Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Costs revisited

On our way to Tour 2, there was an interesting point made in the car ride that I hadn't thought of before. Catherine Gainey, a player on Iceni, mentioned that even though we spend money on Ultimate our costs don't account for what we might spend if we weren't playing Ultimate.

This is a very interesting point when assessing how much you spend in the sport. Of course, as I write this, I'm sitting in Newark after missing my flight connection to Austin. I'm on my way to Texas for the LiveLogic Texas Shootout -> Ultimate. But I'm on the exception side of Ultimate spenders in that I seem to be willing to part with my money only if it involves food, beer, or Ultimate.

On to the rest of you. The question of Ultimate costs is what would you alternatively be doing if you weren't spending your money on Ultimate. Take last weekend for example. I spent about 115 pounds on myself to play at the tournament in Cardiff. This included food, beer, tourney fee, accommodations, and travel. On top of this I had to pay for rent on my apartment even though I'm not using my place, but that would be a cost regardless of what I do. In this case, I have no lost opportunity cost since over the weekend I don't make any money anyway.

That 115 pound number isn't really that bad, if you think of the alternatives. I would likely have a night out (20+ pounds), a dinner or two out (20+ pounds), and any other entertainment activities that aren't free including travel (20+ pounds). All of a sudden the weekend doesn't seem that expensive.

That example is just a comparison of a tournament weekend. The cost factor should also take into account the money spent on practice versus doing other activities. For me, the alternative would likely be some other sport, either hockey or MMA. In both of these cases, the cost of training is significantly higher in these sports compared to Ultimate. Hockey costs at least 10 pounds a sessionfor only an hour and MMA can be even more (unless you amortize the costs over a monthly membership).

The cost analysis of Ultimate has become a little trickier after this weekend. It's still obvious that flights will significantly throw off the cost comparison, but otherwise, Ultimate can be an inexpensive sport.


Tuesday, April 29, 2008

What's the UK Tour all about?

I've been asked a few times what this UK tour is all about. Open and Women's Tour 2 took place this weekend in Cardiff. The results are here.

Pictured Above: Clapham's cooldown run at Tour 2 after winning over Chevron.

In many sport leagues, the concept of relegation and promotion are used to move teams up and down between levels of competition. One of the advantages is that teams at the bottom are competing to stay up instead of tanking it for a high draft pick.

In many North American leagues, the choice is to maintain a set number of teams in a league and use a drafting system and sometimes a salary capping system to maintain similar competition levels between teams.

The Ultimate UK Tour is a series of tournaments that act like little mini seasons where teams are promoted and relegated to the A, B, and C Tour from Tour event to Tour event. EAch team is allocated so many points depending on their final standing at each Tour event. At the end of the Tour, the team with the most allocated points is crowned the season champion.

The tour events are followed by a UK Nationals. This Nationals is like a Cup event similar to Football's (European) Champions League, or in this case, it is more like the FA cup where the top 32 UK teams (regardless of what Tour level they are at) has a chance to win it all in a 32 team bracket. Next, the European championship sets the top teams from the UK and elsewhere in a European Championship for winner takes all.

It's an interesting format to play in that is made possible by the small size of the country and the closeness to many other countries. In the Tour events, you do see the same teams repeatedly, simply because you are tightly matched to your competitive level, but I think that's a good thing.


Friday, April 25, 2008

Link Friday - Top notch workouts, some discussion, and strategy

Well, I'm trying out a new weekly themed post - Link Friday. As much as some people hate Poll Thursday, some people like it including me...and who am I writing for, really. I've been making efforts to add as many of the Ultimate related blogs to my blogroll to the right (the criteria being that a very high percentage of the posts are Ultimate related), so if I'm missing your blog from the list then email me your link or post a comment. As for Link Friday, I know we all don't have the time to check out everything, so I thought I'd amalgamate some of my favourite reads of the week. These will all be Ultimate related except for maybe one.

This weeks links:

  • Frostillicus has been treating us to some excellent posts on working out. This weeks has some good further reading for those interested.
  • An RSD post on Ottawa U's women heading down to the UPA series, and the concern when Canadian teams are strong. I used this as one of my points in a comment why we should be opening up the Canadian series (even if noone cares).
  • covered Wonderful Copenhagen. Italy, Germany, Sweden, and U.K. national teams were all involved.
  • I've been thinking about sports strategy some more. This led me to the theories of John Boyd. Not directly related to Ultimate, but I'm sure I'll find some interesting concepts.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Poll Thursday - CUPA?

[UFC spoiler warning!] Last weeks poll was on UFC. It was fun and you guys were right on the mark. For the first UFC event in Canada it sounded exciting (almost as exciting as the Habs moving on to the second round). As for the fight card, it was good in all but one fight, where a B.C. fighter would not engage his opponent and ran away for 15 minutes.

As for this weeks poll, we'll make a vote on a topic from my Monday post (and discussions here and here). Do you think Canadian University and College teams should compete "mainly" in the UPA college series (poll right)? Should the Canadian College fall series be opened up to North America as in something like a Canadian Open (poll right)?


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Tryouts or Politics

Here in the UK, the season is heading into Tour 2 in Cardiff this weekend. Meanwhile in North America the college season is heading into the eight regionals and the Canadian and US Club teams are starting to have there tryouts. Additionally, Team Canada is making picks for world teams. One question I've always had about tryouts (both trying to be picked and picking) is, how much politics plays in the game versus skill?

Pictured Above: An old photo of Scotty Nichols throwing around Shaky at CUUC'06 to Inian.

It's obvious that when it comes down to a player with almost the same skill level as another player, who you know and how well you are liked is likely the biggest factor in making a team. Of course, if you're known as an abrasive player or someone who doesn't get along with people this will be a major drawback.

Another situation that can come up is when you're deep into a roster (let's say 20 through 25 on the bench), how much does skill matter versus how you are known by the people picking the team. I think your community status within the ultimate scene is probably a bigger factor than how you performed at tryouts (assuming that your skill level is reasonably close to the teams level).

Based on these scenarios, what can you do. Number one, because we are based in an amateur sport you need to make friends and be nice. Unless you are a dominant player or superstar, you're not going to be playing with your Ultimate team of choice unless you fit in. Number two, if you get typecast as a certain style of player (maybe "the dropper", "the pressure failure", or "the inconsistent") you need to focus on that aspect of your game and change it. This change won't be doable in a year, but you'll need to take whatever opportunities you get this year and make the change for next.

Good luck on whatever road you're taking. If you're a coach remember to open your mind to players year in and year out, and if you're a player then relax and just be yourself.


Monday, April 21, 2008

The Canadian University Season - My turn

In a past topic on sectionals that was filled with discussion and with a comment by Steve on his blog, I thought it was my turn to give a perspective. I've made comments on this before, but here's how I stand as of late.

The past is the past. We won, and we developed a good program. I'll live those championships for years to come, so let's look to the future.

The future is the UPA. The Canadian College series, even more so than the Club series is more of a hindrance than a benefit for Canadian Ultimate. The reason is, we play in our own season that diverts money to weaker tournaments than focusing our efforts and money on playing against the best. Many teams don't make the effort to get into the UPA series since we have a local series.

In Canada, we have such a great opportunity to be involved in the UPA college and club series, and yet, our college teams are slowly moving into the series. This misses out on a great competition, because other than UBC, Western, UofT, Carleton, Ottawa U, Queens, and McGill , the Canadian teams aren't going to the UPAs.

There are lots of arguments like:

  • The winter causes problems in a spring run
  • The exam schedules don't line up well
  • It's too far to travel
  • It costs too much
Canadian involvement in the winter college series and the spring series is low because we treat the Canadian University series as too important. The club one makes a little more sense since we need to decide world qualifiers (every once in a while). In college, Canadian Nationals really is just another tournament. I say the college scene needs to get into the real competition.

Keep Canadian Easterns as a tournament, but open it up to the U.S. Make it like the Canadian Open in golf. Then we participate in the UPA series while trying to develop a winter U.S. Easterns in somewhere like North Carolina. That would be the major U.S. open winter championships.

As for eligible players, it's probably time to adopt NCAA eligibility rules (forget UPA or CUPA).

That's my opinion.


Thursday, April 17, 2008

Poll Thursday - Sera or St. Pierre

Last week I polled on Michigan Sectionals (which got delayed). Toronto won't be going because a bunch of the team thinks that tryouts are more important than a chance to play Michigan (unfortunately, having left Toronto I have little influence here). Anyway, based on the picks (eliminating Toronto), it looks like the favourites are: Michigan, Michigan State, and Western Michigan. I wouldn't count out Kalamazoo if I were a betting man.

This week I'm stepping into another Ultimate question - Ultimate fighting. Canada will host its first ever UFC event in Montreal this weekend. GSP will be fighting Matt Sera. Since we had a little discussion on the benefits of martial arts, I thought I might as well promote another sport I like by having a poll on who you think is going to win (poll left).

I know this is off track, but I highly promote watching other sports and trying to look at aspects of that sport that might be transfered to Ultimate. If you watch these fights, pay attention to the focus that these guys have and the footwork.


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

5 hour energy drink?

I haven't seen this drink in the UK, but I've seen it lots in North America - the 5 hour energy drink, one of many such drinks called energy shots. For a sport that enjoys its energy drinks including the likes of Gatorade, Red Bull, and Colas we might as well give this latest product a quick look. Here's a review of one of the shots targeted to athletes.

It sounds like these drinks are an intense caffeine and caffeine like substances with some other chemicals. I don't really know the difference between these shots and the energy drinks minus the sugar and fluid. Safety wise, it sounds like these drinks are pretty intense, but I have no real feel for these sorts of issues - it's the classic consult a physician before proceeding. Benefits...unknown.


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Where next?

With all the sectionals news, a hot debate on CUPA rules, and the UK tour heading into tour 2 I'm cleaning out some of my older ideas for posts. I'll chime in soon o

Imagine you were about to retire from the world of Ultimate. Where or what would you go/do next? Many people invest in relationships, which is healthy. I've started to think about this. The first option for those of us who like the teaching element of Ultimate is to head into a coaching role. This, however, is not for everybody.

The first thing I know I would miss from Ultimate is the community. It's amazing how great the people are who play the sport. Sure there's lots of variety, but in general, the people make a great community that welcomes all sorts. Of course, this is an internal opinion of the community. Anyway, what other communities would be good to join?I've heard a few people mention surfing and snowboarding/skiing. Both these groups seem to fit the good community category in terms of relaxed fun people, but I've boarded for years and never felt a strong community that is welcoming. This is likely because the number of people in the sport and it does not involve a lot of team interactions.

Of the sports that I will consider:

  • Snowboarding (definite)
  • Hockey (definite)
  • Golf
  • Curling
  • Martial Arts
The hobbies I'm particularly interested in are:
  • Watchmaking
The reality is I never planned for Ultimate to come into my life, so I wonder what will be my next passion. I'm interested to hear other people's plans and adventures in the future.


Thursday, April 10, 2008

Poll Thursday - Sectionals Weekend 2...Michigan Sectional action

Last week, I polled about an amateur Ultimate film server, and how many game videos people would buy on an average week off the server. The 50% sit in the 1 to 2 dollar range (1 to 2 games) per week with the error that I didn't include a 0 option. This small marketing poll suggests that we don't really want more footage of Ultimate at this cost point. The caveat is the smallness of the poll and the poor formation of the question may have skewed the results.

This week is the second weekend of the UPA college series. You can find coverage here and here, and RRI has the brackets. I'm most interested in one particular sectionals, Michigan Open, as my alumni team (UofT's Tula) heads into the series. We've only qualified once in the three years we've been to sectionals and that year we got disqualified (but we sure turned heads). Last year they scheduled it on Easter weekend meaning a few of our vets couldn't make the trip, and Kalamazoo took us out after Michigan and Michigan State took their historical positions as 1 and 2. This year we're sending the new blood, and based on Double Down results they have a shot this weekend, while Michigan is clearly the favourite for taking the weekend. Michigan has definitely retooled their team after missing out on the Championships last year from the Great Lakes region.

The poll is, assuming there are three spots out of the Michigan sectional to Great Lake regionals, pick your three teams to go (poll right).

Lets go Tula!

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Tournament 4 - Lesson 2 - Competition is all I want

I've played a range of Ultimate tournaments on a range of teams. What I realized this weekend is I enjoy Ultimate when the games are competitive. Winning or losing means little in blowout games, where one team clearly outclasses the other, but competitive games are fun.

That may not be true for everyone, and I know lots of people that really only care about winning, but for me and many of us, we truly like a challenge. When two teams are battling back and forth it's fun, and it makes for good entertainment for the fans.

Some of the best games I've played in and watched are the ones where the game is tightly contested. This weekend the finals at Tour 1 for both the women (Iceni vs Leeds) and the open (Chevron vs Fire) were excellent games to watch as both teams fought in tightly contested matches. The winners in both games were decided by two and one point respectively. Now that's worth watching.

When I'm playing I feel the same. The closer games that I play in a tournament the more fun I have. I guess it's like goals. Impossible goals or easy goals are both equally non-satisfying, but achievable goals that are challenging but achievable give a person great reward.

For those of you who analyze video games, the same is true. People get addicted to games that are doable, but challenging enough to keep the mind active. The same is true with work and careers. Maybe I should have realized the parallels to Ultimate years ago ;)


Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Tournament 4 - Lesson 1 - Skills don't maintain themselves

This weekend I played at Tour 1 in Bristol. We had a good weekend with all but one close, challenging games. Personally, a few moments stand out from the weekend; two of my upwind hucks were utter disasters, I had two simple throws that went bad, and I, also, had two uncharacteristic drops.

I'm not really worried or troubled by these execution errors, but the reality was the wind wasn't that strong this weekend and in the past, I normally wouldn't make those errors. The hucks aren't as much a big deal since I've always been good and bad with hucks in my throwing set, but the reality is, the small throwaways and drops are not normal.

There's one simple reason I'm making these errors. I haven't been throwing and catching on a regular basis. Unlike when my last few years of Ultimate, I'm averaging about 1 to 2 hours of throwing per week. The chart below is an estimate of how much I threw per week (including practices but not games) over the last few years.

The reality is a skill like throwing does not maintain itself. I'll never forget how to throw a flick or a backhand, but the accuracy, timing, and small adjustments that are needed in the heat of a game can only be maintained with regular practice. It's like shooting in basketball. Your form will always be there, but the touch needs to be constantly calibrated.


Monday, April 07, 2008

European tournaments

I'm new to the Ultimate scene on this side of the Atlantic. I've been talking to lots of people to find out what are "the" tournaments to go to. So far, I've been to Paganello and two UK tour events. I've found the following tournaments mainly through Frisbee Finder, but it would be nice if there was a comprehensive listing like the UPA's tournament listing.

Tournaments that seem to have some traction:

I'll try and see as many of these as I can.


Thursday, April 03, 2008

Poll Thursday - More video ultimate

Last week I asked about winning the party by staying up the longest. At Paganello, I just didn't stay up (as the photos are showing and not my memory), but the general consensus is you have to do more to win the party. Maybe we should write up some rules in the future.

As for this week, imagine we set up a system where we built a server for ultimate games on video. Not necessarily high quality ultimate, but footage nonetheless. This server would sell individual clips of games at probably 1$ per game (similar to itunes). The question is, how much would you imagine paying per week on a service like this assuming that there was at least 10 games posted per week (poll right)?


Wednesday, April 02, 2008

The hammer dilemna

About six years ago I was against throwing upside down throws. Since then I've flip flopped on the issue leaning less to a total ban on the throws. This is mainly due to my move up the ranks in quality Ultimate and seeing what some people can do with a hammer or scoober.

Pictured Above: A man I know by the name of Tate making a huge grab at Paganello (Photo courtesy of Tom Styles)

I've been rethinking the throws more and more, and I've come up with a set of observations on the upside down throws that still make me debate back and forth the value of the throws:
  1. The hammer is a viable throw for big breaks.
  2. At the beginner or intermediate level the hammer will be dropped about 50% of the time with no defensive coverage. No statistics here, but we all know how often an open hammer is dropped just by the nature of how the disc needs to be caught.
  3. A jump ball for a hammer results in a D 90% of the time. Again, no stats, but my feeling here is the position of the disc makes it very challenging for the offensive player to rip the disc out of the air.
  4. People who like to throw hammers tend to like to throw them too much. In this case, I'm talking about beginners and intermediates who have strong hammers, and with a little success want to throw the hammer all the time. The same thing happens when these players develop a strong break throw. Those are the cool throws so that's what I want to throw.
  5. We seem to like to break zones with hammers, thinking that over the top is the best choice. I think a fast moving disc with dynamically moving players is a much safer and more efficient option.
  6. For teams that throw lots hammers they don't practice them enough. If your team commits to the hammer then throw them in drills on a regular basis.
It's a team decision on whether the hammer will be part of your team game. With this decision you should also determine when the hammer is a reasonable throw to make (i.e. endzone only, early breaks, against a zone).

I still believe that the flick and the backhand will take a team far, but once in a while you have a thrower who can take a hammer and break open a game. I've only played with two of these guys (you might be able to guess), but without their hammers (among other excellent throws) our team wouldn't have gotten out of a number of tight situations.


Tuesday, April 01, 2008

More Innovation

Over the past few years, I've seen all sorts of innovation in Ultimate. I'm interested to see how the latest innovation in Ontario turns out: Eastern Canadian Ultimate Conference. The concept of a team getaway without the high stress of constant ultimate (like at a tournament) seems like a very appealing concept to me, and should pay dividends over the season. It's like having 6 practices focused over one weekend.

Pictured Above: A photo from the Sunday night Paganello party as DJ Keene hit the decks (photo courtesy of Tom Styles).

Having gone to this weekend in its earlier form as a tournament I found it to be a brilliant weekend. I can only imagine how good this weekend will be with an early training and bonding session with your season's team.

In addition to basic training, it looks like there will be some additional information provided in the form of a conference. The listed talks are on:
  1. Leadership
  2. Medical
  3. Training
  4. Fun
I can't say fun seems like an interesting topic, but maybe some teams need some lessons in this area. I think one of the main topics missing on the list is "sports psychology", but finding a strong speaker in that area would be difficult.