Monday, September 11, 2006

My CHC Trip

I arrived at the fields on Sat am and I was greeted by two surprises: 1) the fields, while still a bit hard, were as nice have they have been in several years, and 2) one of the first players I saw warming up was Ken Dobyns. Ken was there to play with the new NC Mixed team, Black Molly. Nice to see him out of the fields again. This post is not a blow by blow account of the tournament, but will be random observations that I wrote down from my golf cart.

-It was fun to check in folks I haven't seen in a while. I greatly appreciated that folks would come up to me and ask, "So, how is the...uh....spectating going?" or "Thanks for organizing and..(pause).....watching". While I am touched that folks would appear interested and I thought it was cute that some seemed to not quite fathom how I could possibly be enjoying myself, I did enjoy checking out a lot of Ultimate, helping out in a small way, and I think it was a productive trip.

-The visor is out. Way out in terms of fashion. Pretty much dead. The few that make the choice that a visor is cooler than a baseball cap thankfully do not wear them brim up anymore. While there are many creative ways to deal with hair and the sun, a baseball cap is the way to go. However, I think throwing one's baseball cap dramatically in order to make a play is unnecessary. I saw the following exchange:

Floaty pass into the end zone
O guy takes off his hat and tries to throw it on the ground, but the disc drops too quickly. O guy jumps up in the air and catches the disc with one hand while holding his cap in the other hand...still above his head.
D guy makes the a play on the disc, can't catch it and calls "Foul" saying that the O guy with the hat had violated his vertical space by pushing down on him with his elbow.
O guy then does a full reinactment of why it was impossible for him to have pushed down on the D guy while holding his hat above his head.
D guy is unconvinced and the disc goes back.
O team scores after a pass or two. O team captain (not the O guy with hat) says to his team "Ok, we need to work harder on preventing D guys from jumping into us and calling fouls."

-"Fire!". When did we all decide that "Fire!" is the "code word" for man in transition D? I saw 10 teams from different Regions and Divisions use "Fire!" for this purpose. I spent most of last Feb vacation reading about Baseball signs and codes in other sports. Compared to many other sports that use real codes and signs, we are still banging on rocks and waiting for lighting to strike a rock to create...."Fire!" My feeling is: why not just say "Man!"? We can't really think we are fooling anyone. While we are on the subject, why does the transition always occur at 3 or 5 passes? I think if I had heard a line call like "Zone for 4 passes to backhand, silent count", I would have fallen out of my cart.

-It was pretty windy all weekend which I thought was good for teams with an eye on Sarasota. While this made it tough for good Ultimate, especially on Sat afternoon, I saw lots of "casual" passes become turnovers across all divisions. There were many, many examples of players rushing their throws or not setting up their bodies correctly, and this resulted in turns that could have been avoided. When folks did set up and respect the wind, there were some amazing throws..which was great to see.

-Maybe this is an obvious statement, but intense D makes things exciting. I found myself walking around during rounds looking for the best any division.

-Having said that, I was pretty impressed with DoG this weekend. They are a fun team to watch and the overall feeling from the team is quite positive. When I talked with the guys that I know, they would all say that there is a lot of work to do, but the games I saw were well played, very physically intense, and enjoyable. I thought the O was well-focused on their system and at times looked automatic. They are playing very good D, though, and have the depth to put out some varied looks with confidence. In the final, SubZero had to work very hard against Dog's man D and, at times, threw many passes. Dog did have the depth and conditioning, for the most part, to hold the line without concern about roster depth. While there can be arguments about the effectiveness of the Dog O vs the West Coast run and gun, the answer, it seems to me, will come more from Dog's D providing answers for Nord, Grant, etc, rather than the O proving itself.

-Nemesis looked goos this weekend. Amy D and Lryica seemed very confident and unruffled by the wind. There was nice trophy presentation after Nemesis won the tournament. The trophy was in honor of Dean Smith, a Windy City player who passed away in 2005. There was some discussion about whether or not the trophy should be spiked in rememberence of the Windy City championship. After a brief talk, the trophy was indeed spiked. I overheard a rather interesting debate afterwards about whether spiking the trophy is actually a sign of respect.

-The Mixed Division was able to put out a very strong field for this tournament. Four regions were there and the teams got in a lot of good games. While the wind made for Uglitmate at times, the quality of play was good. I found the most compelling game was the CLX-Mr Briefcase qtr match-up. Very good defense. Hard fought, physical, and aggressive. Mr Briefcase is a deep squad to this tournament, and they are able to put out varied lines. I think this makes it a little bit harder for their opponents to settle into matchups. Briefcase is a a physical team, but CLX does not seem ruffled by that. One quip of the day was by Briefcase, "Stop making shitty foul calles because your team can' read (the disc)." One point I saw had about four foot blocks. The game ended up with Mr Briefcase winning 8-7 on a Callahan by Tony Blanchet-Ruth.

-While the results of this tournament don't back me up, I thought Annapolis All-Stars had a good tournament, and they seemed as organized and focused on O as any team out there. They are a heady team and do lots of different things on O and D. They are fundamentally solid and experienced. I don't know who they were missing this weekend, but they did seem to have some trouble ramping up to play hard D. They did do this in the first half of their pool play game with Flaming Moe (and it was the other most enjoyable bit of Mixed Div Ultimate I saw), but I guess the second half was a different story. One bit of minutia is that during their qtrs game, one of their pullers kept pulling inside out...out of bounds on the same sideline..and then dropping it in, barely, on the same sideline. To me, this is highly risky as I have seen pulls that never come back in (think Condors in the 99 Finals) as serious momentum shifters.

-Anything can happen in brackets with a lot of parity, and in the Championship bracket of the Mixed Div (7 games) there were three double game points and four win by two games. At that point in the tournament, it is obviously about which team can focus, be mentally tough, and play with confidence. I am sure some teams walked away with questions, but, hopefully, the tournament provided a forum by which teams can get a sense of how they will be challenged, and how they will need to respond, come Regionals time.


gcooke said...

Hh said something about "No excuses", but my plane was late getting home on Sun. Got home around 2am, so I was quite tired when writing this post.

In any event, there are two factual errors. Slow White beat Black Molly by 4 in Semis and beat 6TM by 3 in qtrs. I guess this is dominant compared to the other games. I didn't mention Slow White in my post, and I meant no disrespect. They should feel very good about traveling and beating the home teams on their fields. I believe they are the first non-Central team to win the Mixed Div at CHC.


Neva said...

Re: switching from junk to man, in the NW it seems we use "first" and "second" (indicating zone and man, obviously). We've played around with calling "man" and having it be meaningless - this works especially well when clam is the actual defense.

And on that note: I have yet to see a junk defense for horizontal, or indeed any consistent strategies for stopping the ho that are specialized to this offense. It seems like teams just try to win on athleticism alone. Of course, I rarely watch men's ultimate, unless Mikey Z is playing. Thoughts?

Jon said...

Hey George,

It was cool to run into you again, and thanks for suggesting the Annapolis/Black Molly game as a good one to observe. I had no idea that guy was Ken Dobyns until I looked up his picture just now. I've had the honor of observing quite a chunk of the big names from the east coast now.

Tarr said...

I remember back at Brown, Safdie used to shout two or three random words ("unicorn!" "cardboard!") before shouting the one that actually signalled transition. This was mostly to confuse the other team at practice, though.

The only effective subtle transition call I've ever found is having someone say something that sounds like the sort of thing that could get shouted anyway. "Hold the force!" works. So does "play some fucking defense".

Jeff said...


I think Sockeye has a version of the clam it uses against horizontal stacks. Fleming tried to explain it to me once and it sounded like the back diamond was just spread wide instead of long, but you can ask him if you're curious.

re: other transitions

There are a few different ways to transition that I know of. For a certain number of counts and until a call are the most common. I've also gone till a certain point on the field (brick mark or halfway). A fourth one I like, but don't use often, is until the first stoppage (foul call, travel, etc.) It gives the D a little more time to find their match ups, is silent, and few teams use it.

Neva said...

I wonder about a flattneed diamond in the back - seems like the offense would answer by sending two people deep against the one, and assuming the deep covers the open side threat, the break side deep is open for a hammer or big break side gainer.

A strategy we've had some success with (originally taught to us by BLW) is essentially leaving the open side handler very poached, and then clamping down the trap D. This can at least take away the first good look to the middle cutters; best case scenario, the marks hold and the ho gets stuck working it up the sideline.

Julian said...

On the subject of defensive audibles, I'm a fan of changing them nearly every point. You gotta figure your average Ultimate player can remember the defense, her/his role in the offense, AND a single key word, right?

On the subject of clamming the ho-stack: I've been on teams that poached the off handlers to take away throwing lanes, cheated the open side defenders underneath, and the break side defenders deep. If a long throw goes up on the open side, the break side defenders have an angle and some time to catch up. If a low break throw goes up, the poachers have a chance at it. The only real vulnerability is a quick hammer over the top to the break side and then quick give-and-goes.

Make sense?

Julian said...
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