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.

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