Thursday, January 29, 2009

Team Mental State at Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara Invite was good. Came in 11th, took 1st in our Pool over Arizona, Clairmont and Santa Clara, and left with 6th. Yeah, we could have done better: losses to LPC and Tide were very frustrating. But overall, Im happy with our result.

The thing I am most happy about is the mental state we had as a team during the Clairmont game. We warmed up intense and focused. We played the first half intense and focused. He huddled intense and focused. We ended the game intense and focused. Honestly, I have a really hard time remembering Squid games with mental focus as good as this one.

We are a better team than them, yes*. Our athletes are bigger and better(finally now that Stout and Jughead have left) as is our training and coaching, but those advantages have failed us before when we didn't have it together mentally. In this game we played to our abilities, the entire game, and the score showed this. 13-4. I have always noticed that the Squids would not blow out teams, even when they were better than them. This happened because with a 2 point lead came jokes and relaxed focus. We'll, now we know what its like to play the entire game with the same focus.

Truthfully, it was hard to stay focused. I did have to constantly remind people to keep the focus on this game that, even if we are ahead, is not over till its over. I did have to remind myself to not watch other games going on around us or get lazy with my throws. But we did, and it should be obvious to us all what that was like and what mental strength that took.

Our last opponent on Saturday was Santa Clara and this game reinforces lessons about focus. They were not as skilled as Clairmont and in fact lost to Clairmont 13-6. Instead of repeating our mental dominance from the first 2 games, we kinda just played the game. 13-7. We didnt really earn many turns, they mostly just gave up the disc. Yeah we won, and by a decent margin, but I hope everyone felt the difference in the team's mental state. It is real and it IS a choice that we make.

Sunday we had LPC. There is a lot to say about the game and they are very skilled so I dont want to take anything away from them, but our mental state played a big roll in the loss. No energy, no sense of urgency, no sustained fire, little focus during the first half. We did better in the second half but its the same old story: If we had played the first like the second we would have won. If we came out Sunday morning like we did Saturday, I am convinced our Sunday result would have been different. No reason we couldn't bring the fire on Sunday. In fact, Sunday should be its own motivation to bring it. But we just didn't.

The Tide game for 5th place? Same story as LPC.

Hopefully we take from the tourney the recognition that there is such a thing as team mental state. We create it and we have power over it IF we acknowledge it and its importance.

* - I actually really like the Braineaters and have for a while. They have a good program with lots of potential. That being said, please, someone slap Markum in the face and tell him to play hard. Remind him of how much fun it is to run one's self ragged instead of walking and yelling IN SUPPORT of your teammates instead of at them.

ps- you can check out a fuller tourney summary on the Air Squid Blog.


Mackey said...

Congrats on a great tourney.

Results aside, it sounds like you've got a good handle on what you can pull from the process--which, at this early point in the season, is absolutely the most important thing you can be doing. Evaluate, implement.

Focus is really hard to sustain. Really, really hard. You really want to strive to bring your default level of fire up, rather than to always be ratcheted up, as that gets tiring--you can sustain it perhaps at your regionals and the like, but for every game of every tournament is asking a ton.

I don't know where you are on your team's leadership structure, but properly assessing your team's mental state is not just a question of helping everyone get into it--you also have to realize when you CAN let up, when you can have some brevity, etc. Ultimate tournaments are one of the most taxing events in sport that I know of, going nonstop for two days (or more). Just like you can't go through a whole semester hitting the books hard without burning out, you similarly have to pace yourself over the course of a tourney.

At more serious tournaments, this can be a matter of shifting your pt rotations so your best/most focused players aren't spending all of that mental capital on the other points, I don't think it's asking too much to simply survey the team before a game you don't have to win (or don't have to win going away) and see if people are willing to ratchet it up or down as appropriate. That depends a lot on your team dynamic though; it might always fall on a small group to decide the tone, rather than the entirety.

I'm turning into a blog post here so I'll end with this: sidelines cheers and establishing routines are key to maintaining some minimum level of focus and effort.

Dan Chazin said...

So Clairemont is a place in San Diego, and Claremont is the Colleges, Markum is spelled Markham. No big deal. You know, in case you wanna google it or something.

Analysis aside, Pumba, funny thing is that despite Stout and Jughead being there (and me of course since I'm such a difference maker after all), in 2006 Squids had the Brains by the balls. It was after all due to the well-rounded-ness of the Squids with dudes like Flakes, Big Mike, and Phelps...of course who could forget Dollar, there were just a lot of good players (not necessarily amazing athletes all of them) but the Squids were tight...real tight. Welcome back to the winning end of the stick.

Not after anything or anyone have I seen Markham get up on D other than on his own decision for 10 seconds, imagine being the captain of a guy that good and dealing with that...rough.

Good luck at Pres Day.

Cindy said...

Ultimate is your life, huh? Just wanted to give you a heads up that you're now on my blogroll :D

Also, catch-up soon? When would be a good time?