Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Engineering in Ultimate

One of the classic debates that can start up in a pub or on the Ultimate road trip is what is a sport. It gets interesting once you get into machines as part of the competition. For example, in the last Olympics, the UK's dominance in indoor cycling was partly due to their technologically advanced suits and bikes, which have been locked away until the next Olympics. Obviously, the athletes are still an integral part, and I'm sure if I strapped on the suit and got on those bikes I would still be passed by most cyclists other than my fiancee.

What about cars? This weekend the F1 series started back up. this weeks winner was a Brit who had been sitting at the bottom of the tables until all of a sudden the engineering team came up with a top notch car. Engineering wins the day, but is it a sport?

For Ultimate, the two major engineered devices are our cleats and the disc (the cones, braces, and clothing also to some degree). The disc is common, for the most part, and the cleats a loved discussion by many a player. Is the toe cleat useful? How important is lightness? How comfortable are they? I'm sure the cleat has some impact on performance, but I'm not going to get into those details.

The discs, on the other hand, are made by companies and we try to keep them roughly the same. When talking to the guys at Daredevil, I was wondering why is it so hard to copy the more popular Discraft. The reason was along the lines of how the plastic recipe, the cooling, and the mold are all guarded secrets that would be hard to replicate (and expensive).

For the sake of some imagination today, what if Ultimate was crossed with F1? Instead of one disc, each team was allowed to bring a disc that met some set of specification rules. On alternating points, the discs would switch (or maybe halves), and the opposing team would get 20 minutes with your disc to learn it's nuances. Imagine now, your team plays with a disc that is weighted so that flicks roll over faster (how you do that is for the engineers), and your strategy limits hucks because of the roll. Sounds interesting, but is it a sport?


Friday, March 27, 2009

Link Friday - Fitness, Time Management, and

The links this week are:

  • [Featured Blog] The winners of the UPA Logo division: Guillermo Y Compania.
  • The other blog, which I think I should remind people about is UltiTraining. When I first advertised there wasn't much yet, but we've seen a steady pace of useful articles, such as my favourite so far - SMR.
  • If you're into time management, this post breaks down some key points. Personally, I have to learn to leave my email alone.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Poll Thursday - Jersey company and messed up an order

I really blew last weeks Poll Thursday. I didn't get the post out until yesterday. Anyway, the results are suspicious in the end, but Spin Ultimate gets the publicity with some repeated clicks in the poll (1500% increase visits from Atlanta yesterday). Not a big deal since I have no problem advertising for the Ultimate community. When, however, will I get that exclusive advertising deal?

Until that day, we continue with a topic that I've heard from a range of people, "_____ messed up our jersey order". Now, before I pose the poll questions, we should all understand that filling a jersey order from groups like ourselves is difficult. From the Jersey companies side, we the customers are sketchy on filling out forms correctly, responding in a fast manner, and flip-flopping on decisions...among other factors. Still, the order success is probably the number one factor on teams swapping companies.

So, there are two polls this week. The top poll is for a successful filling of an order (with minor problems) for each jersey company you've used, and the bottom poll is for unsuccessful orders. The definition of successful and unsuccessful is left to you the customer (Polls right).


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

What is the dream college Ultimate program?

Yesterday, I gave some preliminary thoughts on my Ultimate playing future on the field. Some great discussion has kept me thinking about my playing options. On the other side of the coin is coaching Ultimate. In this aspect, being at a University is a great opportunity to help work with a program and move into a coaching role.

So first, the University I'll be taking a position at (if everything continues as planned) is Miami University (Oxford, Ohio) in the Computer Engineering department. That being said, tenure track positions demand time, and the goal of tenure will be my first priority.

The Ultimate team at Miami University has their web presence here. So, from my perspective, they appear to be a strong team with a stable program in place. That's both good and bad. Good in that they're successful and keen, but bad in that it's quite possible they're not looking for high-level management. I haven't contacted anyone from the team for a number of reasons given the current time and other details I need to work out.

My dream, however, is to help Miami Ohio build a college program into a dream program in the region. With the resources in the area, it's easy to imagine building a program that includes some of these ideas:

  • Includes an A and B team ... the real goal being A through C.
  • Includes a summer camp for employment and finances.
  • Is recognized team on campus.
  • A scholarship of some sort for team members (maybe as a housing allowance).
  • Academic success for the team.
  • A club team or associated club system in the area to promote year round development.
  • Regional high school involvement for recruiting and improvement.
At first, however, I'll start slow and see if the team is interested. Then from there, hopefully, we can build the dream college Ultimate program.

Any other ideas what would make a great college program based on existing models or your imagination?

Beyond the local University team, my other goals are to impact the region. I would like to help strengthen the Great Lakes Region in college and the Central Region in clubs. How to do that? Well, I'll have to make friends and discuss first. Then maybe some sort of plan will emerge.


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Is it time to hang the cleats up?

So, I've accepted an offer to be an assistant professor at a University in the US. I won't tell you which one yet. It's in the Midwest, in a small town, and the University team makes regionals in the Great Lakes region.

The questions, among basic logistics of moving and preparing for a new job, are what to do with my Ultimate playing career. I'll be about 1 hour from a regional quality club coed team and 2 hours from any regional quality club open team. I will, likely, try to help out with the local University team, and hopefully, move into a coaching position as time goes on. Still, my playing days seem numbered unless I'm willing to drive +2 hours to practice.

At the age of 32, there's other sporting options I've been considering. Hockey is played in this town, and the sport is much gentler on the body. The golf courses (both disc and club) have been calling my name. Mixed martial arts also is high on my list of to dos.

The major sacrifice I would be making, is no more team building as a player (note that the hockey would likely be in pick up form or house league), and a separation from the Ultimate community (which I would still be a member of, but as a coach, which in my opinion is a big difference). These are the elements that addicted me to Ultimate, and the parts I would find hardest to leave.

Also, my hopes of playing world masters seem to be heading down the drain. Still, maybe it's time to hang up the cleats? What would you do? When is the best time to retire?


Friday, March 20, 2009

Link Friday - [lack of Ultimate] - Video game, useless fitness, and survival

My favourite links this week have little to do with Ultimate:

  • The UFC Video game is coming out in May. Here's a look the fighting styles in the game.
  • The top 10 useless fitness apparatuses.
  • A new book on surviving the apocalypse is reviewed here.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Poll Thursday - Who's your favourite jersey company

Last week, Wisconsin edges out Stanford to be your favourite for the College Women division. I apologize for missing out on Washington, but my distance leaves me a little out of the loop, and my time shortage left out some needed research.

Anyway, this week I thought we could vote for your favourite jersey company. With the disappearing GAIA, who's your favourite (poll right)? In addition, the second poll asks what continent your from to see if there is any correlation.


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Passive Barriers in Ultimate

Another morning where my daily reading hits on a topic that I think might be interesting to the community. The concept is passive barriers, and I read about it with respect to money in this article.

First, definitions for those of you who aren't interested in the article:

  • Barriers: "There are dramatic differences in what we say versus what we do. Often, the reason is so simple that we can’t believe it would affect us. I call these barriers".
  • Active Barriers: "Active barriers are physical things like the plastic wrap on my food, or someone telling me that it’ll never work, etc."
  • Passive Barriers: " Passive barriers are things that don’t exist, so they make your job harder."
Now to Ultimate - Barriers will affect goals whether they are team goals or individual goals, so we should look into some barriers that may be troubling your goals.

Goal 1, in my case, is an individual effort to warm up properly before games and practice. This is the type of thing I promise to myself every year so that I can last longer into the season. The main barriers to this goal are waking up early after lack of sleep, and focusing on proper warm ups after byes during tournament days. Both of these barriers seem to be passive in that I don't have enough time, and I'm trading off that time for fun. I'm not sure how to deal with these barriers, but we all face it in Ultimate.

A team barrier, for example, is the tendency for the O-line to huck the disc too often and not play a small game. Barriers that cause this can include:
  • Individual throwers and team opting for the easy way out via a fast score.
  • Individual throwers and team over using one weapon.
  • Lack of team confidence in the short game.
The same is true for the opposite where a team never hucks, but we tend to see this less.

Not sure how you solve these, but at least being aware that even though we say we're going to do something it doesn't mean we are. Action should be post evaluated and barriers identified to rectify, if that is the true goal, the situation.


Monday, March 16, 2009

Moday Economy Savers

As I come in to the lab and scan through my usual reading, there are two items of intereste to the Ultimate community. First, reported by ffindr, a GAIA closeout sale. Second, here's an article on how to make your own sports drinks.


Friday, March 13, 2009

Link Friday - Training, Bowling Green, and Art from my video game past

My sites of the week:

  • [Featured Blog] A new Ultimate Training blog for those of you looking for info on training.
  • [Featured Tournament] BG Huck-A-Thon. I've always enjoyed visiting Bowling Green, Ohio and this tournament has a little place in my heart.
  • Great art from video games of the past (here and even better, here). For example:


Thursday, March 12, 2009

Poll Thursday - Women's College Predictions

Last week 40% of you thought that Carleton will be the champions this year. To be honest, that was not what I expected, but in itself, this result gets me excited.

As for this week what are your prediction for top women's college team (poll right).


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Ultimate Depression?

Speaking of economics, I caught a thread on RSD with a discussion on the state of Ultimate with respect to the downturn. Then today, this article discusses the NBA's financial woes.

Note: Canadian Tire money is not legal tender in Canada...though it's damn cool.

So, what will happen in the upcoming Ultimate seasons due to the current financial problems. First, I look to my friends in Ultimate, and other than a few, the majority have kept their jobs. This is good news. Companies may have frozen raises, but based on previous spending history, it seems that people will be able to afford the Ultimate trips and gear based on last year. My guess is that the status quo maintains its' spending (no growth).

The second place where Ultimate might get hurt is the upcoming graduates. This group will, likely, find it hard to find work that pays enough and has a low enough time demand to allow Ultimate spending. This means that we might see a growth slowdown for the sport. Also, parents will be able to use the economic climate to convince their children to tighten their belts. Maybe College Ultimate will see a small negative growth.

The third place where we might see change is due to fear. Even though the economic status of players might not change, general fear might cause us to look towards cheaper leisure options. This might mean that local leagues see a decline, tournaments see less bids, and the jersey industry doesn't design new jerseys and instead prints last years version for a few new players.

It would be interesting to hear what people think on this issue. So far, only GAIA has disappeared off the Ultimate map (unconfirmed). I suspect our Ultimate market will see a decline, but not on the same scale as the Worlds. I feel the sport is a reasonably wealthy group to begin with.


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Efficient returns - good economics for improvements?

In a recent article in the New York times, the topic is how the free throw, in basketball, is a statistic that is not improving for the NBA. The experts claim is that:
"Ray Stefani, a professor emeritus at California State University, Long Beach, is an expert in the statistical analysis of sports. Widespread improvement over time in any sport, he said, depends on a combination of four factors: physiology (the size and fitness of athletes, perhaps aided by performance-enhancing drugs), technology or innovation (things like the advent of rowing machines to train rowers, and the Fosbury Flop in high jumping), coaching (changes in strategy) and equipment (like the clap skate in speedskating or fiberglass poles in pole vaulting)."
That and the free throw is not the main skill to focus on within the sport. I'm sure free throw competitions have better shooters as they focus on this one skill.

This got me thinking about Ultimate. Do we have skills that are maximized? Again, we're in the domain of lack of statistics to even continue the thought experiment, so I won't waste too many words in that direction (4 gone just to finish that sentence).

The question that I thought might be really useful to ask, is there any skill that we are good enough at? Should we be spending time on another skill set? For example, I would argue that many teams spend way too much time on casual throwing, though that's not really a skill.

Another aspect that I think teams spend too much time on is getting faster in terms of top speed. Fitness is important, and fitness should be incorporated in practices. Note, however, that fitness should not be simply sprints; fitness should involve game-used footwork with or without a disc, or sprints with a disc. Speed is one of those areas I feel that you get very little return from in terms of how much you have to put into it.

In terms of what to practice, the best thing you can do is determine what skills to work on will give you the greatest returns in game situations. This isn't a simple problem by any means, but it is something to think about. For example, developing teams love to huck and practice hucking. The reality, in many cases, is that the time spent on hucking will return maybe one or two more deep completions in a game (and that's probably via only one or two players who are good huckers anyway). While developing your endzone and small game skills will result in better team play and more possession for all your players.


Thursday, March 05, 2009

Poll Thursday - College Open early guesses

Based on two weeks ago's poll, I'll try have another logo competition in January 2010.

Being in the UK, I'm even more disconnected from the UPA College season compared to usual (note that both King's and Imperial College made UK Nationals Div II here - good job!). That and I've been more busy than normal, but I'll start off with a poll to get me into the swing of things. Who do you think, of the top 10 based on recent NUMP polling, will win the college series this season (poll right)? Note that the teams are ordered from 1st to 10th based on the polling.

Personally, I think this might be the hardest year to predict in a while. We can't rely on Wisconsin to make us look good, but don't count them out.


Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Ultimate - our little secret?

I've been on tour with job interviews and academic conferences over the last week (explains the lack of posting), and I noticed something Ultimate related in the interviews. Whenever talking to people, I always wonder if I should mention I play Ultimate.

Why would I be concerned? Well, as many Ultimateers have noticed, the sport is not well known in the general public, and depending on the person you're talking to, the sport has an image that can be both good and bad. Depending on the situation, the hippy frisbee image can be both good and bad. Then you're also known to throw a frisbee with dogs, and last but not least, you must always be at the beach throwing a disc. Even scanning through the intramural sports list at a range of Universities and high schools, "Ulttimate Frisbee" dominates the naming of the game over "Ultimate". The latter seems to confuse people, and they think you're a mix martial artist, which I, personally, love to go with. My imaginary MMA record is 7-3 and I specialize in BJJ to protect my beautiful face, said with a wink ;)

Still, I'm proud of my affiliation with Ultimate. I list my coaching jobs on my resume, and I tend to use Ultimate stories to convey some of my skill set. My latest encounter turned out to be a benefit.

In interviews for University faculty positions, you spend all day in meetings with existing faculty. These meetings range from junior to senior faculty in various departments. I get edgy on what to say as seniority increase (as I'm sure all people do). In one of my meetings with the Dean of engineering, I decide to mention Ultimate. I notice a facial response from the Dean, but we continue our conversation and I can't explain the sport.

Is this a concern or not? Well, later in the conversation at a lighter point, the Dean mentions how he's familiar with Ultimate and his son played. The Dean remarks on his fascination with the sport and mentions how he's amazed that for the most part the game is unrefereed - good stuff.

I've decided (before this) that being myselfis the right road to take. Hey, if they don't want me the way I am, then I can't be someone else forever. Just like my flawed writing you have to get comfortable in your own mind and skin.

the real PJ