Monday, August 27, 2007

On Vacation

Back after Labor Day....


Monday, August 20, 2007

O and D Development Timeline

I was on vacation last week. Thanks to those folks that stopped by the blog anyway....

On Micah Flynn's recommendation, I just finished Michael Lewis' "The Blind Side". Very interesting book that primarily deals with the story of Michael Oher's (now a sophomore at Ole Miss) rise from the ashes of Memphis' poorest slums. There are some very interesting subplots, however, like Bill Walsh's development of the "horizontal" version of the passing attack known, of course, as the West Coast O (Walsh's version, developed in Cincinnati, differs from Coryell's (whom Walsh worked with) in that the Charger's O was primarily vertical in nature). A subplot of this subplot is the rise of the left tackle(Oher's position and the protector of the QB's blind side) as one of the most important (and highest paid) positions on the field. This is due to Walsh needing the tight end to participate in the passing game, BUT having to have an answer for Lawerence Taylor's speed. The answer was basically the need for a "Freak of Nature" in the left tackle position. 6'5", 325 pounds of low body fat, and the ability to move this body across 40 yds in less than 5 seconds (in high school, Ohr was faster in 10 yards than anyone of the field...and he weighed over 330 pounds). Pretty much less than 1% of the population fits this body type. In any case, I found the tactical history of the West Coast O interesting and it made me curious about a discussion that arose a few weeks ago out of one of my NUTC posts; that is, when did certain strategies arise in Ultimate? So this post will put out the little that I know and is essentially a variation on Loring Holden's "Ultimate Timeline", which he posted to RSD in 93. I hope that folks can add what they know. Perhaps it will be informative.

I will start with the D and what is easy:

Mid-1970's: Zone- Pretty well documented that Rutgers U invented the zone and was using it by 1976. Eric Simon is quoted on the Rutgers U web site, and he describes the tactical decision for Rutgers to move away from zone in the championship game of April 1976. It is also documented that Irv Kalb brought the Rutgers zone out to California around this same time. The questions I have:

-what zone was this(by 1982, the only zone I recall was a cup zone)?
-how much did the Glassboro zone of 1979 differ from the Rutgers zone?

Mid-1980's: The Force- The force was discussed in my NUTC post. Jim P brought up that Kennedy and Kalb's book, published in 82, does not mention the force or the stack. I would love to get a sense of when this began and where it originated.

Late 80's-early 90's: The Clam- The history of the clam was discussed ad nauseum on RSD back in the 90's. Seems like Earth Atomizer was the first "big name team" to codify the Clam as a full-field/point D around 90-92. Dan Powers wrote in RSD that Bob Carroll from Florida invented the Clam. I actually played pick-up in Florida about 4 years ago and ran into this guy named Bob who claimed to have invented the Clam and then taught it to Lenny.....I was skeptical. Paul Sackley disagrees with Powers and attributes the Clam to the Mighty Popes in 86 and also states that his team, Mighty Tired, used it before Earth. One thing that is interesting is the amount of discussion about the Clam. Seems like it was a pretty big deal and changed the game for a while. Mooney asserted that the Clam "could only be used off a stopped disc" so it seems the Clam really benefitted from the 9th edition pull rules and has become less utilized since the 10th.

Early 90's: 1-3-3- First mention I recall is Mooney's Conceptual Ultimate from 94. The first mention I come across in RSD is 95. So is this a Boston/DoG invention?

Around this same time, the idea of zone to man transitions pops up. Again, Mooney covers this in Conceptual Ultimate.

Interesting that there is a thread on RSD about a new hybrid zone that Buzz Bullets and MUD are using.

Anything else for the D?

Onto the O:

Mid-70's: The Forehand- I watched a bit of the '75 game at the Rose Bowl on DVD and no one was throwing forehands. I imagine that the forehand was integrated shortly after this. I recall needing to know the forehand in 79-80 or so.

Early to mid 80's??:"4-person play"-big discussion on this in 99 on RSD with KD. In general, no one says that NYNY invented this, just that they popularized it and were unstoppable using it. Someone suggested that the Clam was an attempt to deal with this. I don't recall using this play in 80-82, but Coffin asked in this RSD discussion if this idea came from Cornell. if it did, it was after 82......

Mid-80's: The Stack??- As above, no mention in K&K's book from '82.

1987??: Horizontal Stack- There is reference on RSD to NY (at a tournament in Phoenix) using the "1987 Swedish" 3-4 offense. This seems pretty specific and Sweden was winning the Euro Champs every year around this. No Worlds in 1987......

Early 90's??: Spread O- There is a discussion in 91 on RSD about a new offense used by Santa Barbara. The O looked like the "dots of a 5 on dice, but with a few more spots". There is mention that this O used the "center of the field". I don't know if this O has anything to do with the spread O that we know of today.

1996-German- Pretty clear that Germany, at Worlds, brought out a thrower driven 4-1-2 to beat the Clam. I have seen the 3-1-3 variant used in Mixed with some success, but in general, it doesn't seem that "thrower driven" offenses have really taken hold.

No clue:

Anything else?
Note: This list is an acknowledged subjective listing in the sense that it discusses strategies that have been "mainstreamed". I haven't included things like "Plinko" or Frank's "Motion O".

It seems pretty clear that most tactical developments come as a response. The "new" (and higher paid) left tackle as a response to the quicker blind side rushes of LT or the nickle defense as a response to Lombardi's O innovations of the 50's. Somewhat similar to Ultimate. Perhaps we are in a period in which we are waiting for a D response to the spread/ho stack.

I did go back and look at some of the posts on RSD in the '91-'93 period. There was, probably not surprisingly, much more discussion about the basics of strategy than there is today.


Monday, August 06, 2007


Open up the paper on any given day and there are a plethora of current scandals in professional sports that titillate our moral core. Doping, corrupt refs, labor holdouts, and, perhaps the most egregious of all, a punter offing another punter for a starting spot. I am sure that you will be beguiled by the powers of my observation when I saw that that it all comes down to money. When one starts to consider the incentives and potential rewards in the current pro sports world, can we really be that surprised? If not surprised, then at least we have to be cynical. Maybe both reactions are unfair. Pro athletes are expected to be role models and it does seem a bit disappointing when we learn that they are not all nice guys (and gals? There doesn't really seem to be equivalent scandals in women's pro sports). While it is pretty easy, from the comfort of the daily drudgery of our office veal pens, to claim that we wouldn't be seduced by the money, are we really that sure? This post will take a speculative look at the impact of money on our precious little amateur sport.

I was at PT the other day and, during my exercises, an interesting conversation happened between two of the PT's. They were talking about a third PT, a common friend of theirs. It turns out that he was hired by Pedro the year he barely made it through the year due to his shoulder problems. Pedro's contract was structured such that he would receive bonuses after 20, 25, and 30 starts that year. In total, my numbers might not be totally accurate, he would receive a $500K bonus for 30 starts. Apparently, Pedro is pretty savvy when it comes to money, so he hired this PT to get him through the year. Their contract was also incentive based and, I believe, he would not be compensated unless Pedro got over 25 starts. This PT basically worked only for Pedro for the year. He would give treatments before and after Pedro warmed up. He would be working on Pedro's shoulder while Pedro was going through the business of his day. In the end, Pedro got his 30 starts and wrote a check to this PT for $165K.

The large contracts that pro athletes receive is pretty much in our face on a daily basis, but, speaking for myself, I have pretty much no clue about the details of the incentives that the athletes have as part of their contracts. I wouldn't call the above story "eye opening", but it did make me think about the impact of money, specifically incentives, would have upon Ultimate.

If one looks at the incentives for performance we have in Ultimate today, I think we can confidentially say that they wouldn't be enough reason to get out of bed for even the sponsored "amateur" Olympic athlete, let alone the pro athlete. Let's look at one pinnacle of our sport: winning the UPA's. The reward: your team name goes on the trophy and in the UPA Hall of Champs website. I think I can argue that Ultimate players are pretty ignorant of their history. How many folks can name the teams that won Nats in 1988? I can't. So the reward for winning Nationals is that no one will remember that you did. Perhaps an incentive with some actual meat on it is winning Nats in a WUC qualifying year. I do think that representing one's country is an honor, but in the context of monetary incentives, it still isn't on the radar. You get the cool gear, but you pay for everything else.

Of course, any sort of competition can get our juices flowing, but I am going to argue, for the purposes of this post, that, when comparing the financial incentives of current pro contracts with the incentives of today's Ultimate, there is very little reason to cheat, take steroids, or off someone because they get called to receive the pull more than you do.

So, I started to think about the potential impact of money on our sport. Let's imagine professional Ultimate with incentive-based contracts. Supposing, for example, that, like other sports, that every player on the UPA champ team received a monetary reward for winning Nationals. Or that a player would earn extra money for scoring x number of goals during the season. Or that a defensive specialist would get a bonus for a certain number of blocks at Nationals. How confident are we that the tenets of SOTG can withstand the pressures of performance-based financial rewards? If your answer is "not confident", it seems to me that we are talking about refs making binding calls. No more calling your own fouls and, at the minimum, getting a do-over. Another possible answer is "Not Confident, but SOTG (and self-officiating) is a necessary component of Ultimate". In this case, I think what is really being said is that Ultimate MUST remain a true amateur sport.

This post is, obviously, highly speculative, but it is not a doom and gloom scenario. It is simply offering my opinion that injecting money into Ultimate could offer a big challenge to the viability of self-officiating. However, if one agrees that adhering to self-officiating is a necessary component of Ultimate and that this adherence leads us down a path of permanent amateur status, does this not, to some small degree, inform our approach today?

I guess one could consider this post to be commentary on our ability to be honest. I do think I am a bit cynical in this regard, but there is at least one example of competitors doing the right thing in the face of huge financial reward and it is golf. I just finished reading John Feinstein's "Lessons of Q School" and it documents golfers navigating the rigors of qualifying for the PGA tour. At stake is literally the ability to play pro golf for the next year and hundreds of thousands of dollars. There was an example of a player letting the ball bounce while putting it back on the his spot for a putt. After he sank the putt, he was not convinced that he had replaced the ball to the correct spot before the putt. He reported this to the official at the end of the round and was disqualified. So this is an impressive act and maybe even testimony that self-officiating can withstand the pressures of potential financial reward, but I am skeptical, obviously.

I understand that the concerns of this post feel far way and that there are more pressing concerns like developing youth Ultimate. I agree with this, but are we not laying down the foundation for our Youth players? Are we being fully responsible to our youth players by avoiding thinking about whether the sport will remain an amateur experience for them? Or whether they will need to learn how to play at the highest level with refs? This be premature, but, it seems to me, at least worthy of a bit of thought and discussion.


Wednesday, August 01, 2007


Images by Brian Cook

Camper Counselor game: kids put out the "small" line. Not kidding. All Paideia/Amherst middle schoolers under 5' 2" against Dylan, Micah, Brent, etc......they throw into a poach and 1 pass later it is a goal for the counselors. On the way back to line I overhear the kids saying "I think our problem was we threw to the same 1/3 of the field as the cutter". Very cute. We chuckle now, but we were probably looking at the core of the 2012 Worlds team.

Overall, a young camp this week. Many middle school players, which is great. We need to be on high alert for dehydration, though, as the small kids have no body fat and they have to push themselves hard to keep up with the big kids.

Dylan won counselor distance, placing both first and second. Josh Seamon came in third. Tiina and Micah seeded the tournament. All 4 teams from Pool B made semis.

Closing camp feels like a big step toward the twilight of summer. Thanks to all our counselors, our wonderful nursing staff, and the staff at NMH.