Friday, March 30, 2007

The Lastest in Cheap Flight Resources

A little off my standard topics, I thought I would share some information about cheap travel that I read in my daily tour of financial blogs. Ultimate touring is an expensive weekend activity, and it gets really expensive when you start traveling larger distances (mainly by air).

Look at:

This blog has a number of posts on how to travel cheaply. I took a look at both:

  • - a better than Expedia or Travelocity type site with more functionality.
  • - a newer type of website that will insure you on ticket prices and look at plane ticket trends.
I was also reading this article in the Globe & Mail talks about air passes and how they can potentially save you some money. The key is in doing the math ahead of time to see if you'll save anything.

None of these options are as good as Ryan Air and Easyjet over in Europe, but maybe you can save some cash.

You also need to consider the distance you have to travel to make it worth your while. A group of us will most likely be going from Toronto to Boston (approximately 8 hours on the road) for the Boston Invite. I found a cheap flight from Buffalo to Boston for around 117 USD. The problem is the time:
  • 2 hours - ride to Buffalo
  • 1 hour - before flight check in
  • 1.5 hours - in the air
  • 30 minute - out of the airport
  • 1.5 hours - Rental and drive to Devens
These are rough estimates, but that's about 6.5 hours of traveling time over 8 hours. If there was a cheap flight directly from Toronto it might be worth it (I dislike Air Canada both in terms of cost and service). So the cost is significantly more for small time savings.

Since Canadian Nationals are in Toronto this year it looks like I probably won't be flying anywhere for Ultimate. Maybe these resources will help others save a few dollars.


Thursday, March 29, 2007

Poll Thursday - The Pattern or The Colour

Last week was an active poll.

  • 59% of you think that Ultimate is a good name for the sport
The discussion was interesting with both sides of the fence weighing in their opinion.

This week I've been thinking about cleats mainly because we're hoping to hit an outlet store on our next tournament trip. Cleats, other than a disc, are the main piece of equipment that we need to play Ultimate. For this reason, many of us are interested in cleats, cleat patterns, cleat colors, cleat material, and cleat price.

Todays first poll is "what is your favourite type of cleat?". Now I can't cover all the cleat companies and styles, so I'll just choose a few of the most popular types of cleats. After making the poll I realized even that is hard (Note that other is included on the scroll down). Feel free to add your suggestion for cleat types in the comments.

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The second poll is what aspect of the cleat is most important to you (Choices include: Comfort, Cleat Pattern, Material, Cost, Longevity, Don't Care).

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Phone Calls ... Over the Wires

As a captain or coach one of the toughest responsibilities is line calling. This means picking the next seven players who will play the next point.

Pictured Above: More Terminus 2007 from Chad Borer.

There are lots of factors to consider when calling lines:
  • Who played the last point?
  • Who is playing well?
  • Who has been off and is getting physically cold?
  • Are you on defense or offense?
  • How tired are different players?
  • Who do you play next?
  • What are the matchups against your opponents?
  • What are the goals of this point?
  • What is the score?
In other words, there are lots of factors to consider when picking the next line.

Considering all these variables how do you pick a line? Before starting a tournament you need to have an idea what your goals are for the tournament. This philosophy will change as the tournament progresses, but it's at least a starting point. In each game, consider your team philosophy. For example, based on who you are playing you might decide to play everyone giving the lower players on the bench more time, or maybe you want to play your weaker players to see if they can win the game while resting your superstars.

Philosophy gives a macro view of how to pick your lines. Next, you need to do micro managing. Micro managing is based on your view of the flow of the game. There's no simple procedure that describes how to make these decisions, and I find over time I've gotten better at micro managing mainly from experience.

There are, however, a few things that will help.
  • One, you should record who has played each point so you can check if you are missing people or playing people too much.
  • Two, you should have a set of people who are allowed to suggest people. this cannot be the entire team or you will be overwhelmed with suggestions.
  • Three, you should have a team ritual after each point along the lines of:
    • celebrate
    • everyone steps on the field so the picker can see people
    • people are called one by one
    • an echo is made by the rest of the team so a called person gets out on the field
A few other tips for calling lines are:
  • use your fingers to count how many people you have called
  • if you call lines do it from game one at a tournament
  • have an open system where people can talk about their playing time, but not during a game
  • make team members aware that they shouldn't talk with the line caller during line changes
The last thing I want to talk about with respect to line calling is who should do it. A coach or assistant coach should call lines. In the case of a captain/coach, it doesn't necessarily mean you should call lines. Some people can't play and call lines in the same game since line calling throws them off their game focus. Other people, like myself, find calling lines actually focuses them on the game.


Monday, March 26, 2007

Lessons from Tourney 1

Torontula headed to Bowling Green State University home of Orel Hershiser and Rob Blake for our first tournament of the year (B!G Green). We played a number of reasonably strong teams that gave us early challenges that we soon overcame. Why?

Pictured Above: From Terminus 2007 courtesy of Chad Borer.

One of the reasons is we have a strong team with a mixture of vets and great young players, but I think another key factor is that we have depth in numbers. Many of the teams we were playing only had 10 or 12 guys, and in some cases were only playing 8 guys deep against us. After 10 points they were gassed. We, on the other hand, were playing with 17 guys and were about 13 deep while the remaining 4 guys are just on the cusp of developing into reliable players. We played all 17 guys until the finals, which meant were all strong.

A few other lessons I learned from this tournament were:
  • An early tournament is a great time to get out the rust in your game. Let's just say I made some interesting throws in my first game.
  • Duct tape is an important item to bring. It not only repaired my cleats, but it also fixed the van we drove up in.
  • Michigan Sectionals is on Easter weekend. Ridiculous!
  • A pack of cards should be added to the list of items to bring to a tournament.
  • College Open Ultimate is a highly spirited and competitive game that is lots of fun. I knew this already, but the weekend reminded me how much fun it is to play.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Poll Thursday - Flat Ball?

The Logo Battle ended with Furious taking the final poll and eliminating my favourite - Sub Zero. If I'm still blogging next year in October we'll start another Logo Battle. If you're interested the results the brackets are on a Google spreadsheet for your viewing.

So now we're back to our regularly scheduled "Poll Thursday", and I thought I'd ask how people feel about the name 'Ultimate'. Steve Mooney made an interesting point at the UCPC panel that the name, Ultimate, leaves a lot in terms of what the sport is about. For example - basketball, baseball, netball, broom ball, and football give the sense that they are sports based on a "ball" and some other object. Maybe since Ultimate is a newer sport it should have a name that reflects the sport - maybe 'field disc' or 'discball'? Flat ball was a suggestion during an interview in one of the early Ultimate Movies (someone remind me).

Hockey, rugby, cricket (World cup is on, and it has been great), tennis, badminton, and many other sport names don't reference to the sport in terms of using modern English words in the sport title, but those sports don't have to worry about being recognized by the average person.

So is it time to call "Ultimate" something else?

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

I miss my College Ulti...

Last year was when I found College Ulti. I put the link in, but it currently isn't up. You can look at the Women's version at their equivalent site IC Ultimate (it's up this year).

Pictured Above: Terminus 2007 Pittsburgh vs. Wisconsin Whitewater (courtesy of Michael Smith)

It all started when the University of Toronto decided to join the UPA college series, and I went off looking to see who was good and what the scene was like. College Ulti was more than I could imagine. There on the website was colourful shots of ultimate players all around the page with a top 25 ranking and a corner dedicated to stories on each of the regions. Wow - after being part of a club series for two years at this point, we never had any coverage other than maybe a discussion on RSD.

And now there not here this year, and I've got to go to RSD and read about disjointed results and perspective from college tournament attendees to get my Ultimate fix and read on the Great Lakes division. I understand that sites like College Ulti and IC Ultimate are lots of work by, most likely, very few people. Just so you know, your effort is enjoyed by if not many, at least one.

Pictured Above: I love the old school Pittsburgh Pirates ball cap. Terminus 2007 Pittsburgh vs. Wisconsin [semis] (courtesy of Michael Smith)

It's time the club series takes a few of the great things about the college series. I think the club series needs to bring in some of the following ideas into the series:
  • Big tournaments (one per month) that we (the fans) all care about like the Emerald City Classic.
  • An e-zine that regularly has stories and coverage of tournaments like IC Ultimate and College Ulti. This would be a great place for fantasy ultimate to live (see my last post).
  • A big award that brings someone fame - like the Callahan award.
  • More passion from the players who want to talk about the series.
The same is true for high school, but they already have a reasonably good blog, and they are doing much better than the club series. Maybe by the time we all get to clubs too many of us have lost the passion to make things happen, but we will complain that the sport is not taken seriously ;)


Monday, March 19, 2007

Living in a Fantasy World

As a young'en I had a big interest in professional sports. I would collect sports cards, watch games on TV, keep up with the news, and play the sport. As I got older, I started to notice that some of my original excitement for a sport wained as I began to understand the ebb and flow of the games. Not enough games were exciting, the cards were an artificial market, the stories were the same (other than the brilliance of NFL films), but I always liked playing a sport.

Pictured Above: From Terminus 2007 Pitt vs. Auburn (courtesy of Michael Smith).

Later on, I found fantasy sport. One day I joined up in a yahoo league for either hockey or basketball, invited some friends, and managed a fantasy team. For those of you unfamiliar with fantasy sport, let me explain. There are many different styles of fantasy games from managing individual players and benefiting from their success to picking teams that will win or lose and by how much. Fantasy also exists in the riskier domains such as sports betting, but many of the games are for free.

The thing about fantasy is it rekindled my interest in sporting events. I found I could watch a televised game again since I had some vested interest in a player or team, and I would pay more attention to the game. Sports betting has a similar affect where bettors now get an adrenalin high from the excitement of putting the money on the sport. In both cases, you become committed to the game.

Pictured Above: From Terminus 2007 Pitt vs. Wisconsin (courtesy of Michael Smith).

Fantasy Ultimate is a game, originally played on a sideline, where you pick players and get points depending on their success or failure (drops, scores, errors, etc.). Fantasy Ultimate was also recently applied to the MLU through the internet.

I think Fantasy is one of the key concepts that needs to be applied to Ultimate to help push the sport into a legitimate fan followed sport (not necessarily my goal). The concept introduces fans to important names in the sport, it gives the fan a focus on the game, and it can be fun.

There are lots of logistic aspects that need to be considered like stats (see the Count's recent post) and changing line-ups for tournaments.


Friday, March 16, 2007

Packing for the Season

Next week is our first tournament preparing for the UPA college series. I'll use this weekend to setup my Ultimate kit for the season. This post is a simple question of what should I be packing and some hope for comments on what else to pack.

Pictured Above: From Terminus 2007 Michigan vs. Georgia College & State (courtesy of Michael Smith).

My current ultimate packing list:
  • Play
    • Cleats~
    • Hat
    • Jerseys
    • Under Armour
    • Dry-fit socks
    • 2 Nalgenes
    • Disc
    • Arm Bands
  • Warm Weather
    • Hoodie^
    • Shorts
    • Socks
    • Sunscreen
  • Cold Weather
    • Tights
    • Pants
    • Toque
    • Mittens
  • Wet Weather
    • Umbrella
    • Rain Jacket
  • Health
    • ibuprofen
    • Tensor bandage
    • Chapstick
    • Contacts*
    • Medication*
  • General
    • Duct Tape
    • Climbing chalk -or- Gold Bond~
    • Ziplock bags
    • Plastic Bags
    • Tarp or Garbage Bag
    • Toothbrush+Toothpaste
    • Sleeping Bag
    • Underwear
    • Socks
    • Passport
    • Travel Insurance Details
    • Towel or shimmy
    • cell phone, phone card
    • cash
    • Bungee cord or rope
    • Mint Gum~
    • Directions and Details~
    • Rulebook~
  • Food
    • Candy - 5g carbs per candy
    • Energy Bars - +30g carbs
    • Apples
    • Drink powder
    • Salted Nuts
    • Meal replacement drinks
* = personal items
^ = don't pack. Wear.
~ = added after comments

This all fits in my backpack.

Pictured Above: From Terminus 2007 William and Mary vs. Iowa State (courtesy of Michael Smith).

My minimum packing rule is: cleats, jerseys, and wallet. Everything else can be purchased.

Any other suggestions including luxury items?


Thursday, March 15, 2007

Logo Battle - 1st place - 1 day poll

In the last round:

  • Riot took third place over Johny Bravo
In this round:

Sub Zero

Furious George

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Logo Battle - 3rd Place - 1 day poll

In the last round:

  • Sub Zero pushes riot to the 3rd place poll today (52% - 48%)
In the poll for 3rd place we have:

Johny Bravo


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Monday, March 12, 2007

Fishing Strategies

Hey Folks,

Baiting is a simple concept where you try to force your opponent to do something that you want to happen. For example, in Ultimate you might allow a certain player to get open on the cut because you know they are a weak thrower, and even though the opponents may gain some field distance the continuation will have a higher chance of turning over the disc.

It's hard to say what the difference is between baiting and giving a team something. Is forcing flick a bait or a give. I would call it a give. Baiting is an option where you really open up an option to make it almost impossible to not take the option.

Pictured Above: The ninja, Peyton Leung, playing with BMF at October Fest in Waterloo (picture from The Ultimate Experience).

Baiting is a fascinating strategy that I’ve used in all sorts of situations to our benefit and loss. In one case, one of my teams won a universe point by baiting a throw to a player who we knew had a high chance of turning over the disc, and he did. In another case, we tried a similar strategy to bait a weaker thrower to getting the disc, but just because the thrower was weaker, he caught the disc and threw a beautiful huck to score the point.

So, baiting is not a guaranteed strategic advantage, but instead of looking at it as a binary solution, it’s probably better to use baiting as a probabilistic strategy. Use the bait to get the disc into people’s hands that on average are weaker than the strong players on an opposing team. This is how to apply baiting to higher quality ultimate. You can’t expect to bait the disc into a weaker thrower or to someone who will drop the disc, but you can help keep the disc out of a superstars hands by baiting to other options.

Another aspect of the bait is how spirited is the strategy. At the high-level this is a non-issue, but when you're playing against a weak team and you're praying on a player, is it bad spirit. Many people will argue that this will help improve that player since they have increased touches. On the other hand, it can be psychologically tough to be forced into failure time after time. I'll leave the final decision to you on this topic, but it is something to consider.

Another aspect of the bait is not to focus on particular players, but instead, to bait a team to a place on the field where you can get an advantage. The classic example of this is the bait to a sideline trap, since a thrower on the sideline has less options.

Baiting is a simple concept to add to your strategy tool kit.


Friday, March 09, 2007

Backs to the Wall Culture

I’ve played with a number of different Ultimate teams at the touring level. These teams have ranged in quality from the very bottom to close to the top.

In this post, the topic is related to one characteristic of a team that I find makes or breaks a team's illusion of success. This characteristic or quality is the “never say die” attitude, and this means that a team, regardless of score, will always make a significant effort and playing hard throughout the game. In most cases, the attribute is seen when a team continues to play hard even when losing significantly, but it also can be relevant when dominating a team and not relenting.

Pictured above: My first attempt at a South Park self-portrait. No disc option yet, so maybe I'll have to go into Photoshop.

For weaker teams, this quality is necessary and is relatively easy to obtain, because you always seem to be losing, so not trying would mean it is irrelevant to play in the first place. The challenge with a weaker team is as the team improves can you maintain this “never say die” attitude. Again, this is not that difficult, and a team that starts from the bottom and moves to the top will have a significant benefit since they’ve developed a work ethic that will follow them throughout the team’s life.

For a medium ranked team that wins about 50% of their games, this team attribute is a little trickier to develop. What can happen is that a team of this nature will only compete in games where they are closely matched up against their opponent. In games where they are dominated, the team tends to give up, and in games where they dominate, they tend to let up on effort.

I would argue that it is better for a midrange team to put the effort in to “never say die”. Against strong teams, a midrange team should make goals for small successes. For example, on a particular point try and generate some offensive flow, or make it difficult for the opponents to score. Similarly, against weaker team goals will help maintain a strong work ethic. These are great opportunities for trying parts of your game that aren't polished.

The most difficult situation is for strong teams. How can a strong team develop a "never say die" attitude when you don’t necessarily have good competition and aren't in losing situations often. This problem exists for many of the top teams in a region, and can result in significant problems when these teams meet up with good competition, infrequently, during the season.

A simple goal based system will help, but from what I’ve seen it is not sufficient to generate the "never say die" attitude. Instead, a more complicated goal system needs to be generated in which a team psychologically feels the same lows and highs that normally would be associated with winning and losing. What I mean is winning and losing are associated with strong emotional highs and lows, and this is natural for most athletes. Instead, some goal needs to have that same emotional high/low. For example, failing to keep the opponent to under 2 points in the first half should feel like losing, and will require your team to dig deep to hold them to 4 points over the entire game.

These goals may be in terms of perfect execution and domination. Another option for a team is to change the rolls of their players. I would argue that this alone will improve the overall quality of your team by developing a better rounded team (a whole debate on specialization versus generalization).

The final option, for the strong team, is playing a team that is reasonably close to your level over and over (like the Sens and Leafs) so the weaker team starts to learn your weaknesses and can attacks those weak points. If you have a few teams that are reasonably competitive, this is even better since you will have a number of team styles attacking you over and over prodding for weakness. Also, consider handicapping your own team so it doesn't take advantage of what it would normally use to dominate the lower team. For example, if you always throw to receiver X because he dominates his man, then stop using that advantage and find a new one.


Thursday, March 08, 2007

Logo Battle - Semis - Round 2

In the last round:

  • Furious eliminates Johny Bravo (66% - 34%)
In this round:

Sub Zero


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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Logo Battle - Semis - Round 1

In the last round:

  • Sub Zero eliminates Rhino (62% - 38%)
  • Riot eliminates Mauvaise Herbes (59% - 41%)
In the semis:

Johny Bravo

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Monday, March 05, 2007

Conditioning in Conditions

One of the challenges for Toronto based teams is it isn’t that windy downtown where many of us practice (unless you're near some of the skyscrapers). In Colorado, teams are training in a thinner atmosphere. In Phoenix, there’s not much rain, and in Thailand, it rarely snows or gets cold.

Depending on what your goals are (worlds, UPA championships, nationals, big tournaments, local tournaments, or league), part of your preparation needs to include developing competence in a variety of conditions, and this can mean finding those conditions.

Pictured Above: One of Hilary Leung's graphic ads as one of his many contributions to Ultimate. Check out his website for other ultimate logos and general graphic art.

For example, in the case of the lack of wind in Toronto, we should probably be having a few practices in particularly windy place in nearby areas (which do exist). Additionally, on rainy days, as hard as it is, teams should be practicing to improve their poor weather ultimate skills.

Seeking out conditions to train in will improve your preparation for unknowns like the weather, but what can you do in cases where geographic weather doesn’t allow this. For example, if it’s not cold where you live, how do you find cold conditions to train in.

I don’t really have any great solutions here, and really this might come down to innovation or if you have it, money. I can imagine using a local ice rink to practice in cold, or using ice to freeze you hands on the sideline (one of the main challengse in cold weather) before playing a point. I’ve heard that in Colorado they add weight to their discs to simulate the air density, so maybe sandpapering a disc might simulate increased elevation.

Of all these conditions, the most important one is training in wind and non-wind since these conditions significantly impact the style of game, and wind tends to be everywhere on the planet. Even in a windy area make sure that the field angle is changed to work on cross winds versus upwind and downwind situations.


Friday, March 02, 2007

Drill - 3on3 Continuous

Hey Folks,

I'll describe the drill I mentioned in my last post for those of you who asked. This drill was modified from a common basketball drill. It is good for working on a teams small and consistent game. It's good for endurance, and it's lots of fun.

Pictured Above: Some diagrams of the drill 3 on 3 continuous.

Here's the steps:
  1. Setup a small field with endzones. We've played on volleyball courts and tennis courts with endzones as small as 1 foot. Add something to mark the middle of the field.
  2. Start with 3 people on one side with the disc (offense) and 2 defenders on the other. One chase is ready at half (Figure (a)).
  3. The offense moves the disc trying to score on the defense. When the disc crosses half -or- the disc is held by an offensive for more than one stall, the chase runs to the middle of the field, touches the center point, and becomes the third defender (Figure (b)).
  4. Normal ultimate play continues until there is a score or turnover.
  5. Meanwhile 2 off-field players move onto the field to be ready as the next two defenders (Figure (c)).
  6. If the offense scores, they stay on offense and attack in the other direction. If the defense gets a turn then they become the offense. In either case, the offense now proceeds in the opposite direction against the two new defenders and a new chase (Figure (d) - assumption that O scored and old D leave the field).
  7. Goto 3.
Rules that we tend to use:
  1. 5 stalls
  2. Defense can't cross the middle line until the chase has entered play
  3. No over and back
  4. Chase has to touch the center
  5. Normal ultimate rules
Some other notes:
  1. When we want to have a winner we say that the first person to score ten points. This means that a player is on offense for ten non-consecutive points.
  2. It's good to run this for a while, and then talk about strategies to make the drill more offensively structured.
  3. The D needs to call stuff on the fly. Try to call a force. Also, the two people on first line defense should pickup players without the disc.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Logo Battle - Stage 4 - Round 2 - 1 day poll

In the last round:

  • Furious eliminates Georgia (59% - 41%)
  • Johny Bravo eliminates Metal (65% - 35%)
In this round:

Group 1

Sub Zero


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Group 2
Mauvaise Herbes

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