Monday, June 30, 2008

Bonus post - Finland Ultimate makes it on the map ... literally

I was in Finland last week, and I caught a glimpse of Ultimate picture on the front cover of the tourist map. Layout and all, but they're obviously not playing a real game. I apologize for the poor quality, but I don't have a colour scanner here.


Friday, June 27, 2008

Link Friday - {Boston, UK, and Goat) at Boston Invite, Linking to links, World Fantasy, and Data based science

My favourites this week:

  • Boston Invite is the big event this weekend. This was the first tournament I went to where I looked around and said, "wow, Ultimate can be serious". Steve has some views on Canada's entries in Open and Women's.
  • Once again Lean & Hungry Fitness picks up some info that just makes you sit and say...yeah, that's right.
  • World fantasy ultimate at UltiVillage (props to Thomas Black for the link). Make your picks in, currently, the Open division on how the countries will finish.
  • Is the scientific model dead? You say who cares...well then what are plays? Are they not simple models that we test based on success or failure. I was glad to see some analysis on my personal complaints with the original article.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Poll Thursday - How important is the RRI score reports

Last weeks poll on tournament profits is always a topic that generates some good comments. It seems that the voters feel that from 10% to 50% is a reasonable amount of profit. This related to the value received fits into the standard range of product markups.

This week, I feel like pushing for more diligence from the TDs and community in general. If you're not familiar with RRI, it's a brilliant system hosted by the UPA to report scores and rank teams. I, personally, love the RRI, and I wish that every tournament on the planet reported there tournaments through this system (that inlcudes you UKUA).

This last weekend, Grand Trunk participated in their first tournament (at No Surf) of the year, and I wanted to see how the boys were doing. Where do I go? RRI. Unfortunately, the results weren't up until later, but that's still much better than last weekends Solstice tournament. As much as I love to search every RSD post to find out what happened, I demand results faster.

Of course, when I was doing the Technology for Canadian Nationals, I received some criticism for not getting results up fast enough. The criticism was right, we need people to know what's happening even if it's in terms of simple numbers. I do, however, understand that running a tournament along with all the details is a lot to do (hence the profit).

Then there's quality organized tournaments like the Boston Invite, which in the past updates scores the day of. Let's hope for the same.

So, with that little rant over, my question to you is how important is the RRI to you (poll right).

As a fun little bonus poll, who's your favourite to win the Elite Open Division at the Boston Invite (poll right).


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Can't be an elite coach, then get into construction

Do you ever get that feeling that you're not getting to play or coach at the level you would like to? Recent research into NBA coaches might suggest that you'll never get to. The main question there is do you have to play Elite to coach the Elite.

The road to Elite playing in any sport has a huge number of factors, but the one that seems huge in my books is genetics. Are you a gifted athlete and are you tall? Genetics, arguably, plays a factor in how your brain works in competition. So, based on these factors along with hard work, where you live, good politics, and dedication you might make it into a high-level sport.

Pictured Above: Wayne and Mike get upset about wrecking my money making sports career ;)

I, personally, think I got lucky when it comes to athletic skills, but I didn't win the jackpot. I'm not sure where I sit in the percentiles, but I'm happy. I realized at age 18 that I wasn't good enough to make it in the 6 footer basketball elite, and I was probably more suited to make my way into elite hockey. I made a bad sport endeavour decision not realizing both bad location (small town Canada for basketball), and incorrect match of body type to sport (6 foot, 200 pound frame, Caucasian) were major factors. I blame the coolness of Michael Jordan along with Wayne Gretzky abandoning Canada and heading off to Los Angeles. I've forgiven both ;)

Sorry for that digression, but back to Ultimate and coaching. Elite Ultimate is, currently, not as hard a road to make in terms of being genetically gifted, but the top of the game is filled with good athletes. Every year it's getting better, and when the day comes when we have elite coaches for every team, who will take those roles?

If you don't think respect is a major part in the equation, just like the NBA, then you need to rethink the situation. Much of coaching is ego management of the stars, and then having a team buy into your system to achieve the goals of the organization. If you, as a coach or leader, are not respected by the top players on your team, then the food-chain dictates that you won't be respected by the bottom (except for those salt of the earth players that every coach wishes they could replicate their brain and transplant into the rest of the team).

So, in Ultimate, without a clear hierarchy of high school and college ranks of coaches, we're likely going to see the elite coach the elite based on needed respect alone. Fair enough, but I suggest to these future elite coaches that they take on the non-elite in assistant positions. Using a variety of voices and ideas, instead of picking help from a homogeneous group of similar minded individuals, will lead to better innovation.

That concludes my first point. My second point is for those of us who aren't gifted that you can instantly move up the ranks. Your Ultimate profile is likely missing one of the keys to the full package. Maybe you're short. Maybe you're not the fastest. Maybe you have confidence problems. Maybe you live where there's no big team. The worse case is if you don't get along with other people (see politics post).

For this group, which I include myself, I've learnt a few tricks, and I'll share my favourite today. The idea, which I personally enjoy, is build towards what you want. This isn't a simple process, but if you don't have an elite team in your area, then work towards building one. If your college program isn't that good, then get in there an build it up. If nobody thinks you know about strategy, then write what you think. Note that this option is difficult, there is lots of work, and it is not guaranteed to produce any results, but on the other hand it can be lots of fun and any accomplishments will feel great and earned.

I've always been impressed how Toronto went from a somewhat disjoint Ultimate scene with very independent goals, to one that seems to be growing and getting better every year. There's still problems, but because of people who decided to help people, build teams, and open programs the city's Ultimate output has been getting better every year.


Friday, June 20, 2008

Link Friday - $$$ Cleats, Dry Cleats, Make your vote count, Time, and speed thoughts

Interesting links this week:

  • Lean & Hungry takes a brief look at $400 cleats. I can't imagine ever spending this much for a pair of cleats. Ever...
  • Some of you might have missed this in the comments, but here's a link to the waterproof cover for your cleats. No clue if this is good or not, but I'd be interested in people's comments.
  • Chance to vote for an allstar team to play against team USA at Potlatch in Seattle. I can't find my name on the list ;)
  • Solstice in Eugene this weekend has it's own set of time based rules. Great idea to keep the game moving. Here's a link to f1215833808 with the scoop (thanks to Kieran McConnell for telling me about this earlier in the week).
  • Finally, a not so interesting interview (for those not interested in MMA) with John Fitch. The one thing many people might find interesting is when John talks about not being able to get faster, just being able to maximize his speed. Instead, he's working on timing...any thoughts.


Thursday, June 19, 2008

Poll Thursday - Acceptable tournament profit

Last week we can infer that the majority of people are concerned with the cost to quality of amenities at a tournament. This isn't a huge shock, and I think as we head forward and more tournaments are in supply, only the best cost to quality tournaments will be able to grow in size. This is with the exception of competition at tournaments, where the likes of big named teams draw other teams in. I wonder when big name teams will starting getting appearance fees as opposed to paying tournament fees. I'd guess about five years.

In relation to the cost to quality of a tournament , I thought I'd ask a follow up. What do you think is an acceptable amount of money for a tournament to make per team (poll right). This means a team pays X and the tournament makes a profit Y where Y < X, and your answers are in terms of Y/X as a percentage. I've put the options in percentage of tournament fee.


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Tournament 9 - Observation 2 - Skill set different, game play very similar

Having played and watched leading teams in Europe and North America, I came to the realization this weekend that the difference between quality of teams is athleticism, players per team, clockspeed (I'll talk about this some day), and skills. The level of strategy is the same everywhere.

Pictured Above: Al, Faiz, and Chris of Stack Magic enjoying the sun in Amsterdam (photo courtesy of Richard Bartle-Tubbs).

This isn't a real shock for the following two reasons: one, the sport is very young and strategy hasn't had time to develop; two, the expats from North America have influence on many teams in the world and that style of training and play is adopted. This means that our oral tradition of strategy is both short lived and comes from a similar source.

Seems like a reasonable argument on why Ultimate strategy is simple, but I have another theory. Let's take basketball for example, and remove the offensive pick and the defensive double teams as strategy elements. This leaves basketball with give and gos, passing formations, zones, etc. Sounds familiar, or in other words, the strategic elements of Ultimate are simple, and there's only so many permutations we can come up with.

I don't completely believe this, and I think we will innovate more field strategies over time (though I think the double team should be added in the Open and Women's game at the high level). For example, the flow during the middle game is something that has always intrigued me, but I've never had enough time to work out some options.

We've heard exciting news, for some time now, on Japan based Ultimate. It seems that the Japanese game has evolved on it's own terms, and this has led to slightly different strategies and skill sets compared to the rest of the world.

The real question is what's going to emerge out of Worlds this year. As much as I think the UPA series is the most competitive series in the world, Worlds will bring together independently evolving strategies. Who will come up with the next big thing?

One last comment. Even if stragegy is somewhat simple, it is still challenging enough to change between strategies to counter your opponent. This weekend, our early captain, Matt, put on a zone againts the opponents in our first game, and it worked. Such a simple concept gave our team a fighting chance against a clearly more athletic french team.


Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Tournament 9 - Observation 1 - Am I fine with "Flatball" stereotypes?

Last weekend I had the opportunity to participate in my second European tournament. This one was called Windmill Windup and was held in Amsterdam.

Sounds like an Ultimate stereotype to me. Marijuana, Ultimate, and Frisbee are common words that are associated with one another. Add dog to the mix and you pretty well can describe the sport to any person.

Pictured Above: A Local Dutch fan posing outside his shop during the Netherlands vs. France Euro 2008 game (photo courtesy of Richard Bartle-Tubbs).

I had a great time at the tournament, my team, Stack Magic a.k.a. Le Stack Magique, was a solid mix from various countries, and the Ultimate was good. This tournament was very well organized, and the parties were exceptional. All in all, for the price of the tournament, I would rate this tournament a 9 out of 10 (in the party tournament category), and I hope to return sometime in the future.

Back to the stereotype. Is it time to re brand Ultimate? We all try and call it Ultimate or Ultimate Disc, but the reality is unless the person you're talking to knows about the sport, they either ask if you're a fighter, or you need to mention the word Frisbee to them.

If we care about legitimizing the sport, then I think the name has got to go. Ever since watching "Above and Beyond", I've always favoured flatball. The name sounds peculiar, and I think that helps in making people associate the word with the sport.

Ultimate is like hockey. If hockey was an emerging sport, you would think to yourself, what the hell is hockey. At least hockey wasn't burdened with the Hockey Fighting Championships to confuse people even more. Nope, flatball could fit in well with baseball, volleyball, football, and basketball. People would know it's a sport because the word ball is in there. They could visualize a ball being flattened into something like a disc.

Over time, I've noticed that more people recognize Ultimate as the name of our sport, but we seem to be fighting an uphill battle. For the sake of marketing the sport we should probably have a global referendum for a new name. Why? Not only could we decide what's the best name for the sport, even if we stay with the name Ultimate, the publicity should at least save me from having to talk about dogs, frisbee, and marijuana every time I talk about Ultimate.


Friday, June 13, 2008

Link Friday - Mixed strategy, New look, Bang on, and Our dying earth

My favourite links this week:

  • The Huddle put out their first feature on Strategy in the Mixed Division. Definitely, worth a peak.
  • PlayUltimate has reworked the look of their blog on high school Ultimate information.
  • I didn't catch the action at the UPA College Championships, but we can all point out moments where Colin "JV" Gottlieb views are right on the money. The ethics of our game will change it in one direction or another, so each player needs to push their opinion forward and help make Ultimate what they want. I believe we're heading to that fork where we might instigate the ref like every other sport, then all we have left is the beauty of a disc in flight.
  • The bleak reality of consumption. I don't want to hear this, you don't want to hear this, but wake up and listen!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Poll Thursday - Tournament expectations

Last week we pollers claim that there is a home field advantage. The commenters made some good points on the value of logistics at local tournaments versus long distance travel. On the other hand, I'm never a fan of local tournaments, because I would rather spend a weekend with the team then head back to my own bed each night. It's too much like league. Whether team bonding helps short and long term success, is debatable.

This week I'm interested in what people expect from a tournament in terms of amenities provided. In the UK tour, we have been spoiled. Every field has been lined, the preliminary setup is extensive, the fields have been top quality (in my books), and most of the amenities have been great. The players who complain about tournaments here should try a few North American tournaments, because the quality ranges greatly.

My question is, are bananas, baggles, water, cones, and fields (without any major holes on them) satisfactory for you at a tournament (poll right)?


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Tournament 8 - Lesson 2 - New faces, new opinions

With every team you play for, a mixture of new and familiar faces join in a weekend of Ultimate. I've played with many teams and at many tournaments. I've thought about the sport for many hours, and I've talked with people about the sport for many more. This weekend was a new set at UK Mixed Tour 1 (results here).

Pictured Above: Flump zone around Flaming Galahs 1 (photo from Sam Hird).

This weekend I was being talked to by many teammates about my field play. First off, my defence was particularly weak on Saturday and I got beat in the end-zone 2 times when I shouldn't have, and 2 times when I felt the opponent got the best of me. On Sunday, I was beaten two to three more times, but I felt they were more quality opponents making great plays. In general, I never have any problem with people talking to me about defense, and it's not my forte by far.

I was, however, getting upset when I three different people addressed my offensive game. In most cases, I think the comments were coming because people aren't used to what I would call a weak side handler making space. A similar cutting roll is those cutters who wait to react to other cuts. Sure they're not always moving, but should they? That's another discussion, but let's get back to the point that I learned.

I was getting upset, because I felt I knew better. My error (full stop).

Once I thought about this for five or ten minutes, I realized that it would be better if I tried to adapt more to the team style of play, instead of sticking to my style. This is similar to the changes I made in my game to become a secondary handler. For this team, however, I think I was being asked not to play a secondary or primary handler, but more of a hybrid. It's something I haven't really thought about before since I'm used to team systems that had very clear distinction (though unspoken) between roles.

Well, opening my mind to other ways has taught me more, and I think I played better within the team. Statistically, nothing changed in terms of my completion record. I still only had one throw away on the weekend, no drops that I could get my hands on, and four hucks that were overthrown. I think, however, the intangibles including spacing and being more prepared for the teams style of dumps was much improved.

In terms of a good weekend, it was spectacular. It almost made me forget about my girlfriend and friends hanging out at Gender Blender and Cazenovia.


Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Tournament 8 - Lesson 1 - Pain is your greatest opponent

This weekend I made my first trip to Brighton to play in the UK mixed tour 1. The results aren't up yet, but we (Flump) had a good weekend once we started to learn each other's game and become more of a team.

My first lesson for this tournament is related to pain. Pain is part of an Ultimate tournament. At least from my start in the sport at around 22 to 23, till present day at 31 (quickly approaching 32) every tournament involves pain. In other words, Ultimate is hard work that strains the body.

Pictured Above: A picture from Gender Blender Friday night. The reason for the Monkey? You got me. Maybe someone can comment (picture stolen from Waren Tang).

There are different types of pain too. I would say we have:
  1. One point pain - your body is pushed to a limit in terms of exertion. Your lungs are burning, your muscles are weak, and it hurts.
  2. Cumulative soreness - this type of pain comes from muscles and body parts breaking down over repetitive stress. You feel sore and sometimes tight.
  3. Damage or Injury - this type of pain is from a damaged part of the body.
There are more types of pain, but these physical ones are the main types of pain I've experienced over my Ultimate career.

This weekend I was the fortunate to experience 1, 2 and 3. Three is the hardest one for me to deal with. I, actually, enjoy being sore from tired muscles, but playing with injuries and damage is difficult, and even worse, in Ultimate it is usually focused on the lower extremities. In my case, I got kneed in the thigh early in the tournament, my feet were a mess from small abrasions on each toe, my groin popped a few times on Sunday, and my Achilles was ever present on the nerve highway of pain.

What was interesting was the cuts on my toes were the hardest to deal with. These small cuts, though not limiting movement, would shoot pain on every step. The thigh and the Achilles were dull pains in comparison.

Pictured Above: Some BEAT Gender Blender action (picture stolen from Waren Tang).

The lesson, however, is that even though you may feel like hell, you can still play if nothing is actually broken. It's all an inner battle in your mind.

The funny thing is, for all the people who deal with pain types 2 and 3, how many times have you seen teammates or yourself submit to pain 1.

This happened to one member of the opposing team in our final game of the weekend. His team didn't support him from the sideline (they were clumped together in the middle of the field), and the player was left to fight the pain battle by himself. As a person on the sideline, it is one of your jobs to help your teammates battle pain. Our team helped me through the weekend, and that's the type of team I want to play for.

Now, as I sit in pain and write, I'm still battling over the pain to gain ratio of the weekend. Fortunately, I found some topical ibuprofen, which seems to ease my Achilles, and I'm wearing flip-flops instead of cleats. This is part of Ultimate, and it's part of life.


Friday, June 06, 2008

Link Friday - CUPAs future,

Links this week:

  • Another initiative at providing us with useful articles - The Huddle. I'm impressed with the number of new Ultimate related media that has come out this year.
  • More Ultimate how to. I saw this collection of how to catch and throw a disc. These are mostly throws meant for freestyle. It would make sense if we had more demo based film footage for Ultimate. I know Dan Cogan-Drew has made some major steps here, but I think there is a big market along the lines of the basketball instructional videos I bought as a kid.
  • What will happen to Canadian Ultimate if Canadians ever get shut out of the UPA (shown to me from my friend Kirk)...and these guys are bad skaters.
  • This link was sent to me by Marc Hodges. It discusses some thoughts on sports nutrition along lines of my latest beliefs - just eat good foods.
  • A 5 minute video on story telling that I think applies to Ultimate among most other things we do. How? Well I like Glass's concept of taste. It is something you have or your coach has (a goal and a judgement criteria). Then you need to understand that it takes work to get better also noting that results will not be instant.
I'm off to Brighton this weekend for Mixed Tour 1. Gender Blender is happening in Fergus Ontario, and Cazenovia near Syracuse will see some of the North East titans clash for the first time this year. In the west Flowerbowl will see the UK ladies, some Canadian Juniors, and some team Canada tryouts and games. Should be a good weekend of Ultimate.


Thursday, June 05, 2008

Poll Thursday - Home field advantage

Last week I touched on Ibuprofen usage during tournaments. I, myself, never believed in the stuff until about 29, where I started to want to play bu my body was saying no. If you look at the numbers, about 60 people are regular users, and about 60 people fit into the 28+ category (a little bit of gestimating here). I'm not saying it's necessary, and it's probably a bad idea, this game is tough, and ibuprofen seems to be an option for those of us who should retire, but just want to keep on playing.

This week the poll is partially based on this post that looks into home field advantage in European Football and its decline. Home field advantage is rare based on the format of Ultimate, since we go to tournaments. Regardless, the poll question is do you think there is a home field advantage in Ultimate. If you don't have a local tournament, then imagine you get to play your opponents on your practice field (poll right).


Wednesday, June 04, 2008

The next GTA in Ultimate

Well, maybe not the next Grand Theft Auto, but Bacon, Eggs, and Toast (BEAT) has released our latest Blender Quest game (courtesy of Norm Farb). This release coincides with Gender Blender that happens this weekend in Fergus.

You can play the game here, and the codewords, that you win in the game, correspond to a drink bonus at the tournament. If you're not attending the tournament, then take pride with completing all 10 levels. It took me a while, but I did it!

You can also play last years Blender Quest II here. Note that in both games, we take no responsibility for bugs.

Lastly, you can check out a discussion on Gender Blender's party status here.


Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Global Ultimate Growth - Ultimate in India and Beyond - Part II

Here's the rest of the interview from this last post with Jordan Bower.

4. What type of bigger initiatives should Ultimate play in the world?

First, we need to be conscious of how Ultimate subversively teaches leadership and life skills. That’s been my experience as I’ve moved up the ranks: as I get better, I feel more responsibility to be a good example (not that I always do it well!). In learning and applying the rules and spirit of the game to in-game situations, you are almost obligated to become a better person and a better leader. It’s a really special part of Ultimate that doesn’t exist in any other sport. And because it’s fun and fitness oriented, you can sell it in such a way that it doesn’t come off as dorky leadership training. We’re going around saying “hey, come play this great game” and in the course of doing it, we’re helping new players go farther and be better. There’s something really powerful about that.

I think it’s time that we became conscious of how that differentiates Ultimate. As I teach this game in dusty lots covered in cow paddies or try to sell it to government officials, I realize that there are no other sports where someone would dedicate his time to this type of grassroots growth effort with no expectation of compensation. Can you imagine a badminton player traveling the world trying to convince kids to play? Or even soccer, basketball, football? Our passion for Ultimate and the positive change that it can aspire should certainly be a major strategic focus. And there are lots of people out there with far more passion for Ultimate than me. Imagine if we could mobilize hundreds of fanatical Ultimate players to share their love with the rest of the world! That’s kind of what we’re trying to do. We’re also well-placed to do it: Ultimate players are disproportionately represented in the foreign service and in development work. We have an opportunity to take this game and use it to spread some really important, holistic ideas about life. If we all committed ourselves to this together, we could create something really special and unifying.

The truth is that it’s already begun: the Johannesburg (South Africa) league organizes regular coaching clinics for disadvantaged youth in Soweto; I read that the Soweto team recently won their national tournament and represented the country at Worlds in 2003. Also in South Africa, the national body (SAFDA) has teamed up with a major HIV/AIDS awareness NGO called Lovelife ( that was so taken by ultimate that it chose it as its flagship sport for a series of regional/national sports tournaments: through arts, dance, and sports, the NGO reaches 4000 schools and impacts 3,000,000 kids per year. I’ve also heard of programs in Thailand and Colombia that tie together Ultimate and Development. I’m sure there are more out there. Hopefully talking about this will bring them out of the woodwork.

5. Why would Ultimate be a better ambassador sport choice than other sports?

There are a handful of straightforward reasons. It’s cheap, it’s easy to learn and organize. It unconsciously promotes integration, leadership, maturity, and fitness, just through the design of the game. It already has a passionate advocacy group through a well-developed community. And there’s a sense of inevitability: ultimate players are traveling and working abroad and they all want to play a great game at the end of the day. In India, there are teams in a handful of major cities and growing. I’ve got no doubt that growth will continue over the next few years, especially with what’s happening here in terms of economic growth.

We need to overcome two challenges as we grow. The first will be getting access to quality field space. The second is producing high quality, inexpensive discs. Both will be gradually addressed as we grow, but they effect how we strategize. Recently, we’ve diverted our efforts to focus on the upper class and the university students, because those groups have easy access to fields and can afford to buy discs. We are still looking for other, creative ways to address these problems.

6. Do you have any thoughts on how the established Ultimate community might help?

We have learned that Ultimate needs to be taught by experienced coaches who love the game, because it loses itself in translation. As an example, my first day here coincided with the national Flying Disc of India tournament (sanctioned by WFDF and ostensibly a qualifier for Worlds). There were about 200-300 coaches, players, and officials, and no more than a handful had ever seen a knowledgably played game. The governing body had learned the game by reading rules on the UPA website and had instituted its own interpretation, with referees, traveling, odd defensive rules (like, for any attempted D where a defensive player contacted the disc but didn’t catch it, offense retained possession – yes, seriously), and lots and lots of contact. It turned one team picking up the disc and hucking it at their tallest player standing in the endzone, the disc inevitably being dropped, and then the other team picking up the disc and hucking it back. It sucked. One of the side effects was that our captain (who had a comparably better idea of what was going on) made a bid on a disc, was pushed, and tore his ACL. This was a great stage to promote some high ideals, but poor implementation compromised the effort.

The folks in South Africa have said the same thing: teaching the game requires that new players need to be quickly infused into an already established community in order to fully digest the spirit rules. Growth of the game will rely on the committed involvement of current players. If that part is missing, it just becomes another badminton.

Through Indicorps, we’re looking to create a global community of organizations using Ultimate to create change. The community should be a vessel for conversation about development, sourcing discs, trading teaching tools, drills, strategies, and for sharing opportunities: we’re all in this with the same goals, so we should find ways to work together. It’ll also be important for giving current players the opportunity to infuse themselves in international growth – either through short-term volunteer work or longer term organization and planning. We need all the help we can get and will welcome anyone who wants to share their love for the game.
This idea is just starting to take form, but interested people should contact us and check out our websites:


7. Should North America be worried about another country becoming another competitor?

There are 10 year olds here with better forehands than guys I toured with. I’m talking 40 or 50 yard throws, minutes after learning. These are the kids who loved ultimate but didn’t know it.