Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Things I Hate About Ultimate: Vol 1

Of all the throws in the world, the open-side swing has to be the most brain-crippling, vision-destroying pass of all time.

I went to play mini with the Ego boys last night (first time playing ultimate in two years) and came away thinking what an awesome game mini is. Great for conditioning, great for reps on o and d and great for seeing space. The combination of the tiny little field, make-it-take-it and stall-from-anywhere means that the funny space abounds and is used frequently. In fact, if you never use the funny space, you probably won't score in mini.

For so many ultimate players, learning to throw an open-side swing was their first or second throwing skill. It was an essential skill before their team would even let them on the field. But in learning the open-side swing pass first, they immediately put on mental shackles. All that funny space, which is so easy to throw into and so easy to cut into, disappears because it's a break-mark throw (which is a "tough" throw, so how could a rookie make it?) or it's counter-flow (which is a "bad decision") or it's just unconventional and unexpected ("that's not what we do.") Learning to throw that open-side swing pass takes a 4800 square foot field and makes it 10x10 box.

When you learn what a force is and a swing is and what the 'right' way to play is, you are excising a whole host of options and possibilities from your game. The really great throwers and cutters spend years unlearning what is and isn't possible. My advice: don't throw swing passes in the first place.

Friday, July 16, 2010

World Cup Ultimate

I recently had the opportunity to work for Roger Crafts and Mike Mullen at Seattle Youth Ultimate Camps. It was an awesome experience, I learned a ton and I am going to return in August to teach a new leadership in ultimate section of the camp. One of the really cool things they do at SYUC is to make ultimate culture fun and exciting by playing a lot of reindeer games. Using reindeer games is a really nice way to alleviate the hard work and intensity associated with playing six hours of ultimate for five straight days. (Remember, these kids are 8-16.) This year the big games were Galaxy Wars (Super-Boot), Schtick and Ninja Warrior.

Late in the week we decided to play a small-team (fours) ultimate tournament after lunch. Because of all the reindeer games, I felt authorized to organize it into World Cup format. Four pools of 4 teams with games 20 minutes long. Games ended on the whistle, with only pass-in-the-air continuation. Wins were worth 3 and ties 1. There were a lot of ties. Two teams from each pool advance to quarters. Once we got to bracket play, ties were resolved via shoot out. The Gorillas won quarters and semis in shootouts.

The shootout involved five shots, each of which involved three players: a thrower, a cutter and a defender. (Because most of the teams had five players, each one filled each role once.) The disc was placed at mid-field (which was about 15 yds from the goal line) and the thrower had five seconds to throw a goal to the cutter who could set up anywhere they wanted. The defender could also set up wherever they wanted, although all chose to mark the cutter, not the thrower. The Gorillas big semifinal win over the Jackalopes came when back-to-back Jackalope receivers botched their footwork and came down just shy of the endzone. Congrats to the Mice who handled the scrappy Gorillas in the final.

It is a bit hard to see where the shootout would fit into current ultimate practices, but there is a definite application for the hardest-of-hard-cap whistles. Because of the very tight time constraints, when the whistle blew, the game was over, unless it was tied. Didn't matter if it was between points or during points or who had possession; when the whistle blew it was done. The only difficulty for a real ultimate tournament is the problems associated with hearing the horn. We used the cap system again for the end-of-camp tournament and it worked well and created some awesome, exciting finishes particularly the Dog-Riot semifinal. (Teams were named after UPA Champions.)

Monday, July 12, 2010

Questions from 97430

When I switched over from 97430, I left unanswered questions. Here they are:

1a. I don't like yoga because it is too static. Pilates is more dynamic. It really came home to me in a yoga class once when the instructor said to me, "Get your knee back and lock it." I thought, "Are you crazy? I like my ACL right where it is." Any physical training you do creates muscle memory and I don't like creating bad and potentially dangerous habits.

1b. "Always wear pants" means just that: wear long pants no matter what the weather is. You want to keep that hamstring and leg uncomfortably warm, so wear pants.

2. "Spirit" is hippie-dippy, but that's the birth of our sport. It was born in 1968, after all. If it is the woo-woo nature of the name that bugs someone, I'd encourage them to lighten up and laugh about it. "Sportsmanship" or "Respect for your Opponent" are ideas that can exist within any sport, reffed or not. What we have in ultimate goes beyond these because it places responsibility for these and correct officiating on the players themselves. Because it is more expansive, it nice for it to have a unique name.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Worlds: Musings from the Score Page

I have seen or heard little beyond the scores and the game reports, (never could get the video to work) but based on that I've a few observations.

Revolver back to #1. After a shattering loss to Chain in the Finals last fall, when they were woefully out-coached, Revolver has reasserted its status as the best team in the world. Congrats! Now can they win Nationals?

Fish back in the race. With a disappointing 2009 following a devastating 2008 quarterfinals exit, people were claiming the death of Sockeye. With only one player (MC) remaining from the Carleton-Moho juggernaut (Rog, Chase, Nord, Jimmy, Cram, CK, Lou, Burkhart, Dufort...) that powered them three titles, I even heard someone claim the Dark Years (1999-2001) were on the Fish again. Put all that shit to rest. By knocking off short-listers Ironside and Chain in back-to-back games, the Fish have powerfully reinserted themselves into the National title race.

Fury over Riot (and everyone else) again. It'll end eventually, but it continues to be amazing that the story line is always Riot-Fury and that it is always Fury coming out on top.

CUPA get it together. Only two Canadian teams placed in the quarters (Invictus and Lotus) and neither challenged their opponent at all. A huge part of the problem was that two of the top Canadian teams, Furious and Traffic, opted out of Canadian Nationals instead going to ECC. So CUPA disallowed them. As an organization, CUPA is responsible to send its best teams to Worlds and is responsible to make a national tournament that its team care about. It did neither and now ranks a distant third behind the Japanese in national strength.

I'll be at ECC a bit next month and do a little reportage there.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

What's winning the fields?

Winning the fields means being the last carload of people on the fields after a tournament. Since the cag is one of my three favorite things about ultimate and since winning the field often involves several hours of cagging, I love winning the fields.

I talked a little bit about Fugue winning the fields on 97430, but my all time favorite win has to be at Flowerbowl 2002. Mizu and I were freshly and madly in love. Riot beat Schwa in the first final. At that time some of Schwa's players were a bit less than friendly and not particularly well-liked in Vancouver, so the entire crowd was behind Riot the whole way. Then we (the Fish) played Furious in the second final and the crowd was against us the whole way. It didn't matter; the Vancouver crowd is one of the best in ultimate: knowledgeable, enthusiastic and partisan so it's great to have them cheer against you. We beat the Monkey. At home.

After about twenty minutes of slapping hands and visiting, I turned to Mizu and said, "What do you think about winning the fields?" She said, "Great." How can you not love someone who wants to win the fields after they've already been sitting around watching ultimate for two-and-a-half hours? We cagged around and visited with the Canadians (mostly Al Bob.) We tried to hit the storage box two fields away with oranges (Giora hit it.) We hacked, played reindeer games (Muck Around) and threw. Finally, even the tournament director was left and the sun was going down, so we decided to roll out.

Rather than go home, we went down into Vancouver and got slabs for dinner. We sat outside on the street and watched the world walk by. Then we got gelato. Then cupcakes. Then we went down to the water and watched the last of the light fade out of the day (which June 10th in Vancouver is about 10:30 PM.) When darkness had fallen and the sunset watchers had given way to bonfires and drunken dancers, we strolled back to our car and started the drive home to Seattle.

That's winning the fields.