31 May 2007

Baseball and netball and waterpolo and soccer and...

In Australia, the ultimate community has so much room for growth in terms of coaching and tactics.

Consider that until 4 years ago, there wasn't a single accredited ultimate coach in the country.

And when did you last hear an ultimate player introducing a play or drill from another sport? How can we draw on the enormous pool of knowledge, skills, drills, plays, coaching and technology used in other sports?

Here's an example. Here are about 50 basketball plays. And those are just offense plays. Yet they have names, are diagrammed and many have counters.

Where are the standardised equivalents in ultimate (for set-up offence, for endzone plays, for defeating zones)?

I know of ultimate players who have represented Australia in fencing, water polo, ice hockey. I know players who have made state teams in AFL, baseball, basketball and netball.

Its time to learn from other sports.

28 May 2007

Goals and accessing them

So I have wandered through ideas about goals and goal setting over the years. Some is here. I haven't found recommendations on clear cut best practice - seems more like a swirling soup of different people's opinions.

But making goals measurable is a recurring point.

Part of that is making them easily recordable and accessible. If you have to log onto your computer, open a spreadsheet, and tab over to a certain column, it is easy to lose the habit of recording your progress. Likewise if you record your progress on page 23 of a folder that disappears under bills, postcards and newspapers - the habit is hard to hold.

You want the goals and your progress to be staring you in your face.

So if online seems accessible, this could be useful: Joe's goals. A website with nothing to learn - just dive in and log your goals.

And for those not regularly online, the paper equivalent is to blu-tac a large paper chart on the wall next to your bed.

I will continue my quest for accessible, practical, easy methods for goal setting and measuring...

24 May 2007

Carrots and sticks

So I was thinking about the commonly used carrots and sticks that coaches and leaders use with their teams, during scrimmages.

  • pushups, eg 10 pushups for your team if you turn the disc over
  • laps, eg run a lap of the field/endzone if you get broken
  • yelling, eg "You're slacking, run harder!"
  • playing time, eg taking a sub if you turn up to training late
  • points, eg 2 points if you score from beyond halfway (to reward hucks)
  • praise, eg "Sweet dump defense during that last point!"
And I couldn't think of many carrots.

So here are some to try:

Yardage, eg if your team throws a break throw, they move the disc 10 metres upfield, then play restarts.

Manpower, eg if they get a block, they can now have 8 players on the field.

Mark ups, eg if they complete an earlier drill better, they choose the markups for a point (who marks who).

22 May 2007

Conventions to challenge

Conventions get challenged at the cutting edge of a sport, ie the elite level.

These conventions include those relating to training methods, tactics, attitudes and organisation.

Look at what used to be convention in ultimate, 15 or so years ago:

Once in zone, stay in zone. Stacks are vertical. Be patient against zone O.

Nowadays, these are no longer hard and fast "rules", merely suggestions for beginners.

Here are a few paradigms. I bet a proportion of these will no longer be set-in-stone paradigms, before too long. Maybe teams are experimenting with them right now.
  • mark on the open side of your man
  • stack upfield
  • don't reveal your plays to the opposition
  • throw to an open player
  • look at your dump on high counts
  • defensive plays are decided before you pull
Its a lot of fun to try new ideas - and its fascinating to see a paradigm be changed.

7 May 2007

The distribution of playing time

In an elite ultimate team, how should the team's minutes be distributed among the players?

Note that I have deliberately not used the phrase "how should you distribute playing time" since that assumes the process should be determined by one person.

This article gave me insight.

There is a lot to be gained from keeping everyone focussed on the team's aims, and away from comparing their performance relative to others.

I have always tried to keep stats of individual players away from the players, whenever I have been responsible for them. Team stats I will happily share.

To get briefly political, it seems like this applies to the "how shall we pay teachers" debate in Australia.

For me, the important issue is not who gets rewarded, but where the focus of the people doing the work is - on contributing to the effort, or on how they compare to their neighbour. We know the approach of the US, in the teacher pay debate.

Parinella says (and debate follows his post):

the player has to draw one of the following conclusions, depending on how the subbing is done: either whatever I do has little effect on my playing time, in which case I don’t have to play smart, or I am going to be benched if I make a mistake, in which case I probably should play so conservatively that I’m not going to help the team.

I believe, if you can reduce the focus on "how am I doing" and bring it to bear on "how can I help the team more", better results will follow.

And calling lines most points, where you are disappointing several keen players every time you call them off, seems to push the focus in the wrong direction.

So what are the alternatives?

One is self-managed playing time. If your team plays lots, players should have time to get comfortable with their roles. The coach or leadership should make suggestions to players chiefly in non-crucial tournaments and in scrimmages ("play more zone", "make sure we have 3 handlers on", "play less this game, more next game", "play more on O, less on D"). So when you hit the big games, roles are set and players can focus on cheering and getting ready to play, rather than listening for their name, and not hearing it.

Any exceptions e.g. "our strongest lines will be called in crunch time, or to take half", should be established in preparation games too.

Bottom line is, if you use pay or playing time as the carrot, then you need to devise a better carrot - such as seeing how you contribute to success.