Tuesday, July 7, 2009

10 Stages of Wind Throwers

Photo by Amy "Meeko" Chang

Ultimate players have interesting relationships with wind. While the majority of athletes play their sport almost completely unchanged in blustery conditions, there is no denying that Ultimate is a radically different game in calm then in calamity. I see that there are 10 stages one goes through in his relationship with playing in wind. These are a combination of mental, physical and skill stages.

10 Stages of Wind Throwers:

1. Unaware

- All your throws suck, they are mostly incomplete no matter what, so you don’t really notice the wind. You just don’t think about it.

2. Bewildered

- First real wind generated turnover. You though you could do something like throw a simple forehand but it gets ripped out of your hand or goes sideways or pops 30 feet straight into the air. You are amazed at the power and randomity of the wind.

3. Frustration

- You seem to be progressing in all other skills but don’t seem to be going anywhere in terms of throwing effectively in the wing.

4. Anger

- “This isn’t real Ultimate!”. Playing in the wind sucks and everyone around you knows how much you hate it.

5. Realization

- The other team has to playing the same conditions, might as well sack up and start working on your wind game.

6. Acceptance

- You don’t really know how, but you seem to manage to be able to throw and play in the wind

7. Self-awareness

- You have a basic understanding of the wind game and why you are able to play well in whatever capacity you actually do.

8. Better

- People are impressed with your wind throws. You are impressed with your wind throws. You still get those panges of dread when you are looking straight into the wind and a 6’2’’ cup on the trapped sideline. You get mad at yourself and your teammates for wind turnovers.

9. Advanced

- You don’t get mad anymore. You’ve accepted that there will be more turnovers but you see them as less random and more controllable. You play to maximize percentages. You focus, you help your team mates focus, and you play well.

10. Unaware

-You don’t consciously think about the wind and this appears as you not even noticing the wind. It’s not that you have any throw, it’s just that you automatically, subconsciously have a set of things that work in any particular situation. There isn’t a chance that you blindly attempt a throw you don’t have at your disposal. You play within yourself.

One certainly does not simply progress from step to step, we all have moments of each. For a handler on a Nationals caliber team, I’m not that great of a wind thrower – my hammer and scoober, ceteris paribus are sub-par, yet I feel that I can comment on these stages because I know that I have experienced all these things. While this year I had perhaps my best run of wind points in the middle of the Cal-UCSD PrezDay Final when blades were just flying out of my hands with perfect arc and pinpoint distance and hangtime, I also sporadically felt those pangs of dread when I knew before I threw it that the forehand won’t be coming back inbounds.

I believe the thing to work on as a wind thrower are the obvious throwing and catching skills but also understanding home you can get marginal advantages here and there with strategy and tactics. If you think a upwind point is hopeless like a Stage4er, it is. Instead of thinking of 70 yards away as Yes, up winders will be hard to come by with 25 mph winds but 1 completed effort of intense focus might be all you need in a strict upwind/ downwind game.

When I was a sophomore the Squids had a handler, Prof, who was a great wind thrower – maybe the best I’ve ever played with (Seth Wiggins picking up on my club team for Solstice probably doesn’t count). He used to tell me he preferred wind to calm. Playing against a zone was a big puzzle and as a handler he got to solve it. I never understood him until this year. Playing in nice 80° San Diego sunshine was fun and playing in wind above 10 mph was a pain and something to be rightfully grumpy about (I was a Stage4er for a while). But perhaps now that I have better throws and some perspective on the game (and what wind games REALLY look like coughregionalfinalcough), I see the enjoyment of wind games. Yes it is a different game but it is no less Ultimate - both teams expereince the same conditions and if you like ultimate partially because of the cool things you can do with the disc, a zone game is the perfect time to unleash that thumber (not really).

PS- It happens to be my birthday today. Any suggestions on amazing things to do in the Bay Area?

1 comment:

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