9 December 2008

Way to represent

I keep discovering ultimate players who have played other sports at elite levels.

Here's my list:
  • Liz - lacrosse for Australia
  • Alex - ice hockey for Australia
  • Sian - fencing for Australia
  • Brendan - junior volleyball for Australia
  • Aaron - water polo for Australia
  • Jane - Australian Netball League
  • Tom - NSW junior AFL
  • Jack - Victorian junior AFL
  • Ian - National Orienteering League
Any others?

    4 December 2008

    Pathways

    The key to getting more people playing your sport is creating and publicising pathways. You want every player to start playing, and then move up to the next level of competition that suits their playing ability.


    Some questions to spark your thinking on this:

    In our region, how do players enter the sport?

    How do we identify all talented beginners, offer them a taste of higher level ultimate, and ensure they can access the next level if they want to?

    How does a player move from one team to another?

    Are there pathways for both men and women? For 12 year olds? For those who start playing at age 30?

    Do the coaches and administrators know what the existing pathways are?

    Are there pathways within local clubs? Or leagues? 

    What is the best way to communicate with coaches and players?

    On a related topic, designing pathways for administrators and coaches will help the organisation and coaching of ultimate. But we have even more work to do in that area.

    3 December 2008

    Looking wider

    Its good to see ultimate communities getting new ideas from outside. Four examples:

    For the upcoming Australian Juniors camp in January, the AFDA is flying in a US coach.

    Ra from Singapore is planning to bring in foreign coaches to train up his coaches and participate in a junior camp in 2009.

    I hear Colombians are flying in top coaches from the US Northwest.

    The proliferation of blogs connects local communities to foreign ones.

    So the clear message is that plane flights are more affordable in the twenty-first century? Well, that and the point that ultimate communities are learning from expertise outside their postcode, and outside their country. Drawing on foreign expertise is no longer just about playing foreign teams - there is more than that now.

    The Australian Sports Commission is pushing sports organisations to use the resources and existing courses of other sports in their coaching programs - part of becoming a football coach can involve attending a cricket coaching course and doing an online ASC course. So ultimate may continue the trend of looking beyond conventional boundaries, in the field of coaching development.

    1 December 2008

    Getting ultimate into schools

    On Wednesday I had lunch with Ra Resad, who plays ultimate in Singapore. Ra flew out here for the ASC conference.

    Four years ago, Singapore had a few high school students playing ultimate.

    Next year they will have 4000.

    That's some awesome growth. How did they get there? I mean doesn't ultimate in Australia have more players, a bigger sporting culture, more keen volunteers to help?

    Well...

    Ra worked with the Singapore Sports Council and Singapore Ministry of Education to work out how he could get ultimate into schools. And he quit his previous job to be an ultimate coach.

    He became an AFDA accredited coach. He set up SG Frisbeesports. He offered a coaching service that was better than other sports - "frisbee isn't a sport" isn't an excuse a teacher can use when ultimate has quality coaches, quality equipment, uniforms, a structured program, pathways for players and more.


    Respect. One person can make a big difference.

    28 November 2008

    Developing coaches

    I just got back from the National Coaching, Officiating and Club Development Conference run by the Australian Sports Commission (ASC). Nothing like two days of workshops, networking and discussion to get your mind buzzing about possibilities...

    After speaking to AFDA's ASC liaison, and participating in a couple of the workshops, I really like the direction of coaching accreditation in Australia. Flexibility and recognition of current competencies are two key issues the ASC is supporting, so they are encouraging most sports to be innovative as opposed to restricting how they grow coaching.

    There are lots of possibilities in how we design our new versions of Australian coaching programs. What would you like to see?

    More thoughts sparked by the conference coming soon...

    25 November 2008

    The Hat

    Each year at the start of December, the Melbourne Hat rolls around.

    There is the Friday night disc golf, the Hat draw, unpredictable weather, hats (I remember Jim Garvey bringing a horrible hat each year), an inevitable stacked team, foreigners flying in from the distant corners of the world, the crowd cheering for a role player who wins their hearts, and a couple of Normands commentating the final.

    There is always someone complaining about the uniform colour that their team chose, although these days black, white, green, red and blue get fewer complaints than than some of the beige, pink, brown and lime combinations of the past.

    My first Hat had Simon Gorr as the TD. I played on a white team with Dave Mac, I believe. We were winless, in part because the team wasn't very deep (I was a teenager and was unfortunately our second best player).

    Were you playing that year?

     

    23 November 2008

    Never clear again

    If I was to play a game of word association with you, and I offered the word "clear" (in the context of ultimate), I wouldn't be surprised to get some of the following replies:

    "jog"

    "unsighted"

    "not open"

    "finished"

    The habits that players learn as beginners persist as players move into elite ultimate.

    The slow jog back to the stack after not receiving the disc on a cut may be useful in beginner ultimate. But it is a big handicap in elite ultimate.

    The offensive player who is clearing is generally not moving fast enough to pull away from their defender. They are not looking at the thrower. They have no body language that says "you can throw the disc to me now, and I want it".

    Personally as a defender, I will regularly interfere with the offence when my player decides to "clear". I will float off them and look to get an intercept, or help shut down the cuts of others. Sometimes I will use this as a chance to take a shortcut to where they are heading, and take a rest on the way.

    And as a thrower, I like to throw to teammates who think they are "clearing". You may have finished a cut and are jogging away from me, not looking back. But I may still throw to you, and then let you know the disc is coming.

    To summarise: always be a receiving option. Cut in, cut out, cut left, cut right or wait in position. Cut slow or fast. But never clear again.

    21 November 2008

    Starting a season

    Last weekend, Heads of State had their first event of the season, a training camp out at Halls Gap.

    Our season will culminate in Nationals at the end of April: about 5 months long in total.

    Having a camp to start the season is great because you can set your team up for a successful campaign. You've got a whole weekend to work with, and a chance to be with your team without the daily distractions of life.

    We set goals for the team, we planned, we did skill and fitness benchmarking, we welcomed and introduced new players, we set expectations for training commitment, and we got excited about what we're gonna do.

    If your team doesn't start the season with a plan and expectations that the team knows, you are playing blind.

    Ro and Dan atop the mountain we climbed

    Fans and friends

    In ultimate, we players do a lot. We are the players, the administrators, the coaches, the tournament organisers, and the league commissioners.

    And we are also the fans.

    It can be little complicated when you are a fan in ultimate. The people you are discussing are your teammates or potential future teammates.

    I mean, its fine to say that Buddy Franklin is a crap kicker and shouldn't make All-Australian, if you're a random member of the footy-watching public. But you wouldn't catch his teammates doing that publicly, and probably not other footy players, who might find themselves alongside him in the locker room one day.

    In ultimate, when we are the fans who love to watch the big guns, and get to play along side them, there can be a little backdraft on occasion.

    I can see why keen fans like to speculate about who will make this team or that. Indeed, I like to do it myself. But I check myself first before doing it publicly - you never know who you will be playing with or against. Its best to speculate on players and potential teams offline, with a small group of good mates.

    21 October 2008

    Your defensive mindset

    Each time you play defence, you should have a focus for what you, as an individual, plan to do on defence.

    There are many factors that influence your choice: previous points in the game, what your leadership has set as a focus, what the offence is trying to do, who you are guarding, and what your personal strengths and weaknesses are.

    Some guarding tactics are:
    • cover my player cutting under
    • cover my player cutting deep
    • look to be a help defender on deep throws
    • look to be a help defender on short throws
    • stay physically really close to my player
    • clog the passing lanes
    • interfere with the offence's set plays
    And there are marking tactics too:
    • stand off the thrower
    • bait a handblock
    • force to make the inside break harder
    • force to make the around break harder
    • hold a constant force
    • move around with the thrower as they rotate to find a dump
    • hassle the hammer
    • go clown-crazy hyperactive
    • change the tempo of your mark (from a passive, flat-footed stance, to an active, moving stance as the count increases)
    Know what you want to do. Smart defenders will think about what approach they can use, reflect on how it worked, and adapt.

    Just chasing your player around the field produces seven games of one-on-one. Team defence is far more powerful, and it starts with individuals having flexibility in how they play defence.

    16 October 2008

    Hint

    I like how every time I am writing a new post for this blog, I see a link next to "Posting" and "Settings" that reminds me to "Layout".

    15 October 2008

    How to present to humans

    I have an amateur interest in graphic design.

    I figure that this ties into ultimate. Ultimate is quite the grassroots sport - the players are the administrators, coaches, referees, and recruiters. And when it comes to recruiting, you need to communicate clear ideas to the ultimate community or wider world, often through print, powerpoint, websites or video.

    Most of us have zero training in design. If we design something, we just dump the information into the Word document or PowerPoint template, fiddle with a couple of borders or pictures til it looks a little nicer, and go with it. Passion for your topic will partly make up for lack of expertise!

    But if you would like to really make your message more powerful, a few simple principles can make a big difference. And help you stand out from the crowd.

    So from one of the blogs I read, Presentation Zen, I thought I would share an intro to presentation design and delivery.

    It is a short pdf, that is a great reference for when you design your next PowerPoint, poster or flier for ultimate.

    If you have to give a presentation, talking and visuals, and you decide to use PowerPoint, then you need to learn about Really Bad Powerpoint (and how to avoid it), from Seth Godin.
    We can do better than this.
    The biggest idea I took away was knowing the difference between what an audience member hears in your presentation, what they see in your presentation, and what they physically take away (e.g. a handout) from your presentation.

    These three things should be very, very different, but with a cohesive overall message. Using the advice in the above pdfs, preparing your materials will actually take less time.

    Personally, I have sat through too many lectures this semester where the lecturer shows slabs of text on a screen, read the same slabs of text, then hands out those same slabs of text as printouts. Has this happened to you?

    I may as well print them out and read them at my own pace at home (and have actually taken that option regularly)!

    If I give you my presence and attention, make it worth my time to be there!

    14 October 2008

    2008 Uni Games Part 3 - the point differentials

    In Part 2 of my Uni Games review, I looked at the five teams with the best point differential per game.

    Team A: +7.9
    Team B: +5.4
    Team C: +4.6
    Team D: +3.5
    Team E: +3.5

    These teams were, in order, Sydney Uni, Flinders, Monash, UWA, Adelaide.

    Most folks guessed Sydney at the top correctly, then it was a mix of correct and incorrect guesses.

    Here is a graph. All game results and the graph are here. Scores came from AFDA.
    The teams are ordered left to right by where they finished the tournament. So Flinders (1st) is the left most column, Sydney (2nd) is next, then Adelaide, Melbourne and so on all the way across to QUT (19th).

    The point differential measured here is good predictor of ability, in a single number.

    Let's look at an example. Deakin had 5 wins and 6 losses for the tournament. Meanwhile La Trobe went 5-5. They seem pretty close? I mean La Trobe only finished one spot higher. Actually, La Trobe was losing games to the best teams by only a few points, and generally thumping low teams. While Deakin never got closer than 6 points to a top 8 finishing team.

    The point differential shows this: La Trobe +3.1 and Deakin -2.6.

    What else do we notice?

    Flinders had a point differential of +5.4, lower than Sydney Uni (+7.9), who had swept through all their opponents more easily than anyone else. So Flinders' win in the final can be considered an upset, given Sydney's scoring ability.

    Melbourne Uni, the team that finished 4th, finished higher than point differential would predict, while Monash finished lower (7th). Melbourne's one-point victory in the quarterfinal (the single game that changes final position the most) over Monash was responsible for that.

    Point differential isn't strictly comparing apples with apples. Some players get injured. Some teams rest their stars for parts of games. And the teams did not play all other opponents.

    What is consistent is that the top 8 teams played 3-4 pool games, 4-5 crossover games against strong opponents, and then 3 games against strong opponents. So comparisons between them are pretty reliable. Latrobe, Deakin, Murdoch and Ballarat had a different run, playing 3 weaker opponents to finish the tournament. La Trobe, in particular, feasted on RMIT and ECU on Thursday (15-2 wins both games) while the top 8 teams were playing strong opponents.

    The remaining 7 teams had weaker opponents for the majority of the tournament.
     
    A glance at the graph of point differential does show 9 elite teams though, that matches well with subjective observation at the tournament.

    And the graph does point out how much better ANU were than their final finishing place of 15th.

    Is point differential useful? Well, next time you are at tournament and want to predict the outcome of key games such as semis and finals, check out the scoring margins from previous games. There will always be occassional upsets, but on average, the team with a higher point differential goes through.

    5 October 2008

    2008 Uni Games Part 2 - the stars and the final

    I only got to see some of the players in action at AUG, but I was impressed with BJ and Karen on Adelaide. Chris Lavis, Ellie Sparke and Tegan were guns for Newcastle - a team I thought would do strongly in the semis, but never made it. Twiggy was a standout for UWA. And Gamble was potentially the best player at the tournament.

    I was really looking forward to watching Sydney Uni in the final. I hadn't got to play or watch them all week during their undefeated run. Plus I coached them for over four years, so I have lots of connections to the club. The game itself was a surprise, or it least it seemed to be.

    The Sydney Uni team that had walked over every other team at the tournament wasn't to be seen. Flinders got on top and never let up. Sydney Uni couldn't stop the Joel to Alec connection, either by 1) stopping Joel catching the disc, 2) hassling Joel's throws with the mark or 3) guarding Alec up field.

    They clearly didn't have anyone who could do 3), and the zone they used wasn't as useful as, say, a straight up force for acheiving 2). But failing to do 1) was a mystery. Joel doesn't have a single healthy leg joint, and barely made a strong cut to get the disc. Sending one or maybe even two strong defenders after Joel would have at least pushed Flinders to change their offence a little.

    The way Joel threw over the zone to a running Alec irrespective of the defenders made me analyse how I have played against zones. Perhaps this is a new tactic I will try: float looping throws to an elite receiver who is running straight line cuts upfield, and bank on the receiver skying the static zone defenders. I can add it to the list.

    An elite male thrower with some targets will trump a deep team in the mixed competition of AUGs. Check out the history: Joel Pillar, Johnny Mac, Matt Dowle, Pete Gardner, and Jonno Holmes have lead their teams to almost all of the last 10 titles, irrespective of who had the deeper team or better women.

    Perhaps the surprise wasn't Joel's team triumphing, but why they lost to Sydney in the pool rounds.

    Now on to some team stats.

    You can compare teams by looking at the points scored for and against them.

    The AFL shows this as a percentage (%), ie points for divided by points against, multiplied by 100%.

    The NRL shows this as points differential (PD), ie points for minus points against.

    The NBA shows this as a differential (diff), ie points for minus points against, divided by games played.

    Since teams at AUG 2008 played different numbers of games, I'm going with the NBA format.

    The best five teams' differentials at AUG 2008 were:
    Team A: +7.9
    Team B: +5.4
    Team C: +4.6
    Team D: +3.5
    Team E: +3.5

    Your challenge: guess who teams A, B, C, D and E are.

    Post your guesses in the comments.

    In my next post, I'll reveal the team's identities, and explain more about the strengths and weaknesses of this stat.

    2008 Uni Games Part 1 - my personal rollercoaster

    This week just gone I played at the 2008 Australian University Games in Melbourne. It was an amazing rollercoaster of a ride, and one of the most memorable ones ever. I entered the week thinking it would be another enjoyable tournament, with a little more excitement than usual, and came out of it emotionally and physically hammered (in mostly satisfying ways).

    Uni Games should be old hat for me: I have attended 8 out of 11 Uni Games or Uni Championships, as either player or coach. Across the years, the teams I have been on have won medals of every colour, or come close. Every year I meet old friends and make new mates.

    But this year was incredible. My team, Monash, bought into the team vibe in an big way, from their enthusiasm for warming-up to their constant cheering of each other. The rookies and veterans both inspired me with their dedication. There was banner-making, dancing, cheering, glowsticks and team dinners. We had an Indonesian fanclub.

    My teammates improved in amazing ways through the tournament. On Wednesday morning, I was grinning in delight to myself at their ability to consistently execute a warm-up drill in the blustery wind. A warm-up drill!

    We all put a lot of energy into preparing, playing, cheering, and recovery. Not to mention a bit of partying. After playing limited field time in my previous two tournaments, I played a lot at this one, with fatigue only really hurting my play in the last few points of Wednesday and Thursday afternoons.

    My team played five nail-biting last-point-wins games during the tournament, including a 6 point comeback win over UWA. Exhilirating and exhausting. We lost only two games all week, by 1 point and 3 points. But they were the wrong games - we finished 7th out of 19 teams.

    We invested a lot into this team, and I wanted to see my teammates rewarded with a good finish for their effort, but it didn't happen this time.

    After such effort and to miss out on the semi-finals, my mind has constantly been replaying those little factors in those 2 losses, and pondering the what-ifs. Normally I am pretty good about accepting a loss and moving on. After the 2005 Nationals final (scoring 4 consecutive points with Fakulti to draw level with Chilly then losing that last point on a hail-mary throw to Gack), I was at peace. There were two good teams, we had our chance in the last point with the disc, and I was proud of our efforts. No regrets.

    Likewise after losing the 2005 World Games final. We had only 5 turnovers in the game. I didn't throw or catch a goal, but was proud of my team's efforts and my performance. That silver medal was a big accomplishment for Australian ultimate.

    Those Uni Games losses though: a heavy weight. The support that Monash gave each other during the week is a mighty salve though.

    26 September 2008

    We must be cool

    Look what image is being used to sell Apple computers these days...
    I guess their marketing department thinks we're not PC. And that we play in jeans.

    19 September 2008

    "But I thought we would..."

    Sometimes you experience several lessons on a topic before you feel you learn something.

    I think Worlds 2008 gave me a few more lessons on a topic I thought I knew, but actually have much more to learn about.


    Expectations.

    Each of the six Australian teams at Worlds had to deal with unexpected surprises. Things that threatened to put a spanner in the works. In fact, the ones I am thinking of are six very different surprises.

    The teams got to North America... and boom!

    Events happened. People reacted. And for some teams, the players weren't clear on what should be done, or what others expected to happen.

    Setting expectations is a key task for a coach. There are numerous ways to do this.
    • Have a team meeting at the beginning of the campaign. Ask players what they want out of the experience. What would be unenjoyable? What would be exciting? What are the risks?
    • Draw on past experiences. Discuss what happened last year with leadership.
    • Group discussion of scenarios. Print out simple, realistic scenarios on slips of paper. Discuss in pairs, then come together to discuss as a team.
    • Meet with coaches of other teams and find out what they have experienced, and how they plan.
    You need mental toughness, but you also need systems. What have you seen go wrong? What steps have you taken that will ensure your team knows what to do if the wheels fall off?

    18 September 2008

    Getting functional

    I am really interested in doing more functional training.

    Here's one quote from this book: "In functional training, it is as critical to train the specific movement as it is to train the muscles involved in the movement."

    For instance in Monash's training today, we incorporated sprints with turns (for cutting in the game) and skipping (for jumping in the game).

    We then did the kill drill, for a full body workout and to condition the body to throw when fatigued.

    I think I really have to go make that weighted disc, even it is a hack job, and not useful for throwing...

    End the dump squad

    If a team has swung the disc across the field twice (across and back), it hasn't gained ground. Unless there is good reason to do so (e.g. it puts a strong thrower in position for a big gainer), you have risked turnovers without heading to the place you want to be: the endzone. Ideally your offence is structured so this happens a small number of times.

    And I feel this is best addressed at the origin: beginners.

    For the beginner, they need to build the confidence to throw forward. Being regularly urged into a 3 metre back pass by a nagging veteran is not useful. Each mistake throwing forward helps them throw better. If they can't complete simple forward passes more than 50% of the time, they need lots of throwing practice. But that is a steep learning curve they will quickly rise up.

    Training beginners to only look for a backwards pass makes them predictable, limits their throwing range, puts blinkers on how they see the field (and don't we all want better field vision?), and discourages them from looking to break the force.

    There are few games where a beginner is playing, and it is critical they throw their safest pass every time. If they are in a game, it is probably a good place to develop their throwing skills.

    The backwards dump has its place as a reset of the offence, but only as an occassional tactic.

    17 September 2008

    What's in a name?

    I like how Australian representative sports teams have nicknames. In ultimate this gives you more identity.

    At Worlds 2008, I was playing with the Dingos. But someone from, say, France was simply on the French Open team. Having a nickname makes your team more iconic.

    Our Aussie teams are Southern Terra, Thunder, Dingos, Firetails, Barramundis, Taipans, Crocs (World Games), Salty Crocs (Beach Worlds) and Wombats (Asia-Oceania Championships).

    I thought I would dig out some team names from other sports. I'm sure you can guess most of these sports if you are Aussie. Dear foreign readers - think of it as a cultural quiz.
    • Hockeyroos, Kookaburras
    • Rollers (gold in Beijing!), Gliders (bronze in Beijing!)
    • Boomers, Opals (silver), Emus, Gems, Boomerangs, Pearls
    • Kangaroos, Jillaroos
    • Wallabies, Wallaroos
    • Matildas, Young Matildas, Olyroos, Joeys, Socceroos
    • Steelers (silver in Beijing!)
    • Diamonds

    Generating spin

    Over at The Huddle, Paul Vandenberg talked about generating spin to throw further. He mentioned being able to flick cards sharply which can improve backhand snap.

    I was reminded that we had a competition to do this at the Mundis fundraising Trivia Night. Most people, frankly, weren't very good. I think I'll bring a pack of old cards to AUGs...

    The other key part to generating backhand spin is cocking the wrist back. Ken does it like crazy. He can throw a soft 5 metre pass with some major revolutions on it. I feel I can do this too, both forehand and backhand, but I lose the snap on my hucks. So I have made it a focus of my pulling practice. When that pull comes out with extra snap, the disc flies beautifully.

    26 August 2008

    Mental skills

    Elite coaches recognise that at the top of their sports, athletes need a large toolbox of psychological and mental skills they can draw on: adaptability, the ability to only focus on the controllable elements in the immediate present, the ability to manage emotions, mental stamina and self-confidence.

    And like the physical skills, these mental skills are trained. You may luck into individuals with these skills already well developed, but you can be pretty certain that a majority of the athletes holding up medals at the Olympics this year trained their thought processes. You cannot tell an athlete to be "focussed" - it requires ongoing teaching, communication, review and appropriate challenges.

    I enjoyed reading how one coach, Bob Bowman, deliberately exposed his athlete to hiccups, hurdles and pressure. He didn't comment when he noticed his athlete forgetting to take equipment to a key event. He damaged other equipment so it would be faulty during a race. This was all followed up with constant communication with his athlete about how to manage adversity.

    So at the Beijing Olympics, when his goggles filled with water mid-race, and with the unbelievable expectations of winning eight golds on his shoulders, that athlete, Michael Phelps, swam on to claim the fourth gold of an eventual eight. He had faced pressure before and knew it well.

    Bob Bowman has been crafting the skills of Michael Phelps for years.

    And I am keen to learn about the training of Zhang Juanjuan of China, who won the Women's individual archery, to break open the 24-year long stranglehold that South Korea had held on the event. Her quarterfinal opponent was the 3rd seed - a South Korean. Her semi-final opponent was the 2nd seed - a South Korean.

    Her finals opponent was the number 1 seed, reigning Olympic champion and Olympic record holder, South Korean Park Sung-Hyun. Zhang defeated her by a single point. Quite a story for someone who used to suffer target panic.

    Has your team been trained to handle a wet disc, lost cleats, small fields, late transport, changing opponents, missing players, broken limbs, cyclones and anything else that happens?

    20 August 2008

    The stars of Worlds

    Strap on your helmet, fasten your seatbelts, we're entering Stats World...

    Here are the player statistics for WUGC2008. I have put the data online as a spreadsheet too, for anyone to analyse. It is a list of the players, in order of goals caught plus assists thrown, per game played.

    You can pull some interesting stories out of these numbers, despite their limitations.

    Lets sift through this data a bit to find the stars of Worlds 2008.

    Firstly, Juniors should be in a separate category. The junior divisions are still mostly uneven playing fields, with a wide range of abilities and athleticism on many teams. Some junior players will go on to become superstars but don't show it now, whereas the older divisions have a bit more "what you see is what you get". Many of the non-North American juniors have only been playing for 1 or 2 years.

    So we'll pull them out of this list, and put them in their own category.

    Now to the level of ultimate played. The big stats from players on weak teams are less representative of elite play. There is a decently sized pool of players who could throw or catch numerous goals playing with weaker players against weaker teams. But only the best can do so on a strong roster in the top pools. So I have pulled out players whose team finished in the bottom third of their division, an arbitrary cut-off point (I'm all ears for a more objective method for filtering out weak games).

    Those left behind are the stars.

    Somewhere down the track, WFDF may put in the manpower to track who plays which point, and we can get more reliable goals per point (GPP) and assists per point (APP) stats, as opposed to the current per game stats. Actually these current numbers are not even true GPG and APG stats as we don't know who sat out games in this list.

    In this statistically measured future, I feel we need a scaling factor to account for the far larger number of possessions a player starting a point on O faces compared to a D player.

    Alternatively, we need to separate the stats into Goals per Offensive Point (GPOP) and Goals per Defensive Point (GPDP), and likewise for assists.

    I'll finish with some questions.

    How good an indicator of player performance is points plus assists per game? I did a simple comparison to subjective opinion in 2006. The Australian selectors for World Games 2005 picked 6 men from across the country in that year. One year later, 5 of those players were in the top 6 Australian male scorers at World Clubs (I'll try and put those stats online soon too). That's a solid correlation. I am certain we can find better measures though.

    How does Ultistats show this info? Does it have different stats? I can't remember what it showed when I last used it.

    And lastly, does this list have anyone at the top who looks ridiculously out of place?

    I believe it passes the "laugh test".

    Rank Division Team # Name Goals Assists Points Avg
    1 Open JPN 12 Yohei Kichikawa 23 35 58 5.8
    2 Masters GBR 80 Merrick Cardew 23 29 52 4.73
    3 Masters NZL 46 Gary Jarvis 5 44 49 4.45
    4 Open JPN 10 Masahiro Matsuno 23 20 43 4.3
    5 Masters NZL 47 Shane Vuletich 20 26 46 4.18
    6 Women JPN 8 Sanako Inomata 12 29 41 4.1
    7 Open CAN 7 Michael Grant 21 19 40 4
    8 Women AUS 14 Diana Worman 20 22 42 3.82
    9 Women GER 44 Sara Wickström 14 24 38 3.8
    10 Mixed CAN 98 Brendan Wong 28 10 38 3.8
    11 Open VEN 11 Pablo Saade 5 32 37 3.7
    12 Women COL 37 Andrea Trujillo 15 22 37 3.7
    13 Women AUS 2 Lauren Brown 28 11 39 3.55
    14 Open SWE 17 David Wesley 31 8 39 3.55
    15 Women JPN 9 Eri Hirai 31 4 35 3.5

    19 August 2008

    Footwork

    Sure, you can improve as a player by getting faster, throwing further and jumping higher. But if you have a capacity to learn, working on simple unnoticed skills can make a difference too. Like footwork.

    I can think of 6 instances where good footwork can give you an advantage.

    When catching a pass on an in-cut, twist in the air so as to land ready to throw upfield. Basically you are performing a 180 degree turn as you catch. Only use this when you know the defender cannot bid on the catch, and when you are catching at less than 50% of top speed.

    When popping, step in past a cup or wall from the blind spot of a defender, to receive a short pass from the thrower.

    When catching a simple dump or swing pass against an approaching zone cup, jump a little to catch the disc, and stick your pivot foot out as you land. The defence will come up to mark where your torso is, but you can step back wider than they predicted, because your pivot foot is already stuck out.

    When you want to keep a catch in-bounds, toe-drag. Practice. And watch Rueben.

    When guarding a cutter, slide step, rather than turning to move forward or back. Avoid turning your hips and shoulders until you really have to.

    When cutting, decelerate in a straight line, turn, and accelerate out in exactly the opposite direction, retracing your last 4 steps. There are still Worlds reps out there who don't use this simple vertical cutting skill in a game.

    The teams in the Open division - Part 2

    Following on from Part 1...

    The teams we Dingos didn't play. Obviously I have less to offer, having not played them, so if you saw them play (or even played them) add a comment.

    Japan
    There was a lot of hype, but in the end they only squeaked home twice over GB, and lost by quite a few to the US in the semis. They had a crazy distribution of stats. Guess which 2 guys were running the show? Deserving bronze medallists.

    Canada
    Bam. Canada went undefeated for the second Worlds in a row. The final between the US and Canada was their first meeting of the tournament. Canada punished USA's errors and a home turf advantage probably helped. USA pegged the early 4 point lead back to 2 points by the end, but Canada held on, in no small part because of Mike Grant's strong second half. All that disc golf paid off.

    John Hassell was a strong addition to the Furious roster. Mauro Ortiz seems to be the alpha handler for Canada. Like the US, the pull reception play seemed to be pass it to the alpha handler in the middle of the field, and let him have a 5 second look at a huck of his choice.

    The Open final, viewed from the grandstand.
    Dominican Republic
    Beat Mexico twice and even toppled the Netherlands. Got at least 6 points off everyone. What were the bookie's odds 2 years ago on DR being a) a nation that could send a team to Worlds and b) not coming last? Who can fill us in on all this new Central and Southern American ultimate?

    Mexico
    Wooden spoon. Developing. They were in the running for best name at Worlds with Tomas Bartolome Garcia Nathan. Though Venezuela did offer two Jesuses and an Elvis.

    Italy
    They needed Diego :) But they did have Alex on board.

    Switzerland
    Came in 9th, following on from their strong 3rd placing at Euros 2007. After a 10th placing in 2004, I would think they would like to taste the quarters next time...

    Netherlands
    They had Wombat Mike at least, who joined the elite 30+ assist club.

    South Africa
    Didn't see them, or hear much. Good to see they got a team over here. I wonder if our flight home was longer, or theirs...

    New Zealand
    Dave S said they had three practice matches in the week before Worlds, and needed them as they were integrating the overseas-residing half of their squad into the team. Their first game against Finland was a flop with nothing going right. They finished the tournament with a solid win over a South American team (for them, Venezuela) as did Finland, so they righted the ship as the tournament went on. With Shane and Gary in the Masters, this was probably a more rounded team than some previous Kiwi teams.

    Like the Dingos, they had very few games that finished with a margin of less than 5. It was either win by a few or lose by a few.

    Missing
    Brazil, Russia, Lithuania, Denmark and the Republic of China all made it to the Open division in 2004, but not this time. Obviously Turku, Finland was on the doorstep of three of these countries, so here's hoping future Worlds can bring them back.

    16 August 2008

    The teams in the Open division

    Searching for a format to spill some of my thoughts on Worlds, I read Gwen's post on the Women's teams.

    So here is my take on the teams in the Open division that we Dingos played. The other Open teams will be in Part 2.

    Ireland
    Ireland have improved rapidly over recent years, from playing in the UK Tour events and, I presume, European tournaments. While they only got a few points more off the Dingos than in 2004, they were much stronger: an aggressive long game, a innumerable number of handler dump reset passes, that were painful to chase in a zone, and a clever iso game that often isolated one receiver upfield (but not too deep) for a strike when the defence was out of position, German-style.

    These folk were deserved Spirit winners and their supporters were fun-loving too.

    Venezuela
    We played Venezuela on the stadium field, and even with only a few dozen spectators, the echoing concrete steps and roof made on-field communication hard. Along with the language barrier, and Venezuela's fiery style of play, this was a heated game. There were fouls on the mark. Venezuela used a surprising number of injury subs. Catches close to the line came along to keep both teams discussing more than playing. Gav even passed a disc back to the thrower, and unwittingly hit a distracted Venezuelan in the back of the head. Fortunately that didn't get taken the wrong way.

    Germany
    This European powerhouse has slipped - they finished 13th out of the 18 Open teams. Phillip, their go-to guy got injured during our game, and their competitiveness in our game slipped after that. Hans was the source of a lot of their offence. Their defence was more opportunistic than block-seeking. Hopefully they can develop their young players and rise up again.


    Colombia
    Venezuela's neighbours would have been equally fiery on a typical day, but they met us shortly after a close loss to Venezuela. And so they looked a bit flat, despite still being an animated and speedy team. We won by a similar margin to that in our Venezuela game, but felt more in control in this one. Colombia finished the tournament in 8th position at their first Worlds. An awesome, and probably unprecedented, effort. I hope the South Americans can make future Worlds (the exchange rate probably isn't nice to them), as they bring a different style of play to the tournament.

    Great Britain
    GB had high hopes for this tournament after beating up on most of Europe for the last few years. I felt we established ourselves as a notch above them during our pool game - we won almost all the aerial contests, and felt dominant on field. Yet they faced us again in the quarterfinals and beat us convincingly in the more important game. They didn't push Canada in the semi but did come close to Japan twice - I think Japan weren't the force some were expecting, rather than GB pushing up enormously.

    Sweden
    The Swedes played a short rotation. Short, as in "the sun is beating down, its the last game of the tournament, the ground is baked hard, we're losing to dozens of fired up Aussies, and we're still only using 8-10 guys in this game" short. In the rematch for 5th place, they found ways to save their legs against us by hucking very often, and going to transition zone on D, but couldn't prevail. Like in 2004, we beat them twice. This time the first match was the argumentative one, and the second one was even-tempered.

    USA
    Our D didn't get it done in this game on the show field. Only one break at half (USA lead 9-7), but then their D put pressure on our O after that, and we didn't do likewise. Some spectacular plays from both sides (Mr Nord, I believe Mr Neild has that disc you are looking for) and hard running made for a game the crowd really enjoyed. Sockeye didn't really have a lot of tall timber outside of Chase and Nord - they'll happily put 4 guys around 6 foot on the line as their cutters. In comparison we Dingos could field at least 4 guys who were 6'4" downfield.

    USA's offence relies on 7 guys running really hard to keep their defenders occupied, and spacing the field well. This means the defence can't help out on hucks, and the moment a defender is wrong footed, the cutter is on the move to get open. One point I marked Tim Gehret and he made about 12+ cuts non-stop before the chance came to cut up the line for a pass.

    And the offence really runs through Ben W a lot.

    JJ's photo of USA with the disc
    Finland 
    The wind had picked up so we played some Pommy zone early vs Finland. It got us 6 straight points. Mikko Paanasalo seemed to be the man they wanted to attack through, but they couldn't move upfield. After half they put him behind the wall to attack from upfield, and their handlers seemed to move the disc quicker, with more success.

    The Finns have a crisp style of play, with their sharp looking forehands. A bit of a contrast to the athletic power style game of we Aussies.

     
    Dan with Konstantin, who we reckon looks like Frankie.

    4 August 2008

    Worlds begins

    I have been in Vancouver for almost 2 days and North America for over 2 weeks. And I'm finally about to actually play.

    So what's going on?

    Due to some construction (installing artificial turf fields) some of the fields are a short bus ride away, which is a little more hassle for getting around, as Parinella points out.

    Dorms are nice and simple. The lads with laptops are delighted to have internet access in their rooms. All the Aussies are in one building, spread across 4 or 5 floors. The stairwell is an echo chamber where you meet the others going up or down.

    Its great to catch up with faces from the distant ultimate past - it is a big part of the buzz of the start of Worlds.

    Weather: delightful. Food: close by but dormitory. Fields: lush but in some spots, need to dry out in and get smoothened. Colombians: loud and in party-mode.

    For the Dingos, we have all our support staff on-board now: assistant coach Rueben, physio Bianca and medical assistants/general support Chaddy, Katie and Emma. And I think Abra's dad will be our team photographer.

    In terms of the ultimate, the Mixed showcase game between Canada and GB was entertaining. An impressive standard, which the Canadians pulled out in the end. I saw the end of the Australia - Hong Kong mixed game this morning, which the Barramundis won comfortably. Their deep stack gives them lots of nice space for the in-cut. They played on the stadium field, and I hope it survives the week until Saturday (such fields are usually rested as much as possible for the finals).

    30 July 2008

    On Tour

    We Dingos have been touring the US for over a week now.

    We have played Jam, Revolver, Condors and Johnny Bravo. These are 4 of the strongest teams in North America, and hence the world.

    There is more to our Worlds preparation than the actual games. Though I hope to come back and discuss those.

    This pre-tour has put us in the right timezone earlier, letting us adjust our sleep cycles so we are all set to go for game 1.

    We have gotten to know each other better. The long car trips, hikes in the mountains, and shared beds (sometimes you have two Dingos and one queen size bed, and that's life) have lead to shared experiences, and we understand each others' hates, likes and quirks more now. There is time for team discussions of expectations which are great to sort out before the tournament, rather than those key times when you want to warm-up, play and recover in Vancouver.

    The food, driving, weather, accents, street signs and ridiculous number of small useless bronze coins are all familiar to us, and will not be distractions for anyone to marvel at come Worlds. One Dingo, who had never been overseas before, will certainly feel more comfortable at the tournament, having gone through these experiences.

    On top of this, the chance to play elite ultimate for the sheer challenge, joy and experience of it has been valuable. And it is a holiday to remember, as my photos show me.

    Max tees off in Golden Gate Park
    This rodent kindly posed in front of Half Dome for me.
    Kobe Bryant (10) and the USA Mens Basketball team playing Canada in Las Vegas, in preparation for the Olympics.


    Southern Terra and Seattle's Junior Women representative team, post-game.

    How they play in the US

    For those who have never played against North American teams, here are my observations about the differences between US teams and Aussie teams. I am in the US, having just played against Jam, Revolver, Condors and Johnny Bravo. I have also watched 4 Junior teams play.

    The Yanks like to throw flat inside forehands more. They don't necessarily try to have a low release like we do. I was impressed seeing a 16 year old girl do it in-game today, effortlessly.

    Their backhand hucks are harder to stop - they are thrown from wider. In fact, some teams, like the Condors, almost don't huck flicks (odd to Australians, who almost always have 1 or 2 flick happy throwers, like myself).

    They layout cleanly. From a young age, they layout out in a straight line, usually landing on their chest, whether it is an O catch, or a D bid. For years, I have been a mess of elbows and knees, landing on my joints and hips. I have been improving this, but the US sets the standard.

    They don't pop. Zone O is a game of patient passing for them, looking for open players as if it was man-on-man D they were facing. The wily popper who "posts up", or the deliberate, planned give-and-go between 2 handlers is far rarer Stateside. So it seems they may have things to learn from Aussies, as well as the many aspects we can take from US ultimate.

    14 July 2008

    Training loads

    Any coaching or teaching requires planning.

    Some folks confuse planning with being rigid. Planning actually means having prepared ideas and the appropriate resources to implement them before an event, and having contingencies available. You need to have flexibility in what you plan. You need to have examined potential scenarios, and have Plan Bs ready.

    This applies especially to strength and conditioning training. Obvious example: if you are planning conditioning work for a season, you need to have contingency plans if you, for example, roll your ankle and cannot run. How will your season plan be different if that happens?

    But there are more subtle flexibilities, and that includes adapting the workload to the athletes' condition. Are they strong enough to increase their sets? Are they tired? Are they flexible enough?

    Aaron Coutts gave one of the talks at my Level 2 Coaching General Principles course back in 2005, and he explained his solutions for this challenge. Aaron has worked for the Essendon Bombers and the Parramatta Eels.

    He is one of the authors of this paper.

    The guts of it is that if you ask athletes to rate their perceived exertion on a scale of 1-10, it is a good indicator of how hard they physically worked. The key idea that Aaron uses in his work is to use this surveying after training sessions, and use it to vary the intensity of trainings. If you ensure there is a constant variation in training intensities, athletes are less likely to fatigue or disengage. Following harder competitions/trainings with relatively easier ones, and vice versa, keeps athletes focussed, fitter, and more able to achieve the goals of trainings.

    The adoption of these concepts means that AFL teams no longer belt their players with a hard fitness session on the Monday after a hard weekend game. Recovery and variety in training load is essential to peak performance.

    8 July 2008

    This one's for Camby

    Now, I reckon that a lot of the latest "technology" in cleats has no significant impact. Football boot companies issue new technologies to sell this season's boots, and convince buyers they are missing out on a large leap forward in stud pattern, mid-sole support or upper material.

    Once you have found comfortable cleats that feel good to play in, you are better off investing your time and money on training or high level competition, instead of spending an extra $100 on fancier cleats. Camby may debate this...

    I thought I would share what cleats I use. At the moment, I own several pairs. I have a few pairs in the cupboard, buying when I see a sale rather than when I need a new pair. I am banking on the fact I will be playing ultimate for more than 12 more months (seems likely!).

    Gaia Ion Flame


    These cleats are well padded everywhere inside - easy on the feet. Probably good for those prone to blisters. It also means your feet don't move around at all. The upper is kind of plonked onto the sole - not much design to minimise the inevitable splitting of sole and upper.
    Also, the bulk of the shoe and depth/position of the studs makes me feel I am a little more likely to roll over on my ankle. Available for quite a low price.
    Nomis Rapid FG


    Nomis, an Australian based company, have a sale on now (the rugby league State of Origin models are now $100, down from $300). The Rapids are the cheapest in the Nomis range and are the newest addition. Nomis started with models only over $200 but are now entering the $100 price point too, after building an identity as a "deluxe" brand.

    The Rapids don't have any special upper surfaces for gripping soccer balls in the wet or dry. But I don't kick soccer balls, so nothing lost there. Other cleats from Nomis (not these though) claim they are less likely to pick up mud on the cleats, reducing weight on muddy fields. So these ones still pick up mud. The inner sole is also cushy and removable. Basically these are conventional leather soccer cleats without Nomis' extra "technologies".

    Nike Vapor Jet 4.2
    I don't own these cleats. But I may buy a pair when I visit the States, since they're not sold in Australia. These are American football cleats, and I would like to see how, or if, they are noticeably different to soccer boots.

    Soccer boots are designed for running, turning and kicking soccer balls. American football cleats for big linebackers have protection, support and traction, while cleats for nimble wide receivers are designed for running and turning. They are also allowed to have a toe cleat (soccer boots aren't).

    Asics Gel Lethals



    I don't wear these cleats much. They have lots of cushioning - good for hard ground or training. However, they are noticeably heavier than soccer boots - I feel slightly faster in soccer boots. Also, Lethals all seem to start from $130, and the shoes above are all cheaper.

    Also, now is a good time to buy cleats, with some sports stores having mid-year sales. August to September are also good times when stores clear winter stock out to make room for summer sports gear.

    1 July 2008

    Dingo Central

    Check out the new Dingos website.

    Lots of stuff to check out: our history, our roster, who we'll play on the pre-tour, our merchandise.

    Plus we'll have photos and news as we play all our games in the US and at Worlds, in Vancouver.

    And for old times sake, here is a photo from the Dingos pre-tour in 2000. Yes, we did enjoy having a lakeside bbq in the Swiss sunshine, in case you were curious.

    Special offer on ankle insurance!! Buy now!

    Step right up!

    If you're going to Worlds, we've got insurance for you!

    Eliminate the number one ultimate injury from your list of worries!

    For not $20, not $15, for less than $8 per week, we offer full ankle insurance. No concerns about sitting on the sideline after paying $3000 for that airfare!

    Over 120 Aussie players are heading to Worlds - the odds are good that a few of you will roll those unstable ankles in a pothole in the next few weeks. I saw a Mundi go down just last week!

    Just pay now and you can be sure those ankles are good to go on the fields of Vancouver.

    Where do you sign up, you ask? Where can you take great advantage of this deal?

    Well, wait one second, we've got more!

    For a limited time, we won't just offer insurance - we'll guarantee no ankle injuries. That's insurance plus!

    Sign up folks, sign up.

    (Ankle insurance available from your nearest pharmacist, chemist or Yorston. Just ask for "tape".)

    5 June 2008

    Digg meets ultimate

    To quote their self-description, "BananaCut is the Digg of Ultimate content. It's a socially driven Ultimate Frisbee news, video and photo site."

    Anyone want to get some Aussie content on there? Surely Roger's photos should get into the photo section.

    3 June 2008

    Who can make next week's training?

    Ultimate teams are far easier to manage when you have simple ways to communicate. How did we do anything before email and mobiles?

    Its worth thinking about a website for your team - not necessarily a public place for outsiders to see a few photos and your roster, but a private hub for organising trainings and attendance, sharing tactics, discussing uniforms and upload photos.

    The simplest comparison is Facebook (uh-oh, half my readers just went to play Scrabulous or throw a zombie...) Facebook is a starting point for a user: your friends' details, photos, news and latest actions all come to you. And are easily found with one search box.

    Here are some ready-to-go team website tools on offer:

    Google Sites
    Only been out for 2 weeks. We Dingos are using it. The pages are editable by anyone, and you can put in many widgets, tables, videos and photos. Limited integration with all the other useful google tools (calendar, groups, docs, gmail).

    Teamtastic
    Used Tested by the Firetails, used by Iceni and even UK Ultimate. Free, but ad-supported and there are limits on photos and pages. Designed for sports teams. You can manage news, photos, polls, roster, schedules, and more.

    TeamSnap
    Looks slick, but I can't find any ultimate teams using it yet, unsurprisingly. Free for now, but down the track they will have free and paid options. You can manage pretty much the same things as Teamtastic, plus team stats, who has paid and even the roster for who is bringing the esky. Who wants to test-drive this one?

    FreeTeams
    Looks outdated.

    MyTeamCaptain

    Ditto

    28 May 2008

    Online learning

    This is the first in a short series of posts on technology.

    Dan Cogan-Drew has set up a new online tool.

    It is openultimate.com

    Check it out. You can enrol in a "course", which is a collection of photos, videos, blog posts and expositions built by the public. I believe you pass a course by contributing to the course discussion online.

    You can create an online space for your team, where you can structure a course with the content you want. The US Junior teams have their own courses on there.

    3 May 2008

    Reflections on Nationals 2008

    Firstly the fields. Crikey, I'm not sure I'd take the gamble. Excellent fields assured 80% of the time - when there is good weather. But when there is heavy rain - you get a mud farm. And that did not make for quality ultimate.

    The Friday morning rain hit as we played the Masters. Our first point involved Cleetus getting 3 layout blocks. This was because a) Cleetus can run faster in the mud than Masters, and b) we turned it 3 times in the terrible conditions in the first point. Not a pretty game.

    Its tough finding good fields in this sunburnt country (see Sydney Nats 06). I guess we've got to keep working at it.

    On Friday night, it was great to watch the match between the Aussie Firetails and the Kiwi women's team. Australia are fielding more and more athletes these days. It seems to be an aspect where the North Americans really have it over us, so it is good to see us close the gap. However, the number of turnovers was a bit discouraging. Too often the Firetails took 3+ possessions to score, despite the Kiwis not being in the same class as them.

    And I must have a word to Tom about their zone offense.

    Heads of State had a solid tournament. There were some pretty disappointing moments, in particular losing a see-sawing, winner-takes-all last point vs Fyshwick and the pre-semi to I-Beam. But being the 4th best men's team in Australia (NZ pushed us down to 5th) ain't all bad, considering it is the first or second Nationals for most of our team. This is only year 2 of our journey. But we are hungry to improve and win more.

    Surprises of the tournament (though not all that surprising):

    Box
    Box finishing 6th. Last year they made the final. In 2008 they return with the same young talented squad enhanced by an extra year to improve their teamwork and grow their rookies. So how did Factory Girls and Southside overtake them?

    Barefoot
    They collapsed. Winning all the games on Day 1. Losing the rest to finish 11th 12th. Wow. We need an insider's story on this. But the results of Regionals held up at Nationals overall. We knew they weren't great after finishing fifth at Easterns. So not the biggest surprise in one sense. In those immortal words "they are who we thought they were"

    The men's final
    Fakulti looked shaky, unlike every other game they played in the tourney. An unprecedented number of unforced throwaways. Fyshwick on the other hand played pretty much to their potential (a very strong potential I should add), and so were lurking there at the end, despite never being able to take the lead. Perhaps Fakulti felt the obligations of being the bookie's favourite, with a lot to lose. But they stepped up to claim the title in their 5th final appearance, and perhaps their first one as favourites.

    I am particularly happy for Kenny, Fatty and James - their first title after so many years of putting hard work into the Fakulti club.

    All in all it was an entertaining men's final. Great to watch. I got to commentate. Subscribe to the podcast here.

    Kenny and national champions Fakulti

    14 March 2008

    Rethinking aerobic and anaerobic training

    As someone who has a background in exact sciences (physics), the fuzziness of sports science and physiology sometimes leaves me uncertain about what we know or why in sport.

    Here is more to throw into the mix. A blogpost on Establishing an aerobic base. The article addresses training from the perspective of a range of team sports that ultimate would definitely fit into.

    Is more rethinking needed here Australia?

    12 March 2008

    Aspects of throwing practice

    Many of you may be familiar with the standard set of 100 throws: 10 flat backhands, 10 flat forehands, 10 outside-in backhands, 10 outside-in forehands, 10 inside-out backhands, 10 inside-out forehands, 10 scoobers, 10 hammers, 10 long backhands, 10 long forehands.

    What variations in throwing are used in this set?

    Basically, grip (forehand vs backhand vs hammer), angle of throw (inside-out vs flat vs outside-in) and distance (short vs long).

    But there are other aspects we can vary:
    • speed of throw (fast vs slow)
    • height of throw (low vs normal vs high)
    • width of pivot (normal vs wide)
    • angle of pivot (step forward vs step sideways vs step back)
    • width of pivot (step out a little vs step out a lot)
    • catching aggression (let disc come to you vs sprint to catch it at earliest moment)
    • after the throw (stand and watch vs cut left vs cut right)
    So here are two other sets of throws you can use.

    Break Throw 100

    This set will work on your break throws.
    • 10 backhands, 10 forehands: flat, normal height release, step sideways as far as feasible, slow disc speed(should arrive gently in receiver's hands)
    • 10 backhands, 10 forehands: flat, low release, step back 45 degrees with a medium pivot, slow disc speed
    • 10 backhands, 10 forehands: inside-out (disc must arrive at receiver inside-out), low release, step sideways with a medium pivot, slow disc speed
    • 5 forehand blades: pivot from backhand stance, throw very vertical blade
    • 5 scoobers: pivot from forehand stance, throw scoober
    • 10 hammers: fake forehand, throw hammer
    • 10 long backhands: pivot from forehand stance sideways, wide into the backhand huck
    • 10 long forehands: pivot from backhand stance sideways, wide into the forehand huck

    Throw and Go 30

    And here is a set that will warm you up before a game, and teach you to give-and-go. It also doesn't take long. After the first throw, jog to your left for five metres.

    After the second throw, jog to your right for five metres. You'll end up roughly where you started after every two throws. The aim is to start running in the throwing motion. Leave more time between each catch and throw, if you want to improve focus and completion rate. If you do it at maximum speed it is basically the kill drill.

    This set will cover all combinations of throw forehand/backhand and run left/right.
    • 5 low flat backhands (slow jog)
    • 5 low flat forehands (slow jog)
    • 5 outside-in backhands (fast acceleration)
    • 5 outside-in forehands (fast acceleration)
    • 5 inside-out backhands (fast acceleration)
    • 5 inside-out forehands (fast acceleration)

    21 February 2008

    A new coaching textbook: Essential Ultimate

    There are two folks in the US I would like to meet.

    They are Michael Baccarini and Tiina Booth. Both are high school ultimate coaches. High school coaches who have coached teams to multiple National Championships and World Championships. They also run cutting edge youth camps and train up ultimate coaches.

    So I really enjoyed reading the book they have just written: Essential Ultimate. It is a fantastic resource for coaches and players alike.

    My review is at Amazon. I make a few comparisons to Parinella and Zazslow's "Ultimate Techniques and Tactics" in the review, in case you have seen that book.

    Essential Ultimate is available through Amazon, or through the publisher Human Kinetics here in Australia.

    1 February 2008

    Growing pains

    Down under, we are facing some growing pains.

    In the old days, if you wanted to compete in an event, you pretty much could, whether that was league, or playing for Australia. No broken hearts back then, but no World Championship medals either.

    But now some of our players and teams who make a concerted effort (time, effort, money, dreams) are missing out. There is more competition among players seeking to play at certain levels: leagues, club teams, demo games, representing Australia, even getting to play the Melbourne Hat.

    We have partly addressed or dodged this problem at times as our sport grows: increasing team numbers at AUGs, larger Nationals, more players per team, more Australian representative teams (six this year compared to two in 1998).

    And it isn't comfortable to turn away someone when Aussie ultimate is such a social community, the player is a mate, and they are used to playing if they want to.

    But I do feel we can move to accepting the systems where teams and players have to qualify to play. It will require bringing more professional approaches into our volunteer organisations: documenting and publicising qualification requirements, using late fees to encourage early payment/deposits, giving volunteers clearly defined job descriptions and responsibilities, writing selection policy, etc.

    I've missed on Australian teams and Green & Gold teams. And I know that not all my friends can be selected to represent Australia at WUGC2008.

    So how to deal with not achieving a goal which lies partly in the hands of others?

    I feel that Americans often embrace the story of the comeback - a player who doesn't make the cut on a sports team recognises that competing for spots makes the team strong, and will work hard to qualify next time. And this is a good thing. Many of their cultural stories and touchstones relate to falling short then getting back up again: Michael Jordan, John Travolta, Al Gore, Apple and Steve Jobs. Writers can even see such stories coming and how they will turn out.

    So for the individuals missing out on qualifying for Nationals/making an Australian team/playing Division 1 league, what now?

    There are others in the same boat - chat with them.

    Get feedback on how to improve your chances next time.

    Readjust your goals. If your team doesn't qualify for Nationals, plan for NZ Open, Kaimana, or Walkabout events. If you don't make an Australian team in 2008, think about joining the support teams, or going to Asia-Oceania Championships or Beach Worlds (as some folks did). Or reset your focus on the next opportunity to make that team/tournament.

    And keep working.