Thursday, January 22, 2009

Santa Barbra Invite

SB Invitational is this weekend and I am not sure how I am feeling. Last year, the Squids won this tournament; it is my only competitive tourney win. This year we are seeded low, are a different team, and have high aspirations. I am thinking about receiving the first pull on Saturday and seeing 70 yards, 7 defenders, and 15 other teams standing between me and my goal. To be honest, I feel a great deal of gravity surrounding the situation - more than you'd think would be surrounding a Ultimate Frisbee tournament.

The truth is, I have never been a vital part of a team before. Last year (and in previous years) I played my role, but because of the other throwers we had on the team, my role was minor. In soccer, I never was good enough to be on the starting line up. My whole life, I was a secondary player on the team - I was able to watch my teammates wrap up the games we won and be responsible for the games we lost. But not this year. This year I am the veteran, I am the quarterback, I am the thrower. I take full ownership in my team's performance.

So I actually have some jitters. Butterflies. Yeah, im actually a little nervous. But its a good nervous. Its got to be that same nervous that comes before any performance - a test, a show, a date. The key thing is to let body do what I know I have trained it to do.

So I focus in. Yeah, winning the tournament is the outcome goal (and it is attainable), but thinking about that goal isn't going to help me do that - that thinking is the opposite of focusing on the moment, the task at hand.

How can I find this focus?

I think about the physical game.
  • What are the particular physical actions I will be taking this weekend?
  • What state is my body in? Where are my injuries and how can I work around them?
  • What will I be doing on offense to get the disc?
  • What cuts will I be looking for? When? How will I communicate to my cutters?
  • What throws will I need to make?
  • How will I play downfield defense on particular matchups?
  • What will my mark look like? How will this change with field position? With team strategy?
  • How will I fuel my body with food and liquid? How will I rest it? Help it recover?

I think about the mental game.
  • How will I eliminate distractions durring warmup?
  • How will I avoid frustration on offense and instead of throwing up prayers, keep doing the hard work till we score?
  • How will I react to teammates screwing up?
  • How will I react to lucky or unlucky breaks?
  • How will I participate from the sidelines?
  • How will I act when we are up by a lot? Down by a lot?
  • How will I coach/teach younger players?
  • How will react to a win or a loss?
  • How will I feel about playing teams I am rivals with? Playing teams I have friends on?
  • How will I know when to talk to my team and when to shut my mouth?
  • How will I prepare to feel the unexpected?
By asking myself these questions I put my mind exactly where it should be before this tournament. With each answer, I put myself on the fields in Goleta - I am ready for what is going to happen there. Instead of some far off thing to think about ( like defending our title), I have concrete, individual thoughts that I actually can grasp and wrap my head around. I said earlier that I felt a lot of gravity surrounding the tourney and that may not be particularly helpful; I don't know. I do know, however, that there isn't any gravity surrounding my thoughts of what its like to throw that IO break up the lane after a swing where my mark has to blast past me to stop the around. There aren't any butterflies surrounding thoughts of how I am going to be warming up. I know how I am going to react to a teammate turfing a throw at 10-10 and I know how I am going to react to bad calls and I know how I am going to react to game point.

I am ready


Chris said...

What about confidence. I think as the "primary" on offense, you need to exude confidence that other players on your team can feed off of. Also, thinking about injuries is really going to slow you down. So either get healthy or you will never play like you need to. GOOD LUCK

Stephen Hubbard said...

Exuding confidence is very important for a team leader. In ultimate, younger players dont really understand if their teams are good or not relative to other teams. That is one of the reasons why we set out team goals high. Sometimes I have a problem with overconfidence: I cant really think of anything our deeps can't get, any throw our throwers cant make. While its good to visualize greatness, its important to be aware of what our state is at any moment.

I dont really understand what you mean about injuries. Acknowledging them allows you to play around them. Failing to admit to yourself that your injuries are real leads to re-injury and underperformance (trying a throw that you would have had before the injury that now comes up short). I am a big fan of playing "within" oneself - and if you dont know where that boundry is, you are bound to make execution and judgment mistakes.

That being said, I am a very big fan of trying to differentiate between real pain (bad) and discomfort (a mental block to better performance). Thinking about one's bodily state and accepting it, as opposed to ignoring it, allows athletes to better comprehend that pain/discomfort distinction