Thursday, May 31, 2007

BEAT Releases - Gender Blender 2.0

For Gender Blender this weekend we (myself and Norm Farb) made a Ultimate related video game. Not actually an Ultimate video game, but a homage to the weekend, Ultimate, and Pac Man.

  • Check out our game bid here

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The simplest hardest thing with a team

This is a simple post. It's about communicating with your team. It's one of the most important things and it's the hardest.

I'm not talking about on field or in practice communication. It's getting your team to read and respond to organizational messages. I've had many coaches come and ask how I've dealt with this in the past, so I thought I'd give some ideas here with hopes of other comments on the topic.

The best solution is to call each person on the phone; logistical nightmare, but it's the only way to get action. I hate the phone, so this really isn't a solution, but if you're willing to call everyone on your team it will work for the most part until they stop answering your calls.

My preferred information channels are:

  • Team blog - for captain's messages. For Torontula I hooked up Google Analytics to monitor how many people were reading per day and relayed that information (passive).
  • BBS - for the team to send less important messages and discuss topics both relevant and irrelevant (passive).
  • E-mail - for direct messages when I want something done, but not used unless it really is important (active).
  • Phone - for those instant messages that have to be done (direct)
Regardless of these channels it still comes down to the team members actually visiting passive channels and doing what they have to do in a reasonable amount of time. Even trickier is that your teammates aren't plugged into the internet all day and regularly checking for updates (some of luckier/unluckier are) or work doesn't allow hobby internet action. The best you should expect is three looks a week and daily checking of e-mail.

It's tricky. You need to provide the information and remind people to look at the information then hope that they'll be active teammates. If they aren't they don't realize that regardless of their play on the field they're a bad teammate and are wasting your valuable time. They need to be talked to about helping the organization and if that doesn't help then I would consider cutting them if it's a real problem.

One other option for internet non savvy people is a phone tree. We used to do this when we canceled practice. We would call two people who would relay the message to the next two and so on.


Monday, May 28, 2007

Over Organization

As I get more and more organized for the club season, I'm starting to think about little details and wondering how much they matter. For example, one of the things I've been wondering about is how to line up for a pull.

If pulling on offense it makes sense to line up so that you are opposite the people you'll be covering and in theory this means you'll have the straightest trajectory to your man. Otherwise you'll have to cross paths with your own players slowing you down and potentially allowing too many free passes.

When receiving a pull on defense, I think you should have your corallers (the assigned people who will catch the pull) on the outsides of the line, if you have 2 corallers, or if you have one coraller they should be in the middle of the line. The rest of the primary handler should also be close to the center and the outside receivers should be lined up on the outside.

With these basic outlines, you can think of the offense running a few set plays. For example, based on who pulls the disc, the offensive team tries to identify who the puller is covering and use this to gain an advantage like an extra pass. In theory, the puller will be the last down the field. The offense could also run a criss cross pattern to force their defensive match ups to criss cross as they sprint down the field.

I can work on these ideas forever. The reality though, is all of these ideas are minor details that have no major affect on the result of a game. These ideas, however, do provide a team with structure which I think helps everyone since organization simplifies and makes everyone feel more confident. Maybe as the game progresses and we get to the point where turnovers are at a minimum then it might be time to revisit these details.

The conclusion I've come to is that you should have a simple structure that is easy to organize for pulling. I, personally, like setting up on defense with your match ups across from you, and I like placing the coraller in the middle or two corallers on the outside. That's where I'm going to stop for this season.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Tournament 2 - Lesson 3 - Horizontal of love

Everyone loves the horizontal. It's the stack of today, and I think teams are running it in league. It's a fine offensive setup for any team if you keep it tight and have the huck option.

The tricky thing with horizontal is I find it easily breaks down when people start poaching and teams don't recognize the poach or know what to do. So what do you do?

Pictured Above: John Hassel cleaning up a jump ball in the finals at TUF (photo courtesy of Marc Hodges).

First, if you can't seem to solve the poach problem then go to vertical. The funny thing is most people don't know why vertical lost favour with teams to the horizontal, and the vertical stack is a great option in present day against teams who don't know how to defend against it. If you get breaks off the vertical offense can be devastating to the opponent.

If you don't want to go vertical, then you have to punish the poaches. It's not exactly simple because depending on personnel, the reason poaches are happening, in many cases, is the opponent wants the disc in the hands of your weaker players. This means that your weaker players need to position themselves away from the poach in a place where they can hurt the opponent.

This is trickier than it sounds. What I find is that when a poach happens the disc moves to a sideline or a spot where no advantage can be gained. For example, think of the situation when the disc is in the middle of the field and poach comes from the handler on the open side. What normally will happen is that handler will yell "poach" and the disc moves quickly to the sideline in the hopes of getting a huck off. The huck rarely happens and now the disc is on the sideline. Two better options is the poached handler advances up the sideline making the huck easier and getting yards or the poached handler cuts behind the middle of the disc setting up for a break throw. There's a third good option to cut deep when the poach looks away.

Beating a horizontal poach is a team thing, and not only the responsibility of the poached player. When players recognize the situation they should either be setting up cuts based on getting open for the when the poached player gets the disc or clearing a lane to give the poached player a lane to cut.

One other technique to help with poaches is to realize who, defensively, is a good poacher. Then you can move your offensive player into a position that makes it harder to poach (one of the best spots are the two inside lanes in the horizontal stack). This means you're team needs to have the flexibility to move around in different positions, but this simple move might solve your problems.

As a coach you need to recognize as fast as possible who they are poaching or what they are trying to do with their poach. Then decide on a plan of action as soon as possible.


Thursday, May 24, 2007

Tournament 2 - Lesson 2 - One second until look off

There are two type of look offs. There's the look off where I see you're open, but I don't want to throw to you because I don't trust you. There's also the look off where I just received the disc and I've seen you, but I can't decide whether to throw to you or not.

The first look off is in general bad. We've all done it where that poor cutter always gets open but either can't catch or can't throw. They're like a black hole. The reality is if you're going to be playing with this person long term you've got to keep throwing to them. We've all been black holes at one point or another in our careers. Anyways, this post isn't about that type of look off.

Pictured Above: A nice grab at TUF by Rich Stockdale (photo courtesy of Marc Hodges).

I'm more interested in the look off that is really early in the count, the cutter has timed well off your reception and makes a nice cut, and now you have to decide if they are open or not. I find this decision is the toughest one to develop. The decision has to be almost instant.

As you reach higher and higher levels the time in which you have to make this decision gets shorter and shorter. This short time leads to either the appeared look off or even worse the thinking about the throw before catching the disc turnover (which is another classic error that most of us have fallen into one time or another).

How do you learn to make the instant decision. I advocate video games. Video games teach you to react to patterns (both expected and unfamiliar) at faster and faster speeds. With quick decisions you now have to develop the physical Ultimate skills (fakes to setup throws, grip switches, etc.) and then learn the patterns that actually occur in Ultimate when that quick decision has to be made. Unfortunately, the number of opportunities you get in Ultimate to make this decision are surprisingly few.

Other ways of getting more chances to make these decisions might be to simulate quick decisions in practice and use visualization techniques to replay game moments to see what you observed and how you can tell if the decision is right.

In the end, the biggest danger is becoming one of those people that always looks off the first throw so they can make a decision on the next cut (if that ever happens). I would rather you push to make the fast decision correctly (with expected errors) so that your team develops quick disc movement which can be devastating for the defense.


Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Tournament 2 - Does playing one division affect your play in another?

Tournament 2 in my club season was a spectacular long weekend. A group of friends formed the "Magic Alliance" and went to ULW (Ultimate Long Weekend). This tournament is my favourite coed tournament that mixes Ultimate with a game of basketball and a game of volleyball all in the setting of a sports camp with access to great facilities.

Pictured Above: The Magic Alliance preparing for our volleyball game (photo by Lexi Marsh).

My concern with going to a tournament like this is does it affect my play in the Open division. A few years back some of us went to another of my favourite tournaments, Gender Blender, and then returned the following week to practice. We were horrible, and our coach questioned if the fun tournament was a factor in our poor play.

My opinion is a fun tournament should have no affect in your play in another division unless you party too much and suffer physically (which is usually associated with fun tournaments). The key, however, to achieve this is to use the fun weekend as part of your training by trying to improve little things in your game.

For example, play a position that you don't normally play to improve those aspects of your game under new and different situations. Don't play lazy even if your team is dominating or getting crushed. A weekend of Ultimate games at any level will help you get your body tournament ready.

Another benefit of the fun Ultimate weekend is it helps avoid burnout since the pressure of competition is significantly lower and you can enjoy some of your friends that you might not see when playing in other divisions.


Friday, May 18, 2007

Tournament 1 - Lesson 4 - That sweet external voice

Your on the sideline. Maybe you've been benched, or maybe it's not your turn to be on the field. Don't sit in a chair. Get your business done (water, food, pet the dog, etc.) and then get into position to help your team.

How important is being on the sideline? Here's what happened over the weekend.

Pictured Above: More photos of TUF with Mary Erclik getting a throw off a stretching mark (courtesy of Jaleel).

As the point started I was in a handling position. I was called to strike deep, did so, but didn't get open enough (the throwers opinion). I came in as a cutter, made some cuts, and then we turned the disc. No problem, I'm a little tired. We play some hard D for maybe one or two minutes and get a turn. I'm tired. We move the disc very slowly with lots of handler resets. Again, after a few resets and movement I find myself in a the horizontal stack and I'm bagged. My inner voice is saying, "just shift to the outer lane and stand to get some air. Do not cut anyone off on their cuts."

The reality is all four receivers probably had the same voice in their own heads speaking similar words, and then from the sideline I hear Brett Taylor yelling, "Peter keep cutting." I started cutting again, and it wasn't for me, I was cutting for Brett and the team.

"Just get relax or you won't be able to play D," said my inner voice.
"Peter, you're too deep, keep on moving," said Brett.

It was like the two voices were having a conversation, but the knowledge that someone was watching me kept me pushing for hard cuts. Did we score? I can't remember, but after the point I felt good and knew how important that external voice was.

Pictured Above: John Hassel and Dave Jansen looking on the sidelines waiting for the next point to start (photo courtesy of Jaleel).

There are some rules to effective sideline communication, which I'll discuss in the future, but motivational talk truly can have a profound affect on effort.


Thursday, May 17, 2007

Poll Thursday - College nationals champ

Last week the results showed that 44% of us play 4 times a week. There were no 7 dayers (not suprised), but there were a few 6 day players. There's always a few.

This week, the polls are related to the upcoming UPA college series and who will win it all. I've done a poll for both Open and Women division. Pretty simple, not that much hype unless you follow the threads in RSD, but think of it like fantasy.


Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Tournament 1 - Lesson 3 - Winning is only half the battle

Our teams record day one at TUF was 1 win and 2 losses. Both losses came down to Universe points, and in both cases we had a chance to win the game with the disc in our hands (either by a D or catching the pull). After losing, the rest of Saturday you have to swallow your pride and when people ask you how you did, you say 1 and 2. Then you come up with a few excuses to make you feel better.

Pictured Above: John McArton catches a tight one for Tombstone with a Magma defender on his back (photo courtesy of Dave Sheffield)

Well, it turns out that in this case our two losses were the type of character building losses that proved to be the difference on Sunday. Our team had learned that every game is a battle that you can't constantly dig out from holes, and after squeaking into the quarters on differentials we pulled off a Universe point win and a highly contested game (probably the best game of the weekend). This then led to a win in the semis and a win in the finals.

"One tournament day does not make a season"

That's how you get better in this sport. You need to lose, come close to losing, recover from opponent scoring runs, and make scoring runs. While all these ebbs and flows are happening, you need to strive to win (see my book review where I take this concept from and another post on the topic). You need to challenge yourself on an individual basis and find opportunities to play outside your normal set of successful tools. Errors can be frustrating, but successfully pushing your game is worth it. It's not easy, but these are the situations that make you better.

Five teams could have won TUF this weekend, and my team got lucky on the weekend and took a path that both challenged us to the point of throwing in the towel, but resulted in a team with chemistry, heart, and experience (all in six games? maybe I'm pushing it here). This was mainly due to calm and experienced leadership that wasn't panicking (or at least showing it).


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Tournament 1 - Lesson 2 - Good morning To-ron-to

The second thing I noticed this weekend is the challenge with getting the team ready in the morning. As a coach, I've always had a challenge to prepare a team for the first point.

The warm up that Toronto Open teams tend to run is pretty good, and by the end I feel ready to play in terms of not injuring my body. This weekend, we completed our warm up, but three things were missing as we proceeded into the game:

  1. Chemistry
  2. Disc preparedness
  3. Intensity
Now there's not much you can do about chemistry. When going into a tournament with people you haven't played or practiced with for a reasonable period then expect that there will be challenges. There will be miss cues and you won't be able to read exactly what a cutter is doing or going to do. This is fine (almost expected), and with a good team, chemistry will improve over each game.

Disc preparedness is that feeling you have when you know your body and mind are ready to throw and catch in game situations. Sometimes you'll come out into a game and your hands and head just don't feel right. Our teams error was we didn't run any pre-game drills, and we paid for that lack of preparedness with a few easy turns that resulted in an early hole to dig out from. The solution is simple, and run some drills.

The last morning challenge is intensity, and getting team intensity has been a challenge throughout my captaining career. Sometimes it happens and sometimes it doesn't, but I haven't come up with an obvious method to get a team to the right level intensity (cue in - your ideas).

I did, however, use a drill on Sunday morning that I though had a bit of a result. I don't know the name of the drill, but I'm going to call it "Yeomans Dog" after Mike Yeomans who taught Grand Trunk the drill last year (I'm guessing he learned it at UBC).

The diagram above shows the drill run with three people (5,6, and 7). A team would line up behind 5 and 6 so the next pairing could go after the previous pairing has completed their cuts. Player 7 announces "3-2-1-go" as 5 and 6 maintain one hand touching the start cone. After "go" 5 and 6 run to the cone directly ahead of them (cut A). They touch their respective cone and cut back to the starting position (cut B). Both players go around their cone on from the outside in (cut C). Finally, they both run down the center (cut D) and player 7 tries to throw a pass down the center. Both players are battling to catch the disc.

The drill is about teaching players:
  • a disc in the air is anyones disc, so catch it
  • practicing footwork on changing directions
  • how hard you have to cut
This simple drill brings some competition and fun to your pre-game warm up, and hopefully, this brings up the team's intensity. Just mention to the people running the drill not to go too crazy with layouts so nobody gets hurt before your first point.


Monday, May 14, 2007

Tournament 1 - Toronto Ultimate Festival - Steering a fast boat

I was at our first club tournament of the season. Toronto Open split up into 4 teams to continue our tryouts for Goat and Grand Trunk. My team had a great weekend which you can see in the picture below.

One of the best parts of the tournament is to see old faces back in the swing of summer Ultimate. I talked to lots of people on how their team was doing and what was going well and not so well. One theme that I think came up was people giving other people advice - good or bad. So, I'll give a perspective on the topic.

Pictured Above: Goat League Team 1 and our final pose for the weekend (photo from Neil Griffith).

First, let's define some kinds of advice. I define the following:
  • adjustments: identifying what the opponent is doing and responding with a change
  • learning point: discussing what happened and a possibly better reaction to the situation
  • needed change: an action that needs to be done differently
  • nit pick: an action that a player does that another veteran player doesn't like
  • mule beating: telling a person about an error that they obviously know happened
So "nit pick" and "mule beating" are things that a coach shouldn't be doing. They just make people angry and nothing positive comes out of the situation. When someone makes an error you need to get your player past the error and into focusing on the current moment as fast as possible (especially from O to D). Coaches also have to accept that people play a certain way and unless it is causing major team chemistry problems just let them play.

"Needed change" is something a player is doing wrong (based on your opinion) that needs to be addressed. The trick is you can only expect a player to deal with one maybe two changes per tournament and the same thing with practice (different people can take different number of changes). In my experience, behavioral responses to situations are tough to change because when we play we're not in that logical reasoning mind, and instead, we're in that primal responding mind that does what we've previously trained ourselves to do. My advice is keep the changes to a minimal, and for big things like a throwing mechanic just leave it until practice. I'll tell someone what they might want to do with their throws, but I'll finish with, "don't try and change it this tournament".

"Learning points" happen all the time on the field, and coaches can breakdown the situation so people can understand what happened. Again, players can't deal with a huge number of learning points at one time. It's better to explain one or two learning points in a huddle and then leave it at that. One good suggestion from Lisa (a friend of mine) is to discuss a learning point and then take the team through a visualization of that situation so that all the team members can visualize what is actually happening. Take the approach of putting out the biggest fires first, and teach the most important lessons first.

Finally, "adjustments" are the name of the game. On offense and defense you need to read the opponents actions and get the team and individuals responding with a plan that will put your opponent into tough situations and not you. Adjustments can happen in game, during huddles, and on the line. There's no limit to the number of adjustments, just make sure everyone is on the same page.

A good coach will see and give some advice to push the team to a better spot. A bad coach will ride you all day, talk forever, talk about nothing important, and try and make you into an image of themselves. Player's need to play and are like high speed boats; you can steer the boat slightly, but sharp turns end up flipping the thing and in the worst case, fire. Just get on and enjoy the ride coaches.


Friday, May 11, 2007

More Settling - UPA College Regionals

So Open College regionals are finished and the championship are less than three weeks away. Here's a quick summary of the teams and the regions they're coming out of.

South Region
Texas (1)
Kansas (2)
Atlantic Coast Region
Florida (1)
North Carolina (2)
Georgia (3)
New England Region
Brown (1)
Williams (2)
Metro East Region
Delaware (1)
Pittsburgh (2)
Great Lakes Region
Indiana (1)
Ohio State (2)
Central Region
Wisconsin (1)
CUT (2)
Northwest Region
Stanford (1)
Oregon (2)
Southwest Region
Colorado (1)

The general banter and season records make it look like Florida and Wisconsin are going to be battling at the top again with Stanford, North Carolina, and Georgia nipping at their heels. As much as I would love to analyze what will happen the reality is we're still at a point where there is little reporting on Ultimate events.

We're still missing a reporter for every game.


Thursday, May 10, 2007

Poll Thursday - How much Ultimate

Last week we had a fun vote on selecting our favourite division which was gendered by 64% and the best division to develop in which was gendered again by 84%. Interesting how some people find the gendered division better to develop in, but prefer the mixed division. There are many explanations for that and I can think of a few off hand.

This week the topic is how many days a week do you play Ultimate. If you tour and attend more than 5 tournaments you can include both Saturday and Sunday as days of Ultimate. For example, five years ago I use to play Monday league, Tuesday practice, Wednesday league, Thursday practice and Tournaments which totals 6 days. I'm not as crazy as I was back then and I eliminated league.

Create polls and vote for free.

In general, the newer you are to the sport the more days you need to be playing - if you want to improve quickly. League is particularly valuable as an opportunity to be a leader and go-to player on the team. The more game situation touches the better.


Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Crickett Coach?

The World Cup of cricket just finished with Australia taking another World Cup. They dominated pretty well every team they played. In general, Australia has taken an interesting approach to sporting excellence putting in significant funds to generate a strong sporting nation, but that's not what this blog is about...though I find their models for sporting fascinating.

I read an article a while ago about what a Cricket coach is [1]. The main point of the article is describing a coaches broadening role in Cricket team management. Other than the television interviewing aspect of a cricket coach, the Ultimate coach or captain has to take many of these described roles.

Pictured Above: Evan Phillips marked by Andrew Smolak (photo courtesy of Jaleel).

The most important point in the article is, "Typically a coach should be able to solve a player’s problems or, ideally, help a player solve them himself."

The strange thing is I learned this concept about 12 years ago at a basketball coaching clinic, and I forgot this simple lesson for most of the time I've been a coach. Sure, I've indirectly dealt with solving player's problems, but the key indicator that I was not satisfying all their needs was based on one question.

Players always come up to me and ask, "what should I be doing better to improve my game?" This is a complex question that is hard to answer. I was getting annoyed with this question, but no more. Relearning these coaching points has reminded me of what a coaches most important role is.

A simple goal for captains and coaches out there is to help the players on your team achieve their personal goals. You will be surprised how many of your team problems are solved just by striving for this one simple goal.


Monday, May 07, 2007

Tryouts Plus - More lessons learned

We finished the first round of Open tryouts in Toronto. Over two days we had about 90+ guys tryout for three teams. The goal was to have about 60 left as of today, and the developmental players understanding where they are and forming a team that itself might have to make cuts.

We must have sounded like broken records because we kept on stating how high the quality of Ultimate is in the area. Many people might think we're trying to cushion the blow for placing guys on lower teams, but I've seen Toronto's club system unfold for seven years, and the bottom of yesteryear couldn't all throw flicks let alone worry about strategies like todays guys can.

Pictured Above: Anita throwing past a high mark by Sahra (photo courtesy of Jaleel taken by Marc Hodges).

Now that we're moving into phase two of our tryouts I thought I'd pass on some lessons on tryout tactics:
  • Drills are drills. They're good for testing fundamentals, but with over 90 guys you can only watch each person once. Preference is view by scrimmage.
  • Don't participate if you need to pick guys.
  • When watching a scrimmage don't try and watch the entire play. Pick one guy and watch him for the point on both D and O. Even if he doesn't touch the disc you have a good idea of what they're doing. Give the guy some sort of rating after the point and then continue on to the next player of interest or if too short give the same guy another point. Once everyone has been seen, repeat.
  • An error is an error. It should make or break a decision.
  • Day one, keep scrimmages completely mixed; day two, start filtering. Ask people to move to a field with people of equal quality. Gently force these moves, but allow guys who want to challenge themselves to move to a higher field (don't let them stay forever). This idea is taken from UE's coed tryout format.
  • Be honest with everyone. If you can't tell a guy what you think his weakness is then you shouldn't be picking teams. It's tough, but part of the job.
  • Tell guys where they currently stand in your rankings. Keep an open mind and allow those rankings to change. If they want to know the exact spot they're ranked at then tell them. If your thinking of cutting them then tell them why.
We made one excellent move yesterday. To the end of the tryout after filtering teams we talked to the developing guys and told them that they wouldn't make the top 60. This allowed them to see each other and start to become a team right at that point instead of sitting on the other end waiting for details and then trying to get organized by e-mail. I think this will pay big dividends.


Friday, May 04, 2007

Ultimate DVDs - Lessons from Fighting and Football

Hey Folks,

Have you seen the latest Ulti Village DVDs for the Worlds. I watched some of the mixed division where some of my friends participated. That's the only reason I watched, and Peyton was only on the screen for a matter of seconds.

Previously, I've made comments that I don't enjoy watching Ultimate, and my conclusion was that the sport is just boring for the average spectator. People have argued that maybe it's dependent on the knowledge of the rules and game, a few rules need to be changed, or the athletes aren't as good as they should be among other arguments. I've thought about the problem more and I'm convinced there is a vital idea to make spectator Ultimate work from a broadcast point of view.

Pictured Above: A low release flick from Dave Shimoda off a mark by Shane Creamer (photo courtesy of Jaleel taken by Marc Hodges).

Before I go into this topic more, I'm not saying what Ulti Village does is bad. It's actually a huge benefit to the sport having people dedicated to covering Ultimate. I'm just thinking about a better product.

The current state-of-the-art in Ultimate film is coverage of all the divisions in round robin form and through the bracket, and the DVD usually includes a highlight section where all the layouts and big grabs are viewed in a montage with some music. This format makes sense. Maximize coverage of a tournament so you can sell DVDs to each person who went to the tournament. Every other purchase is bonus. It's a good business model, but it can be boring for non-participators.

What other options are there? If you watch any sport on a major cable or sports channel then try this. Sit back, grab the controller, and mute the television. The game being played just isn't as enjoyable as it was with the sound. Why? I would argue the story is not as rich as it is with sound. The two types of sounds that tell the story are the fans reactions and the commentators.

The story is what it is all about, and the better the story the better the product. The only difference between a movie and a sporting event is in the first the story is set and the other is more open and anything can happen. As an aside, the funny thing is people are willing to watch a number of sporting events hoping for those truly great stories to happen. This isn't a time-effective approach, but we seem to believe it is worth it.

Think about watching a fight. If you turn on the television and a fight is on it can be interesting if you're versed in fighting techniques. Otherwise, you need a story. In comes the fighting promoter, and UFC has been the one of the most successful story tellers of recent.

There basic model to sell a pay-per-view event (copied from boxing) is to dedicate an hour to telling the stories about the fighters - UFC countdown. How did they get to this point? What are they doing to get ready? And then they make more of the story by getting each fighter to talk about the other fighter. Then during the event the colour commentator adds to this story. Note that UFC's success is also do to a quality product and effective use of cable productions.

Another company that understands the importance of the story is NFL Films. This company makes films based on NFL seasons, and these films are some of the best sports documentaries based on quality of footage, inside analysis, and strong voice over.

Cable sports look for commentators who can tell a good story during the game. As a youngster, I remember Bill Costas and the stories that were told before a playoff game between the Bulls and their opponents. CBC's Ron MacLean does the same thing for Hockey Night in Canada. In both cases the preamble would make the game more exciting. These were the people who were telling me what other things are happening in the meta-game (not just the actual play by play, but the relationships and troubles that the participants are experiencing).

Even Texas Hold'em has made it's huge move to the mainstream through good storytelling. The secret to their success came when they figured out that they needed to film everybody at the table and had to do two runs of commentating to find the stories.

The playoff structure with seven game series is all about a story. Call them TV miniseries where the story lasts for multiple days, and your friends add to the story with discusiion on the event. The city itself becomes part of the story participating with flags, pub nights, and more.

So, maybe Ultimate is fine as a spectator sport, and I know it's great as a participant sport. We might just need a story to get me interested in what's happening on the television. Where's that golden voice or voices that will sell the product.


Thursday, May 03, 2007

Poll Thursday - Back to the fun

Hey Folks,

So, my blog was syndicated on Ultimate Talk for a while, but recently, I've been pulled. It mostly comes down to that I post too much. There's probably another reason that some of my posts are off topic or too radical (at least that's what the rebel inside me hopes). I prefer the current situation being off syndication. I'm not getting lots of spam, and most of the people who are more interested in what I write are still coming.

I get lots of suggestions on the blog. Some negative, some critical, and some positive. Last week I left out "Poll Thursday" because I had a few comments that it weakened the content of my blog. I tried to put the polls on the sidebar, but the participation was disappointing, so Poll Thursday is back in full force and I'm excited.

I've come to the realization that the only people that matter in this endeavor is my regular readers (about 500 of you - 35% of readers from the Toronto Area, 50% from the U.S.) and me. For my sake I really enjoy your feedback, participation, and votes because it makes it feel like I'm not just typing off into the internet.

Why I write it? There are four reasons:

  1. I like to pass on information and help people (altruism)
  2. I like when people appreciate the blog and being famous - sex, drugs, and blogging ;)
  3. I need to practice writing (see sentence above)
  4. I learn more about the game from thinking and writing about it
Now back to our regularly scheduled Poll Thursday

Last week the poll was about coaching and what is the most challenging thing to coach. I'm surprised to see that 33% of you think the dump is the toughest to teach. It's my favourite thing to teach and drill.

This week's poll is one of those touchy but fun subjects - what's better: gendered or mixed. This is one of those votes that is like picking your computer religion - some like Mac and some like PCs. Don't take the results too seriously.

What is your favourite division?

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Next, what is the best division to improve in (even if you don't like it)?

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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Healthy Arms

Do you ever get that feeling in your arm or elbow where you know you've thrown too much or too hard? I felt a bit sore this morning and thought I would look into baseball's experience in the subject of pitching. Although the pitching motion is very different than a backhand or flick it does have similarities to these throws and is very similar to the hammer. As always, this information is from the internet, and as much as the internet is all knowing read with a critical eye. This is by no means a replacement for seeing a physician or medical professional.

Here are some general concepts I found.

  1. Warm up properly (Resources [1], [2], and [3])
  2. When it hurts, stop throwing.
  3. Your arm only has so many hard throws in it. Building up your muscles will help but only so far.
  4. Mechanics play a huge factor in throwing. The hip and wrist should generate lots of your power in Ultimate.
  5. There are workouts to strengthen your arm for pitching (Resource [1])
From what I read it appears that pitchers have sore arms after training and this is a reality of the sport ([1], [2]). This soreness, however, is not acute pain in specific points in the arm. Acute pain is definitely a concern and needs to be seen by a professional.

Pictured Above: Jaleel Paje marking Derek Sigurdson at a UE scrimmage this weekend (photo courtesy of Jaleel taken by Marc Hodges).

Another similar motion to both the forehand and backhand are in racket sports with, surprisingly, the same name. The major points I've seen in articles with respect to these sports is how to prevent tennis elbow ([1], [2], [3]).

There's actually a tonne of material on elbow and shoulder injuries and there are all sorts of injuries related to different sports ([1]). My suggestion is to give your arms some attention during your warmups and training. Ultimate players tend to focus on their lower body and back, but your arms and hands are key to catching and throwing (arguably two important parts in the game ;).

In my search on this topic I read some other interesting and useful articles from the world of baseball. Here they are:
  • [1] Controlling your nerves in big pitching situations
  • [2] Spring training for pitchers to prepare your arm
  • [3] Pushups for pitchers
  • [4] Pitching pshycology
  • [5] The ulnar nerve
  • [6] Two books I would like to read: Moneyball and Scout's Honor (If you have them and live in the GTA could you lend them to me).
  • [7] Changing a player from fielder to pitcher - sounds like receiver to handler?

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Touring Spirit is Fine - one more touch

Depending where you play spirit means different things. I remember my early days in Ultimate making up songs for the other team. Now we get the "hip hip hoorays" in games or a meet up for beer in the same bar where both teams sit at separate tables. In coed tournaments, I've noticed that the spirit game has become quiet popular, and is probably one of my favourite post game spirit rituals.

Spirit of the game - well it's really good sportsmanship that has to be kept at a high level since our game is self-officiated. It doesn't involve any after game rituals, but these rituals tend to give conflicts during the game a friendly resolution. The best games are those that are competitive and intense with minimal cheating, and to me that's a spirited game.

Pictured Above: A nice grab at a UE scrimmage this past weekend (photo courtesy of Jaleel taken by Marc Hodges).

The post game spirit s a little different in Open - college or club. The game ends with both lines shaking hands like the end of a hockey series (Go Sens). That's about it. I'm fine with this, but I'm proposing one additional end-game tradition that I think will add to the experience.

After the game ends, I think it is both interesting and fun to meet one individual on the opposing team. Find out their name and a little bit more about the city they come from (if you're touring). In other words, the game is over maybe make a new Ultimate acquaintance. Then make an effort to remember their name (write it down if you have to). Next tournament that you see that person acknowledge them and have a brief conversation.

That means six new faces per tournament from cities and towns around your geographic area. It will strengthen the Ultimate community and will broaden your Ultimate perspective. You might even learn something or end up in that town down the road.