Saturday, October 27, 2007

Day 3 - All said and done except the watching

Day 3 started off with excitement for some and disappointment for others. We were fortunate to be in the excitement group come our quarterfinals against Chain Lightning. Clapham ruined our last chance to meet Chain Lightning at Chesapeake, but Chain was ready for a battle.

Pictured Above: Our first hand shake against Johny Bravo.

The game started out like many of the games we had this season. Goat went up on O and found some early D breaks to take command over the game. Chain, quickly, reversed our fortunes and took a significant lead, but we closed the half to be only down 7-8. Familiar territory for us, and we felt good about the second half. Chain had different plans and kept their lead for a while. We tied things up at 11-11, and the compound began to close in onto our game. It was the only quarters left in the Open division, and it was a barn burner.

Once again I watched a series of calls and looks at observers as our game continues to head to a refereed sport. In the end, Goat came out on top, and we were thrilled to move onto the semis and a rematch against Johny Bravo.

We took a short break after a long quarters and went into the game against Bravo pumped for another win. The game started out with a point for us, but after missing some key defenses break we found ourselves in a 6-3 deficit. It looked to like we still weren't ready for the pace of Bravo's game, but our break adjustments were paying off and slowing down Bravo's offense. Our D fought hard and closed the game to be only down 8-7 at the half. I had one point in this game in the first half and ran my heart out trying to shake Chicken (#10 on Bravo), and just barely getting away from him for seconds.

The half started out well for Bravo. They got their O point and then broke our O. Things got a little hairy, and not for some good plays on both sides Bravo finally ended the Goat's run into the playoffs.

What a run! And then I find out that there is free beer. I'm glad I didn't learn this any of the other days, or it might have been trouble. Four plus Budweisers later I headed over to the Jam and Sockeye semis with Morris, Nirk, and YMC. The game was tight and I got into the announcing and heckling quickly.

Their semis was a little more exciting than ours. Jam came from behind to tie the game up 14-14. A few less than worthy open side travel calls (in my drunken mind) and some turns let Sockeye close out the game.

One more day of big time ultimate, but now I'll just be watching. To the party.


Friday, October 26, 2007

Day 2 - More of the tough stuff

Day 2 at UPA championships was similar to the first. Two good games of ultimate, a little rain, and some real excitement.

Pictured Above: The Goat in the huddle. Photo taken by Lisa Di Diodato.

The day started off early in the morning with all teams arriving at least an hour before game time. We were treated to abbreviated versions of the National anthems on the harmonica and headed into our first game against Johny Bravo.

Instead of the early shell shock against Jam, we were now ready for the fast pace of elite ultimate. Goat started out trading points and had the potential, two times, to go up on the up wind break. Alas, fortune was not with us, and after the half in a matter of seconds we were down multiple up and down wind breaks. The break force was our enemy once again, and Bravo took the game as they deserved.

I had the opportunity to play the end of the Bravo game, but came out cold and was shell shocked on my first point. I watched a beauty D by one of the Bravo players that I, clearly, could have attacked if I was more focused on the game. Simple lesson - be ready at any point.

On the opposite field, Condors had gone up big during the half against Jam, but Jam came back and took the game from the Condors grasp. This meant it would be Goat vs. Condors for the ticket to the quarters avoiding the play in pre quarters.

Our game against Condors started off perfect. We went up a break early, but the Condors weren't going to let us run ahead, and they broke back twice to take the reigns of the game. We, however, didn't fall into a funk, and used our previous lessons from Jam and Bravo to fight our way back into the game. We broke back, and played tight defense to push forward and finally, command the game. We controlled the rest of the game and won it to push us into the quarters. Next on the list - Chain in the quarters.

Having won our key power pool game we had the rest of the day off. This time was spent watching the play ins. All over the complex the tournament raised it's feel to another notch. most of Goat watched the Capitals vs. Safari and Boston vs. Ring of Fire. I also wandered to watch a few points from a Masters quarters between Dog and Old Sag, and caught a few points from Truck Stop and Condors. In general, the games were true battles with applause and boos emerging from all over the complex. You just can't capture that on film.

Great job by the Capitals in recovering from a deficit to pull out a big win in the pre-quarters. We didn't stay for the glory due to a lightning break.

Day 2 was brilliant. Now on to day 3.


Thursday, October 25, 2007

Day 1 - And so it begins

The legends are true. The UPA championships is an amazing tournament. Here's how I saw it in day one.

Pictured Above: Our warm up on day one. Photo taken by Lisa Di Diodato.

Unfortunately, I somehow lost my recap of the day on the interweb, but it was a good start for Goat. I'd sum up our loss to not understanding the pace at which the game is played at the elite level. Lesson partially learned...see day 2.


Monday, October 22, 2007

The Show - Preview

I've really got nothing to say except I'm bursting with anticipation and excitement for the UPA championships this coming weekend.

There are all sorts of predictions in the Open division:

It's all theory, but the previews add hype to our sport. Personally, I've had a great little stint of Ultimate and my confidence is high for both my game and our teams.

If you want to keep posted on the scores, then checkout:
I'll also try and get some photos and write ups over the progress of the tournament. We got the big lens courtesy of Neil Griffith.


Thursday, October 18, 2007

G7's masterpiece

On Torontula, we have G7, which stands for the group of seven. These are the seven bottom guys on the team roster, and our goal is to get them out on the field in as many situations as possible so they can work on their games without relying on veterans to control the game flow. Also, our team gets huge benefits for resting our upper half.

Pictured Above: Some of the finals action at CUUC'07 (photo courtesy of Kirsten Taylor).

G7 stands for "The Group of Seven", which links back to a famous group of Canadian artists in the 1920's.

G7 this year was the best G7 Torontula has had in a long time. For example, last year it took one tournament and a half (Easterns and Nationals) before G7 started to click and score as a line. This year, G7 went on a scoring streak from the start of Easterns until a few games into the tournament. Our talk on the sideline was questioning if our team was better than last years, and we always concluded that G7 was definitely better, which meant we were probably better.

Another aspect of G7 is these guys take the roll as an important opportunity to get better. They understand that G7 is a place where arguably the most growth will happen. It's the same as opportunities like captaining a B-team or even being shipped to the B-team for more opportunity as a lead player instead of a low bench player on a top end team.

Unfortunately, in the finals, we were 1 point away from putting G7 onto the field, but UBC made a run at just the right moment. It was still a pleasure to watch G7 perform at the best I've seen them perform all year. They're also the reason we were so well rested for the playoffs.


Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Oratoraly on fire

One of the biggest challenges for a captain is the little speeches and adjustments that need to be made before the game, at each team timeout, at half-time, and after the game. This past weekend I felt that I had a string of good speeches and tactics.

The cost of coming up with good speeches is that you might not sleep well the night before, and you constantly have to be thinking about the game. The benefit is...well you can't really quantify the benefits with intangibles like a good speech, but a bad captain will take you places you don't want to be.

Pictured Above: Torontula at CUUC. Thanks again to the teams and tournament organizers for a great weekend.

A few highlight points that I came up with over the weekend were:
  • Focusing on the game at your level - in the past I've talked to people about breaking a game of Ultimate into small pieces and focusing on those pieces. I stick by this logic and apply it to my own game. This weekend, however, I added one additional component to the concept and that is focusing on the game at the level you are at. This means that some players need to focus only on catches and throws, more experienced players need to focus on clearing cuts and spacing, and veterans need to focus all of these while focusing on the bigger picture of the game and how other players are fitting into their game.
  • Pacing the game to our comfort level - this is a classic sport concept where you need to control the game pace and style. The key way we achieved control over the game was using our timeouts throughout the tournament the way we wanted to use them. Most, if not all, of our timeouts were taken after we scored a point. This isn't always possible, but I felt that we kept the pace of the game and never shifted momentum in the opponents favor.
  • Humor bullets - there's a lot of pressure on a team to perform. In college, you have lots of guys on your team who have never played in big games, and they're worried that they'll disappoint their team. Even the veterans feel the pressure to not let the team down in the big situations. In both cases, the pressure is a negative factor that may hurt the team's performance. To counter the pressure, we use humor, and last weekend, I had a number of funny comments mixed into my speeches. I felt those comments, when not used to excess, relaxed the team and put us in the right place to play great ultimate.
  • Taking the blame - sometime the team doesn't perform as expected, and you can put blame on specific situations that occurred in the game. We had a situation like this last weekend, but instead of breaking down the problem, I deflected the blame to the big picture decisions I made during the game. This was a partial truth, but it was all the team needed to hear at the time.
That's just a sample of a few things we did well this weekend. A captain/coach needs to build up their toolbox full of these little ideas. Each tool, however, has to be used naturally and sincerely.


Tuesday, October 16, 2007

College Tournament 4 - Observation 1 - Class

I'm a little hazy from this past weekend in Vancouver at Canadian Uni Nationals with lots of Ultimate, partying, and the red eye flight home. The weekend was a spectacular event with more laughs than one can imagine. This was all made a little easier since we took the title for the second year in a row, but I felt, for the most part that this tournament was special for a lot of people. The weather and tournament were spectacular, and other than a poor choice in hotel rooms (that's the last one Ben) the weekend had it all.
Pictured Above: Not a Nationals shot, but TUBA (Torontula B) down in Cleveland preparing for the future (photo courtesy of Sticks).

Normally, I'm of the opinion that Canadian teams should completely convert to joining the UPA season and forget about CUPA and the like. This weekend I started to see some of the value of our own national series. The value is these tournaments are competitive and challenging with all the excitement that sports has, but at the same time the games (even with their brief tense moments) were classy and felt like a reunion.

The guys from "The red university that shall not be named" captured it best when they came and congratulated us on our final win, and then joked about razing us all game about the Leafs. It was all good fun and good entertainment. The finals had good booing like any non-partisan crowd should provide with two of the boos being from calls I made; we countered with more cowbell, some parents, and a group of loved ladies, which make any game a pleasure. I've actually never been booed before or called a female body part by a fan in the crowd, but I enjoyed it. The booing was good too, because it really made me question if I believed in the calls I had made.

The classiness went beyond the finals. In each of our games, each team we played was fun to compete against. We traded jersey color with some guys from Quebec (who still can't be named) over a phone call back to Toronto to a mutual friend. We had a spirited finish to our quarters against Saskatchewan in a game of face and battling over who had the better back flipper. Alberta, Mac, and the C-birds played good games with what I feel only had one bad call over all 5 games - very classy. The observers, for the most part, were simply observing our games.

Overall the two words of the weekend were "Epic" and "Legendary". Those two words go beyond our own team. I'm not sold on living in the city of Vancouver with it's lack of snow and abundance of Police who caught us red handed a number of times, but the Ultimate players and their hospitality make it an easy decision to visit the city again for more Ultimate.

In the end, I left/lost my GT #12 hat in the city. Let's hope the next owner of that hat experiences classy Ultimate like I just did. Also, I hope people enjoyed meeting Jeters on Sunday night. That guy rarely makes appearances these days, and some day I hope to meet him. The stories sounded interesting.


Thursday, October 11, 2007

Poll Thursday - Water bottle choice

I use a Nalgene on the sideline like the vast majority of Ultimate players. This weekend, one of my ride companions, Pam, was commenting that she couldn't bring her glass water bottle onto the polo fields for the safety of the horses.

News stories have warned of the danger of plastics as they release chemicals into the water. Glass and aluminum seem to be safer options.

Just a simple poll this week. What is your favourite type of water bottle? Poll is to the right.


Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Tournament 14 - Lesson 2 - Sweep, Sweep, Sweep that tunnel away

We've all seen it before in a game. Player Z with the disc looks upfield and sees an open cutter. They throw the disc to be thwarted by player X who creeps into the lane and blocks the throw. The poach wins again.

This play happened to both Boston and Goat in the final game at Regionals, and in both cases they were monumental in terms of momentum swings for each team. So how do you prevent this from happening?

First off, lets discuss a little about the eye and your brain in terms of what you see. Many players believe that their peripheral vision is good enough to handle seeing the field and avoiding the poach. First off, you should know that much of your peripheral vision computing is built for detecting movement and not details. Some of the sensory information from the periphery is not actually there and is drawn in by the brain. This is exemplified with an actual blind spot due to your optical nerve. You can go experiment with your blind spot here to understand that it exists and where it is.

Basically, your eyes are great sensory devices, but you can't rely on a single point of view as a true picture of field reality. This leads me to the concept of eye sweeping. You need to constantly be moving your eyes and making calculations instead of focusing on a sole receiving objective. This can be tricky, and the reality is at higher levels in Ultimate the game speeds up and you need to speed up your game calculations and decisions accordingly. This is one of my favourite arguments for training with video games in parallel with playing high quality ultimate.

The conclusion is simple and obvious. The more information you have, the better your decision will be. Keep the eyes moving and train your peripheral to detect movement. Zoning in or tunnel vision rarely results in a benefit when simple and quick team disc movement are in many cases a far better option that will avoid the poach. Finally, don't forget the fake as a tool to cause movement and activate your periphery vision.


Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Tournament 14 - Lesson 1 - Observers, the new parent

UPA Regionals came to a conclusion in all divisions over the weekend. I've always loved the energy a regionals or sectionals has in comparison to average tournaments. I'm one of the fortunate ones to be heading to Florida to participate in the big show.

With a quick look around RSD you can view various rants on field quality, cheaters, bad tournament formats, Canadians and their lack of historical knowledge, and cleaning cleats in a hotel pool. That makes for an unproductive Tuesday morning, and I'll continue with my own rant.

For both our finals against Boston and the 2/3 game against PoNY, we had observers during the games. I've argued before that observers should let the flow of the game go and leave the power trip out of observing (envision the mad dash onto the field to call a glorious offside). The four observers we had this weekend were excellent in this regard and let the play go. Sure, one of them made a minor error on not calling an automatic offside, but after a short talk with him we acknowledged the error and let it go.

No, my rant is not with the observers, but it's with many of the players and their use of the observers. Essentially, the observer was no longer an observer, he was a referee/parent. Infraction discussions were essentially eliminated (or kept very brief) and both players would rapidly go to the observer for a call like young kids constantly calling on Mom or Dad to deal with a situation.

It just doesn't seem right. I think we should default to the rules and deal with the game as if no observer were there. When a game goes on without observers, in many cases, the ruling goes to the offensive team maintaining possession and the disc goes back and play is reset. Over a game the good calls and bad calls tend to balance, and the crowd can enjoy some good arguments. This is the game I like.

And what about using the observer to call the infraction. I've been a basketball referee for many years, and I've watched a range of sports and yelled at the TV for all sorts of infractions. I consider myself to have a good eye when it comes to picking out an infraction. If I was an observer and someone was throwing what should I watch for? The details of the release and potential foul or the movement of the pivot foot? Can I view both with my peripheral? What about listening for the count, the pick, and other calls?

In other words, I think we play a that is fuzzy in terms of infractions and is best left for self officiating. We've created a set of rules that deal with this fuzziness and allow for the play to be reset. The rules and game work pretty well together favouring the offense and leading team in some cases. Introducing the parent/observer attempts to have clear decisive rulings just doesn't seem to work. I found the number of bad calls made by observers to match or be even greater than if we didn't have them.

The observer is great for keeping the tempo of the game, watching for boundaries, keeping track of the details like time and score, and giving a watchful and deterring eye over the game. Their presence seems necessary to some degree, but as a sport we should train the participants on how to use them to maintain the flow of the game.


Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Blog versus Spy

When I go on Google Analytics, a hit tracking web application, I notice the increased number of hits from cities of teams that we'll be competing against this weekend. I've made an effort not to speculate or report too much on our teams status for regionals. Not that I think I'll reveal some key secret, but why risk playing around with team and individual psychology when there's no need to.

Are there team risks with a member of your team regularly posting on the blog-o-sphere or even RSD, and should each team have a policy on what there teammate can and can't reveal or discuss? A similar topic of discussion can be viewed here. Both interesting questions, especially for a sport that lacks media attention and the majority of the information is passed online by those who participate in the bigger events.

First off, I guess we need to question what information could a person reveal that would cause an impact. The play book, if a team has one, is obviously a private piece of information that has some value, but without an audible indicator it is hard to guess (though certain cuts become obvious) what a team will do even if you know the possible plays they run from a set stack. Knowing a team's philosophy in terms of what they want to on defense and how they're going to counter your particular style of play might give you insight on how to throw back a curve ball or break down their defense. However, with any sort of scouting, all this information should be available or inferable if you're willing to take the time.

I'm somewhat convinced that even if a person had access to all the personal communications that go on in a team, the benefit would be small. This, however, does not mean that a team should simply give away that small benefit. We play a game of slight advantages, and the closer you get to the top, the games get much tighter in terms of what a small advantage can do.

This brings us to team policies for external communication. Initially, you have to trust your teammates and expect that they won't give away an advantage, and expect that it's an unwritten rule that the team secrets are...secrets. If you sense that too much information is getting out, than maybe a captain or coach needs to step in and deal with the situation.

Finally, what if one of your captains is the one writing on the web? Similar rules apply, and only when it's a perceived problem should someone mention it.

So, what about speculation as opposed to information dissemination? This ones a little trickier. Should you be speculating on how your team will perform in a particular tournament? Personally, I can't see how speculation could influence performance, but that's for me. From what I've discussed with other people, speculation can cause some strange things to happen in people's minds. It's another one of those grey areas that doesn't seem to be a factor, but for the sake of the team, it might be better to avoid speculation and not to risk anything.


Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Sex, Drugs, and Ultimate

Actually, forget about the sex. We can argue whether it's a sport enhancer or not later, but let's look at the drugs and two recent things I came across.

On my latest look at the WFDF site I noticed the Antidoping section. Immediately, I started thinking will players going to worlds be tested for drugs? Our sport and some of our complaints of being on the fringe of athletics, and we get included in the antidoping regime. I can't say I have any trouble with this, and one side of me hopes that we're all clean, but the mischievous side wonders what the first drug scandal in Ultimate will rock the world (or at least RSD for maybe a week).

Pictured Above: Torontula Ladies (all tested clean) warming up at Canadian Easterns in Ottawa (photo courtesy of Lexi Marsh).

My roommate, Peyton, subscribes to a magazine called ODE, and in the most recent issue there's an article about the hypocrisy of normal people and the sensationalism of drugs in sport. Basically, the article is saying that many people use harmful drugs in their daily lives for various reasons, and why they point such an accusing finger at athletes who use drugs to enhance performance.

For this weekend, I've collected my insulin, ibuprofen, sugar free Red Bull, and diet Pepsi. I'll be playing at regionals with a range of legal drugs coursing through my veins. Have I crossed a line? Have we as a sport crossed a line where we speak of vitamin I (ibuprofen) or Red Bull as a necessity for many of us to compete. I wonder if there are some in Ultimate who have gone to the other side of the line using even more dangerous substances like steroids and the like. Where as a sport should we stand on these issues?


Monday, October 01, 2007

Playing fans can't gamble

I've discussed one of the strange aspects of our sport where most of the team coaches are also players on the team. It's actually the same with the fans. Most fans of the sport are the people who play higher level ultimate.

Previously, I've talked about how I think fantasy like the many thousands of fantasy leagues would allow the fan to be more active in the sport. What about gambling, and what about gambling in a self officiated game? Would gambling cause more people to watch the sport like horse racing?

My immediate reaction to the idea is it's a bad idea that can only lead to trouble, and for the most part betting on individual games would be bad with the ease of game fixing games (especially without refs). It's hard enough for an individual to play fair with only the desire to win pushing on our ethics button, but now imagine cash being involved.

I still think the gambling link could be established and prove to bring more attention to the game from outsiders if you mix gambling with fantasy sport. In most cases, fantasy sports is either player pick based or multi team pick based. Picking the bracket, like the NCAA March Madness, on a per tournament basis would be fun and would make it very challenging to actually fix (as long as the people taking the bets were controlled).

The other advantage is that we the players could also bet on the outcome in a bracket form since there would be very little conflict of interest.

Well, after this weekend, more than half of the Open teams have been determined for Nationals and half of the Women's teams. A discussion on RSD is questioning why back door teams keep on losing. Talk is in the air as things continue to heat up on the path to Florida.