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.



Ben said...

What I liked is that you gave space for others to talk, even in key moments. I could tell you had something profound to say before the finals but chose to step back after Lowell perfectly captured the moment. That was one of the most mature captaining decisions I've ever witnessed.

One of the challenges is when someone speaks up but the team tunes him out (usually because he is always speaking) even if he is saying something useful. How do you tackle voices that are more disruptive than helpful?

Taylor said...

I especially liked the timing of the time out calls. Great way to break it up and let us keep rolling on D. 7 point run baby!