Monday, February 05, 2007

Start of the Season

I find the start of the spring season to be an exciting time. The Whiptails started up again this past Tuesday, and spring practices always begin with a higher sense of purpose. If we have done our jobs, the focused work on fundamentals from the fall has laid a proper foundation for the spring's focus on refinement and a shift toward placing players in the best position to be successful.

There is a major difference to the start of this season, though, and that is the imminent split of our squad into two teams. This is the only the second time Wellesley will have fielded two squads for the spring season (the other being my first year of coaching, the spring of 2003). We have been blessed with a dedicated group of 33-37 players all year, so this is an obviously an necessary and obvious move, but still difficult nonetheless. Our culture is not one of split squads. It is one where we all work together as a unit. This has caused some consternation on the teams, but I think my captains, Emily and Langdon, have handled the situation expertly. They seem very sensitive and have done a good job balancing the desires of our players as individuals with the demands of the "good of the team".

Our practices from this last week were done with the full thirty five of us all together. After active warm-ups (no more static stretching!!...Bryan Doo got his message through), we split in half. Half of us do track workouts and the other half works on skills in the basketball gym. This seems to be a good way to both manage our numbers and achieve our goal of working on conditioning during the winter.

The team really...really wants learn, and my girls are impossibly polite. I can go on about how something we are doing as a team is "unacceptable", then go over and talk to someone individually and the response is almost always "Thank You". One of my Senior players has made some kind of personal leap and is approaching things by checking off and making very calm decisions with the disc. I have been vocal about how this is very positive and she came up and thanked me on Thursday. While I am pretty sure I am not a hard-ass, I sometimes wonder if I am complementary enough.

We actually get a lot done in our small basketball court, and we have defined things enough such that I can say "Dump Swing" or "Never Ending Game" and we can pretty much jump right into it.

As I mentioned last fall, I am very lucky to have Pete Zuraw(a Wellesley employee) helping me out at most practices. Like many things these days, it seems that if I open things up to additional input that our natural strengths come out. Pete, for example, is tremendously patient and skilled at taking players and working with them on improving their throwing. Not only does this very clearly expand our one-on-one time, but it allows Pete and me to focus on what we are good at. I think the four of us (me, Emily, Langdon, and Pete) have a natural division of labor that is comfortable. For instance, Emily and Langdon have been working the team out on the track this year. In the past, I have had to push the team and actually run the track sessions. Not that I mind doing the track work (Emily threatens the team that I will come down and run the sessions if they don't work hard enough), I just think we benefit overall from me having the time to work on team disc concepts.

We will be defining our Process and Outcome Goals in the next few practices. That should enhance our focus and what we are trying to do at practice.


gapoole said...

We just had our first practice. I played pickup for the first time in weeks that same day, and just started to get excited about the start of the season. The weather decided that this was precisely the time to turn bitter cold, and it is a little upsetting. I've never wanted to skip practice because of weather, but single digits scare my digits.

It's also frustrating that Rutgers, a gigantic state school, has such a small number of Ultimate players. How do you get that kind of sustained interest?

nell said...

hi george (:

actually, it's at least the 3rd time the whiptails have split up into two teams. they did so the year before you (and i) arrived, although from what i heard about that year, the split wasn't all that successful.

good luck with the next couple months of indoor practices! i miss having that kind of structured conditioning in my life right now.

gcooke said...

Hi Nell,

Thanks for the clarification. We miss you as well....


We typically have a pretty high attrition rate, so I am not really in a position to speak in terms of high retention. The leadership of the team placed a high priority on recruiting this past fall, and they were very successful, both in terms of numbers and retention.

As to the specifics, I think we just got a bunch of folks who are into the sport and want to learn. We are pretty surprised that folks have stuck it out and come day in and day out.