Thursday, March 29, 2007

Boston Invitational Registration is now open

Registration is now open for the Boston Invitational. Get your season into high gear at one of the premier tournaments of the season.

Great fields and competition.

16 Elite Open Teams
16 Easterns Open Teams
10 Elite Women's Teams
10 Easterns Women's Teams
10 Mixed Elite Teams
8 Grand Masters Teams(40+, Sunday Only)

General Info and registration information can be found at:

We look forward to seeing you in June!

E-mail: bosinv at buda dot org


Monday, March 26, 2007


Definitely feels like spring here in New England. We are looking at a nice string of 50 degree plus days. Even an old guy like me thinks, when driving by a lonely, brown patch of grass, "Hey.....nice field".

-Lots of RSD posts these days announcing club tryouts. Is it me or does it seem like there are more than usual? In my little world, I attribute it to the fact that it is a Worlds qualifying year. I look forward to the Worlds year in the four year cycle. There is a little more at stake for the Fall Series.

-On the home front, my girls are returning from Spring Break. They had a successful jaunt at Southerns two weeks ago. I think the highlight was a big comeback win against Georgia. Nice stuff. They also played at Ultimax this past weekend. I would post the link, but the tournament is not listed on the SRT. We will have a lot of stuff to work on before Yale Cup and Sectionals. One big thing will be our ability to concentrate for a whole tournament. I try to talk as little as possible during practice, but even when I do spout just a bit.....some of my girls immediately start to wander mentally. We have distinct and robust ability to tune out as a sideline and take little advantage of this opportunity to help each other. This seems to me like both a culture and a focus we will work on that.

-Registration is going well for Mixed/Masters Easterns. Geoff is doing a great job in keeping the teams list updated. We are working on many details, so this should be a great event. We have also been receiving inquiries about the Boston Invitational. Geoff (TD) and me(Comp Director) will be serving in our same capacities as MME. We will be getting the BI website up soon and registration info will be available shortly.

-I have said before...but I have to say it again. In my opinion, the "conventional wisdom"(Interesting description of this Galbraith term in "Freakonomics". The term was not intended, originally, as a compliment...basically Galbraith was saying that we associate truth with convenience.) that high scoring offensive games are the most exciting to watch is a bunch of crap. I don't care what the TV ratings "prove" as we are in sad shape if TV Ratings are the "truth" (you can have the revenue). I think one would have to be brain dead not to find Purdue's defensive tenacity against Florida or Memphis' athletic D to be the most fun to watch so far in the March Madness. One just had to flip over to any Pro Basketball game to see the contrast...a bunch of guys standing around when on D.


Monday, March 19, 2007

Mixed/Masters Easterns Registration is now live

Mixed/Masters Easterns registration is now live. The web page is here. 32 Mixed Teams. 6 Masters Teams. We run the MA and NE High School Championships on Sunday, plus we are introducing a Dames Div on Sat.

Great event. Great fields....lots of fun.



I have been working with my girls on breaking some "bad" habits. I have been thinking about habitual behavior in somewhat of a negative context lately. Like habits are always bad. This, of course, is not the case, so this post will discuss, in a general way, both good and bad habitual behavior.

The definition of habit by is useful for this post:

1a: A recurrent, often unconscious pattern of behavior that is acquired through frequent repetition.
1b: An established disposition of the mind or character.
2: Customary manner or practice: a person of ascetic habits.

I guess the the parts that interest me (and bother me much of the time) are "unconcious" and "customary". To say that actions done without thinking and based on social norms and customs does sum up habits pretty well. With my girls, we discuss actions on the field in terms of general principles more than hard and fast rules. In general, I want my girls thinking in the present moment about the current circumstances and making quick decisions. At the UCPC, Goldberg talked about remaining in the present brain, that is to say, not living in the past (I can't believe I missed that freethrow) or in the future (when I hit this home run, it will be so great). He has also discussed in his books about being in the zone. While sometimes this can be characterized as "unconscious", I think his description of being solely concerned with the present is more apt. I do think this distinction is important when it comes to habits. Habit free behavior, within the parameters defined by Goldberg, seems to be clear thinking and decision making in the present moment. Habits, however, seem to be decisions based on custom and unconscious patterns and are, therefore, erroe-prone. So, I think the focus is not on whether "unconscious" behavior is bad as much as habitual decisions can result in a disconnect from the present scenario.

We are working to break the following habits:

-At some point, before I became Wellesley's coach, the way that the team would respond to zone D was by calling "recognize!" in recognize that it is zone. For some reason, this has always bothered me. We are now working on saying "Zone" when it is zone. Just say what it is. We are actually not concerned with what type of zone it is, although we will follow up "Zone" with "1-3-3" or otherwise, if needed. While this is simply a way to deal with a habitual type of nomenclature, the simple call of "zone" is also an additional way of breaking habit. To a large extent, person defense affords the offense, especially downfield, the opportunity to define the spaces in which it will work. Obviously, zone D is just the opposite in the sense that the defense is defining the spaces on the field. These past two sentences are meant to be simplistic and not account for poaching or mini-clams, etc. So, for us, the call of "zone" is not meant to trigger "Oh, I am a wing....I need to run over to my spot" as much as say "look for the spaces in which I can be effective".

-"Trap for 1". This is somewhat like an urban legend. Who is responsible for creating the idea that a trap is somehow wonderfully effective? Meaning more than forcing back into the field. As a cutter on a team with good throwers, a trap was a wonderful opportunity for me to create a difficult decisions on the part of my defender.....however, if we were being forced back into the stack...the options are somewhat more limited. This is not to say that we don't trap...or won't trap for 1...there just has to be reason for it.

-"What do you want to do? I don't know, let's just force forehand". If there isn't a bigger abdication of the opportunity to have something a bit under one's control, I don't know what it is. Again, we will force forehand...all the time....there just has to be a reason why we are doing it.

-"Everytime I cut and don't get open...I resign myself to just getting back into the stack". First, I think most good cutters know if they are going to get open before they cut. Second, any good offense will go to option B if the primary option doesn't work. Idris wrote about good cutters making a good secondary cut after getting shut down. I think this is a great idea. Maybe you will get the disc in another way, and, at a minimum, you are not saying to your defender "I clear to the stack...EVERY TIME".

These are just some examples (for both our team and many others) of habitual on-field behavior. I got to thinking about players' pre-game rituals. There are legendary examples of basically OCD pre-game behaviors. I developed a nice one myself. Is ritual different from habit? I am not really sure. I do think that a pre-game ritual can be a positive source of predictability and preparation for a player. I think that one could argue that listening to one's body, in the present, is needed and that this could, or perhaps, should, depending upon the circumstance, lead to modifications in the routine. I think a player should also be able to react to circumctances beyond one's control that might interrupt their comfortable pattern.

So, in summary, I think habits are something that we need to step back and examine. Why do we make the decisions, especially on-field, that we do? Are we focused on the ever-changing scenarios that are unfolding before us, or are we falling back on patterns of behavior that, while comforting, are perhaps determental to both the team and to our individual performance? I have a friend, who was a very accomplished Ultimate player, who used to say, "The hardest thing for people to change is this (he would be pointing at his head)." I think, at a minimum, that a modicum of awareness of our habits can go a long way toward changing these behaviors.


Monday, March 12, 2007

Tommy Proulx/ Spring Tournaments

This past fall, the Boston area Ultimate community experienced a big change when Regionals was run at Devens without the presence of the, up to then, ubiquitous Tommy Proulx. Since 1998, Tommy had been at the center of the relationship between BUDA and Devens, and he developed a template for the way tournaments should be run at that venue. Teams playing in a Proulx run tournament knew that they would experience a quality event with lined fields, games that ran on time, etc. He also went the extra mile and concerned himself with details that most people wouldn't even notice. Last summer at the Boston Invite, in what would be one of his last tournaments, he brought TV's and a satellite dish so that Clapham could watch the World Cup Qtrs during their bye. While this kind of work made Tommy visible, it is just the beginning of the kind of dedication and commitment that Tommy showed to our sport over the years.

Tommy's big coming out party was the 2001 UPA College Nationals in Boston. Tommy's ideas have a lasting influence. The model of holding the finals in a local stadium (separate from the pool play venue) was Tommy's idea and has become a necessary component of a venue's bid for that event. Tommy always was an idea person, though. When he presented me the concept of a "Mixed Easterns" tournament to be held on the traditional Boston Invite weekend (BUDA had secured a permit for an extra weekend in the summer due to the positive relationship between Tommy and Devens), I was deeply concerned about not only the viability of Mixed Easterns but also how players would respond to the Boston Invite date being changed. As usual, both events have become more robust since the change.

Tommy has been remarkably dedicated to Youth Ultimate over the years. He coached the Andover team. He organized the NE YCC teams. He organized BUDA's High School League, and was TD for last summer's Youth World tournament.

Tommy also served as a UPA Board member for a number of years. He was treasurer for the organization and helped push through big youth and league initiatives. Tommy's work as a league organizer has served as a model for other organizations and he was a presenter for the UPA League Conferences.

He continued to play through the years, even though he was hampered by an ACL tear a few years ago. So, this past spring, Tommy began to make plans from stepping down from the sport, which he did this past fall. Clearly, this was the right thing to do, as the commitment to his growing family was becoming more important and the demands the sport was placing on him were too great. Frankly, I was a bit surprised by the extent to which he went "cold turkey", but I guess I can only look to my retirement to see how a clean break can be the best way to approach such a change.

It is difficult to understand and recognize the contributions of someone like Tommy Proulx. Clearly, all the attention goes to the rock stars on the field, which is to be expected and, to a certain extent, their success would occur regardless of whether the fields were lined. However, Tommy's contribution was much greater than just a TD. His promotion of the sport from Youth players on up laid a positive foundation for the sport to develop faster and in a much more public way.

So, how do we recover from the loss of Tommy's leadership and contribution? Well, while there are big shoes to fill in some areas, a template was laid for how to run a quality event at Devens and Club Regionals this past fall was run without a hitch. Just as any other year, earnest planning for events such as Mixed/Masters Easterns(June 2-3) and the Boston Invite(June 23-24) is in the works and information about bids will be released shortly.

With energy and commitment, the shoes of someone like Tommy can be filled. The legacy of great organizers is, many times, good ideas and a structure in which people can be replaced when it is time for them to move on. It is easy to sit on the couch and bitch about "What I think should be done....." It is quite another thing to take the personal and financial risk to actually put ideas into action. The Tommy's of the world give us clear examples of what can be accomplished. While their actions are many times behind the scenes, we need to recognize folks like Tommy for giving us specific examples of how we can grow and improve the sport.


Monday, March 05, 2007

College Coaching Mandate?

When I first started coaching at Wellesley, I felt a bit of pressure to make sure I taught the "basics". Even now, as I coach all year long, I do think that our focus on fundamentals in the fall is positive and necessary. Obviously, if Wellesley was a program with a consistent B team year to year, we could probably jump the A team right into the finer nuances come Sept, but even so, to what extent, in these nascent years of both our sport and, specifically, coaching our sport, are we mandated to teach the fundamentals and offer a broad perspective on our strategic principles?

I have written about "systems" in this blog before, specifically, when discussing my conversations with Gwen in the summer of 05 at NUTC. I said it then, but her words keep ringing in my ears, "We (Stanford) look for the athletes for the A team. We have confidence in the system and we plug players in". I am consistently fascinated by Syracuse basketball and their adherence to zone D. If you go to Syracuse, you are going to play in Jim Boeheim's zone. It is common to hear comments like "Player X decided to attend School Y because he felt comfortable in the "West Coast Offense" or "Option Offense", etc. Pitino makes a living with the full court press...etc...etc. Once a system of success is discovered, coaches attach themselves like tattoos.

So, as Ultimate coaches, are we mandated to teach everything from the stack, dump and swing, hammers, ho stack, to cup zone, 1-3-3, etc, etc? My general sense, now, is "No". I feel much more confident in working toward our team goals (which very well might include many of the aforementioned "basics") as opposed to focusing on "completing the text book". Not only is there plenty of precedent in other sports (Syracuse is just one example) for adherence to a specific system (which is what makes college sports and the natural ebb and flow of their programs, due to, in a small way, the suitability of the current talent for the system, so interesting), but I think it is generally acknowledged that the principles behind the first cut out of a stack are pretty much identical to cutting out of a horizontal set.

The realization that we don't need to teach everything or must work on generally agreed upon specifics can add focus to the program. There were times during my first year at Wellesley when I felt a bit of the "blank canvas" scenario. I think there are many times when a limited palate results in the most productive work. So while this post eschews a mandate, it also suggests definition and intent when it comes to developing systems that will be taught. Players, as they move on from college into club, will adapt and, if they have an awareness of other systems and philosophies, they will learn new ways of approaching the sport. Perhaps our mandate as coaches is actually to nurture such awareness. To make our players realize that they work within a single subset of the available possible options. After all, Carmelo Anthony is doing fine in the Pros...and he played only zone in college.