Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Games Within the Game

I went for a little trot today on the beach. Maybe my little paunch that I have developed protruded a bit too much out of my wetsuit. The wetsuit is necessary in the 55 degree water down here at the Cape. Anyway, I was on my little trot when I ran into Bill Stewart and his son Robin. Former Metal guys. Friends from way back. Are these two the only father and son duo playing at the elite club level?

After my run, I settled into the spot where my family was boogie boarding, etc. I was there for a bit when I noticed, from afar, Bill, Robin, and a few friends playing a game of honey pot. First, it was nice to see real throws on the beach, and second, Ultimate players are just so quirkily restless. They are always up to something. Their game reminded me of an idea I heard about of documenting The Games Within The Game...other wise known as Alleviating Boredom. Here is the start of a list(by no means comprehensive....I never play any of these). By all means jump in.

1) Ro-Sham-Bo
2) Milk
3) Honey Pot
4) Goaltimate(?)
5) Hot Box
6) Frisbee, Banana, Water Bottle, Shoe, Goldfish
7) Bear Ninja Cowboy
8) Miniature Tanks


Sunday, June 24, 2007

Boston Invite Write-Up

It has already been posted on RSD that the results of this year's Boston Invite are surprising. The primary reason is, of course, Boston not winning the thing in the Open Div. The question on RSD is: when was the last time this happened? Well, I will tell you. Ring won in 04, Sub Zero in 03, Ring beat a split squad in 02, and Florida won in 01. So, it is way too premature to be confidently predictive based on what happened this past weekend. In fact, my take on the weekend is that the story was, as usual, teams having different agendas coming into the weekend, be it finishing tryouts(Boston, Slow White), learning how the new roster is working (Shazam, Slow White, Boston), refining and early building(Brute Squad, Mischief), or in the final stages of ramping up for Canadian Nats (Capitals, GOAT). It is seductive to try to write off the top dogs as faltering or on a downward spiral, but it is a long season. What follows is my observations, sometimes very detailed and written in real time on the fields, others in retrospect. As usual, a big thanks goes out to Barbara, Tracy, Geoff, and Josh for running a great tournament. The weather was great and things seemed to go without a hitch.

Mixed Division:

Largely due to the work of Slow White, specifically Kris Kelley and Mike Miller, but also with the top Mixed teams buying in to a general sense of season, this was an awesome field here in Boston. The first person from the Mixed Div I saw on Sat morning was none other than Steve Finn(see my traveling well post), who is getting the band back together in the form of Shazam Returns. This incarnation looks familiar if you think back to 04, and the intentions of this team are clear to the observer, especially when one considers what their leader has accomplished in the past three years. Steve told me that he had 80 tryouts this spring.....and 50 very good players got cut. Shazam came to play here in Boston and stated that fact early in their first round 15-4 dis-assembly of Slow White. Shazam ran an effective zone in the windy conditions and Slow White is a consistent team, even to the extent that they prefer calm conditions. One observer, who knows Slow, said to me “They are not a morning team”. I heard that Slow felt that they were jet lagged, not their West Cost opponents. Clearly, that is a mental area of the game that will need to be addressed come October....especially considering that their first game was at 11am.

Brass Monkey showed up with a smaller squad than usual, but the folks they brought are very talented. Nate Miller consistently impresses me with his calm leadership and talent. He is probably the only non-College 07 player I saw all weekend, in any division, who actually marks with legal 11th edition marks(the wrap around marks in Open are ridiculous...not even close to being legal 11th marks). I felt that Brass Monkey, with the jet lag and small squad, might run out of gas by the end of the day, but they handled Tandem in the early game before squeaking out a 13-12 victory over Slow White in the second ground. Brass showed resolve and toughness in this game going down 11-9 before gutting out the win.

Mischief showed up with a full squad this weekend and they began their game against Flaming Moe with energy and intensity. They are obviously athletic and have several of the most athletic men in the division in the Smith Brothers and Tyler Grant. Mischief’s O runs through several of these guys and while they like the long game, they seemed pretty comfortable in the strong winds that began the day. Shazam’s win over Slow in round up set up a big match at the end of the day with the South Bay crew, and, due to the round robin format, could very well be the final. Shazam went up several breaks in the first half to take the half 8-5. I never like three point leads. Shazam is focused and both teams are athletic, so it is a fast paced, intense game. Not many turns so the quality is about as good as one can expect, especially this early in the season. The teams trade through the second half and at 13-11, Mischief pulls out a zone look of their own. Mischief gets two breaks to tie it up at 13-13. Shazam converts on O then gets a handblock and converts, game over…Shazam wins 15-13.

Sunday morning: Brass Monkey vs Mischief in a big west coast battle. They trade although both teams have some miscues. A big Brass hammer floats but it scooped up by Josh Greenough to maintain a 5-4 lead. Mischief then turns and Nate Miller puts it to Coco who makes the big lay out for the score and the break. Mischief turns it twice, once on a very bad hammer by a Smith brother, but they get a turn and out it to Tyler for the score.. Mischief takes half with three breaks, culminated by a Callahan from youngster Adam Fagan.

It was around this time that I got my first ride on a Segue. Very cool. I think the tournament should rent me one for the weekend.

Flaming Moe takes half against Slow White 8-4. Slow brings it to 9-6, but the O seems a bit out of sync. Slow has a large roster. Perhaps managing this is the real task of the weekend? Moe is ramping up having played Mischief, Shazam, and Brass Monkey on Saturday. Paul Norgaard is back on Moe and adds some real firepower to that team. Moe is buying into the season and are traveling to ECC in Aug.

Mischief starts to pull away from Brass and it is 12-7, but Nate Miller is starting to do more work downfield and busts long to make it 12-8.

Slow is trying to build the energy and make a run. Slow gets the turn and puts it to Hunt Allcott, who toes the line, 11-9. This point is pretty sloppy with a bunch of turns, but Slow breaks again 11-10.

Mischief closes the game out 15-9.

Moe regroups and is able to get some breaks back. They put it to Guy Pugh for the win 15-10.

Brass and Shazam are battling. Shazam is mixing up zone and man. Brass gets a break to tie at 6’s. Shazam takes half on a big run by Mickey Thompson.

Amp is finding their game against Slow. I think SW is not sure if they are sorting out their roster or they are trying to win the thing. Amp goes up 9-5. Slow goes on a 3-0 to pull to 8-9. Slow battles back to 11's and then closes out the big comeback win.

Shazam continues to press in the second half. Steve Finn makes a very nice deep cut off a give and just beats his Brass defender for the goal. Shazam is able to close the game out and essentially lock up their possession of the Boston Invite tournament. Congrats to them on a great showing.

In general, Shazam looks very strong as does Mischief. The division will benefit from almost this same exact field of teams competing at ECC in August. I would like to thank all the teams for making the trip and creating a great event.


Like Mixed, the Women’s div has a high quality field. Brute Squad is camped out on field 8 for the duration. Brute Squad looks solid all Saturday, although Layuma’s zone causes them to work hard. Lady Godiva was up and down over Saturday, but scored a big win over Backhoe to take third place in the pool.

Small Rackages is a new Women’s team made up of Bait plus Chad Larson's better half. They looked good as did Capitals who won the B pool. As I mentioned earlier, Capitals is on a bit of a different pace than the rest of the teams as their championship is rapidly approaching

Small Rackages plays very well against Godiva. Godiva has some young players, but SR is athletic and dominates with a 15-4 win. Godiva had some of the old guard like Johanna, Sarah C, Jess B around, but the team is obviously just getting going.

Semis: Brute vs Small Rackages. SR is hanging with Brute in Semis. They have opportunities to tie and they do at 7-7. Brute is playing well, but SR likes to work hard. They trade to 10's before Brute goes on a run and wins out. Capitals is handles Backhoe in a pool play rematch. I actually had leave during the final to head down to the Cape for vacation, but I just read in the SRT that Capitals won 15-6. Congrats on a great showing.

I spent much of the first round Saturday checking out the Open div games, and the Pony-Boston game was quite the way to start the tournament. Very fast and athletic, but a high number of turnovers that probably indicates early season rustiness. PoNY has added some players notably BVH and Bailey Russell, but Boston is, of course, completely new with added talent in the form of Kurt Gibson and Ben Faust. The game is close throughout. They play right on through the Soft Time Cap and PoNY is up 14-12 as the hard cap is coming on, but Boston has the disc and is moving up the field. Boston completes a pass to near the goal line and calls a timeout??!! This was the first of many examples of, in my opinion, not great time management by a bunch of teams. In this case, though, not only was the timeout questionable, but it was handled 3 minutes in length...not 90 seconds. By the time Boston got the disc in play, the hard cap came on with the disc in Forch's hands. He throws a hammer for the goal, but it is game over.

I spent most of my time over between the Mixed and Women's fields, but there are probably many blogs which will give good info on the Open field.

I did watch some of the Boston-Van Buren Boys qtrs, which Boston rolled. Van Buren Boys(basically Chad Larson men) made their debut with a small squad and, in the words of Shawn W, "it was very clear that this was our first tournament together". The Boston game was over pretty quickly as VBB had trouble converting their long looks and Boston was able to convert the breaks.

Boston took half against Truck Stop 8-5, but I heard from Ted Munter that they gave up a 5-0 run in the second half before succumbing 11-15. So, there is some work to do there for the hometown boys. Congrats to GOAT on winning the Open div.

I did follow how Big Ego was faring in the fast lane. They won their pool on Sat, but lost to Zebra Muscles in the play-in game. Maybe that 1st round bye was pretty enticing. Of course, this resurrected hopes of the Colt 45-Big Ego death match (with Boston having a bye, no less), but, unfortunately Colt 45 crapped the bed and descended into the bowels of the Eastern Div. Big Ego pulled out a 1 point win against Gunslingers and found themselves in the Semis against a good New Noise squad(who played Pike 14-15 in the elite play-in game). NN takes the half 8-7. I hear one of the NN players say "Don't give Parinella so much cushion. Make him go through you if he wants to go deep". Clearly things got pretty physical as Jim suffered nasty gash on his eye going for a goal at 12-12. Simon V, as usual, worked very hard, and it was fun to watch Marshall and Al work the disc in small spaces. Al has a very quick backhand release and the two of them work well together. NN kept pressing and pulled out the 15-14 win.

Two quick things to wrap up:

1) I received a complaint about having the hard time cap coincide with the start of the next round. To me, this kept things simple as the players never know what the horns mean, plus it meant that the hard cap was used as a stop gap to keep the tournament basically on schedule....which, in my opinion, is the purpose of this cap. I am curious about feedback on this idea.

2) People need to learn how the caps work. In both this tournament and Mixed/Masters Easterns, there was confusion about whether teams needed to win by two in the Soft Time Cap. We need to, as a whole, get much more up to speed on these rules.


Monday, June 18, 2007

Boston Invite Preview

Summer is here and so is the Boston Invitational. We have something like 70 teams competing this year. The fields should be in great shape, so it should be a great tournament. Here is my take on a divisional alphabetical order:

8 of the top 10 teams in the country(including 3 West Coast powerhouses and top teams from 4 of the 6 Regions). Awesome. This came together largely due to the efforts of Slow White in reaching out to the Mixed Nats teams and getting them organized. SW felt that more inter-regional play would help develop a sense of season, increase the quality of Mixed play, help prepare the teams for Nats, and, my favorite, help with seeding Nationals. SW also organized and pushed for quality Mixed teams to attend ECC and CHC, so they should be commended for their efforts. I think it will be interesting to see how the traveling teams do.

There have been some comments that the Open div is a bit "weak" this year. Only 2 Nats qualifiers this year. While I think the top 5-6 teams pretty much have the only shot at winning the thing, perhaps the wide open nature of the teams will create some interest? Who will play up or down? Hey, maybe some lack of predictability will be good for this entrenched div.

I am looking forward to getting a look at the Boston Ultimate team. With Graham's injury is this really a merger? Will the approach be different from DOG? Speaking of which, I am also interested in how Big Ego will fare when playing against the kids. Which brings up, of course, due to this, the potentially delicious BEU-Colt 45 rematch in Div B semis.....if things go to seed (and that is a big if). Will Colt 45 prevail again despite MD's adolescent definition of intensity? Or will Jimmy P make MD eat his words? Pull up a chair, folks. Plenty of heckling fodder there.........

Maybe I have saved the best for last? Mixed gives them a run for the money in terms of quality, but this the largest Women's tournament at BI in a number of years and it stock full of quality teams (8-10 Nats level teams plus many high placing Regional teams). I think it is likely that we will see a Brute-Backhoe final, but with a new 12 team elite div...there will plenty of good games.


Monday, June 11, 2007

Thoughts on Focus, Preparation and Performance

When I was in high school, there were a few of us that played sports (mostly soccer) and were involved in music, art, etc at the same time. There was clearly tension between the "freaks" and the "jocks", but there was not any overt least in the circles I was in. This tension continued in college. I actually think there was more of a distinction at UMASS in the early 80's. I would hazard a guess that the "arts" folks felt more uncomfortable with the jocks than vice verse, but I did make a choice to move away from sports in 1982 and pursue music "seriously". I think if one looks at the current landscape there is more tolerance for pursuing different things in one's life. Perhaps this is just due to the fact that I am older and have a pretty good sense of self at this point, but most of the kids in my daughter's 4th grade class are "over-scheduled" with sports, arts, language, etc.

In general, I have pursued either music or Ultimate during my life, but, over the past couple of years, I have come as close as I have to pursuing both simultaneously...even if I am not playing on the field.

This past weekend I wrapped up a series of eight shows at a local theater in Arlington, and it has been interesting how the sports psych principles that I work on with my girls come into play in terms of performing music. Much of this is repeating what I have said before, but it is helpful to be reminded that the basic principles of mental preparation can come into play repeatedly and in different aspects of one's life:

-Focus on the the things you can control--We had one or two nights in which our crowd was a bit smaller than anticipated. I spoke to one leader in the group and he was concerned that the morale of the group might be low due to the smaller crowds. We talked about the size of the crowd as an "uncontrollable". I try to focus on 1) knowing the material and 2) being in tune....not on the size of the crowd or their response.

-Intensity is focus on the present execution of fundamentals--Using emotion as source of intensity or drive is opening yourself to the ups and downs of your emotional and energy cycles. I found that the more I focused on execution first, the more I was able to tap into higher and, most importantly, consistent, emotional states. I think many of the Ultimate players I played with and the musicians I play with now are dependent upon external factors for their intensity....or on an "emotionally" driven sense of intensity, which, in my opinion, results in inconsistent performance.

-Preparing for games(or a performance) should be the same for all games (or important performances)--We had a classic example of not doing this this past weekend. On Saturday, the gig was "important"...investors coming to see the show, etc. All of a sudden our routine changed. Everyone warmed up in a different way and there was at atmosphere of "this is serious". Well, we played fine, but just slightly tight. On Sunday, when it "didn't matter"...surprise...we went back to "normal"...and we played loose and fun. Sound familiar? There is no doubt that your mental state will be different for finals than for round 1 of pool play, but this is all the more reason to rely on familiar routines for preparation. Want to be loose in the finals? Then warm up on Sat morning the same way you prepare on Sunday afternoon.

-Keep your brain in the present-- Focus is a big deal. It takes a lot of experience to maintain concentration for an entire game. All my mistakes this weekend came when my mind was not in the present. I was thinking about what just happened or what was going to happen.

So, it was am interesting experience to apply this stuff to an area outside of what I am used to. It was also helpful to subject myself to what I ask of my girls. In general, I was relaxed, focused, had good execution, and, best of all, I had a very good time.


Monday, June 04, 2007

Mixed-Masters Easterns/Other stuff

I drove up to Devens on Friday afternoon to see how preparations were going for Mixed/Masters Easterns. Last year, we had the main grid(fields 1-12) done by about 3pm. This year, I drove up and Barbara and her crew had the whole thing finished. Lined, coned, water stands, portopotties, field signs....all ready to go. She did a remarkable job is handling the basic logistics of the tournament, including the bulk of the registration. Geoff, Tracey, and Shiellah also did a tremendous amount of work, and the teams seemed to appreciate all the effort that the staff put in. Really, those guys did a lot of work.

I was unable to stay around that much this year as I was performing in a music group in nearby Arlington. I did get to see a few games and it was good to socialize a bit.

Saturday seemed, in general, to be a day to get things ramped up as there were lots of drops and throwaways. The focus seemed to be turned on for Sunday as the intensity and level of play really jumped.

I stopped by to check out the Masters a bit. Good to see the old Dog guys out there. I am sure Al will write about how he did and Jim will write about how the team did, so I won't go into much detail.

Other news:
What is it with the assumption that caps affect timeouts? When did that get started? Why is that treated like the default now?

I have been moderating the Credibility topic over at the UPA stratgeic planning blog. I came upon this article here. I am not sure I really agree with all of it. In the end, what we think matters little. The almighty dollar is really what defines whether an activity is "legit" or my opinion.

All-region awards came and went again. Another year in which my girls got shut out. Part of me thinks there is not a better sign of our depth and team-orientation than this(only one other school in the country finished third or higher at Regionals without an All-Region Player). That, of course, is positive George. Dark Side George wonders if this popularity contest really serves any useful purpose.