30 June 2014

How to call a line

You are on the line at the start of the point with six teammates. You need to communicate your plan to them for this point.

What do you say?

How do you communicate it?

There are three important aspects to consider.

Being predictable (you want to have a routine that your teammates know).
Being clear (speaking loudly and authoritatively so your teammates know they have to listen)
Being efficient (each sentence is communicating one idea in a few words)

You know you're doing this well if no-one asks questions at the end, and no-one chimes in.

Here is a sample line call:
  1. We have 7. We're on D. (This gets people listening. If you're wrong someone will correct you on either item.)
  2. We're forcing backhand (The plan.)
  3. Fred is on 1, Jimmy is on 2, Tina is on 3, Jane is on 4, etc (Call the match ups from left to right, with their name first so they listen. Assign key defenders to key targets but don't worry about the three or four least important matchups too much)
  4. We're straight up to backhand (Repeat the plan since people may have forgotten the plan. There are good listeners and poor listeners on every team.)
  5. On offence, we're in a vertical stack (The plan for offence.)
  6. Let's really take away the under cuts (Emphasise what we want to focus on. This message can really set the tone so choose how you say it.)
  7. <wait> (This is the time for teammates to communicate - with you, with the sideline, with each other)
  8. We're forcing backhand, vertical on O (Repeat the plans once more)

12 June 2014

Patterns not rules

Many years ago, an outdoor education leader mentioned something to a group of young teenagers (including me): "There are no rules, only consequences".

I learnt to appreciate this saying. Some people have the rule "you can't drive through a red light". But actually you can. It is foolish and dangerous to do so in most cases. But it is not impossible. There are just consequences if you choose to do so. If you move away from thinking in terms of rules, there are real benefits.

For instance, I have moved away from thinking in terms of rules for my ultimate teams.

Bob talks about affirmative principles in a similar way.

Here are some examples of phrasing what your team desires as patterns, not rules.

Whereas others might say "Do not ever huck down the sideline" or "Only huck down the middle", say to your teammates "We want to huck down the middle."

So learn, practice and celebrate this pattern. There might on rare occasions be a time when it is good to huck down the sideline. Trust each other to make good decisions, and use your patterns regularly. Examine how they are working for you.

If you have rules, they can be broken. And someone receives blame.

With patterns there is simply a focus on a path to achieving team goals.

10 June 2014

Spirited or unspirited?

Here are some scenarios.

Which show poor spirit? Which are acceptable?

1. A player lays out for a disc and lands well out of bounds but doesn't catch it. Her opponent runs the  disc back to the sideline and puts into to play before she gets up. She's not injured.

2. A player picks up the disc and walks towards the front of the end zone. When his defender has their back turned, he sprints past them and puts it into play on the front of the end zone, before the defender realises.

3. A player competing in the World Club Championships calls travel on the thrower as they pivot, but  doesn't know that travel need not be a stoppage, and insists play be stopped.

4. A team winning 14-4 at a Nationals warm-up tournament plays a point where they only throw hammers.

5. A player catches a goal and throws the disc up in the air.

6. A player throws through the legs of their opponent.

7. A player pretends to throw a hammer, but hides it behind their back while the marker looks to see where it went.

8. A captain calls timeout close to time cap, to ensure time cap will go during this point, and reduce/eliminate the chance of the opposing team winning.

8 June 2014

The Wisdom of Crowds

James Surowiecki wrote a book entitled "The Wisdom of Crowds".

He postulates that a diverse group of independent individuals generally make better decisions than even the smartest individual in the group. Even the less valuable members bring new information to the decision making process, and help create a better decision.

His examples include stock markets, web page ranking, car manufacturing industry, sports betting markets and ant colonies.

This concept has a really strong application in one particular aspect of ultimate.

This aspect often has suboptimal decision making by a group that is too small and not diverse enough.

The aspect is: selecting a team.

At several Australian University Games, I have been a selector of the Green and Gold team, an honorary All-Star team that would theoretically represent Australia in an international university competition. The selections are based solely on performance at this one tournament.

This is a challenging team to select. Most selectors have other roles at the same time: tournament director or coach of a particular team. And they have limited time to watch games.

The most useful piece of input comes from the wisdom of crowds.

Here is one way to do it: near the end of the tournament, ask one or two senior players on each team to write a list of the players they would select for the Green and Gold team. Ask them to consult teammates.

Of the eight teams in Division 1, you now have eight lists. And the cumulative information is very valuable.

Firstly, biases are apparent. Each list nominated by a particular team tends to have several players from that team. Obviously senior players see their teammates play more, and overestimate their performance a little. But these biases are easily spotted, once you look at all the lists: Fred may get a vote from his captain, but potentially none from other teams.

Secondly, you gain information on games the selectors never saw. If no selector saw Team B play Team C, yet Team B says there is a worthy player from Team C, you now have new input.

In summary, this voting system is valuable for gathering the wisdom of the tournament. Input is gathered from more games than any selection committee can watch. It is more time efficient. And it highlights biases that captains or selectors (who may be team coaches) have.

If you have to select a team, consider asking a diverse group of informed players for their teams. The wisdom gained may be very eye-opening.