Friday, March 28, 2008

Tournament 3 - Observation two - Organization brilliance for the most part

I was impressed by much of Paganello. I would argue it's not really an Ultimate tournament; it's a disc event that includes a tournament.

Pictured Above: Rocky Beach of SeXXXpensive looks to throw against the eventual winners Scandal in pink (photo courtesy of Anatoly Vasilyev)

Here are a few things that I thought were excellent organization elements of a tournament that might be added to other tournaments. Of course they're not all doable, but here's a list:
  • A PA system announces the 5 minutes to game time, 1 minute to game time, game time, 5 minutes left, and the game over. These announcements are accompanied with theme music. The music was not too loud to be distracting, which other tournaments have done because the sound system is located in one single point.
  • At the tournament you buy some tickets which you can exchange for food, drinks, beer, etc. Much better than having to cart around money, and they had a happy hour during the day.
  • The tournament printed out a little news letter each day. On that sheet it included a schedule for the day as well as articles about events from the past day.
  • Members on your team get SMS text messages for the time and field of your morning games. This one should be implemented for all tournaments in the future that don't have preset schedules and you know where you are seeded.
  • Every team plays on one of the two showcase fields at some point of the tournament.
  • There were different tournament packages to be purchased where they set you up with a hotel room depending to suit your spending.
I didn't like everything with the tournament, but they're lesser complaints and not so much about organization.
  • I was disappointed that you had to fight for the fish on the first night. I had two chunks which I thought were great.
  • I didn't like playing in sand. Sure you can layout, but I hurt my back and tweaked both my knees due to the unstable ground.
  • I would have preferred a quick flurry of games as opposed to having games spread out through the day.
All in all, it was an experience that I suggest each player makes an effort to see at least once.


Thursday, March 27, 2008

Poll Thursday - Winning the party

Last weeks poll was odds on Wisconsin not taking the gold in the college open series. Our gamblers, with their imaginary money, bet high. Maybe it's a good bet based on Wisconsin's two losses at Centex last weekend to Florida and Michigan. Also, I'm glad to see a team out of the Great Lakes region making some noise (even if they're a rival).

This week's poll flips from the serious to the fun. It's a question about winning the party. At Paganello this year, I extended my party+play streak from a previous record of 31 hours at last years Gender Blender to 43 hours at Paganello. The question is does staying up the longest mean you win the party (poll right)? Just so you know there were two other contenders that I know of. My roommate James held out for a while, but took a 20 minute nap, and a guy named Kim was my saviour, buying me a cappuccino before I had to head out to my 8:30 game after the first 24 hours. I, currently, have no report on if Kim went to bed.


Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Tournament 3 - Observation One - I'm still alive

This morning I described Paganello to some friends as the equivalent of two Gender Blenders packed together plus a little more. In other words, Paganello is a party tournament like none I've ever been to, and the ultimate is solid too.
I've told many people that this tournament is the only one I really knew about coming from North America (other than the European championships). In this post I'll give you a little flavor of the tournament. For a more visual perspective checkout Blockstack TV.It starts with an arrival in Rimini, and for me, a walk from the train station to my hotel. A brief unpacking and I'm at the first party on the beach. Wine, fish, and pasta are served. Next thing I know there's some medieval story being played out behind me with actors mounted on stilts. Then, for the first time in my ultimate career (other than Jazzfest which is on Canada day) we get to watch a fireworks display. For those interested, Italian (I think) rap music blares in the Arena (the big circus tent). That's night one, and night one was tame in comparison.
On Friday morning, games start. There are three 35 minute games spread out with two hour breaks in which you can eat, watch various demonstrations, catch the freestyle competition, or go back to your hotel and catch a much needed nap. If you think 35 minutes is too little, your wrong. On the Friday night, teams start off at a number of bars and restaurants spread around the beach strip and then congregate at the Arena to dance. Apparently, the live band is spectacular. I wasn't with full wits, but thought the DJ (which was actually the live band) was great.
Saturday involves another three games with the same format. At night, teams head out for Italian meals or more bar time before heading out to a local club for the third party of the night. I thought I would take it easy that night and instead went to our team, Mr. Twister's bar of choice - The Barge. From my sources, the party had an excellent one to two hour techno set with lasers, smoke, and the works. My casual night finished off at 2 or 3 in the morning.
More games on Sunday morning as teams begin to position themselves for cross-overs, quarters, and semis in their brackets. That night the big party happens. Surprisingly, we start at the Barge after eating and preparing your costume. From the barge you head to the tent, where many (80%) of the players are dressed up. I saw smurfs, a time pilot, multiple sheep, Elvises, Marilyns, Mr. Incredibles, Vikings, and more. The DJs rock the house until late (maybe 5am). Then to the Barge until sunset. At this point, sleep is probably a waste, and some of us head to our morning games without sleep.
Monday games for the lesser teams are early so that everyone can congregate for the three finals. The tournament cast watches the cream of the crop battle it out for beach champion. Back to the Arena for awards and then off to the Barge for the final party. The final party is no less intense than the preceding four.
Tuesday is heading home day. A simple tip is leave yourself lots of time since you might not be moving as fast as you would hope. Return home and ask yourself what you just did. Contemplate if you'll do it again next year, but at least, you lived a little.


Wednesday, March 19, 2008

This weekend Paganello - Go to list has one less

I'm off to Rimini beach this weekend for the beach tournament they call Paganello. I'll be playing with Mr. Twister in what should be a great Easter weekend.

Pictured Above: A GB masters player (who I might have been covering on this point) focuses on the catch (photo courtesy of Mathias Karady a.k.a. MadK).

With my participation in this tournament, my list of "have to do tournaments" has one more strike (or greying). The list is:
  • UPA Championships - Amazing ... the promised land
  • Canadian Nationals - Meeting of Canadian Ultimate
  • Gender Blender - Unbelievable Friday night (the Las Vegas of Ultimate)
  • Chicago Heavyweights - Teams as far as the eyes can see and the coolest trophy in Ultimate
  • Jazzfest - Montreal is an amazing good time
  • Boston Invitational - This first tournament that I felt was truly big in Ultimate
  • Chesepeake - Crabs are amazing
  • Paganello - The beach legend
  • Emerald City Classic - The premier invitational tournament in the world
  • Colorado Cup - The number 2 invitational tournament
  • Clambake - Legendary tournament that I've always wanted to go to. I love seafood
  • Poultry days - Big tournament with chicken
  • Potlatch - Another legendary tournament
  • Trouble in Vegas - I've never been to Vegas. Mix that with Ultimate
  • Burla - The beach's unknown legend
I'm not sure I'll get a chance to get to all these tournaments, but at least it leaves tournaments to look forward to. Are there any other must do tournaments on your list?

Happy Easter,

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Tournament 2 - Opinion 1 - More of the double edged sword

This weekend was another weather disaster in my Ultimate books. It reminded me of Goosebowl 2006 in Kingston, Ontario. It was wet, windy and cold, but it wasn't as cold as Kingston...close. With a stiff wind and destroyed fields (like CUUC 05 in Montreal where we destroyed the fields), Tour 0 in the U.K. was another tough weekend. That with a sprained slight ankle from a guy laying out on my leg made the Ultimate tough. I'm, however, reasonably happy with the experience.

Pictured Above: In white, ABH's Derek Stordahl flies through the air and Neil Humpage plays some D against Two of Newcastle Brown players (photo courtesy of Mathias Karady a.k.a. MadK).

The Ultimate over the weekend was poor with the exception of what I saw from the GB masters. In most cases, drops and throw aways marked most of the game play, which isn't shocking given the wet and windy weather.

The double edge sword is something I've talked about before. It is allowing developing throwers to throw upfield as opposed to never looking and always dumping. My opinion before is that you need let developing players and allow them to make mistakes.

On a weekend like this, I think my opinion is different. In the end, I think there is nothing learnt by throwing away disc after disc, and a team is better off moving the disc in good hands instead of fighting a game of back and forth yards where a quick turn near an end zone results in a point. Of course, smart handlers that don't have a team full of competent hands will quickly rely on a huck and pin style of game. All in all, still bad ultimate.

Your team style, like any decision, is a team decision. Regardless of the team plan, it is still a challenge to develop patience and the desire to dump in these developing players. You not only need patience, but the skills to get off top quality reset throws. I've known many a player who've made an Ultimate career on a 100% game of quality cuts and dumps. Over time there decision skills have been incrementally developed and they move the disc upfield with great efficiency. I wish more would follow in those steps, but glory, like greed, is a path we all tend to take - it's like the dark side for Ultimate nerds.


Thursday, March 13, 2008

Poll Thursday - Is 1st in College Open a given?

Last week I asked how your teams warmup is, and how it sets you up for the games ahead. A large percentage of people said there teams are either well prepared for games or prepared most of the time. We didn't hear any comments on how these teams achieved this, but apparently, people out there know what they're doing. I still don't think the teams I've played with have figured it out yet.

Results from Stanford invite got some people commenting on how the Open UPA college series is all about second place. Wisconsin has had a great spring season so far, and other than two tight games against Arizona and UBC they've dominated the competition. The question then is, how much would you bet at 3:1 odds that Wisconsin will NOT win it all. This means if you bet 10 dollars or pounds if Wisconsin does not take 1st at UPA Championships you would get $30. The less confident the less you would bet (poll right).


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Team Canada - my news

I thought I would officially announce my recent exciting news. I'm an assistant coach for Team Canada Juniors Open for the upcoming World Championships. Kirk Nylen (a great friend and teammate of mine) is the head coach and Geoff Urton will be the other assistant coach from out west.

This is a huge opportunity for all of us. I'm thrilled to work with a group of Juniors instead of getting two or three young kids at University of Toronto in their freshman year.

There are lots of challenges to getting together and preparing for the season, but we've already discussed a few ideas that might help us.

In other news, Sheri Madigan and Lexi Marsh will be taking the reigns for the Jr. Women. It's going to be exciting to participate in the championships, and I hope to meet a range of players from around the world.


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Add to the skill set - The sideline

It's great to have the throws, the catches, the speed, the cuts, etc. A skill which I consider one of my better abilities is being a sideline player.

Pictured Above: The sideline watches on as a Shazam Returns player and a Slow White player joust in the air (Photo taken by Me and that's why it's blurry).

One of the key advantages Ultimate teams have over other sports is that there is no restriction to where the players need to stand when they're not on the field. Most competitive teams tell their players to spread out around the field. The benefit being extra eyes and motivation all around the field, but the question is, what should you be doing?

The best advice I've ever had on how to sideline talk is from a former teammate Greg Lang. He made the comment that the sideline tells you what is happening, but doesn't make decisions for the onfield players. In other words, the sideline player is an extra pair of eyes to help out, and yet you'll hear many a sideline player telling the guys on the field what to do. In many cases, field perspective is different than sideline perspective, and it's better to provide additional information (with the exception of things like a player striking deep or an incorrect mark).

So, how do you practice being a good sideline player. The first thing is fitting into the team structure. I remember in my early days on Grand Trunk that my sideline chatter was too much for some of my teammates. Depending on the structure you might adjust and fit in with the team. In that case, I chose to stand my ground because I felt that my skill was useful for the team, but I stopped talking to those particular teammates when they were on the field.

Next, you need to develop you sideline style. Will you be a stream of consciousness, announcing everything that you see on the field. I think this is a poor choice since too much information for field players will be filtered out. You, also, need to pick your moments, and equally, you need to pick how much to emphasize different situations. This means you can't yell at full volume all the time, or like the boy who cried wolf, your cries will have no results. Tone and volume are useful in expressing the importance of the information to the guys on the field. I like to keep my instructions calm and positive when I can.

The other key to being a good sideline player is developing a feel for the game and learning to predict or detect certain developments on the field. What I like to do is pick a spot on the sideline (for me it's near an endzone line) and I watch all my games from that perspective. This is how I like to see the game unfold, and it is familiar setting that I've learned to watch the game from and read the situation.

Any team can use the sidelines as an advantage. The key is to use that advantage and avoid the desire to walk off the field and sit in a folding chair with your friends, screaming across the field about what's happening. There's nothing wrong with this in casual games, but at higher levels you've got to have as many eyes on the field as possible.


Thursday, March 06, 2008

Poll Thursday - Working warmup

Last week we looked into testing and it's value. There seems to be some interest in testing, but the majority have not ever been tested. VO2 max tests or simple fitness benchmarks are pretty easy to do if you want to evaluate your current state, and more importantly, if you're improving.

Last weekend I was watching team warmups. In general, I feel that warmups are key to preparing your body for the high demands of ultimate, and getting your head focused on the game ahead. A good warmup will prepare a team to play at a competent level early in the game.

So, the question this week is does your warmup put your team in a good place at the start of every game? For those of you with great warmups it might be nice to share.


Wednesday, March 05, 2008

I was lost but now I'm found

Hey Folks,

I've been questioning my direction in Ultimate as of my recent move from Toronto to London. If I was in Toronto, I would most likely be preparing to captain GT, but my new postal code eliminates that possibility.

Ultimately lost!

Sunday morning, on my way to a Clapham practice, I was transferring from my 2nd bus to my 3rd bus (the tube/subway line I needed was closed on Sunday). As I waited for the bus I realized that I was going to be doing this 3 to 4 times a week. This is what I've done for the past 7 years in Toronto, but I didn't move to England to practice and play every weekend. The reality is I'm here to see and experience new things.

This realization meant that high-level Ultimate with a great team that pushes hard doesn't make sense at this point in my life. I really like the Clapham guys and their attitude toward the game, but I don't have the motivation to push hard and make the sacrifice without some driving goals (Steven was right in his comments about needing new goals after my recent success - his blog).

Instead, I've found an alternative team called ABH. For those of you in Toronto, ABH reminds me of GT/Roy mixed with Zen. The good thing is the team is local (close to Imperial), and seem like a fun bunch that I should mix with well, but I still get to play organized competitive Ultimate. That along with continuing to help out with Imperial's team will be my focus on Ultimate this year.

Now, the next challenge will be not being a coach/captain. It's funny how hard it is to see drills and game play that are significantly different than the philosophies I'm more used to. We'll see how interested people are into letting me teach, but I'm happy to have less responsibility and just play Ultimate for a change. Of course, with my personality I'll see how long that lasts.


Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Coaching tournament 1 - Lesson 1 - It's different

I attended my first tournament of the year. I wasn't playing and I wasn't really coaching. I was more of an assistant on the sideline (a role I've never really done). I went to the UK's University Regionals in Egham. I was helping out with the Disc Doctors from Imperial - a good group of girls and guys with a passion for Ultimate that is similar to what I've experienced in Canada and the US.

Pictured Above: Pyro, Chow, and Matt of Imperial DD1 force a throw. Taken from UK University Regionals this weekend (Photo from Michael Foster).

The main thing I was interested in was comparing what I know of University teams in Canada and the US. I watched about 7 games total, four of which were the Disc Doctors (DD) 1st team, one game for the DD 2nd team and a game with the top ranked team in the region - Brunell. For a quick comparison, I think Brunell (the top ranked team) would finish in the top ten (8th-10th) at Canadian University Nationals, and 6th-8th at UPA Great Lakes sectionals in Michigan.

That's just my feeling. Here are some other opinions from the weekend:
  • These guys are very spirited. They play spirit games after every game, interleaving the teams in a circle. I couldn't go to the party that night, but from the pictures it looks like the party was a blast too.
  • There are very few calls made in a game in comparison to North American college and Open ultimate.
  • The warmup drills are very different then in North America. A lot of Seattle drills.
  • Games were short with hour slots and 45 min soft cap. Games were to 11 and only finished at 11 if one team got beaten badly by the other.
  • Many open teams (even at the top level) included women and there were no women's teams or division.
In some ways, the weekend reminded me of College Ultimate at UofT about 7 years ago. I enjoyed the weekend, and it helped me realize what I want to do next in Ultimate. More later this week.