Friday, May 30, 2008

Link Friday - and maybe Ben Johnson wasn't the only one

The links for this week are:

  • USA's Masters road to Vancouver started in White Mountain and Jim Parinella gives us a review of their first tournament. This might be one of the roads will get some writing on (hint advertisement for documentation from other teams).
  • A new initiative to put online Ultimate courses has been made. Check out the new web site - Open Ultimate.
  • I found this article fascinating on how athletes have avoided drug test fails for band substances. I know this shouldn't be an issue in Ultimate (though I'm sure there are a few), but once the money comes into our sport ;) then we can expect the same problems. One of the most interesting parts of the article is where they talk about using insulin to help the cells absorb energy after exercising. I'm a diabetic, so I've wondered if I should inject and eat right after playing. Is that illegal?

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Poll Thursday - Vitamin I ... how much

Last weeks poll showed that most of you are really excited about the new season. We shouldn't be shocked, since the poll base is reading an Ultimate blog. Still, it's good to see a large majority are ready to hit the fields in full stride.

This week I'm wondering about drug use on the field. Specifically, how much ibuprofen do you take while at a tournament. We'll assume that the basic unit is 200mg (poll right). Also, to accompany the drug usage stats, I'll have an age distribution poll too (2nd poll right).


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Global Ultimate Growth - Ultimate in India - Part I

One of the benefits of writing a blog is you get to meet Ultimate people with an instant rapport allowing for good conversations. I get the occasional "are you that guy" on the fields, and I get emails from people for all sorts of Ultimate activities. One of the most recent encounters was with Jordan Bower. I, actually, knew Jordan from Toronto on a few meetings, but he's been up to some new Ultimate activities, and I thought I'd interview him to see what he's up to. Here's part I of the interview, and here is a website if you want more info.

0. Where did your Ultimate career take you before ending up in India?

I started playing in intramurals at university, kept at it for a couple years, and worked my way from the bottom of the Toronto system: from rec leagues to competitive and then on to touring. Last season I played my first tournament outside of Toronto - Gender Blender; I was immediately hooked. I played with Toronto-touring team Too Bad last summer and with Grand Trunk for UPA fall series.

Pictured Above: Ahmedabad vs Punjab at the Indian Nationals (picture for Jordan's Blog).

1. How and why did you get involved in Ultimate in India?

I visited India for the first time in early 2007 and fell in love. It was unlike any place I had ever been. I spent six months backpacking around the country and was really taken by the incredibly hospitable people I met. There is an expression in India that goes "guest is god", and the hospitality that I received made every experience fun and different.

I came back to Canada for a couple months but felt the draw back to India. In deciding to return, I wanted to make service work a component of my trip as a way of returning what I had been given. While in Canada, I played a lot of Ultimate and became hooked, so when, in the late fall, my brother found a link to an organization that was integrating Ultimate with development work in India, it seemed serendipitous.

Indicorps is a unique development organization in that its focus is inspiring leadership and self-confidence through service work. The organization has seen great results with its Ultimate program, which it has been running for 4 years. The program has historically focused on introducing the game to children living in slums as a way of promoting personal empowerment, fitness, leadership and teamwork. After seeing profound change in the kids they’ve worked with, Indicorps is now looking to scale their effect through corresponding growth in Ultimate.

2. Why push for a sport like Ultimate versus more traditional sports like Cricket?

Cricket is religion in India. Kids play cricket in every open space and watch televised cricket every night. It’s got a near-monopoly over sport in India, and very, very few kids play any other sport in an organized way.

Cricket misses out on a few important qualities: it's not very fitness oriented; it's more about the individual than the team; and it's not very inclusive - all players are boys, and ‘street cricket’ is generally played by boys of similar socioeconomic status. Ultimate is an effective replacement because it’s co-ed, it instills body awareness through fitness, it’s relies heavily on teamwork, and it encourages maturity through issue resolution.

Most effective in a development context is the concept of Spirit of the Game. Even a ‘gentleman-ly’ sport like Cricket can set a bad example (see this link - – about a recent suspension to a Cricket player who ‘slapped’ an opponent). SOTG is a great way of communicating life lessons through sport, providing an effective counterbalance to incidents like this. Most kids play sport to win or to be the best; being the best is a concept that is reinforced through public education, universities, and even the workforce. In most cases, being the best is really narrowly defined, which means that most kids who aren’t the best become marginalized. Our biggest challenge is redefining best by teaching that sport can be about fun, forcing us to reconsider the way we approach coaching and the way that we think about Ultimate.

I think there’s also a need to come in with something new. You’re not remarkable if you’re trying to teach cricket. With Ultimate, it’s worth talking about. When I walk down the street, the poor kids who sell small bags of mineral water to passing buses always wave and yell ‘disc, disc’. I’m that guy, which, for once, is awesome.

3. What type of response have you seen from the new players? We’ve been able to pique interest because it’s something that few people have seen played in any organized way. Part of our recruitment strategy has literally been standing on the street and throwing until people start to come by to watch, which invariably means being surrounded by two dozen people after about 5 minutes of throwing. The challenge is taking that superficial, momentary interest and helping them translate it into love for the game. Once we get them hooked, these players will become advocates for our cause. We’re like Ultimate drug dealers, doing this for the kid who loves Ultimate but just doesn’t know it yet. For example, we started playing on the sandy banks of the river near to our office. We showed up there one day with a bunch of young kids and met a 19 year old university student named Mitthali, who is a squatter on public land nearby. Mitthali took to the game so quickly. She is an awesome cutter, learned to throw in two days, and has shown up to 3 practices each week. At night, she throws with her sister under streetlamps. Once she started coming, she brought two brothers, her sister, and four cousins to play with us. She’s a future captain of a girls’ team in India. We totally got her hooked. In addition, we have been working with somewhere between 50-75 kids in a variety of different settings. Kids seem to take up basic skills pretty easily, although strategy is more difficult to communicate. They love to run, so most of our drills for newbies are around cutting and catching. Organizing games is a bit more difficult because no one has even the slightest clue what they should be emulating. One of the tools we’re looking for are very basic, visual resources that can explain the game really simply. I’ve only been here for a few weeks and I’ve actually seen some pretty cool impact. There is so much we took for granted: like when you ask kids to form two lines, they automatically arrange themselves so boys are in one and girls are in the other. Giving kids a new experience, integrating them to play together with kids from various classes and other genders, teaching them to learn a new skill: these are profound changes that are really easy to overlook, given the Western experience of participating in sport from youth. Just exposing someone to something new gives them a platform to go beyond their own expectations, and that’s a pretty powerful experience to be a part of. The response from parents, teachers, and other members of the community has also been universally supportive.

That's part I. Part II next week.


Tuesday, May 27, 2008

More about fakes...this time without the disc

I watched UFC 84 this weekend, and one of the fights was Tito Ortiz versus Lyoto Machida. One of the comments during the fight was how Lyoto's style was elusive, because of all the fakes. I started thinking about some people I've defended in the past. Some were elusive, but were any of them elusive because of their fakes?

Pictured Above: Phil Watanabe making a big cut (though it could be reversed) to commit his Johny Bravo defender in the opposite direction of his cut (photo courtesy of Lisa Di Diodato)

If you dominate in terms of athleticism (meaning you can simply out sprint your opponent), then straight cuts work, and fakes are unnecessary. If you can't outright dominate in athleticism, and you're either matched or potentially outmatched then fakes are a useful tool in getting open.

Before cutting fakes come into play, the basic step of getting open is making your defender commit to something while you're going or doing something else. For example, simple V cuts (or boulder cuts) work on the principle that the first cut is a legitimate option that the defender must commit too. As the defender commits, the second part of the V cut is the reversal.

The main problem with simple commit cuts is that human defenders adapt and learn to predict. They learn to guess where your cuts will go and your particular movements the more you play them. This adaption against a good defender can happen during the first point you match up against them. This is where things get interesting and you need more options to get open - in comes fakes.

As with all fakes, they're a means to an end. Faking for its sake alone is useless, but with team chemistry (needed so that the thrower understands your fakes), fakes can open up the field. The cutting fake comes from jukes, body position, eyes, head movement, and arms among other moves. The problem is, nobody that I know of has studied or broken down the good fakes and how to use them. My guess is cutting, like fighting is a stylistic art, and I'm not sure you can develop a Lyoto of cutting, since each person will develop their own arsenal of fakes.

The thing I'm really interested in is the coaching progression of fakes. How do you teach individuals or put them in the right environment to increase the quality of their fakes, quickly?

When you get matched up against an opponent who you can't seem to shake using your current bag of tricks, then you try new things to see if it works. Each time something works you might add it to your arsenal and improve that new move. Your opponent learns your trick, and then you have to adapt again.

My first thought to teach this is to match players up with smart, athletically equivalent (or better) opponents and allow simple evolution of skills (including the fake) to improve. This seems to make sense, but I'm not sure the progression will be fast enough.


Friday, May 23, 2008

Link Friday - The end, the old, the test, and da Vinci

This Friday's crop of favourite links are:

  • Match Diesel completes his coverage on the UPA College series. I would like to thank him for his in depth coverage of the series to the likes we haven't seen in some time.
  • Alex de Frondeville gives us a perspective on College past and now. I find historical discussions very interesting for a sport that has an oral tradition.
  • An impressive talk by Malcolm Gladwell on the mismatch between hiring people. The most interesting part is the initial part where he examines sport combines and there correlation to being a good for picking pro-players. This relates to some of my earlier articles on testing.
  • This is a great little post on how to think like da Vinci. This type of thinking will help you evaluate your ultimate game among other things in your life.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Poll Thursday - Have you got the itch

Last weeks poll was on your knowledge of the Callahan award. I talked about that yesterday, so take a look.

For some of us, we're into the second or third month of the season, but for the majority tryouts are still underway or recently finished and a new season is on the door step. A simple poll this week asks how excited are you about the coming season (poll right).


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

And the award goes to...

I had the poll last week on what is the Callahan awarded for at the UPA College Championships, because I have always been a little cloudy on the meaning of the award. My research immediately landed upon the hosts of the Callahan award. My next stop was to the right sidebar on an article about "Who was Harry Callahan?". Very quickly I got a feel for what the award was for.

The most clear statement from the 2008 Callahan Award site is,
"The Callahan Award has been established to recognize the valuable players in college ultimate. Each year the Callahan trophy is presented to the man and woman who combine superior athleticism with outstanding sportsmanship, leadership and dedication to the sport of ultimate."
If you've been following the banter on or you can catch a review of this years award and the banter at Process of Illumination, then you know that there seems to be a little controversy up in the air about the award. For once, I have no opinion on the candidates or the winners. I watched the Open Wisconsin advertisement video for their nominee, but that's all I really put into the award.

But that's the interesting part. I might have missed it last year, but I don't remember all of these video "vote for me" last year. If I had a vote, then I would have voted for Matt Rebholz because I saw the video. I would expect next years batch of candidates to get fancier similar to kid's at school putting on a professional campaign for class president versus the other kid's photocopied posters or worse yet, done in marker. Professional athletes are doing similar promotions, such as Chris Bosh's video for the 2008 all star game.

After reading Henry Callahan's story it sounds like the promoting side might fit into Henry's philosophies for pushing our game (though I'm not sure of this one). The sport is progressing in front of our eyes. With each passing season there is more structure and policies as our sport grows up.

I still like the Callahan award. Among reasons for appreciating the legend behind the name, I also like it because one of my career highlights is making a great move on a former Callahan winner
(unknown to me at the time)when he underestimated me, and I finished off to assist for the point. That's a story I'll tell you when we meet at an Ultimate party in the future.


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Dust settles on the latest series

Well, Wisconsin takes it all in the Open division and UBC takes it all in the Women's. Congratulations to both teams.

Pictured Above: The first Torontula team we took to Sectionals and the first time Torontula ever got disqualified from the series. Can you pick out the illegal player?

Many lost faith with Wisconsin when they didn't maintain a perfect season. Just like Coach Byron Scott said after the Hornets lost yesterday in game 7:
You have to go through some things before you can really understand how good it's going to feel when you get to that next level. You don't go from not making the playoffs to winning a championship. It just doesn't work that way. ... We're headed in the right direction.
Maybe Wisconsin had the benefit of these losses, and doubters and challenges early in the season helped the team find their weaknesses (as opposed to Florida's run to the finals).

The same is true for UBC ladies. In general, the BC ladies are looking like the new Furious of the west. They take UPA College Champions 2008. They're representing Canada after taking Canadian Nationals 2007. They are the current Canadian University champions in 2007. They're just missing a trip to UPA Club Championships coming out of a very strong region (arguably the strongest).

My bracket picks put me at about rank 266nd (50 points) in the Open with some major point losses in the pre-quarter picks and the semis. In the Women's, I placed 51st (57 points) with another bad set of picks for the pre-quarters and the semis. There were less entries in the Women's division, which explains my better finish, but hopefully, next year I'll find this bracket earlier and advertise ahead of time to increase the number of entries. Then we can all really get into the competition. If anyone has a contact for whomever built the bracket system, I would like to get in contact with them.

Well, I enjoyed another internet only view of the college series. I'm sure the DVDs will start popping out after the fact, but I don't plan on watching any. Sports entertainment is mainly about not knowing the ending. Fans watch endless bad games in hopes that those few gems and historic battles we catch will give us an adrenaline rush. Otherwise, post viewing is for documentaries that tell a good story, or a chance for participants to see themselves on film. It's time to go live! Score reporter is somewhat live, so how hard is it to broadcast live. More innovation...


Thursday, May 15, 2008

Poll Thursday - on Friday

Because I wanted people to know about the Banacut live updates, I've swapped Thursday and Friday themes.

Last week, I polled on where we should be innovating in Ultimate Strategy. Offensively people feel the middle game is the biggest challenge and defensively the challenge is the counter game. These are my feelings, most likely matching others, because of these are the most challenging moments in a point which seem to have the most chaos in them.

This week, I'm interested in a simple question about the UPA college championships. The question is do you know what the Callahan award is presented for?


Link Friday - not Thursday, Credit Crisis, Bracket, and Updated scores

I know it's not Friday, but here are my favourites this week:


Wednesday, May 14, 2008

My continued dislike of the endzone drill and box drill

I'm coming back to this topic (see Seattle on trial) after letting it slide for a while (mainly because there are too many teams running the endzone drill at the Open Tour), but I want to reemphasize how both the endzone drill (or Seattle as we call it in Toronto) and the box drill should not be your goto warm up drills before a game or a tournament. They're not bad drills for beginners at practices, but they're not great warmup drills.

Pictured Above: Torontula at 2006 Easterns warms up with a huck drill with a soft mark. Tolya watches his throw.

My reasons:
  • Too little touches including throws and catches. Approximately 30 seconds between throws on a team of 14
  • Artificial cuts with no pressure
  • No marking during throws
  • Even the best end zone plays don't work that way as much as we all wished it would
  • Too much standing around
What do you do instead? I'm not sure since each team is different, but stop doing the box and the endzone drill. Look at some leading teams and take note of their warmups.

For example this is a few drills that some of the Open teams do:
  • Clapham's pair throwing with challenging throws including airballs and fastballs
  • Johny Bravo's mini scrimmages
  • Michigan's mark, cut, and throw drills
  • EMO's dump and huck drill
  • UBC's breakforce 45 drill
There's lots of other options out there. Think about what your team does on the field and warmup that way. If you're offense relies on breaks or opponents break you then practice breaks and marking them. If you have lots of huckers, then practice hucking. If you play a handler centric small game offense then play some small field mini-games.

Innovate...pass it on


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Tournament 7 - Conversation 1 - Circles are calming influences

This weekend was the end of the Open and Wonen's tour. The Open champions were Chevron Action Flash and Iceni took the women's division. You can see results here. I finished off my tour with an aggravated Achilles for the fourth time in my career, thought I stopped earlier than I normally would have. Maybe I'm learning something.

Pictured Above: An explanation of a spirit game at Gender Blender 2006 (photo courtesy of Kevin Brown)

Anyway, I had a good conversation with Steve Guigere of and we were hitting on a range of topics. At one point we were reminiscing on how we got into the sport of Ultimate, and both of us made comments on remembering being introduced to the after game song.

About 7 years ago, depending on where you played, teams would sing a song after a game in which a popular song would be rewritten with new words that would make fun of Ultimate, yourself, and the opposing team. This was considered a major part of the spirit of the game by many teams.

You can still find some teams that do these cheers, but the practice in general is a dying breed. Now there's occasionally a hip hip hooray (which I'm not a fan of since it always seems to be done with lacklustre), but most games in North America end with a shake of the hand in the open division and sometimes a spirit game in the coed division. I have no problem with this and think the sport is still a very spirited considering we play a competitive game in which we self-officiate ourselves and respect each other.

In the U.K. and Europe, the after game session is a hand shake, and then a congregation in a circle where the captain of the losing team makes a speech on how they felt the game was and the winning team captain makes a similar speech. These speeches, from my experience, recap how the game went with compliments to the opponents and your own team, and then a mentioning of how spirited certain aspects of the game were.

Steve and I came to the point in our conversation where we thought that the circle (or huddle) should be added to the North American game to upgrade the friendship and good nature after a game (in another post I suggested meeting someone new each game). After thinking about this for a few minutes, I wondered if the circle would work in the Open UPA division (club or college). It's possible that it would work, but within the current culture of the game it seems unlikely that it would work. I can't really comment on the other divisions, but I imagine two open rivals circling up and staring icily across at opponents.

Another problem is how would we even start up the circling. One team could possibly lead the initiative with a strong willed leader with lots of charisma. That or a rule could be enforced, which is never a great choice.

Anyway, an interesting idea that probably would make our sport better around the world. The Canadian and U.S. teams will likely participate in these huddles during worlds, but that will be the full extent that it is adopted in North America. Unless Vancouver is the seed for something new...


Friday, May 09, 2008

Link Friday - More workout winners, UPA predictions, and

Another batch of my favourite links this week:


Thursday, May 08, 2008

Poll Thursday - Where is Ultimate innovation needed?

Last week we polled on the 2 teams to come out of the last College Open Regionals and head to the Championships. Harvard was a shoe in, but actually finished 2nd. The winner, Dartmouth, was tied for votes with TUFTs.

This week, I've been thinking about innovation in Ultimate. I guess we should define innovation, and in this case, I broadly define it as new advances in Ultimate in all sorts of areas including team strategy, equipment, and league and organizational structures. I'm most interested in strategy at present, so our poll this week will be on strategy innovation. The question is, which part of the game to we need to innovate the most. By part of the game, I mean something along the lines of chess:

  • Opening game - the pull and the first few throws in a set play
  • Middle game - into the flow of a point
  • Counter game (not part of chess) - a turn has happened
  • End game - near the end-zone and trying to score
I'll make one poll for both offensive and defensive versions of innovation in the 4 game parts (poll right).


Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Tournament 6 - Lesson 1 - Innovating against the Zone for X

LiveLogic shootout in Austin, Texas was a great (and an expensive) trip. Doublewide are great hosts (including our billet Ben "Verbal" Sims), and Austin, Texas has lots going for it - great food, nice people, and good parties. The after party, for the Goats that stayed behind, was another legendary run. We all learnt that Goat's patron saint is Francis of Assisi (and by chance he is a patron saint of animals), and he was watching over us keeping us safe. All in all, the tournament was worth every cent, including my new orange Longhorn hat.

Picture Above: A small replica of St. Francis of Assisi - Goat's patron saint even though he's carrying a chicken.

The lesson or thing I've been thinking about from this weekend is where will the sport of Ultimate innovate next (both major themes and minor themes). I'll talk more about innovation later this week, but since this is a tournament lesson, here's one of the innovation branches (on the tree of Ultimate knowledge) that I believe is ready to expand, if it hasn't already.

In our first game against Johny Bravo, it became obvious to the O-line that Bravo was coming down in a zone for X number of throws or a silent signal (I couldn't figure out which being in the moment). This is a classic strategical move to stop teams running a set play off the pull, and our set plays were getting us some significant yards off the pull, not to say that meant we were scoring.

The innovation in this situation is, as an offensive team you know the opponent is going to transition into a man after they've done this a few times. Having that knowledge means you have the upper hand and you can use that somehow to your advantage. That "somehow" is possibly a set play off the defensive transition. I imagine a scenario, that heavily involves your sideline since they're the key to seeing when the transition occurs. The second part to these transition plays will be overloading certain spots on the field so one person is forced to cover two people for a few seconds.

That's all I have pieced together in my mind so far. I have a few more ideas on what a play would look like, but the trick seems to be making both your zone offense attack as well as your transition offense. Conceiving a static play where the handlers just dump and swing until the transition is made while the cutters setup in the transition positions will only work for a very short period against smart adapting teams. How can you make the two offenses a weapon? That'll be innovation.


Friday, May 02, 2008

Link Friday - Nice D, ladies interviews, and a bag

This weeks favourites:

  • This photo blew my mind on "Some Ultimate Thoughts" blog. It took me a while to workout who's legs were who's.
  • Steve Trainer has an interesting interview with both Ottawa U's and UBC's women.
  • The Eagle Creek Switchback Max 25 - it looks to be the perfect luggage for my Ultimate and other adventures, but it's expensive. I saw some on Ebay for about $200.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Poll Thursday - One more regionals to go

Last weeks polls showed that the majority believe that Canadian teams should focus on the UPA college series. Also, the vote was about split on opening up the Canadian series. Food for thought from the readers. If I had the ambition, I would push those ideas forward, but I'll have to see where in North America I end up coaching.

There's one regionals left in the UPA college series Open division - New England. We might as well speculate on the two last qualifiers from that region (poll right).