Monday, January 29, 2007

UCPC Recap

Whew. What a week. One of the busiest 4 weeks of my life is capped by a day long conference 2 years in the planning. The cherry on top is that I had to pack up the gear from the conference and then race over to Arlington to play with my band. I felt like I had fallen over a cliff this morning. I don't "do" busy very well, so I'm looking forward to getting back to my normal pace.

Jim posted about his experience at the UCPC. I think the event went over very well. It was pretty amazing to see high school kids from Minnesota and Pennsylvania, coaches from Texas, Ohio, Montreal, and Presenters from Massachusetts, Seattle, Oregon, and North Carolina, etc walk in the door at Newton South High School

I can't thank BUDA enough for their support in making the conference happen. Tiina and I are also indebted to the Presenters and Volunteers who gave of their time. Many folks, including Shiellah Quintos, Josh Mullen, Emily Baecher, and Andrew Hollingworth (just a few names among many) took the initiative to solve problems and make the conference a better event. I would also like to thank Kyle Weisbrod for coming in from Atlanta and running the panel discussion as a data gathering event for the UPA's Strategic Planning Initiative.

I actually had a pretty calm day on Friday. I realized that the conference was a train with wheels in motion. What was done was done. Even still...I really didn't sleep on Friday night as there were many details that needed to be resolved. Small things like Wiggins getting rerouted and not arriving until 10am, which meant that Gwen and Miranda needed to know, at 1am, if they were going to rent their own car or not(they ended up getting the hotel, after driving around on Boston streets on the coldest day in two years, at 2:30am). The good thing one freaked.

The event began with a keynote speech by Dr. Alan Goldberg ( Really great stuff. Lots of talk about acting without thinking and being in the moment. At one point, he brought uncontrollables and my Wellesley girls (all working hard as volunteers) started laughing at me because they had just realized the limits to my original thoughts. Dr. Goldberg's presence really added to the legitimacy of the event and I am grateful that he could spend time with us.

I spent a bunch of time wandering around checking out the presentations. I thought they were excellent. Ben Wiggins' marking discussion revealed a depth of analysis and focus that was remarkable. Made me realize that I don't spend enough time on marking with my girls.

I spent a large portion of time in the auditorium as I was making sure all the av stuff was going smoothly (I work as an audio technician for corporate meetings, so we were able to get dvd's going and provide a feed for Jeff Irvine/Ultivillage. Hopefully, we will be able to get some of the conference footage up. After Wiggins, Dan Cogan-Drew and Bryan Doo discussed Fitness for Ultimate. Again, eye-opening. I hired Bryan as my trainer a few years back, but I hadn't really touched base with him in a while. His basic focus was hamstrings and core. He really does not think static stretching is good at all. One of the things he discussed was the difference between warm-ups at the start of the day vs between games. He mentioned that Ultimate was very difficult to train and prepare for as the demands of the tournament format are pretty unique. In that context, I felt that their presentation was a small opening into the future. There will come a time when there will be a base of knowledge, developed by professionals like Bryan, that will help us to prepare ina serious manner for the rigors of our sport.

I walked by Tiina's presentation. It was packed. Goldberg, Parinella, Ted Munter, and Tully were all in there. Then I wandered over to Bryan Dobyns' session. I got a chance to introduce myself to Chris Phillips and we reminisced about the 1982 UMASS vs Hostages game to go that we had both participated in.

After the second round of presentations, everyone gathered, had lunch, and wandered around the Ultimate Expo. I think the middle school and high school kids loved wandering around and getting all the free stuff from the colleges (Miranda mentioned to me that if Ultimate was an NCAA sport that we would have all been fined for recruiting violations). My wife and daughter volunteered for the whole day, so they ran the ARHS/NUTC/UCPC/Dan Cogan-Drew video/Alan Goldberg cd/book table with Dory Ziperstein and Emily Baecher. This does not come without perks as my wife got to chat up Goldberg for an hour about the specifics of mental toughness and swimming. I thought the Ultimate Expo went well. I would have loved to see more vendors and club teams participate. Lincoln-Sudbury High School Ultimate parents did all the catering as a fundraiser for their Ultimate team. I thought they did a great job and they worked very hard.

After lunch, I got Cogan and Doo going and then I wandered over to see Wicks present on coaching college Ultimate after stopping in to see Miranda and Wiggins talk about MOHO. I think the "5 Rules of MOHO" are good rules to any level. Wicks had written me a couple of times expressing a bit of concern about whether folks would be interested in 45 minutes of what he had to say. I decided to go see how it was. I will just say that there are 2-3 ideas that he presented that I am absolutely going to blatantly steal. I thought his presentation (organized based on the calendar year) was informative and focused. Most of the presenters, including Nathan, encouraged questions as they were talking. Not only did this promote interactivity, but I thought it helped to diffuse any formal pretensions (compared to the meetings and conferences I work at regularly, this was quite refreshing).

Kitt Hodsden flew in from the Bay Area to discuss "Ultimate for the Non-Gifted Athlete". As we didn't require pre-registration for the presentations, I was interested as to what her draw would be as she was up against some big names (Parinella, Dobyns, Wiggins). In the end, she had very solid attendance at both her presentations. I think this speaks to the fact that the attendees were very interested in content...especially that which pertained directly to them. We tried to encourage attendees that were there with several teammates to spread out...don't go see a single presentation all together. I think, overall, that most groups followed this advice.

Gwen Ambler chose to speak on fundraising for Ultimate, and her examples of what she did at Stanford are remarkable and inventive. Just another example of why that program is on a different planet. I got a few moments to touch base with Gwen during the conference. The first time, really, since NUTC 05. Gwen, even in the face of her tremendous success as a player and coach, is always interested in what others have to say and I always benefit from her insight.

I had an hour to set up the panel discussion in the auditorium, so I did not see any of the 4th round of presentations. Folks started to filter in at around 5pm, and we premiered the NUTC promo video as they came in.

Kyle served as moderator for the panel. Our panelists were Emily Baecher, Miranda Roth, and Steve Mooney. We asked Jeff Graham as well, but he had to leave the conference early at the last minute. Kyle opened the discussion with a brief description of the UPA's initiatives and how this event would fit into the overall scheme of the Strategic Planning Initiative. The format was basically focused on two questions/issues (paraphrased): 1) Should we grow Ultimate via grass roots or high profile events, and 2) Discussing the tension between SOTG and highly competitive play. Kyle did a great job keeping things moving. The response to 1) was overwhelmingly in favor of grass roots growth, both by the panel and the audience. I do think the different view points of the panel were constructive. Mooney as elder statesman seemed to reveal that while he has as great a historical perspective as anyone out there, he was not as concerned with in vogue issues of the day. Miranda, of course, offered the perspective of a coach/player at the top of the game, and Emily offered the perspective of a growing player with a solid foundation in Youth Ultimate. Mooney refereed to a conversation that he had with Bill Rodriguez about what Ultimate would look like in 100 years. From that perspective, Mooney felt like we were "fine" and he did advocate for the importance of protecting and nurturing our culture.

Question 2 was a bit more polarized, which is to be expected. Some folks felt that refs are necessary at the highest levels. Others were adamant that refs are a bad idea. Miranda brought up what I think is the important distinction between SOTG and refs (I brought this up in my "self-officiating" post. It was during this discussion that Steve interjected a very interesting comment. He basically said that in the context of SOTG, our culture, and promoting the sport, that the Mixed Div could offer the best opportunity for marketing ourselves as the sport of the future (paraphrased). I swear to you that I did not pay him to say this. I actually had a conversation with Steve about this at the inaugural Mixed/Masters Easterns in 2003. I was playing with Steve, Jim, Al, Cork, etc on Big Ego Ultimate. The masters div was about 6 teams. We were on the line, and Steve looked at the other 35 Mixed Div teams playing and said to me, "That's the division to be playing in". In any case, it was quite a comment.

Kyle finished the discussion by having all the attendees place stick-on dots on big sheets of paper so that we could "vote" for our preferred direction that the UPA should take in terms of the the 2 questions. This data will be gathered and combined with the data gathered at other SPI events. The result will hopefully be a picture of what Ultimate players want. Again, I am glad that the UCPC could function in the context of larger purposes.

With that...the conference came to a close...9 hours of talking about bad can that be?

This morning, Kitt, Gwen, and Miranda came over for brunch. It was a rare opportunity to talk with other College Women coaches. Very fun as we exchanged funny stories about coaching, teaching, and trying to make our programs as good as they can be. Gwen and Miranda left for the airport, and Kitt is staying over until Tues as this her first time in Boston.

---all I can say is thanks.


jtflynn said...

although unable to attend, thank you for assembling what sounds like an exceptional event. with the grassroots and peer-coaching nature of the sport, this is an exceptional model for dissemination of information that can speed the development of ulti. as i am sure many others would also say, any content from the event that can be made available will be gobbled up with sincere appreciation.


gapoole said...

It was pretty amazing to be at the conference. I was happy to see you, Tiina, Gwen, Josh Seamon, and Mike Baccarini, and it was good to chat, even briefly, with Miranda Roth, Dan Cogan-Drew, and the coach of Hopkins HURT. I was really excited to see Tiina's talk, because I had missed it when I attended NUTC, and it was all the more enriching to hear Dr. Goldberg's presentation on the same day.

I was thoroughly impressed with Steve Mooney, as I gather everybody else was, but the panel discussion in general was inspiring. There was surprising coherence in support of grass-roots work, as you mentioned, but even the disagreements on the future of SOTG/refs/varsity were respectful and focused; they're conversations that we need to have as a community, and it was nice to see how non-Ultimate people (like the hs player's father) had valuable and provoking comments.

So now, the biggest impact UCPC had for me, is that I have begun to look for other ways to get involved in the sport. I have always dreamed of playing through college and into club, and I know I want to coach someday, but I never really thought about contributing on other levels: Observing, helping TD's and other organizers, volunteering for the UPA, etc. So aside from the great things I learned from the presentations and the interesting experience I had getting to and from the conference, that new-found interest in getting involved is what I took from UCPC. Thanks for putting all that work in, it was definitely worth it.

gcooke said...


I have been posting content to

I hope you and others find it useful!


gcooke said...

Hi Glenn,

Thanks for you comments. I know you have high standards, so I appreciate the positive feedback.

I am glad that the conference could push you in a direction that I hadn't really considered would be a benefit....

Great stuff.


David Lee Paraguay said...


So what would Doo say to do at the end of a day of ultimate, or after a long training run? We tended to do a cool down run and stretch, but if he isn't in favor of static stretching, is that even advisable?

gcooke said...


According to what I saw, Doo would say that stretching is ok at the end of activity.


Mackey said...

Yeah, Bryan OK'd static stretching as part of the cooldown, with the caveat that you shouldn't be doing anything too demanding afterwards (ie, you won't go sprint/jump around afterwards).

I'm doing some excessively long recaps of the seminars I attended on my blog ("thoughts"--just follow the link through my profile), for those interested. I started with Doo's...hopefully the information will be useful to somebody.

gcooke said...


Those are great posts on the presentations.

Folks should check those posts out.