Monday, November 12, 2007

Tournament 16 - Realization 1 - I've turned that corner

My first sporting love was basketball. I played elementary and high school ball as one of the best players in our area, and over 7 years I climbed to a competitive level where I was able to hold my own on many courts. I got red shirted in University and decided at that point to party and study instead of pursuing University basketball.

Pictured Above: Kim Yae of Torontula at Bowling Green where the women won the championship (picture from Sarah Hutchison)

The interesting thing was I could no longer play "for fun" basketball. As a player I couldn't handle bad fundamentals, bad understanding of the game, and lack of practice. I could only play competitive pickup or division one intramurals. I retired from basketball in 2001 and have never looked back except a mild interest in March madness, the occasional fantasy pool or game of bump.

This weekend we played a fun Ultimate tournament in Guelph called GUT rot. Our team was a collection of good players that, unfortunately, did not click until our final game. I realized over the tournament that I've turned the same corner in Ultimate that I did in basketball, and I don't really enjoy playing on a team that isn't practicing together and working to get better.

I have known this for a few years, and I've slowly cut out what I call the learning levels of Ultimate such as summer and winter league and local coed tournaments. This weekend showed me that I need to change my mindset if I'm going to play in "for fun" tournaments anymore. It's sad because those were the tournaments where I met all the great people in the game and had the opportunity to throw the throws that you need to learn for the bigger games. It is also sad since it is a sign that once my body and mind get to the point where they don't want to compete anymore, I'll have to find a new sport and only coach Ultimate.

My lowest point of the weekend was when I realized I was getting frustrated with players who were trying out the bigger and more challenging throws in the game. I was more concerned with winning then letting people grow. How can these players learn to make the right decisions if they're not allowed to test out different situations. Overall, I had a fun weekend with fun people. I'll need to rethink my approach to playing in these types of tournaments and come in with a mindset of teaching and having fun.



dusty.rhodes said...

Great mental goal:

Be good enough a player to win while letting your young/worse players make their errors.

That is, try to make yourself "The Man" on a team like that. Not in the sense that you make every play, but every time that a big play needs to be made, you make it. On D, on O, whatever. This'll give you a challenge that you wouldn't necessarily get anywhere else.

Try to figure out what type of player you need to be to make the team you've got win, not the team you wish you had. Try to be in control of the game enough that you can affect the game at every critical juncture.

You need to be aware of which junctures are critical, be on point enough to make the big play and be calm and confident enough to do it while knowing that the team is relying on YOU to do it.

There is so much more to work on in ultimate!!! I love it.

Sticks said...

I can say the same thing about tennis. I remember the fun of getting better and better, and then the fun going away when I knew that when I played against most people I'd have to restrain the way I played. It loses it's fun when you have to pull back on serves, smashes, etc.

A good thing to do is take a break for a little while, play another sport and then come back to the first. You'll be surprised how rusty you are and the fun is getting back to where you were. I suppose some people would find it frustrating, but I find it funny because the mistakes you make bring you back down to a level where you can enjoy a good game against a not-so-good opponent.

Go back and see how many three pointers you can sink now!

Just take a break if you have to.

Taylor said...

Dusty: At first I thought I disagreed with you. I thought how could you play your hardest without taking over the game? But I guess you can play as hard as you can without taking on the dominant role on the team. This is something I'd like to try. Yesterday was the intramural finals here at U of T and I found myself doing the exact opposite. I wasn't giving my all and was trying to fill all the roles. Success? Certainly not!

honeyhands said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
honeyhands said...

See Taylor, I trusted my team so much I didn't even show up to the game and we won :P

Sometimes the hardest part of winning is letting go. Naturally my team was prepared to win by watching my dominant yet devil-may-care attitude on the field.

Seriously though, while it is important to be able to step in and control the momentum of a game, I think there's a huge amount of mental training that can be done trying to make the best decisions in breakdown situations. Playing at a lower tier can help or hurt in this process, depending on how disciplined you're prepared to be. If you take the game lightly but your play seriously, that's an optimal situation- you can't be attached to the outcome when there's a lot of inconsistency on the team, but you can be focused on your own performance. The danger is that in an alpha player position it's easy to get really really lazy- there's no accountability. So the real training is in controlling your own focus rather than in the match up in a lower tier game.

In real life there are dominant players called leaders, but there are many types of leadership. Sometimes leadership can be demonstrated by role players, doing the basics when others are losing their heads. The team IQ is one of the hardest things to develop in ultimate because you can't practice it on your own- a situation you're not comfortable with can be a great chance to train up on that wisdom. I take Pete's point that it's hard to develop a team IQ in a short period of time, but what if it isn't impossible? Strong communication, simple points, and following through on the field can have immediate impacts.

Happy Camper said...

I must say that I really have never understood this argument.

If you love to play the sport, then you love the sport – regardless of level. Now I may not have reached the exalted level in Ultimate that diminishes lower level play as something that is no longer enjoyable, but I did in hockey. Despite that, I never turned down an opportunity to play with some friends, even though they were often at lower levels than I was… I just enjoyed the game and their company and that was what mattered. Did I sometimes get frustrated, sure… but wanting to win and having to win are two different things. It is easy enough to switch gears and play all out but try to change the goals slightly (in hockey, set up your buddy for key scoring chances) to create ‘personal wins’ for you and fun for your teammates.

Now age and time commitments limit my ability to play whenever I would like to but barring conflict, I would still rather go out and play crappy Ultimate or Hockey than not play at all.

The other argument that came up this summer that I found interesting is when I was organizing Fossil for Canadian Masters. A couple of players indicated that they had played “at the highest level of open, why would they play Masters”. Of course, they eventually did manage to make time for Tombstone so maybe their argument was a bunch of bs… but still.

I play hockey in a league with Gilmour, Lindros and a few other retired NHL pros. The level is nothing exciting but they still play because they love the sport, the camaraderie and playing is better than sitting on the couch.

If a player cannot find some form of enjoyment in playing the sport at a lower level, I would argue that the player does not truly love the sport itself but loves the competition.

Jeters said...

One thing to add to the argument is that Ultimate requires two people to complete a play. As much as you would like to be the man and just love playing, without someone else it can be very difficult.

I guess I'm more for practicing and playing then just pickup. I enjoy the team aspects over just simply playing the game.


P.S. That deleted comment thing was not by me. I don't delete any comments.

dusty.rhodes said...

It's not about playing hard without taking over, it is about taking over in a more subtle way. What do your teammates need to hear to succeed? What situations do they need to be in? How can you get them there? What role do you need to play on offense? Facilitator? Distributor? Always-open cutter? How can you set yourself up to get Ds after particularly bad turnovers (either yours or your teammates)? What matchups can you set up so that your players get Ds? Do your players need someone to reel in errant hucks? someone to provide an easy reset? Where are their weaknesses and how can you cover up for them? How can you demand more from them while maintaining a fun attitude? how can you be good enough to let their inevitable mistakes happen and then get your teammate's back? How can you orchestrate the offense such that when you're within 20 yards or so, you score? Challenge yourslef to be the leader. Not int he sense of your play, but in the sense of stepping up and being in charge. How can you hurdle those mental barriers? How can you learn to be a positive impact on your teammates even when they are constantly messing up (This is valuable at all levels of the game, you know!)

Another path: Look at yourself as a player and determine what you greatest weakness is on O and your greatest weakness on D, now spend the whole weekend getting better at that. You won't be so frustrated with your teammates when you're fucking up with them.

"Take the game lightly, but your play seriously"

That's a fantastic mindset.

The Pulse said...

My difficulties come with exactly that phrase. I can either play seriously and take the game seriously or play lightly and take the game lightly. This is also part of the reason that I just hate playing teams that are much worse than mine and pickup, summer league, etc.

Sure, I'll play at Jazzfest or Wildwood or Prospect Park pickup, but if the rest of my team doesn't have the same fire to win that I do, either I become the asshole who has to win or I just shut down and play relaxed and lazy and "fun".