to dwell on. Last December, Mr. Dobyns, in one of his few blog entries, revealed with great poignancy and insight, the need to move on, without bitterness, from the days of being a legend in the relatively small world of a sport like Ultimate. I do not have to wrestle with such issues as my "career" could be summed up as a play in three acts: 1) unfulfilled potential, 2) absence from the sport, and 3) what could have been. It does not go unnoticed that my "peak" years of 1983(age 19) to 1994(age 30), in which I didn't play Ultimate at all, are the exact years upon which the actual greatness of KD are defined. Obviously, in my case, there is nothing but the future, and, perhaps, my endeavors going forward will make some small contribution to the sport.

I hope it has been apparent how much I enjoy coaching and the plan is for it to be front and center for the next few years, at least. I also plan on continuing my admin work for the UPA, helping to run tournaments, and teaching Youth clinics for the BUDA Youth Program. There are also some new opportunities like working at NUTC.

I am sure that my resolve will be tested in a few weeks when Mixed Easterns comes around. To work at a tournament and not play will be very difficult, and I imagine I will ask myself, not just a few times, "What the hell am I doing?" Hopefully, that will become clear in time. Maybe, in the meantime, I should develop some hobbies.....like customizing a really nice golf cart that I can drive around in at tournaments.


Tuesday, May 16, 2006

The Cut of Death

There has been a bit of talk on Al's blog about the injury that he sustained while making a dump cut up the line. A poaching defender made contact with him as he was going for the disc.

I am calling this cut, which has resulted in some of the worst injuries I have seen, "The Cut of Death".

The cut, which results in the the dump cutter cutting up the line and looking away from the field, can result in very dangerous poaching opportunities from defenders in the stack. Pretty much the centerpiece of concern about this cut (and the poach D) has to be Isaiah's injury in the 2003 NE College Regional Final. He was in the dump position and made the cut to the goal for the short forhand. As the disc went up, a defender poached, there was contact, and both players went to the ground. As they crashed to the ground, I heard a funny sound...it sounded like a gunshot. Then I heard Isaiah cry out in pain as he held his leg up in the air. My first thought was "Boy, that is a weird place for a knee to be". I then realized that the sound I heard was his leg breaking, and his "weird knee" was actually his leg bone sticking out of his leg.

After witnessing this, I coach my girls to use extreme caution when cutting up the line, and I will actually discourage The Cut of Death unless it is clear that the poach opportunities have been minimized. It seems pretty clear to me that the cut and pass become more dangerous when a) it is a forehand pass up the line, b) the angle of the cutter is vertical away from the thrower, and c) the pass is longer than just a few yards.

As it is difficult to throw a 5-7 yard flick with touch, many times this pass ends up being more of a leading pass as the thrower tries to get enough rotation to make the flight stable. I specifically work on the very short forehand throws with my girls to make sure that they can control them at short distances.

While an up the line pass to the dump is an aggressive and necessary part of an offense, I try to work with my girls on having the dump cut up the line not be too vertical as the resulting leading pass is in the air long enough for a defender to make a play from the stack.

I find myself on the sideline yelling "careful!!" many times when I see the dump go up the sideline for a leading pass. We also spend time working on stack discipline to make sure that the stack is out of the way enough to avoid poaches, and, conversly, to recognioze that when the stack does creep toward the open side that it is actually more of an advantage to dump and swing to the other side.


Monday, May 15, 2006

TD Communication

When it comes to running a tournament, I believe that a) early planning, and b) frequent communication are the foundation of putting on a quality event. This post will focus on the later.

Those lucky souls that have worked for me as UPA Coordinators know that I take frequent communication seriously. I am well aware that we are swamped with e-mails on a daily basis. I know that some TD's temper their communication based on not wanting to "bother" the participants. My assumption is not really the opposite, rather, it is more centered around a presumption that folks have a working delete button on their PC. I am not at all offended if folks delete my e-mails, and I do my best to write e-mails that get right to the point.

My perspective as a coordinator/TD is informed by my experience as a participant, and, as a participant, nothing raises the "this tournament is disorganized" flag more than e-mails, sent on Friday afternoon, that say things like "seeding TBD", "we might be using two different sets of fields", or "format is still being worked on". I guess I feel that disorganization is disrespectful to me and my team's time. Of course, there are always emergencies and problems, but I would rather receive an e-mail (sent the week before) that details potential issues in advance rather than walking into a disaster on Saturday morning.

So, a couple of points about communication, specifically pre-event communication:

1) Use the SRT- There will come a day when the SRT or something like it will be the tournaments web site. The SRT creates a sense of season and helps other TD's by providing data for seeding. People actually care about results, so put them out there. To not use this resource furthers the disjointed aspects of out sport and directly contributes to a lack of stories and documentation about how the sport is developing. While we benefit from the very limited cable TV exposure we now enjoy, we have an opportunity to utilize the technology available to us to distribute information and publicize the sport. Don't take it for granted. It is an easy way to contribute to legitimizing the sport.

2) Publish seedings and formats early- My opinion is that the LATEST the format and seedings should be published is 7 days before the start of the tournament. This gives teams the minimum time necessary to prepare for the weekend.

3) Communicate potential issues or anomalies early and often- I went over this earlier, but teams want to know what is going on as early as possible. Be clear about when decisions will be made, especially if teams are flying or driving long distances.

These are just three examples of some of the things a TD can do to communicate with the participating teams in a manner that respects the participants time, and will go a long way toward creating an quality atmosphere for a tournament.


Sunday, May 07, 2006

06 NE Regionals...from my perspective

Well...I guess Neva was right.

Coming into the tournament, our primary outcome goal for the season was to make the second day of Regionals. Certainly, many established programs might chuckle at such a goal, but for us, after losing in the backdoor quarters last year, I felt that it was an appropriate, if not ambitious goal. I think that some teams probably felt that we "didn't belong", but we were very clear that our concern was getting to Sunday and not proving anything to anybody. This goal carries historical weight for our program as well. I think, coming into the weekend, the Whips felt still under the shadow of our 03 class of 14 talented seniors. Nell and Naomi, our captains, played on Wellesley's first and only (so far) B team that year, and the A team lost a 10-9 heartbreaker to Tufts in the backdoor quarters that year. My understanding is that the only other time Wellesley made day 2 was in 2000, when Andrea lead the team to the game to go. This all might seem quaint, but I was talking with Bernie from Tufts during our semis, and, as a contrast, Tufts has made day 2 every year, except last year, forever. When discussing this goal with the team, we talked about the sacrifices necessary to achieve this goal, and the team, as usual, was up for the challenge to our commitment as well as bucking a historical trend.

As I packed for the weekend, I was most anxious about the fact that we did not have a format and a schedule yet. At about 9:30pm, I finally received an e-mail confirming both. The lack of such info basically meant any preparation during the week was guesswork, and we happened to guess right as the format was indeed the standard double elim bracket. I guess there was some issue with field availability, but the experience certainly informed me, as a UPA coordinator, about what information is necessary and when it needs to be disseminated.....but that is fodder for another post.

Every game goes to seed except Yale over Harvard. As I said in my previous post's comments section, I had Yale at 9 instead of 10 to begin with, but I do feel the data supported Yale at 10. As I hung our during our bye, I had the pleasure of hanging out with Northeastern's Coach, Jason Adams, and he said that they had a nail biter with Williams 15-13. If I recall correctly, Williams went up 7-2.

Our day opened up against Smith. I had heard that they liked to huck and play zone, so we decided to back them. It was just windy enough to help our zone, and we took half 8-3. We were able to open up the roster a bit, so that was positive. In the second half, we continued to open up the roster, but each time we did, Smith went on a mini-run. We were able to close out the game comfortably at 15-9.

I believe everything went to seed in this round, in both brackets.

For us, it was our big game as the winner went on to semis and, more importantly, Sunday. Also, as not the biggest squad, I felt it was vital to avoid the fourth round backdoor quarter game. So this was the time and our opponent was, as expected, Northeastern. A few of my players were a bit nervous before the start. Tyke said she felt nauseous. We received going down wind, and they broke us and then scored downwind. We were having trouble with their 4 person cup. We were able to get some breaks as well and started to break down the mark of their cup. It was pretty windy, so neither team was that efficient, but we were able to secure half, 8-5. We traded to start the half, and then we seemed to make some mental errors. We had decided not to take undue risks in our own red zone, but we made some casual passes, they broke us twice, and it is 10-9. We then bear down and go on a 4-0 run. They score to in row before we close it 14-11. The game is long and ends 3 minutes after semis is supposed to start. We take a moment to recognize the achievement of our outcome goal before heading over to play in semis.

In the other semi, Dartmouth beat MIT. Brown, Williams, Vermont, and Northeastern win their games in the backdoor.

I had some ideas about tweaks for Tufts, but I was concerned that we were out of gas. We talked briefly about what we wanted to achieve in this game. We decided to go all out for a few points and see where that took us. Pretty much the only glimmer of light from Sectionals was our zone, so we decided to commit to that. The first point had a few turns, we had success with our zone and scored 1-0. After that it was, I swear, the closest 15-1 game ever. Tufts played great, but we never gave up. We were able to open up the roster a bit and some of our newer players made some good plays. Marisa popped well, and Kat made a nice block to save a goal. Good stuff. While it is always frustrating to lose in that fashion, I am always proud of how mentally even my girls are. We never get too up when we have success, but we also don't get too down when we lose....especially if we feel we played good Ultimate.

I left as Brown was up on Vermont 10-8, and they won 13-11, so we would play them in the morning. Northeastern beat Yale in the other backwater quarter. So a good showing from the Metro Boston Section.

We had a team dinner and bonfire at Tories house in VT afterward.


MIT beat Northeastern 14-11 in the other backwater semi.

I had scouted Brown during their Vermont game, so I was pretty familiar with their sets and calls. I thought we would have success with our zone, but they are talented, fundamentally sound, and a very difficult opponent. Plus their coaching staff is much smarter than I am.

We receive going downwind. I think we trade and then they break us and score downwind. We seem to wake up and have good success running our offense upwind. We are able to tweak our zone a bit, and we go up 7-3. I remark to the team that I love the fact that you can't tell how we are doing during a game. No big celebrations after we score, no cheer, but our heads are up when things are not going well. Bernie from Tufts said we play with heart. I hope that is true, but I know that we do not rely on emotion to stoke the fire.

Brown, however, for a young rebuilding team, has a lot of heart and fight as well. They start going over the top of our zone, and they go on a BIG run. We are finally able to score downwind and take half 8-7. We decide during half time to have LB push more aggressively as deep deep to help Naomi as short deep. We are also saving a point of man defense as we have not shown that the entire game. We pull to them and trade to 10-9, cap is on, game to 12. We are pulling to them upwind. We decide to play man for the first time, hoping to surprise them with pace. We pull, get our marks wrong, and are lucky that we get a drop. We are, after a while, able to score upwind. 11-9. We get a turn and can't convert. After a controversial catch which gets sent back (I don't even need to acknowledge my obvious bias, but I felt it was clearly not a catch), we get a turn and score to win 12-9.

I must mention Ted Munter's positive sportsmanship. At one point in the game, one of their defenders knocked down Angie as she was going for a catch. This occurred right in front of Ted. Angie went down and held onto her head. After a few moments, Angie was able to get up, but was pretty disoriented. It was an awkward moment as it was clearly a foul, but I try my best (and fail sometimes) to let things go their way on the field. As I was helping Angie off the field, I felt my only choice was to ask her if she is going to call a foul. Clearly a leading question, but a question nonetheless. Angie says "Yes, I think so." The defender contests, but Ted jumps in and says "I don't think you can contest. It was a foul". She rescinded the contest.


MIT. It came to my attention during the week that some of the MIT players took issue with my comment on a previous post that "me and the Tufts coaches enjoy the chess match". I must have missed the rule that one can't use chess as a symbol for Ultimate strategy as putting Ultimate into the same sentence with chess denigrates the proud heritage of such a real intellectual pursuit. I am pretty sure I meant it as a turn of phrase. In any case, my apologies to the chess folk. Of course, this mandates that I must use chess as a symbol for the entire summary of our game....so here it goes.

Like the seven distinct chess pieces (horsey, turret thing, etc), MIT in white, and Wellesley in black lined up on the field of battle. As is customary, the game begins with the first moves (called the "Startings"). Wellesley gets the first move as they are black.......

Ok, enough of that. It takes too much research.

We had to move to another field, so now there is a distinct crosswind. MIT mixes up their defense sets while we settle in on adjusting our zone. It is back and forth, but MIT is having success at breaking our trap by throwing up the line and around our wing. About mid-way through the half, MIT comes with a cup and man downfield. It takes us a bit to adjust and they take half 8-6 (Nancy even mentioned to me in an e-mail that they were doing this but I forgot to prepare. Damn.)

During half, we discuss some adjustments to their man/zone combo. We are getting open, but we are not cutting under enough. We also tweak our zone a bit. Petek, who has played maybe 3 points all weekend, basically focuses us on the how we are going to stop the up the line throws. She is a model for any player who does not play a lot, but remains focused and talking on the sideline.

MIT keeps up with man downfield and the cup underneath. We get good swings that result is open looks. Tyke makes a perfect cut deep for LB, who makes a great pass, but Yelena makes a HUGE block and they score to make it 11-7 game to 13. We have success working up field, but turn it. Our zone is working well and there are a number of times where they put up very risky long passes. On this point, however, one of their receivers catches it, and calls a timeout. During the timeout, I can see that Naomi is emotional. I realize that she is starting to wrestle with the end of her college career. I check in with her, we play good defense, but they score...12-7. I walk back to the line with Naomi and it is very emotional, but very few words are spoken. At this point, there are few adjustments to be made. I really can't talk other than bleat out something about playing with heart............ which I pretty sure most everyone on both sidelines is quite happy about, so the team makes it own calls. I am thankful that we have a "bottom up" foundation in terms of decision making. We score, and then score again. Digging deeper, running on fumes, playing with heart. Langdon makes a huge grab in the back of the endzone to make it 12-11. We pull and get the disc back. Ralph makes a great cut and Nell puts it into the endzone, but it just goes off Ralph's fingertips. MIT works it and has success with a deep shot. They score. Game over. 13-11.

My girls were remarkable in being able to take the loss in stride and will take pride in their achievements. I am especially proud of what Nell and Naomi have achieved over their careers at Wellesley. They have worked very hard and become leaders of a team that rose to the occasion and achieved its goals in a clear way. The team was remarkably selfless and focused on the concerns of the whole. It was a great weekend and a fantastic season.

Congratulations to Dartmouth and Tufts for earning the spots to Nationals. They dominated the region this year. I wish them best of luck.


Wednesday, May 03, 2006

NE Women's Regionals Preview

The seedings and format have been posted here.

I guess it is generally accepted that this is a two-horse race with MIT lurking behind. Based on this season results, this might not be too far off, but we must play the games and there are 13 other teams that will be hanging around.

In order of seeding:

1) Dartmouth- Athletic, smart, well-coached, and experienced. They probably have 10 players that will make All-Region. Big win at Yale Cup has them ramping up for the weekend.
2) Tufts- Fast, well-coached, gritty, and focused. They have some stars as well. As I have mentioned in my previous posts, they were very calm and determined at Sectionals.

I guess I don't need to write anymore.

3) Wellesley- What can I say about my own team? Well, I think we have played well when it counts.
4) MIT- Talented and experienced. Well-coached. No question they will be in the mix on Sunday.
5) Brown- Whenever I have talked to someone about Brown's current season, the comment is the same "Very well coached". There is no doubt that this is true considering the amount of turnover they had this year. That a team in a "rebuilding year" is considered one of the 4 best in the Region says a lot about the program and bodes well for their future.
6) Northeastern- Had a bit of a rough go of it at Yale Cup, but secured a big win over Harvard at Sectionals to avoid a quarters match-up with Tufts or Dartmouth. Coach Adams, in his second year, has some very talented players like Allison, Tooker, and Lindsey.
7) Harvard- Harvard has played well all year and they secured some experienced Graduate students to help the cause. Like many of the teams in the 3-10 range, they probably have an eye on Sunday.
8) Vermont- Won the WNE section. This is a solid team that will do some damage. They do have to contend with a tough quarterfinal match-up if they win their first round match-up against...
9) Hampshire- I haven't seen a Hampshire team play in 10 years, but I am huge fan as I learned the sport on that very campus 30 years ago. Can I be considered an alumni? They had solid results at Sectionals. If the SRT is correct, they have a very small team.
10) Yale- It was clear that Yale had a gut check moment at Yale Cup as they had disappointing results. I think some of it had to do with the fact that they were running a great tournament. This is a talented team with skills and speed. I think they have a very solid chance of beating seed.
11) Williams- Has seen a couple of years of rebuilding. Did not fare well at Yale Cup, but won when it counted at Sectionals.
12) Middlebury- Similar to Williams in that they had a rough time at Yale Cup.
13) Massachusetts- My actual Alma Mater. Lady Zoo is a young team, and they do have talent. They will give some upper seeds a game.....
14) Smith- Their results on the SRT reflect some good wins, but up and down performances at Tournaments. Smith has always played well at Regionals in the past few years.
15) UMF- Their SRT roster indicates an experienced squad. They had a good showing against Dartmouth at Regionals.
16) Colby- Sectionals was their first reported tournament. I am glad to see more ENE teams at Regionals.

I think that there is more parity in the Region overall than in past years. I am really looking forward to the weekend.