Friday, January 4, 2013

Email About Not Resting On Our Laurels

My last year of college ultimate we had a ton of talent and I felt that we could push ourselves harder. I drafted this email to the team leadership about making sure we don't simply accept how good we are for enough. After the season, I still think we could have been better, but doesn't any team who doesn't win the championship think that to some degree? In sum total, the 2010 Air Squids where the team I was most proud and honored to be a part of and probably represent my greatest athletic accomplishment to date. Thanks to those guys.
Anyway, here is the email:

Bobble, Kattan, Forge, Kenobi, Brooks, Metz, Kevin and Kevin,

 I wanted to email you all to start a semi candid discussion: we are the leadership of the team and we should talk as a group - hopefully this email thread can start that. The first thing I want to talk about is my uneasiness with the way we are talking about Nationals. Many people have bought their flights and are talking about it like a trip to Centex. Yes, I understand that its the smart thing to do to buy them now and get a refund if we don't make it, but I feel that the hole tone is a little too cavalier concerning qualifying. We should look past no one: we have looked past SDSU ever time we have played them and they are only getting closer to knocking us off; we have only a small glimpse of what teams will be bringing to regionals.

 Another reason for me being wary of ready-for-Nationals thinking is that it is exactly what the Squids had my freshman year. The year prior we had finished 3rd with the Squid's best final ranking ever and returned the large majority of the players from that team. With 3 bids, we KNEW we were gonna make Nationals - tickets were booked way in advance. We did indeed beat Tide for the 2nd bid who beat Clairemont for the 3rd. The problem I had was that I felt that we could have done much better had we pushed ourselves ( we started track practices 3 weeks before regionals). There was SOOOO much talent on that team, it was NUTS, but we were satisfied to let that innate talent carry us to Nationals. Once there, I got the feeling that we, in some ways, were happy just to be there. Dollar, I know you were on that team, and maybe I am wrong or misinformed and you might have a different opinion, but you can't deny that we could have worked harder and been better: we had one practice on Warren where we just practiced retarded hammers.

 What I am trying to say, is that I want to to take the innate talent we have and build on it like we have to fight and claw our way into a National's bid. I don't want to be just good enough to take a bid. I want to be so good that we crush everyone in our paths at regionals; when we play, I never ever want there to be any doubt (see last year's State game) that we are a great great team. This means we may not rest on our laurels. That Saturday practice in the rain really kicked my ass and made me realize a lot of the hole in my game that I have been overlooking because I could just get by under most conditions: I've got work to do. The team needs to continue to seek out our weaknesses and improve them - not just rely on our strengths.

 Ok, how do we accomplish this continued improvement?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

12 Things I Learned from TDing Presidents Day 2012

Congradulations to Dartmouth Pain Train, you guys are an awesome team and it was a pleasure to watch you win the tournament
Here are some lessons I learned from TDing this year.
1. Nothing Between the Fields. 
           Some of the teams though this was weird given that there was more room between fields than most tournaments; I had to tell a couple people twice. But overall, the fields looked great, and much more importantly, everyone was safer and no one layed out into a cooler or chair. The walk to behind the endzones really isn’t that far for players that need something from their bag.

2. Whistle Instead of Air Horn
         Instead of spending another 35$ on two air horns that are annoying to carry around and end up running out while blowing the softcap of the quarters, I used my soccer referee whistle. 1 long blow to start a round, 2 for soft, 3 for hard. I showed the captains on Saturday morning and there were no misunderstanding the entire weekend. Make sure to get a loud, shrill whistle – look for the Fox 40 brand. The biggest plus? It tied nicely to my shorts (yes shorts, this was San Diego after all) so that I could announce cap from anywhere at the field site without running back to tourney central to get the horn.

3. The More You Pay for Backup Fields, the Better the Weather Will Be.
       Oh man were the backup fields we secured expensive, and oh man, the weather was perfect. Oh well, better safe than sorry.

4. Long Rounds, Time In Between Rounds
         Longer rounds with more time before softcap, and more time before hard cap meant that teams could actually finish their games and have time before the next one to relax a little and refocus. With a 20 team format, many teams had 8 full games to 15 for the weekend but the quality of play was still very high, even in the consolation brackets.

5. Print the Bracket; Give It to the Winning Team.
         I had the score reporter page made into a pdf, added the USAU, Sky’d, and Breakmark logos and printed it on a large poster paper and then fixed this on a piece of cardboard. More than anything else, teams want this at tourney central. This can seem slightly expensive, but well worth it in terms of improving organization (over single sheets of the schedule that we also had for all the captains and coaches)

 6. Athletic Trainers Make the Tournament.
      UC San Diego is blessed with outstanding Athletic Training staff and provides excellent care for visiting teams. More any anything else, getting quality care form ATs is what people appreciate the most from a well-run tournament. Payment to ATs should be of highest priority when budgeting for a tournament.

7. Lou Burruss is Yoda
        It’s not an act; he really does speak in that probably-being-metaphorical-but-you-can't-be-sure kind of way all the time. No offense to him; wish half as profound as him I do. 

8. Rookies Need to Steal Metal Knives From the Dining Hall (Be Explicit with the Details)          All the tourney food responsibilities were delegated to a sophomore who did a decent job getting all the food to the right spots at the right times, but one of the most critical things for food is to have metal knives from the dining halls. They are much better than plastic and they can just be returned (albeit covered in peanut butter, cream cheese, and grass) after the tourney. This thing is, I didn’t tell this sophomore to tell the rookies this specific thing, and the lack of metal knives at tourney central ended up being the thing most often complained about by teams on Saturday. Don’t expect your helpers to remember the same little thing you remember being important last year. Make it explicit. In the same way, saying “if you can come help set fields on Friday afternoon” is not the same as “You 8 rookies are going to be here at 2 to help me set the fields." Make it explicit, make it specific. 

 9.  Line the Fields WITH the Girls
      The guys and the girls used 1 field site each on Saturday and the switched on Sunday, we lined all the Saturday fields for the men’s games, they did the other field. What we go were fuller fields on Saturday and smaller fields on Sunday. (Girl sized paces just aren’t the same as guys). I ended up resetting and respraypainting all the fields 20min before the prequarter on Sunday morning with 1 helper. What should have happened is we all should have gotten together, lined one field site and then the other.  A little interteam bonding and consistent field placement for only a little more organization.

10.  What Sky’d is Doing is Really Cool, Help Them Out.
      I loved Bryan Jones’ and Maya Ziv’s reporting on the tournament and am happy to see all the things Sky’d is doing to increase coverage of college tournaments. I introduced Bryan in the captain’s meeting and everywhere we went while together. Parents, athletic trainers, random students walking by, university sports directors – everyone was really impressed that there is serious reporting of our sport going on. If you want to gain more respect for Ultimate, showing them the work of the reporters at Sky’d will impress a lot of people.

11.  You Need to Fight to Raise Attendance at the Observer Clinic
       I am proud to say there was an observer clinic at Presidents Day. I am ashamed to say that the attendance of the clinic was low. I tried decently hard to advertise at all the pickup games in San Diego and a little bit online, but from what I’ve found, getting people to sign up can be like pulling teeth (you have to drug the person first.) It’s pretty frustrating that most of the people who publicly criticize the Observer system because of the quality of observers in general are the quickest to decline the invitation to become one. If we want LOTS OF GOOD observers, first we need LOTS of observers.

12.   Teams Still Don’t Know the Rules to Their Extreme Detriment.
      DGP. Team A’s huck goes too far. Team B runs the disc up to the goal line but instead of throwing the wide open huck, the thrower waits for Team A’s player to get up to the line and check the disc in. B WANTED to throw the huck, was visibly frustrated that A was taking so long to check it in and then forced the huck anyway 3 seconds too late. Turnover. Team A works the disc back up for the win. How is it 2012 and players on top tier teams don’t know they only have to ground tap the disc when walking it to the line? Seriously!!! How can you put so much time and so much effort into practice and so much of your student loan money into flights to tournaments and still not have studied the rules that obviously effect whether you win or lose?

13. Under Promise and Over Deliver
                            In everything (See post title) you do, this is the way to happy customers.

14.   I Miss College Ultimate.

    The joy of being mobbed by your teammates and O-chem lab partners after winning. The agony of knowing you didn’t come down with your dorm roommate’s huck and will make it up to him every day by practicing harder for 3 weeks before the next tournament. Pretending to study during the bye. Sleeping on the Tournament Director’s living room floor. (Always happy to house you, Burning Skirts).  Piling 8 sweaty players, covered in grass stains and ice bags, into the van as the sun lowers over the fields for a 7 hour drive home. That 7 hour drive feels like a long time to go over every mistake you made – an eternity if you had your team’s last turnover of the weekend.  But know this, College Ultimate is a gift and even if you are blessed with 5 years of it, it goes by in a heartbeat. Cherish it, earn it. It is one of those rare things in life that you get more out of it than you put in and I have yet to find someone who has reached a point where that stopped being true. When you are done, you are done, so make the most of it.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Impressive Defense From Sockeye

A recent highlight clip of (the awesome) Timmy Perston of Portland Rhino from their recent upset of Sockeye at Labor Day:

The catch was cool but what really impresses me about that clip is Sockeye's defense. The disc moves a couple times but there was no flow. No continuation passes. Flashy is fun, but consistent and fundamentally sound defense wins tournaments.

I am really happy that more full-game video is becoming available. Highlights are good recruiting tools, but full field coverage that can show how team defense shuts down individuals and forces them to make tough plays like this one is what is really worthwhile as a teaching tool.

I would go so far as to say that I WANT to see more clips-of-the-day that show great team defense even if they don't include amazing feats of athleticism. A Streetgang'10 teammate,Matt  Welsh, helped me understand by explaining his defensive philosophy at our end-of-the-year party:
If everyone is working hard to shut down their man, eventually a bad throw go up that someone might have a chance to make an athletic play on. If everyone plays so that their teammate will get the D, someone will get the layout D.

Yes, this will get you turns, but not as many as coordinated team defense, and really, you only get the chance to do cool stuff like this if your teammates are working equally hard off the disc.

For a great exposition of the Sockeye team defense, check out the (almost full) gave vs Chain Lightning  in the Semis of Worlds in Prague. Most every time their D comes down on the pull they have a coordinated poaching strategy that becomes more strict ManD as the point goes on. Also, a beautifully executed vertical handler switch. Its too bad Ben Wiggins played O handler the last couple years, because while i like watching him play Handler, I love watching him play D and playing fast-break O after they get the disc back.

PS- If my total fanhood for Sockeye hadn't already reached tween-girl-for-Justin-Bieber status, I just found their awesome mix tapes that they make before each tournament and release to the pubic.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Advice for those new to training

Squat. Deadlift. Bench Press. Overhead Press. Pull Up. Box Jump. Run.

These are the important movements. Most everything else (without cleats) is a waste of time. To be honest, the rep and set and weight scheme for these movements are not nearly as important as the fact that you do them and you concentrate and focus on the form. Im talking, Get Anal Retentive About Form. I'm talking, Get a well trained coach to watch you and train you. Im talking, video tape yourself and study your to compare against competent people you find online. Having good form in these movements will: 1) help you train hard and effectively while avoiding injury as effectively as possible and 2) teach your body the right mechanics for on-field movement.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

THIS GAME SUCKED: Great Britain vs Sweden in the 2011 European Championships

In addition to the travesty that is this goalthe whole game was full of shitty, shitty outcomes inter-spaced with MINUTES of stoppage for players to talk about stupid, trivial shit. It's mindnumbingly boring to watch, but more importantly, I've experienced games like these, and they are boring and frustrating and funless to play it.

The commentators point out a few times that, despite the shittiness of the game, that

"This is what the game is about: self offication even at the highest levels"

Well I say:

Fuck No it's not, Ultimate is about Throwing and Catching and Running and Laying Out.

When self-offication gets in the way of these thing in such a disgusting way, we, as a community, have the responsibility to CALL PEOPLE OUT.While I am pro-third party, Im not NECESSARILY insisting on them in this post. Im saying that WE, as a community, can mold our games into whatever we want. And the way we do that, is by actually criticizing the stuff that fucks our game up. And criticizing harshly at that.

I'm not saying that the individuals who:

Squabble about coming back to the field .5 meters away from where you were going to be:

Argue about whether to come in at Stall2 or Stall3 for a WHOLE MINUTE:

And mark like this ensuring a marking foul on most every turnover:

are necessarily bad people, but the community must harshly criticize the behavior and the culture that leads to that behavior being accepted as normal. It doesn't have to be normal if we stand up and say we don't want to play like that. Lets take the SOTG requirement for inter-community critique seriously.

Fuck. That. Lame. Bullshit. 

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Not Knowing the Rules IS REALLY UnSpirited

JohnAllan's RSD post about whether lacking rules knowledge is unspirited:

...the very best professional refs make terrible calls all the time. if your standard of 'good' vs 'bad' spirit relies on the absence of terrible calls, then no one that plays ultimate has good spirit. your standard becomes meaningless.

My response:
Professional refs may make terrible calls, but it is about bad perspective. They make bad calls because they saw something the wrong way; they go to great lengths to avoid these mistakes, but they are going to happen. The bad calls are NOT, however, due to a misunderstanding of the rules. I guarantee you that they could sit down and pass a written rules test with A+ every time because they TAKE THEIR RESPONSIBILITY SERIOUSLY.

I trained as a soccer referee for 8 years and we were constantly being evaluated, trained, tested and observed. When a bunch of us would get together for dinner at the end of a tournament, you know what we would talk about? The finer points of positioning on Corner Kicks from right footed players vs left footed players. Why? Because refs CARE and TAKE THEIR RESPONSIBILITY SERIOUSLY.

When and Ultimate player doesn't know where to set up after a pick or doesn't bother staying on sides, or contests something they shouldn't because they "don't know the rules" , I see that they do not take the heavy responsibility of Self Officiation seriously. It just blows my mind that people spend thousands of dollars a year and all their free time and don't spend the time to practice being a good referee. Read th fucking rules