Monday, October 30, 2006

UPA and a Soul Crushing Weekend

With the results in from Ultimate's big show, it appears Sockeye and Fury took home the glory. Furious gives up their crown losing to Sockeye in the finals. Fury takes the Women's division with a pretty convincing win over Riot.

The Canadian entrants did well. As I said before, Furious took second. The Capitals finished in the top 8 with a 7th place finish. That's down a few seeds from last year, but they had a good tournament getting into the power pool. Glum finished 5th; that's a great finish.

Pictured Above: This is an early version of the BEAT logo created by Hilary Leung. This, in my mind, is the best logo I've ever scene, and it is the one of the only pictures I would consider getting tattooed to my body.

While these teams were playing in the south, I had the fortune of playing with Bacon Eggs and Toast (BEAT) at a Halloween tournament in Kingston, ON. This was one of the toughest tournaments I've ever played in. Not because of the competition, but instead, the weather combination actually made me dislike (even hate) ultimate for the first time. It must be me aging, but apparently the equation for soul crushing is rain+cold+wind. The field was also a muddy soup likened to crumbs of a chocolate cake mostly covered in coffee.

Pictured Above: This is a where's Waldo scene. This was taken after our game against the Pirates at Goosebowl in Kingston.

I've played in snow, ice, and hail, but the key combination of being soaked and coldness cracked my spirit. It cracked many spirits. Luckily, I was with a great group of people and we had some fun.


Friday, October 27, 2006

UPAs Day One

Hey Folks,

Day 1 at the UPA tournament is complete. Canadian teams finished 5-3 (Furious 3-0, Capitals 2-1, and Glum 1-2). Day 2 sees Furious continuing on a winning path, Capitals getting beat by the Goliath, and Glum going to .500.

In the rest of the tournament, it appears that seedings were mostly right. A few highlights to note:

  • Open - Revolver loses to Vicious at Universe, but beats DoG
  • Open - Bravo beats Ring of Fire 15-9
  • Open - Furious 'creams' DoG on day 2
  • Women - Rare Air beats Brute Squad
  • Women - Furious and Riot killing everyone
  • Mixed - Bad Larry's obviously mis seeded
  • Masters - Not much excitement.
It looks like the weekend will be full of interesting results. Unfortunately (Fortunately), I'll be at a Halloween tournament and won't be able to virtually stay up with the tournament.

Here's a link to the main site with some write ups from people attending the tournament.


Thursday, October 26, 2006

Poll Thursday - Quick Pick For the Men's

Hey Folks,

So the show starts today. The Capitals (Toronto and Ottawa) have all landed in Florida and are probably warming up as I write this. This week we'll poll on the Men's finish.

Results last week were:

  • People think Riot's Going to win with 54% of the vote.
  • Fury will come in second, or atleast, 50% of voters believe this.
  • 36% people believe a crazy wild card will take 3rd. 24% believe in Brute Squad and BAck Hoe.
These seem like reasonable results other than the third place pick.

As for this week your choices are:
  • Furious
  • Sockeye - only lost to Furious at Regionals
  • DoG
  • Wild Card = the rest
Feel free to make a prediction in the comments section. A close friend as already called Viscious Cycle as the dark horse winner. They might make semis, but we'll wait and see.

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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Hey Bud

This is a bit of a step away from Ultimate, but I feel it is a key factor during the Ultimate weekend (especially with those Halloween parties coming up). So after a day of Ultimate there tends to be partying. I have nothing against partying; quite the opposite. One suggestion for you and rule we have as a university ultimate team is the buddy system.

Pictured Above: Many of the boys from Torontula's TB hanging out after a day of Ultimate.

The buddy system means that for the night you have one person who is responsible for you, and you for them. The concept is that both buddies will lookout for one another during a night and make sure everything is safe for both of you.

The rules of the buddy system include:
  1. Tell your buddy if you are going somewhere, and if that means leaving then you need to find a new buddy for them.
  2. If leaving you need to provide a telephone number or address where you can be reached.
  3. You should be in eye contact or roughly know where your buddy is.
  4. Buddy's are honest and tell how inebriated they are including how many drinks.
  5. Buddy's respect their buddy's opinion and will listen to their opinions.
Basically, the buddy system is an adult method of having that extra safety check. This system is good for college teams, but it is even useful for us older folks.

The reason we came up with this system is partly in relation to the tragic death of Chris Powell last year at our Canadian University Ultimate Championship and partly because of various poor decisions we (my teams) have made in the past . So, the buddy system is a very serious thing, and hopefully, it will help keep us all safe.


Tuesday, October 24, 2006

I've Seen the Future

I had a few thoughts about defense when I read George's post. Then I thought about the recent MLU run. Then the light bulb flashed.

What is my idea? I was thinking that instead of the MLU rule that throws from the 20 yard line scores 2 (similar to the three pointer in basketball) that, instead, making the endzone into different scoring regions would make the game better.

In the simplest form, I imagine that the endzone would be split into three. The middle part of the endzone would be worth 2 points. Left sides and right sides from the middle part would only be worth 1. I'm not exactly sure about the width of the extra score zone.

What do I think this would cause? I think it would give the defense something to protect and make it a challenge for the offense to score in that middle region. This would be sort of like the tightening of defense around a goal or basket. This might make offenses hold the disc a little longer and try and score the bigger points.

It would also change the dynamics of the constant trade where it seems impossible for teams to break upwind on a windy day, you might have to consider how important the double is.

I do have some concerns that it would also weaken the defense. This new endzone means that teams could possibly only worry about the 2 point score allowing the one, and try to win the game by returning with 2 point scores. It seems possible that this would happen, but I don't think so.

I thought it might be an interesting idea. Maybe we will try it at one of our practices.


Friday, October 20, 2006

Ben or Darth - Choose you a Path Better

One of the points that defense needs to debate in the modern game of ultimate is the choice of force. Too many teams blindly choose force forehand and haven't really thought about why they're making this choice.

Pictured Above: Kirk Nylen getting a throw off of Sam Kennedy in the CUUC finals between Torontula and McGill.

In my early days of ultimate, we forced flick for one reason. The assumption was that not every opponent had strong throwers, and therefore, their flicks would be weak and we could get lots of turns because of this. In the modern competitive game, the odds of having a really weak person with a flick is low, and even if that person exists is flick the best choice for five and six other opponents on the field.

Let us look at some of the forces and the pros and cons.
  • Flick - Some of the pros of forcing flick are it is the least popular (maybe common) of the throws and has a learning curve, it generally doesn't travel as far as a backhand, it has a little less spin than a backhand, and it is harder to throw softly for little (short) throws. Some of the cons are the flick is easy to release for a huck or normal, it could be argued that flick is an easier break force throw, and flick force can be broken with a hammer.
  • Backhand - Some of the pros of forcing backhand are it makes hucks harder (with the follow through), it arguably makes breaking harder, and it's harder to get a quick release. The cons are the dumps are easier, the throws are more stable in wind, and give and gos can be easier due to the backhand forward step.
I'm sure there are other pros and cons to each of the forces. There are also choices for other types of forces. I guess the most important point is to think about all of these forces and how they play into your teams defense. The other point is to constantly rethink and debate these beliefs. Over time these choices change as the game evolves.


Thursday, October 19, 2006

Poll Thursday - Lady of the Day

Hey Folks,

Sorry I missed last weeks poll Thursday, so I'll report on our results from two weeks ago. The poll at that time was about voting on the best city with a combination of hockey and ultimate. Twenty-nine people voted and the top three results are as follows:

  1. Vancouver got 54% of the vote
  2. California north bay area got 21% of the vote
  3. Boston got 17% of the vote
I still think the North Bay Area has the best combination since Vancouver is still weak in both hockey and women's ultimate, but apparently the majority doesn't think so. I think there's too much belief in Furious.

Well that was the fun poll before we get into voting on who's going to win the UPA championship this year. Let's start off with the women's division picking for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd. The choices are:
  • Fury (RRI 3225)
  • Riot (RRI 3282 - 3-2 against Fury)
  • Backhoe (RRI 3045)
  • Brute Squad (RRI 2918)
  • Wild Card (Rare Air, Ozone, Safari, Showdown)
  • Real Wild Card

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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Hey Junior

This is a tough topic. Basically, I question whether we should be extending Ultimate to juniors.

Pictured Above: This is my University team, Torontula, which finally won the Canadian Nationals this year. Bottom Left to Right: Norman Farb, Peter Jamieson, Pat Dolan, Dante Reino, Steve Tam, Justin McComb, Tim Chapman-Smith (behind), Shawn Chua, Nathan Brown (behind), Taylor Martin, Shimon Pokorny, Tolya Vasilyev. Back Row from Left to Right: Scotty Nicholls, Will Yan, Marcius Extavour, Inian Moorthy, Alex Schneider, Dave Ng, Adrian Yearwood, Kirk Nylen, Sasha Necakov, Malcolm Johnston, Lowell Heppner.

So, why would I even bring up a topic like this. I guess it all comes down to the physical wear and tear that Ultimate takes on the body. Then I think about juniors that I've seen come through the ranks with excessive injuries.

My first question is how does the body impact in Ultimate compare to existing highschool sports. The sample set I'm going to look at includes basketball, volleyball, track, soccer, and badminton. I've chosen this set because I'm most familiar with these sports.

If I were to rank these existing sports from worse to best in terms of body strain where an athlete competes, trains, and plays in the sport for 6 months I would say:
  1. Track
  2. Soccer
  3. Basketball
  4. Volleyball
  5. Badminton
My opinion is that track is the worse since it tends to push athletes too much. Before even addressing the other sports when I compare track to Ultimate I find similarities in the pushing of the body to extremes. In addition to the risk of all out sprints, Ultimate adds cuts and layouts to the fold, and even worse the layout. Both of these elements exist in soccer, but I find soccer doesn't have the full field runs that Ultimate has. Instead, a soccer player plays a more of a zone like position both on defense and offense.

I guess, I feel that Ultimate has higher intensity and body limit push compared to existing sports that I've listed. The next question is how does this affect the body of someone who hasn't fully grown yet (maybe we will address these similar issues with an older body).

Some information I've looked at (sample) describes some of these issues in relation to overuse and the risk with young bodies. I wonder if the increased intensity of a sport has any correlation to overuse injuries in young athletes.

Personally, I think Ultimate is currently a great choice as an after highschool sport or even college. Howeve, it's nice to have a sport that has organization and competitive levels in which adults can find a new love for a sport. I'm sure not many people have the opinion's I have in this topic. I'm aware there are many benefits in Ultimate for young people, and college teams are looking more and more for the already trained Ultimate athlete. Maybe we just need to address my concerns with proper approach to young people's Ultimate.


Monday, October 16, 2006

Win the Lotto with the Basics

One of the challenges of practices is what to cover over a limited time period. This gets even trickier when we are dealing with the basic skills. One approach that I've come up do try and help this is with a drill called 'Lotto'.

I'm a strong believer in practicing dumps, berkeleys, and three man. Each of these drills can take a long time to execute taking up significant practice time. The drill, "Lotto", is a combination of all three of these drills where in each drill each person gets 5 throws (hence 555 - lotto). All of these drills are performed in groups of four (meaning three man is run in a triangle).

When Torontula practices start we run, stretch (dynamic, static, and maybe ABCs), and then run the lotto. The lotto is considered part of the warmup and is performed at a fast pace to keep the blood flowing. We like the order: dump drill, three man, and berkleys.

We tend to push to get the drill done in 10 minutes. The focus is on making good throws during the drills (not rushing). The part that needs to be rushed is setting up the next rerun of the drill. If this is done, it is possible to get 60 touches between 4 people in a 10 minutes. The slowest drill tends to be three man, but the timing is almost the same for each drill.

To motivate people we start with 20 pushups for everyone. For each D you get, you get -5 off your pushup total. For each drop or bad throw away you get +10 to the pushup total. This motivates the defense. We also get competitive and group up in pairs trying to beat the opponents

That is good bang for the buck.


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Jack the Gripper

Hey Folks,

Last post I talked about the throws you need to have and practice. In this post, I'll discuss one of the finer details that players need to develop as a skill to become a stronger thrower.

Pictured Above: Glen Oomen being marked by a player from Montreal's Mango. It's hard to say if he has a good grip.

The skill is simple. It's a grip switch between backhand and forehand and inversely from forehand to backhand. Think of yourself holding your backhand grip. When you pivot across to a forehand, you need to be able to switch the grip from backhand to forehand with only one hand.

This is a simple skill to develop, and fortunately, is one of those skills you can develop on your own. Just carry a disc around with you and practice switching the grip. Start off slow, and even use your other hand to get familiar with the grip change. Then, gradually, increase the speed at which you switch grip in both directions.

Most beginners will use arm momentum to help them switch grips. As you get more advanced in this skill, learn to make the grip switch without moving your arm.

The grip switch is simple, but it is key to getting breaks and throws off. This skill can also be extended to transitions to other grips.


Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Throw Me the Money - TW

As you progress as a player, and more specifically, as you progress as a thrower the question is what throws are necessary, and how much practice do they need.

The main two throws are obviously the backhand and the forehand (a.k.a. flick). Both need to be practiced regularly including the inside out (IO) and the outside in (OI). Inside out means the disc is thrown from your throwing arm, will curve cross the plain of your body, and will curve back to your throwing side (this is a rough written explanation of the throw).

To throw the IO and OI it is key to mainly adjust the plain of your arm and maybe slightly your wrist. Of all these throws, the hardest to get good at will be the IO forehand.

Some upside down throws that are key to have include both the hammer and the scoober. The hammer is arguably more important than the scoober, and the hammer can be used in place of a weak scoober.

The last two throws that are important to have are used in dump situations - the backhand pop pass and forehand push pass. These throws are hard to describe, and I'm sure that many veteran ultimate players can help you with these throws. Both throws are float throws that give a dump cut lots of time to retrieve the disc.

These five throws should be practiced regularly with good form. This means for the forehand and backhand it is good to step out and stay low. It is also important to work on these throws with proper fakes. This should give you a simple set of basic throws.


Friday, October 06, 2006

Hold Me Proper

Hey Folks,

The next few posts are going to be about throwing. A little bit of a theme.

Pictured Above: More New York with James Fong, Myself, and Steve Tam.

As much as I like to look cool, coolness should never be pursued over an athletic advantage. The area where I think coolness comes into Ultimate is how the thrower holds the disc.

I tend to see many people holding the disc in a non-throwing position. The two holds that I've seen are a single hand holding the disc in a relaxed position and two hands holding and flipping the disc near the body. I'm sure there are other ways.

What is the problem with this? It is not a really huge deal, but let us think of what advantage you are losing by holding the disc this way. It all comes down to:
  1. How you can fake efficiently
  2. Time to proper fake position
  3. How you limit your throwing options
The first point, "How you can fake efficiently", speaks to the fact that holding the disc in a nontraditional throwing position makes it difficult to show any sort of fake other than what I would call twitch fakes. A twitch fake is a slight movement which faints an actual action.

With only a twitch fake option, to progress into a strong throwing position you need to move into a standard throwing grip. This takes time. Maybe not a full stall, but it does take time which might have been that moment to throw.

My final concern I have is how all of this limits which throws you have since holding the disc improperly has added additional unnecessary steps. My recommendation is keep the disc in a proper throwing position to give you an additional advantage. These minor details are the key details to improving your team's success.


Thursday, October 05, 2006

Poll Thursday - Hockey Season

Hey Folks,

Last weeks polls were answered quickly since the NW played there regionals. The top 4 seeds were:

  1. Furious George
  2. Sockeye
  3. Revolver
  4. Rhino
Let's compare those to our vote getters. I'll do this in two ways. First the top pick in each category:
  1. Sockeye (59% for first)
  2. Furious (61% for second)
  3. Justice League (56% for third)
  4. Rhino (40% for fourth)
Well, it looks like we got Rhino correct and flipped first and second. Now let's look at the results based on total percentage of votes:
  1. Furious (102%)
  2. Justice League (100%)
  3. Sockeye (93%)
  4. Rhino (71%)
  5. Revolver (33%)
Well Revolver showed the Ultimate world that there for real, and we were off. For a writeup on the details of the weekend checkout 1 and 2.

So, this weekend will have the remaining 3 regionals. Since we've already voted on the NE, let's have some fun this week and worry about picking national winners over the next few weeks.

The poll topic for today is the best city for hockey ultimate combo. The rules are simple, which city has best hockey NHL team, Ultimate Open team, and Ultimate Women's team. If you don't see your pick then add it to the comments. Choices are:
  • Boston = Bruins, DoG, Brute Squad
  • Toronto = Leafs, Goat, Capitals
  • Vancouver = Canucks, Furious George, Prime
  • California North Bay Area = Sharks, Revolver, Fury
  • Denverish = Avalanche, Johny Bravo, Rare Air
  • New York = Rangers, PoNY, Ambush
  • Chicago = Blackhawks, Machine, Nemesis
Who could win the tripple crown? The cup, and both UPA championships. That's tough. What about which Ultimate team could make the best hockey team? I like Toronto for this one, and maybe Montreal if they had of put a team towards Regionals.

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Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Mark me tight - Shame on you

Marking is one of the most fascinating elements of defense. What can one person do in preventing the next throw from going to specific spots on the field? Plus who doesn't like seeing a nice hand or foot block.

Pictured Above: A few of us at a tournament in Binghampton, NY (2006). From left to right: me, Tim Fowler, Dante Reino, Tim Chapman-Smith, Norman Farb, Taylor Martin, and Alex Schneider. We had a +40 differential Saturday and then they cancelled the tournament.

One of the dimensions of marking that seems to be the norm with some people is disc space. I find that many players are literally rubbing and humping the thrower with agressive marks.

Depending on the thrower and the level of play they will either accept this tight mark and reciprocate it or veterans will use the tight mark as an opportunity to reset the count any time they like. On the extreme and at lower levels, some throwers will get quite upset with the actual contact.

Regardless, as a coach/captain one thing that drives us crazy is watching a tight mark get the count up to about 5 or 6 and then the mark being too aggressive and causing a foul that allows the count to be reset. Of anything to ask your players, is to give space at a high count and avoid contact on a pressure throw since in many cases these are the situations which result in a turnover. A foul is a get out of jail free card that you can't afford to give away.


Monday, October 02, 2006

Hot Spot Analysis ...

Hey Folks,

When watching a team play man defense, a standard captain/coaching role is to try and figure out what type of adjustments need to be made to the defense. Part of this involves looking for what I call hot spots. Hot spots are things the offense is doing with great success. For example, a team that stacks vertically and constantly breaks your team with a great handler represents a hot spot. Another example might be the opponents regularly getting a one two combo with a handler slash and flick and a striker up the open side of the field.

This post is not actually about man adjustments, but it's about applying these principles to zone. Why is this important? Well, one of the things I find with zones is that teams abandon them to quickly when they're not working instead of doing the same thing as we do with man defense. Analyzing where the hot spots are.

To find the hot spots in your zone requires two thought processes. The first is understanding what your goal is with a particular zone. The second is determining what part of the zone is failing to satisfy your goal due to the offense's intentions.

Once you know both of these, then the adjustment is to force the opponents into taking a course of action that can not exploit the hot spot.

Let us address a few things before we leave this topic. Zone adjustments are limited due to the general weakness of zone and its susceptibility to overloads (depending on skill level and competition). I would argue that you have 2 points to make an adjustment, but a better choice is reintroducing the zone later in the game with the adjustment.

Also, zone adjustments will likely result in a new hot spot against strong teams. This is a reality of all defenses since there are always attack points. The concern is that the new hot spot results in an even worse situation than previously.

Zone analysis is tough, but finding the hot spots should give you a good clue as to what isn't working.