Thursday, August 31, 2006

Be the Fish

I was recently at a conference in San Francisco and heard a speech by Joe Costello at the Design Automation Conference. Now you're asking where am I going here? Well let me tell you about the speech and try and make some connection to both coaching and playing ultimate.

Pictured Above: Kirk Nylen laying out in the snow at Snowplate 2006 up in Sudbury, ON (taken from Arthur Tateishi Photography).

Joe Costello was a CEO at a major EDA company, and he was relating much of his success to marketing. One of his key concepts for marketing was everyone in the company needs to "think like the fish". His point is that everyone in a company (including the engineers not just the marketers) needs to think about the customers that they're targeting with a product.

I really liked the concept and started questioning if the concept had any application to Ultimate or coaching, and this is what I've come up with so far.

From the players perspective, "be the fish" applies to thinking about the opponents. In preparation for games, it's a great exercise to think about both your offense and defense as products your providing to your opponent. Your opponent has expectations for what you will do, and if they've played against you previously they have a reasonable idea of what you do. Understand this, and make sure you come up with some surprises/adjustments.

As a coach, the fish are both your opponents and your own players. We need to consider the opponents as a team and try and figure out how they plan to attack and defend against your team. Scouting knowledge, though possibly limited, exists for your team, so you need to guess what that info is, and how is a team going to respond to this. An educated guesser would use previous ways teams have played you as a good lead. Can you make preemptive guesses on what the opponent will do and get them off their plan?

Next, as a coach you need to consider the people you're coaching. The most important part is as the coach you need to get into their heads to understand what level they're at and how your coaching is giving them what they need. Wikipedia's definition for a coach is, "A coach is a person who teaches and directs another person via encouragement and advice." Using the fish concept will help dealing with how good your direction is.

All of this sounds like empathy, but "be the fish" sounds more ultimate. Now that just makes sense.


Wednesday, August 30, 2006

A Review You Should Read

One of the team concepts Torontula added last year was the practice review, and I think there was a lot of good things came out of a little bit of work after practices.

What is the premise? Basically, the practice review captures what happened in the past practice. This means each drill is reviewed including both major points which were emphasized and motivation for the drill. Any other team communications are also placed in the practice review, and finally, I like to add some sort of philosophical question that gets players thinking about game details.Pictured Above: What appears to be Graham Withers of Goat (but is not), laying out for a disc at Canadian Nationals 2006 (from brianlovesultimate).

The beauty of the practice review is that it benefits both team members who missed practice and those who attended. For those who missed practice, the review has obvious benefits to keeping everyone up-to-date with what happened. For those who attended, the review provides information that might not have sunk in during practice. The reality is there exists a lot of information that is transmitted during practice. The review provides a medium for a higher retention.

Practice reviews are simple, and provide great benefit to a team. From the coaches perspective, the review is a great opportunity to look back at how practice went. Plus, a coach now has documents detailing practices, and has a record of what they were trying to convey in each drill. This can make the next season a little easier since a plane has been created.


Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Seattle on Trial

In other ultimate blogs and coaching material, there's one statement about drills that I feel rings true. A drill should simulate some aspect of a game which you wish to improve. The key here is simulate. This brings me to two of my pet-peeve drills - Seattle and Box drills. Don't get me wrong, both of these drills have a use, but that use is short lived with respect to the development of a team.

Pictured Above: A knee slide at Canadian Nationals 2006 (taken from Diep's Gallery). If you know team and player just pass it on.

Seattle drill is an endzone drill in which a vertical stack is set up in the end-zone. The person at the back of the stack cuts to the front endzone cone (let's say left). The person with the disc and in front of the stack throws the disc to the cutter. The thrower then moves into a dump position, the cutter throws the dump, and a person off the top of the stack cuts to receive the disc from the person who caught the dump. The actions repeat (this timeon the right).

The box drill has all people lining up at four corners. One disc is passed around the box usually with the repetition of one type of cut or another. Dumps can be mixed in and in some cases multiple discs can be added. Cuts progress clockwise or counter clockwise around the cones.

The box drill is useful for practicing cuts, timing cuts, and throwing to a moving target. This is fine early on for beginners, but provides very little challenge for intermediate or advanced players. Two other serious deficiency from this drill is the lack of touches (there should never be more than 8 players in this drill) and the lack of defense.

Similarly, the Seattle drill teaches the most rudimentary endzone play in which throwing to a moving target, swinging the disc across the end-zone, and cutting to the cone are all drill elements that are useful to be taught and understood. The biggest problem with this drill again is the lack of touches and defense. Again, this drill is useful in the early stages of team development, but should be eliminated from the drill repertoire relatively early in a teams development.

So, the next time I see teams practicing or warming up for a tournament I just hope I don't see either of those two drills. Of course, who am I to judge a drill.


Monday, August 28, 2006

Lane, Huck, and a bottle of Drills. Call me in the Morning

Any time is a good time to talk about good drills. One of our favourite Torontula drill last fall is called the lane drill. The lane drill has most of the good characteristics of a drill: challenging, game situation, and touches.

You need minimum 4 people to run the lane drill. Two offensive players set up about 15 yards from one another and one of them has a disc. Two defenders matchup. One defender will mark the disc with a chosen force, and one defender will defend the person without the disc. Stalls are counted and the offensive players try to move the disc twice. First, a throw to a cut, and second, a give-and-go to the original thrower.Pictured Above: That's me pulling the disc in an intramural game at the University of Toronto. I played for the first time last year to recruit players for the varsity team.

This drill can be modified to simulate either a vertical stack or a horizontal stack. For the vertical stack, we throw in some more players on offense and defense to work on continuation. In horizontal, we will add an additional pair of offense and defense to the stack such that there are two cutters. We usually have a dump pair just in case a dump is needed.

One of the things I really like about this drill is it gives each player on the team a chance to throw to the stack. I find that too many teams over practice their handlers and cutters in specific positions, when the reality is that the two should be interchangeable. It is also useful for both handlers and receivers to have a feel for the other side of the offensive equation, which will make their own game better.

This drill also allows players to learn each other and develop skills on reading the situation. Similarly, defensive players can work on specific tactics like not allowing the cutter to make an in cut, communicating throws, and playing hard defense.

Wow, what a drill...


Friday, August 25, 2006

Belated Happy Blogday

Hey Folks,

I thought since I've been writing this blog for more than a month that I should give and get some feedback from any readers (if there are any). Actually, I know quiet a bit about who reads my blog, so I thought I'd share the demographics with you and give you my insights.

The main viewers are from Canada (75%) with the rest coming from the U.S. (24%). The remainder have been from the U.K., Sweden, Russia, and India. Within Canada, the majority of readers are from Ontario (59%), B.C. (12%), Nova Scotia (9% - probably because of people in Toronto at Nationals), and Quebec (9%). In Ontario the top viewers are: Toronto (57%) and Ottawa (9%). In each of the other top regions the top city for viewers are: Vancouver, B.C (67%), Halifax, Nova Scotia (80%), Montreal, Quebec (53%), and Calgary, Alberta (66%). In the U.S. the top three states are: Illinois (15%), Georgia (12%), and Massachusetts (11%).

Every day about 1/2 to 2/3 of you are returning visitors. 39 of you have visited the blog 9-14 times, 26 of you 15-25, and 4 of you 26-50. These are the people that keep me posting.

Finally, the majority of my referrals are from (35%) and the second biggest referrals come from (25%). I've really only advertised on TUC with a BBS post, and a quick e-mail out to many of my Ultimate friends.

All this information is gathered from Google Analytics. I'm not marketing to you guys, and instead learning about blogging and web tracking. It is half the fun.

You may have noticed I have Ads on my webpage. These are there to see how well they track my content. If you've watched them like I have, they started out advertising mainly for Blogs. Recently, they've switched to all having the words "Disc" in them and "Ultimate". This is pretty good. Over 1561 page impressions, 5 people have clicked the ads for a total income of 0.97. I guess I'll have to keep my day job. Also, I've added referrals to Firefox and Picasa (I guess I support them).

Now that you know some of the statistics of my blog, let me tell you what I have plans for. I really like adding the photo to the blog. I'm considering getting a digital camera and going out to get some more photos. If you have any photos (ultimate related), then it would be nice for you to send them to me. I can't guarantee I'll post them, but if they're good, I can't see why not.

I have 12 articles already written covering a variety of topics, and I have about 8 ideas lined up to be written. At a release rate of 5 blogs a week that works out to a month of content. At a release rate of 3 that works out to about 2 months. Plus, during this time I'll be playing with Torontula, which will give me some more ideas. I've seen many Ultimate bloggers dry-up over the winter and start discussing there personal lives or just nothing. My plans are to switch over to workout and training thoughts.

Lastly, I've started to consider adding some other authors to the blog - a collective if you will.

Well, there's a quick review of "The Cultimate Opinion". I've read all the comments that come in, and I should probably reply to more of them. Feedback on what you think is interesting is always helpful, and feel free to e-mail me directly.

Pictured Above: A Stella lady in a game against Flo. I love the stance. This was taken at Canadian Nationals 2006 (from Corry Berghout).


Thursday, August 24, 2006

Who the Heck are You? - Really, you're on my Team

One of the major challenges for any team is what we like to call chemistry. Team chemistry is the concept that like the bonding of chemicals into new molecules or new chemical (not a mixture) a team with chemistry will be a tight unit with understanding of one another where one person almost knows what the other person on the team is going to do.

Pictured Above: Torontula a few years back a t a November tournament called GUT Rot held in Guelph, Ontario.

How do teams achieve chemistry? The classic method is by playing with one another over an extended period of time. I would argue that this is true, but I do feel that a team and it's practice methods can be developed to accelerate achieving team chemistry. In my opinion it all comes down to touches and interactions.

One drill to accelerate chemistry, that I came up with (modified from a basketball drill), is three on three continuous. I'll try to describe this drill in words. A miniature field is created. This field is about 15 yards wide and 25 yards long with 1-5 yard endzones. A marker disc is put in the middle of the field, and a line is made at the mid point of the field on the sideline. This line is where people line up to join into the drill, but people in the line are not actively involved. Two people at the front of the line go into one half of the field as defenders. The next three people move into the other half of the field and get one disc. The next person in the line is called the chaser.

We now have the starting conditions of the drill. The three offensive players begin passing the disc in fast break style. The two defenders are only allowed to defend people who have crossed the midway point of the field. Essentially, the three want to score in the end-zone.
The chaser is actually the third defender, but is only allowed to join the defense either once the disc crosses the halfway point, or any offensive player holds the disc for more than 1 stall. If the three offensive players score then they immediately continue in the opposite direction to score against two new defenders and a chaser from the front of the line. If the defensive players D the disc, then the three defenders go on offense and try to score in the other endzone with the new defenders. And so on...

With about 9 people this drill is incredibly fast. I like about 11 to 15 people as an optimum mix where it is important to move around in the line so you play with different people. This drill stresses resets, germans, mini cuts, and communication on both offense and defense. Most importantly, since there are only three players on offense, everyone gets lots of touches (look at number of touches in a scrimmage).

You have to love a drill that includes touches and game situations. Best of all, the drill will help accelerate that team chemistry we all want.


Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Robots and Plays - Where's our Leanardos

As a sport develops, coaches come up with offensive and defensive systems. I'm going to talk a little bit about a problem on offense.

One way of setting up an offensive system is by creating a set of plays to be run. Currently, in ultimate, these plays are a set of cuts which initiate the offensive flow. These plays are a necessary development for ultimate and I've seen great team success running plays. My concern with plays is something I've seen in ultimate, volleyball, and basketball.

The problem comes down to people following the preplanned cuts of a play too strictly and not being creative and taking what the defense gives them. For example, I've seen at the start of a play in which someone is supposed to initiate a cut and a poach is in their path. The person who is being poached does not move because they are not specified in the cuts and the play cut is useless. Similarly, I've seen people follow their prescribed cuts even if the defense is not giving them that cut. In both of these situations the players need to be creative and break from the play to get the disc moving.

What really needs to be taught to players before teaching plays or in conjunction with plays is basic flow and cuts. In basketball, both the V-cut and pick and roll are fundamentals that are taught as on the fly offensive options. Ultimate has a set of individual cuts and two player cuts that can be taught as fundamentals of the game beyond throws, catches, and positioning.

Individual cuts include:
- button hooks - a quick cut like looping a thread around a button.
- boulder cuts - a cut 3 to 10 steps in one direction with a plant and reverse in the opposite direction.
- dump cuts - a cut that relies on either continuing in one direction or reversing to get the disc.

As for cuts with two players, I haven't figured out how to communicate these between players, and I'm still thinking on how to achieve these on the fly.

Let's see some creativity on the field.


Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Do You Speek the Language

So, with Nationals complete we're back to my basic articles. We'll start with a simple one.

Pictured Above: Torontula open team. The Canadian University season starts in the next few weeks. Front two are Scotty Nichols (left) and Alex Scheider (right).

We've all been there. Early on in your career you hear, "When the cup's on you and the stall is high take the dump and swing or just huck it". For a new person to the sport there's probably 5 words in that last sentence that make no sense at all. Many words that we invent in any field, including ultimate, are used to express a set of ideas quickly, but for every team the playbook should include definitions so that everyone is on the same page.

For the sake of new players I'll list some words here. Note that ultimate lingo is similar to regional dialects, and this ultimate lingo is that of Toronto. Hopefully, we're not giving away any secrets.

Huck = Big throw downfield. Similar to the hail mary throw in football, but not a risky last chance play.
Dump = A throw at stall 5 or higher in which a small throw is made to reset the stall count.
Cup = One part of the zone where a group of players surround the disc (one player is tight on the disc, the remaining players are 10 feet away).
Close = A request for the marker to change their mark from a line to straight up.
Trap = Put a force on the disc such that the disc can only go up or down the line.
Break = The disc could or has travelled to a place opposite to the direction a team was forcing the disc.
Zone = A type of defense in which people play more of an area as opposed to a man.
Junk = A loose defenese in which players are not really playing man, but it isn't zone.
Clam = A defense against the top of the stack in which both the break and open side cuts are covered by players.
Hospital Pass = When the disc sits up high in the air so lots of people can get in the play. Danger!
Force = Where a mark is forcing the throw to go.
Home = Sideline where your team puts your bags.
Away = Sideline opposite to home.
Layout = Diving through the air to catch a disc.
Skied = Someone jumping and catching the disc above you.
Swill = A throw which is garbage. In many cases the throw has no spin.
Gack = A catch that you should have caught, but dropped nonetheless.
Trigger Finger = Someone who tends to throw anything.
Pull = The start of each point ha one team pull the disc to the other team (football's kickoff).
Corall = The person who catches the pull.
Brick = The penalty yardage the other team gets for a pull that goes out of bounds.

If you have any more that I should add to the list, just pass them on.

Also, take a look at some of the words at Wikipedia.


Monday, August 21, 2006

Nationals - The Scoop on My Picks

Well, now that the results are all up, (Another big thanks to the organizers for being so fast on posting details) I'll take a look at how I did over all.

For the Juniors, I'll give my self a +5 for accuracy in calling the champ and runner up (+3, +2). In the Masters I get a -2 for incorrectly predicting Relic to win it all.

In the Women's division I got the top 2 correct, but it was all hell after that. Snatch made there big jump up the standings, and Flo, despite all my reasoning had a great tournament to finish in third. Also, Salty had a great tournament to push lots of my favourites out of the top 6. Good job ladies on making it a challenge. (+1)

In the Mixed division I got the winner, and if you look at my picks versus the final standings there weren't too many surprises just slight perturbations. Zen made the big jump into the top 8; Rip had a great tournament too. (+2)

In the Open division I got the top 4 bang on. After that, I was pretty accurate with Blackfish doing better than I thought, Red Circus doing worse, and Q not finishing as high as I thought they should. Of course, Open and Mixed should be my best categories, having played against many of these teams. (+7)

Pictured Above: Open Division 2006 Canadian National Champions - Goat. (From Steve's Pictures)

So, in my made up, non-logical scoring system I got +13. Can't complain about that. Let's hope all the teams had as much fun as we had analyzing the results.


Sunday, August 20, 2006

Nationals - The Last Day ... The Three new Champions

Well, I'll be honest that making picks makes the tournament a lot more exciting over the internet. So far, I've been pretty good with my pics.

In the Juniors it was Pyro over Mofo in the finals (2 for 2). In the Masters, BDU took the crown beating, my choice, Relic in the semis (2 for 3). In the Co-ed I had Camelot winning the whole thing. They did, but Chaos had a great Thursday and Friday to make it into the finals (3 for 5). In the Open division I had the top 4 pegged with Goat taking their second Nationals, and Mephisto, GT, and Phoenix following suit (7 for 9). Finally, in the women's division, I made some good picks with Lotus taking Stella for their number two championship (9 for 11).

I'll make a bigger analysis of my picks tomorrow, but I just wanted to congratulate all the teams (Toronto made a great showing for the West ;). I can't wait to hear the stories.


Nats - Day 3

So it looks like the finals are going to showcase:

Womens: Lotus and Stella
Open: Goat and Mephisto
Mixed: Chaos and Camelot

My picks are:

I may have made a few errors here and there, but big congrats to GT on taking 3rd. Huge leap for that team, though semis was totally possible. I can't wait to here what happened.

Apparently, BMF got shutdown by Camelot. That's a tough matchup, and the Chaos loss probably led to that road. Let's hope they took a respectable third.

I'm going to guess BDU won the Master's division, but I have no verification there, and Pyro won the Juniors with their dominant play throughout. Well, it should be a good finals, and I'm sure everyone's still partying things up.


Friday, August 18, 2006

Nationals - Day 2 - Chaos and Lotus ... Hot

Hey Folks,

Day 2 at Nationals shows the dust settling. In all, I think my picks are reasonably safe. Let's just say that Chaos has made a tear in the Mixed division with a big 10-9 win over BMF. The other major win is Lotus over Stella. In the juniors division, Dirt dropped off it's early eastern wins to get a roughing by the west, and in Master's Mule had a big win over Relic (my favourite going in).

And then there's the Open division. Rumor has it GT beat Phoenix in a crossover. Seems like everything is coming as expected. It seems some of these results aren't available on the website yet, but at least people are relaying some info back. Still nothing on the feel of the tournament.

Well, I'd love to fill out all the brackets and guess on quarters, but I'm not feeling that motivated. We'll just have to see the results tomorrow. I'm hoping to see BMF, GT, Goat, and Lotus in the finals. Only time will tell.


Day 1 Nationals - No Major Upsets ... Yet

Big kudos to the Halifax Organizers at Canadian Nationals for posting scores so quickly. It's great for those of us who were left behind. I'll look at the divisions and see how my predictions are going.

It looks like Pyro and Dirt had a great first day. I might not have given Toronto's junior enough credit, but they won a tight one against Ottawa. We'll have to wait until we see the big match ups.

Go Relic. It looks like Scotch is a pretty good team with a win over Mule, but that lasted a short while. Relic and BDU are the strong teams in the category.

The situation is a little shaken up. Chaos lost at Universe point to MHUC in their first game, and scored only 10 points in a win over Les Polatouches. I'm guessing this squad is either suffering from Jetlag, over partying, or is set for a rough tournament. It looks like Chaos, however, had a good run against Hammerheads. Other than that, Camelot, BMF, and Gheko all look to be in good form after day one.

On the lower end, Here to Pickup looks to be foiling my lower half picks. Also, MHUC seems to have had a great day one.

I can't say there are any surprises in the Open division. Goat and Mephisto rolled most of the teams. Mephisto thrashed GT winning 15-5. Goat smoked Phoenix. Blackfish appears to be in a tier 3 position just barely beating Magma. I feel my picks are good in this category, but Phoenix might push to be a little higher then what I rated them. I'll wait until all the pool play is completed tomorrow to get a better feel.

Lotus and Stella had a strong day, showing that they most likely will meet in the semis. Flo showed some strong play by only losing to Stella 11-7. Eve and Lilly showed some good results, and I think Snatch is hoping to hold a quarters birth. Know real surprises here.

Overall, it looks like things are shaping up as planned. I would say there was only one upset for the day, and the majority of excitement came from the biggest division, Mixed. Hopefully, some of you Nationallers are reading the blog and can give us some inside comments.


Thursday, August 17, 2006

Nationals - The Ladies of Ontario and their 3 in 5 chance for Gold

Finally, I'm going to take a guess at how the Women's category is going to line up this year at Canadian Nationals. I've got nothing to say about the Master's and Juniors division other than I always like to watch the Master's final. I find the Juniors too cocky for being so weak.

Back to the important stuff. It's hard to argue that Stella isn't heavily favoured. Other than comments on their uniforms (green and yellow colours - fond memories of my elementary school days and Pong), I've only heard good things about Stella. Apparently, Ottawa's water has given them an athletic and size advantage. As of this season they've had Lotus' number, but an interesting final at Detroit was missed due to scary weather.

I'm still going to argue that Lotus and Storm can fight for the gold. Flo, on the other hand, looks to have played very few tournaments this year with little success. I think their 4th seed might be a gift to the west. In the top stick I'll stick with:

1. Lotus
2. Stella
3. Storm

Next, I'll pick who I think is going to make the quarters. Lilly, definitely will be in the top eight, and even though they have a small roster, they can potentially surprise a few. Eve, Snatch, and Salty are all likely to be in the quarters. Actually, I have nothing on Salty so I'm going to let them in due to their seeding. Of these three teams I think Eve is set to jump some seeds. Snatch, TO vets, could also surprise, but I thought they would have made their first jump at Ontario regionals, and that just didn't happen.

4. Lilly
5. Eve
6. Flo
7. Snatch
8. Salty

Finally, in the fight for 9 and 10, I'm going to give Qub the upper hand. Sure, people will claim it's a cute thing, but it's actually based on some of their results this year (mainly a 12-13 loss to Strut).

9. Qub
10. Scarlett

Interesting call with 3 out of 4 Ontario teams in the semis.

Just to continue on the prediction train, I'll pick Relic to win Master's division and Pyro to win the Junior's (MOFO will be in the finals).

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Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Nationals - Come To Camelot for 2 Rips and some Chaos

Everyone from TO is either on a plane, in Halifax, or at the airport. What better time to look into another division I have some familiarity with: Co-ed.

Pictured Above: Dion Lew (left), myself (center), Daniella (I think), and Shawn Chua (right) watching National finals in Vancouver 2004.

Who's going to take home the gold? Contenders = SPAWN, Chaos, Gecko, BMF, and the seeded favourites, Camelot. You can't argue with Camelot's record; only 3 losses amidst some good competition. Chaos looks to have played only a few tournaments against reasonable talent. Gecko has also been to the states and has some big wins against the likes of Puppet Regime and BMF. BMF has a great record winning 3 tournaments, but hasn't shown much success against tougher competition. Finally, the home coast favourites SPAWN had an up and down season with some reasonable wins and bad losses, but expect them to benefit from the financial savings and the familiarity with the conditions.

I'll argue that any of these teams could get into the finals, but here's my current guess:
1. Camelot
2. BMF
3. Chaos
5. Gecko

Now to the rest of the teams fighting to get into the quarters and maybe the semis. With an unkown BC team, Natural, I'm going to give the province the benefit of the doubt, and put them in the quarters. Then I think RIP, Zen, Hammerhead, and Liquid all have a chance to grab the remaining two. Based on season competition, it's pretty hard to order these guys.

6. Natural
7. Rip
8. Hammerhead
9. Zen
10. Liquid

I'm sure there will be more of a mixup then my predicted. Now for the last 6 spots, I can barely make any educated guesses. Based on records and names I'll go with:
11. Riptide
12. MHUC
13. Les Polatouches
14. Big Fish
15. MUTT
16. Here to Pickup

Can't say I'm overly confident in my picks. BMF better prove me wrong, and I'd love to see Zen crack the quarters. It's going to be a wild ride.

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Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Nationals - Grand Goats, Fish, Fire, and a guy named Roy

Hey Folks,

As much as I've complained about Canadian Nationals in the past, I still have lots of friends who are heading for what I expect will be an awesome time. So, regardless of some of my objections with the tournament, for the next few days I'll act as a long distance reporter.

With two days left until the event let's take a look at some of the Divisions and maybe my view of what might happen. By the way, of course I'm a little biased.

The Open division in 2006 includes 12 teams: 6 from Ontario, 1 from the West, and the rest from Quebec and Eastern Canada. Looking at the seeding and the schedule I'll make a few predictions.

First off, if anyone expects to even scratch Goat (number 1 seed) they'll need to make a huge leap, or play the tournament of their lives. Without the presence of Furious or a Furious like team, Goat looks to be a better bet than the Brazilians in the World Cup.

I'll argue that this tournament is a competition for second place, and I feel there are a few contenders. Seeds 2 through 6 (Mephisto, Phoenix, Grand Trunk, Q, and Blackfish) are all fighting to make the finals, and a fight it will be.

Blackfish are definitely the unknown in this group. A newer team from Vancouver all I could really find was some results from Solstice in Vancouver and some rumors that they played well at Flower Bowl. In both tournaments it doesn't appear they ever got to play in the elite pool.

The other 4 teams have a twisted tail of wins and losses that makes it hard to make a prediction. Other than Q, all other teams host a variety of new faces making it hard to predict how they will perform at Nationals. My heart is with GT and I think they might crack the finals with a good tournament (roll +1), but my favourite is a well run Mephisto if the veterans are healthy (healthy +2). I haven't seen Phoenix actually play this year, but what I've heard puts them in that up and down questionable category, but Phoenix seems to thrive at Canadian Nationals and could crack that second spot if they can catch momentum (roll +1). Finally, I think Q is a pretty strong team, but if anyone can stop their two key handlers, then it's all over (strategy -1).

Final rankings just to make things interesting and get people fired up (begin dice rolls):
1 - Goat
2 - Mephisto
3 - GT
4 - Phoenix
5 - Q

The next 9 spots are even trickier since I haven't watched many of these teams play other than Too Bad and Red Circus. Of these lower ranked teams, my feeling is that the potentially big movers are going to be Red Circus, Firebird, and Too Bad. I'm not sure who Too Bad is going to pullout for Nationals. Finally, I'm rooting for Roy to crack the single digits, and knowing many of their players that's all but possible if they go to Halifax to play.

6 - Red Circus
7 - Firebird
8 - Blackfish
9 - Too Bad
10 - Roy
11 - Magma
12 - SWASS

Those are my predictions for the Open Division. I hope all those who I ranked poorly use this as fuel for the fire. Make me wrong, I'll accept it.

Pictured Above - Jeff Eng (left) and Juan Gomez (right) at Pong's first Canadian Nationals 2002 in Ottawa. I think this was the year that every hoody (hooded sweatshirt) sold out before the first day was over.


Monday, August 14, 2006

Vampire Killer

Other than the first techno scene in the movie, I can't say Blade was on of my favourite movies, but as a throw it's one of the favourites on my list. The blade is essentially a throw that goes straight up and straight down. It is possible to throw a backhand blade or a forehand blade. Imagine if you are the thrower all you see is the rim of the disc in a vertical position. If you watched a backhand as a thrower you see the rim of the disc in a horizontal position.

Pictured Above - Shawn Chua (right) and myself (left) after a morning Torontula practice and breakfast.

First off, the blade is a great warmup throw for to catch. I like to say, "If you can't catch a blade, you can't catch a disc". From a catching perspective, you need to catch a fast moving disc; I also expect people to catch the disc with one hand. Additionally, the person catching the disc should catch it infront of their body, showing no sign of being scared of the disc. Doing this should improve your catching confidence and warmup your hands.

Next, we have to ask, does the blade have any place in a game. To answer this, we should look at some of the characteristics of the blade. A blade is fast since it cuts through the air. A blade can easily be moved by a cross wind. A blade can be thrown from a flick or backhand grip.

In my experience, I've thrown about 50+ blades in game situations and seen about 10 blades. Here's what I've learned.
1. Never throw a blade to a moving target. It's just too hard to throw and catch a blade on the move.
2. Warm up your blade in both up and down field directions and determine how the wind will affect your throw.
3. The blade is great for breaking a zone over the cup and the mid mid.
4. Don't throw a blade into a situation where your receiver will need to jump for it.
5. Blades tend to freeze defenders (I think in shock).
6. The blade is a very effective german throw to a tall receiver.

The last question to deal with is how can a team incorporate a blade into their plan. I'll be honest, and it's one of those creative throws that just happens. As a coach or captain, just get your team to throw a few blades during warmup and just let the creativeness happen if it happens.


Friday, August 11, 2006

Picture, Picture, on the Blog...

Hey Folks,

As great as it is reading about Ultimate, pictures are cool too. It would be nice to include ultimate pictures with every post, so send in your photos (include names, team, and tournament). Understand that I get to choose the caption.

Here Kirk Nylen deals with the challenging summer weather in Canada.


The National Debate

Teams from across Canada (mainly from southern Ontario and Eastward) are heading to Halifax next week for the Canadian Nationals. I've come to the opinion that it's time that we joined forces with the U.S. (maybe Mexico) and have a North American championship. Then, every 4 years when there is a world qualifier then we all meet for the championship, but one day is dedicated for a qualifier bracket for your respective country. This is just an idea, and there is plenty of room for adjustment.

So, why am I for ending the Canadian series? Well I have a two arguments - money and quality of tournament.

From a quality standpoint, unless Canadian Nationals is held on a year where there is actually a chance to qualify for worlds, the quality of the tournament is low. For example, this year in the open division, only one team from western Canada is making the trip. I don't blame the west teams at all. Why fly for a tournament that only includes, arguably, one UPA championship caliber team? Obviously, Canada's population can't support a quality year end year out national championship.

Then there's the costs. This part is the one that really gets me excited. To play in Canadian Nationals the costs are:

  • CUPA membership fees are $ 31.25
  • CUC Player fees are $ 135.38 ($95 + $13.30 HST + 25%)
This is the late fee, so I think it was around $103.00 a few weeks ago. This price does not include a regional tournament cost and the usual travel and accommodation expenses. I'm not going to ask the question, "Where does the money go?", but I will take a look at UPA equivalent and ask, "Why do we pay so much?".

I know the cost equation answer probably comes down to population of CUPA versus UPA, but UPA fees are 40 USD for a year. With those fees you get access to UPA insured tournaments and you get to play in the UPA series. The number and quality of teams in this series means that you get to play in a sectionals, and potentially a regionals and nationals. The Northeast regionals is going to be a better tournament than Canadian Nationals, and you only have to drive 10 hours (from Toronto) instead of paying for a flight. These tournaments will have a tourney fee, but for a team of 20 people, Nationals will cost approximately $2000 per team. UPA regionals is in the 300 USD range.

The only remaining question is why should UPA join with us. Well, population wise we are small, but Canadian teams would still contribute a reasonable percentage of income for the organization. Canadian teams also add to the quality of many UPA series with strong competitors in almost every division both college and club. Finally, the main argument for not including Canada is the occasional problem that occurs when each country needs to determine their representative team at Worlds. I'm sure smart people could figure this one out.

I guess, I'm attacking Canadian Nationals a little hard. There are some benefits to the tournament including a chance to see my country while playing the sport I love, meeting fellow Canadians from across the nation, and a chance to win a reasonably respected championship. Also, the University series makes sense since a spring University series in the U.S. is difficult for Canadian students since it occurs during exams.

Regardless, best of luck to all of you heading to Canadian Nationals. I expect to hear some good dancing and ultimate stories.


Thursday, August 10, 2006

You won't see that on Television

To continue our discussion on the spectator value of Ultimate, I thought I would address some of the points made in the comments on the previous post. The main two points include comparing ultimate to existing popular sports, and questioning if there is any benefit to making ultimate a TV based sport.

First off, lets look at the similarities and differences between ultimate and other television sports.
- American Football - #2 in the U.S. My feeling is that NFL viewership benefits from only having one game a week, close games with last second come backs and quick momentum shifts, hitting, a beer and BBQ culture, and the scoring value is high. Ultimate doesn't really have many of these qualities. The culture is currently different (could change), and it is possible to have very few games in a season to keep each game important.

- Hockey - #1 in Canada. Hockey is watched for the hitting, violence, high value of goals, speed,and beer culture. Ultimate lacks in all of these categories, but it would be funny to add a penalty box.

- Rest of the World Football - #1 in most of the world. The average North American has a tough time appreciating the beautiful game. Football is all about anticipation, creative plays (footwork, passes), and the extremely high value of a goal. Ultimate has none of these.

- Baseball - Many people attack baseball due to the potential size of some of the athletes and the general slowness of the game. What people don't realize is that baseball is a managers sport in which one game might be interesting, but the sport needs to be watched over an entire season with a keen eye for stats and manager decisions. Ultimate has very few similarities, and arguably, none of you would want to compare the two.

- Ultimate Fighting Championship - One of the up-and-comers in the North American TV market. This sports success is due to good use of reality TV, primal instincts, high number of KOs, visible sculpted bodies, tension, and good Pay Per View and cable TV matched marketing. Other than the word "Ultimate" there's little to compare with this sport.

We could also look at figure skating (higher than basketball and hockey in the U.S.), Nascar (#1 in the U.S.), Cricket and Golf, but we probably should argue that both footballs and ultimate are really in the same category. Ultimate will have a tough time fighting with those markets.

So, let's forget about trying to break into big market sports, and think niche (maybe just spectators). Ultimate has a playability niche since it offers 20+ an option for a co-ed sport that is a lot of fun. The touring scene gets some television coverage, mostly at the college level, and tournaments can usually fill the sidelines with people from the tournament.

As a thought experiment, can we increase this viewership beyond the small tournament crowds at say UPA finals or UPA College finals?

Many people make the suggestion that adding referees (or observers to rebel against the mainstream). Sure this may make the game more "fair", but some things are lost. One, I firmly believe we call our game "Ultimate" because we are self officiated. Referees introduce the element of trying to get away with things (cheat). Anyone who plays refereed sports is very familiar with the statement, "we lost the game because of the refs".

Lots of other suggestions have been made and play tested, but I still don't think we are there yet. There's no doubt the game is fun to play and is very challenging, but I still get bored watching a game.

I think we all want to watch something that is exciting, has momentum swings, spectacular athletic moments, creative flow, surprises, and not too many slow points. The question remains, how do we create this environment.


Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Nothing to see here - not a spectator sport

Hey Folks,

It's time to stir up the pot a little. This is "The Cultimate Opinion", and it's time to edge on a few of my loyal readers (I'm guessing 5 people right now) into a little bit of discussion. My basic thesis is that:

Ultimate is not a good spectator sport and is only watched by those who play the sport or have friends who play the sport.

Let's now state some parameters.
- I am open minded about changing this thesis. The reason the sport might not be a spectator sport at present might be just a case of current rules.
- My favourite sport watching is English Football, Hockey, NFL playoffs, UFC, and Tennis.
- Ultimate is presently my favourite participation sport.

I've discussed the above thesis with a few people at tournaments, at the bar, and on rides home from tournaments. Too start off the discussion, some of my basic points are:

1. Ultimate doesn't have that spectacular point of the game (homerun, few goals, touchdown) where anticipation builds around. The game is more like basketball with too many points scored, which devalues the actual score and results in little excitement for the spectator.
2. There is too much waiting time during call discussions, line changes, and turnovers making the pace of the game slow.
3. The spectacular play in the game, "layouts", are remarkable, but not well appreciated by fans.
4. The disc doesn't flow fast enough. Ten stalls is too much time.

These points give me ideas for some changes to the game that might make it more interesting, but I'm still not convinced I would enjoy the game:
- Continuous ultimate where each time has 5 timeouts that can only be called at a score. 90 second timeout is taken where the defending team has to pull the disc.
- Calls can be contested, but there is no onfield discussion. A panel of judges reviews the call using cameras and can deduct a point for a bad call.
- The game is timed. Stop time makes for last second heroics.
- Stall counts to 5 or 7.

Factors that might be limiting the spectator success of the sport:
- Poor filming and lack of experience filming ultimate (Recent example is the revolution in Texas Hold'em)
- Poor commentators for the game (watch UFC and "The Next Ultimate Fighter" to get a feel for what commentators sometimes add to a sport)
- Lack of knowledge of the game (Cricket for the North American)
- Where's our poster girls and boys?

Well that's the starting point for my thesis. Depending on responses I have a few more takes on why Ultimate is not a good spectator sport.


Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Touring - The How to and Etiquette in a Hand Bag

Hey Folks,

I extracted a little article I wrote in the past as a How-to guide for Touring players. I thought I would post it hear. A pdf file can be found here.

Tournament Protocol by Peter Jamieson, Edited by Jack Cooney

So you like Ultimate, and you're not satisfied with the day-to-day league play. You have decided to try touring. What is touring? What is touring like? Finally, how to I get involved, and what do I do? This document attempts to answer these questions with particular emphasis on how to behave at tournaments.

What is touring?
Touring is essentially going to tournament on a weekend and playing against other teams from other cities. These teams are in general better than your average league team mainly because these people play and practice Ultimate lots.

Does this mean that you need to be exceptional to play Ultimate at the touring level? That's a tough question. Many touring players are definitely medium grade athletes who have found a game that they like to play competitively. On the other hand, there are many teams that just play for the enjoyment of Ultimate and hanging out with friends on the weekend. The progression of Ultimate seems to be, like all sports, a flow from pure fun and competition to more of a competitive sport. I don't necessarily think this is the best progression of the sport, but it is the reality.

In general, a player who would like to tour needs to be good enough shape or willing to get in shape to play 7 games of ultimate over two days. Tournaments typically involve 3-5 games of pool play on the first day, and 2-3 games on the Sunday. These games last approximately 1.5 hours or go up to 13 or 15. In reality this is a lot of running and is extremely hard on the body, but touring players are a different breed, and seem to thrive off playing lots.

In addition to pure playing, there is the fun element to ultimate. Essentially, after a day of hard play it is traditional to head out to a party to dance out those aches and pains. In addition to the organized party, there is the enjoyment of hanging out with friends, enjoying the company of others in a different city. The main thing is you get to hang out with a group of people for a weekend and you really bond with a team.

How to I get involved?

There are many ways to get involved in touring. The first thing you have to decide is what is your goal in Ultimate. If you just want to tour for the sake of the party, it is probably easier to follow the tournaments as a photographer or tournament volunteer. If you want to play for fun, then you need to find a casual team, usually a co-ed league team that goes to a few tournaments a year. If you’re looking for competitive ultimate, you should try-out and talk to competitive teams. There are competitive teams at all levels for men, women, and couples. Also, there are many different levels of competition.

In reality, for a competitive team you need to tryout for the team. Tryout, in the Ultimate world, can mean a lot of things. First, teams are usually looking for players who are competent in basic skills. This means that you know basic throws, offence, and defense. There are teams that exist to train individuals, but don’t expect a team like this to instantly take you to a tournament. In systems like these, an individual is expected to practice until a point when they are ready to be taken to a tournament. A tryout also is an opportunity for a team to determine if you are the type of person that fits in with the team. This is particularly important since Ultimate players pay to tour, and nobody wants to spend a tournament with someone they don't like. It is easy to find out the attitudes of the team you will be playing with, and it is also easy to determine if your personality will fit with the team (see below for details on how not to alienate your team).

If you are a student, there are also opportunities to join Ultimate touring at the high school and University level. These teams will develop your skills, but since ultimate is becoming more and more popular touring positions are becoming more and more competitive.

Keep in mind that Ultimate was created for people to have fun. Touring is an extension of this concept. Regardless of the competitive movement that is coming up in Ultimate, expect that people will create tournaments of various levels so we can all go and enjoy the sport. Talk to people in your respective club. They'll tell you what teams are like and what style of team may suit your needs.

What do I do?

This is the section that I would like to use to describe basic etiquette for touring. Essentially, there are two things that are important when touring - please your team and please your tournament.

Pleasing the tournament is simple. Play hard, but play nice. The reality is that players are not paid to be there; they are paying for the privilege of playing. Therefore, nobody wants to play with a bastard. That’s what hockey, basketball, and football are for. At a tournament, it is understandable that some people will get hot headed and over react during some certain plays, but in general spirited play makes a weekend much more enjoyable. Also, as tournaments become high demand events, competitive spirited teams will hopefully get the bids.
Pleasing the team involves a series of things. Practice hard and play hard. Listen to the leader. Pay your fees on time. Find a way to get to the tournament and find a place to stay. I'll go over these points in more detail.

- Practice hard - practice is your once or twice a week meeting time with the team. The nice thing about practice is that it is normally higher quality Ultimate than you will get during regular league play as long as you don't slack off. Come to practice and work hard, but more importantly use the time to listen and learn. Practice is tournament simulation so that you're prepared for tournament situations. You can play around on your own time, but practice is a focused group event that attempts to satisfy team goals. Finally, practice is not the place to contradict team plans -- it's usually better to take up issues privately with your captain.

- Listen to the Leader - Once again, Ultimate is an amateur sport. We have captains, coaches, and online captains. These people are not trained, and they're just out to have fun like you. To make it easy for them, listen to what they have to say, and don’t contradict them at a tournament or practice. Talk to the person in private, in between games, or before/after practice. Otherwise, listen, do-it, and think about it. It makes their lives easier (and yours as well).

- Don't ask for permission to go to pee - just because someone runs the team doesn't mean they make every decision in the world. They're not in charge of everything so take it upon yourself to help make trivial decisions. Help out in figuring out where the team is going to stay. Help in figuring out how to get to the tournament. Basically, don't expect the leader to deal with every little situation.

- Get yourself to the tournament - this mainly applies to younger teams, but if you don't have a car find out who does, or rent a car with a group of people. If you decide to rent with a group then rent, and don't back out if you find a free ride by chance. If you ride with somebody, pay for gas. Respect your driver's car. Make sure somebody is awake when the driver is riding home from the tournament [shotguns job]. Basically, someone with a car is doing you a huge favour so you should go out of your way to accommodate him or her.

- Find a place to stay - my first recommendation is stay with the team. You'll have more fun if you're with the team and you'll save a lot of pain for drivers going all around town to pick up strays. Many teams get a few hotel rooms and fill them up depending on finances. For young teams the guys and gals with jobs usually get the beds and pay a little more so the people on the floor can pay a little less. If you stay with the team it, you’ll go to the party, you'll hang out, and in general you'll have more fun because you're bonding with the team.

- Pay for it now - Since we pay for tournaments, somebody has to put up +200$ for fees as well as hotel rooms. Pay them as quickly as possible to even things out as quickly as possible.

- Build a phone network - If you have a cell phone, or you know the number you're staying at, e-mail the phone number to the team ahead of time. If you are technologically advanced, build some list ahead of time. This solves a lot of problems once you are in a strange city.

- Remember the basics - Tournaments are held out in the sun so bring your sunscreen! But really, you should be prepared for any kind of weather. Don’t forget warm clothes, cool clothes, rain gear, a hat, water, socks, underwear, soap, wallet, a disc, or in other words the basics.

- Drink responsibly - (note to the author!) It is fun to party, but remember that you have to play the next day. Therefore, the best plan for the party is clean up fast, get to
the party, drink with responsibility and a designated driver, and get home at an hour so you can get some rest for the next day. Each person knows their limit so make sure you don’t overdo it. Make sure you have a buddy to make sure you are both okay.

- Play hard - game play is also important. This is what you have practiced for, so you might as well play as hard as you can. Tournaments are meant to be fun, but if you aren't giving your best effort your wasting your time and letting down the team. Be positive, have fun, and enjoy the weekend. This is what it is all about.


Monday, August 07, 2006

Dance, Dance, Revolution

This last weekend I played a little bit of a tournament (just the Sunday), and I saw and had the time to analyze the impact of the party. Before I get into this discussion, let me state that I love to dance and party. I, however, will try to stay neutral in this analysis.

Lets first look at the pros and cons of partying on a Friday or Saturday night. On the pro side, dancing loosens the body, team bonding, partying is lots of fun, chance to meet other ultimate folks, see another city, and you ussually have a late night snack. On the con side, any sort of hangover reduces athletic performance, loss of recovery sleep, and costs money.

The neccessary conditions for a good ultimate morning are the following:
1. Wakeup early enough to prepare, get some food, get to the fields for warmup.
2. Wakeup with a relatively clear mind.
3. Have a solid warmup.

Many people will argue that you need a good nights rest. I don't believe this is true in many cases, and the average person can get away with one or two nights of minimal rest and perform at close to peak.

In my opinion, number 3 is the most important condition to have a successful morning game and day. Wether this means you go to bed early or late after partying if 3 can be satisfied then things will go reasonably well. This coincides with the general belief that you need to start warming up an hour before game time.

A coach/captain needs to enforce morning rules this with a team and accordingly make punishments and rewards depending on how a team achieves these goals. One of my captains use to say, "We're all adults. Do what you want tonight, but make sure you come out in the morning ready to play."


Sunday, August 06, 2006

Let's Start From the Beginning

So, I just came back from Ultimate Camp where I had the opportunity to coach 16 young guns on how to play ultimate. Over the week, we have about 32 hours of ultimate time to teach the kids how to play. These kids start with the ability to throw a poor backhand, and that's about it. One guy was a returning camper, Scott, and has amazing disc skills. Finally, one of the councilors played for her high school team.

I'm going to talk about some of the successful drills/activities we've come up with to make the week a success for essentially beginners.

One of the toughest aspects of teaching teenagers how to play is focus, and focus over a 32 hour period is a challenge. In general, it all comes down to challenges and competition.

The first thing you have to teach is how to throw both the backhand and the flick (forehand for some of you). Mechanics of these throws are challenging to teach, and I'm not really going to get into details about teaching throws. Instead, I'll talk about a drill which I use to improve throwing.

The main concept we use to teach throwing is work on throwing the disc back and forth for a few minutes. Then we like to do what I call, "The Minute Drill". Minute drill is a very simple drill in which, obviously, you have one minute to throw as many throws between a partner. Sure, the form of the throws might not be that good, but the focus and improvement can be incredible. Form is more of a challenging thing that takes time to learn to coach.

Another useful competitive drill is a simple line relay race. The main principles here are the passing skills plus the pivoting and quick throwing. You can add lots of different variations to this drill to bring in other aspects that you want to teach.

Other aspects of the theme of using competition include lots of mini games and leisure games like double disc court and golf. These games provide lots of touches, which is important early on.

Finally, with beginners, playing a game of ultimate early is a waste of time. We like to start out with a game called ultimate capture the flag. I might explain this later, but the premise is that throwing is not the only way to advance the discs. This allows players to throw a bit, but at least play a game that flows, promotes touches, and is fun.