Thursday, May 09, 2013
Two things made me write this. First was Hector Valdivia's article about youth and its impact on pro leagues. Basically Hector states that due to media attention the pro leagues will get more mindshare with youth players and decades from now those are the plays/players/games ultimate players will remember.
Second was watching some "highlights" between the Portland Stags and Vancouver Nighthawks and seeing #6 (Cody Bjorklund) respond to a play in the end zone. The play (around 0:44 in the video) was a nice catch by one of the Stags players with some contact by a Nighthawks player. Basically it was a running jump where the Nighthawks player was behind the Stags player. But I don't want to get wrapped up in the play and whether or not it was a foul. What I want to focus on was Bjorklund's response to the play prior to knowing the resolution (a catch). Cody threw up his arms and looked at the ref. Watching the video it did not look like he was signaling a score but instead was appealing to the ref to make a call (it is impossible for me to know for sure, but my point is about how it looked to an observer).
I don't want to get into the "should we have refs" debate, but I think this goes back to the nature of the game that BVH commented on in his highly divisive article. Changing the game is fine, but we should spend some time thinking about some of the subtle impacts it has.
Hector and BVH are both correct when they mention that youth is watching. As a high school coach I am particularly aware of that. That is part of what makes me nervous to see Dylan Freechild referred to as Spikezilla. When I see Bjorklund throw up his hands asking for a foul from a ref it isn't new. I have seen that done by basketball players time and time again. But I have also seen it done by 10 year old siblings appealing to a parent or teacher to correct bad behavior. By adding a third party the MLU has changed the dynamic of problem solving. It has moved from an interaction between two peers trying to abstractly find what is "fair" to an appeal to a third party to agree with your side of events.
I coach a lot. I don't want the latter to be how things are done. That doesn't mean that I disagree with all third party options. But I worry that in 10 years I will be coaching players that are always looking to a third party to fix how people are unfair and coaching against coaches who are always trying to appeal to an omnipotent third party. Both of those take away player control and responsibility, and those are things that I value about this game. Sorry this was so long.
Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Since most people don't know the story of the game, here it is. Reckon took the first two upwind points, and sealed them on the downwind to take the lead 5-1. But the weekend had established that no lead was safe, and that was the case. Their offense had given us easy chances upwind through some miscues and Boneyard quickly made the correct adjustment to start bombing the disc and force our upwind offense to work 70. They brought the game close during half and then we traded points (some upwind) until we were at 11-11. There was a long point with them going upwind which they managed to score. Then we had a long upwind point that we failed to score. The final count was 15-11, but it felt closer than that.
That is the breakdown, but it doesn't really talk about the strategic adjustments. To start the game they gave us some short yardage upwind points that we were able to capitalize on. They were tough, but doable. Downwind was fine for us. Jay wasn't always connecting on his big throws, but often seemed to be good enough. They did get some clean upwind passes, which prompted us to go with a zone to force them to throw more passes for their upwind score. I don't think that was a great adjustment. But at first it worked.
They had realized that much of our upwind offense was structured around inside break-mark passes, so they were changing their man D at the front of the stack accordingly. One thing we didn't do that probably would have been successful was pull the front two people in the stack out of the way with open-side deep cuts. That would have allowed more space for the inverted throw or the around backhand.
Relegated to trading they made the next big adjustment coming out of half. Having realized that our zone was forcing too many passes upwind, but they couldn't just bomb it, Boneyard employed a smart strategy. Going upwind the gusts were coming from right to left. So what they did was place Kevin Kusy in between the wings/short deep (who were pulled in to prevent through passes) on the right side. No one else was in between the 2nd and 3rd defensive lines and Ray Parrish was pulling the deep pretty far back. Then rather than try to make a throw to where Kevin was and have it turn out bad it felt like they started to throw the best pass they could to a space and let Kevin go get it. It only worked about 40% of the time, but when it did Kevin had clean upwind shots to Ray. Again the percentages were low, but given enough chances and good luck it would work.
Our zone defense failed to make an adjustment in the second half to take this away from them and it became a game of who could score more upwind breaks. With their defense on to our upwind game plan and our defense not really adjusting to theirs the odds were in their favor. Also (and I said this before) Kevin and Ray had a good second half.
It's hard not to be upset about the failure to adjust, but hind-sight is 20/20. In retrospect I would have liked to have tried to mix up the zones a little. We ran a cramped, standard 3-3-1 and were able to get some turns from it. I don't know if our personnel would have been ok with changing things, but maybe throwing in a 4 person cup, 2-3-2 or 1-3-3 would have produced more turns. Personally I think the 1-3-3 would have been pretty effective, but we had never run that all season.
Aside from Kevin and Ray playing well I think the problem was that we gave them too many upwind chances. Eventually they were going to connect on those 40% passes. Maybe different zones would have helped, or maybe it would have hurt. Either way we had our chances to win the game and weren't able to seal the deal. I'd say better luck next year but that as the last trip to Sarasota so who knows what the heck will happen next year.
Sunday, October 21, 2012
This weekend at Nationals, Reckon will be confronted with a common problem for Master's (and Mixed) teams: the Unknown Opponent. We haven't previously played any of the teams we are scheduled to play. Of the entire field we only have played regional opponent Tejas (good luck this weekend, boys). From last year our two losses (Boneyard and Surly) have had significant roster turn over. So the question is how to you game plan for an important single game against an opponent you don't know much about?
This is a common Worlds problem and one that is particularly unique to Mixed and Masters. Roster turnover and the possibility of big name players dropping in for a year can create chaos. There aren't many unknown commodities in Open and Women's, but if Robbie Cahill or Alex Snyder decided to play Mixed this year it would radically change the landscape. The same thing happened when Wheelchair's roster came out last year.
Back to the problem at hand. You don't know the strengths/weaknesses of the opponent and have to win the game. Beating an Unknown Opponent requires both the coaching staff to be on their toes and the players to be adaptable.
Microscouting becomes really important in this game. Any piece of information can hopefully be used to generate an easy score or break so the coaches need to be looking for those clues. Release points, cutting methods, reset strategy and defensive schemes are all things that you might be able to use against an opponent. The coaches need to be able to spot these things, discuss them and come up with a strategy quickly.
The players need to be maleable. Beating an opponent that wont allow you to use your bread and butter requires everyone to be able to adjust and without 2 hours of practice time. This isn't a skill that teams naturally have. I must have been practiced previously in order for it to go well. An adjustment has a lower chance of success if one player isn't making the adjustment well.
The players also need to be willing to experiment and often that can mean playing from behind. Sure you don't want to go down by much, but en route to a defensive adjustment that finally gets an opponent out of their comfort zone you might give up an easy score. In that time you might also lose a break as the offense is reacting to a better D. If your team is only comfortable with a 2 point lead then this game can get very stressful.
The script for a game against the Unknown Opponent goes like this:
-Offensively you try to assert what you are comfortable with but ask for bigger windows from your cutters. If you like to huck often you might be surprised at how fast an unknown defender is, so make sure it is a pretty huck at least in the beginning. I'm a big fan of running to set up the pass and visa-versa, but for the first few offensive points you need to score.
-Defensively you start with a junk D to get them out of their set play and hopefully dictate match-ups that are what you want. It gives you a good idea of who their handlers/cutters are and what their standard response to a zone is. The second part will help figure out what type of zone you want to throw at them next. Assuming your offense can keep things together you want to try a few defenses, even if one is proving successful. You only get one shot at this game, so it may seem odd to pass on a successful defense. But early on you are trying to get as much information on the opponent as possible (while keeping the game close). In the second half you make the transition to the defense that was successful.
Finally, at some point you are going to have to give the game over to your players. Adjustments are great, but just like waiting for more-open receivers can stymie an offense, too many adjustments will get your players out of a rhythm. Once you have a few strategies in place it is necessary for your best players to go out, implement the adjustments and prove that they can respond to the opponent's challenges. Even if the people lining up on the other line are better than yours, eventually you have to let the kids have the keys to the car and hope that what you taught them (in 3/4 of a game) stuck.
I'm not in charge of Reckon, so I doubt we will be doing this at Nationals next week. Based on my last post, I'm going to be actively not thinking about this stuff. Still, I think it is important. Preparing to beat the Unknown Opponent is not something that all teams do.
Saturday, October 13, 2012
Two years ago was my last year on (and was the last year for) Rival. It had been a long road and I had stepped down as a captain to have more time to spend with my new daughter. The entire season wasn't fun. I liked the people I was playing with, but I never felt like I played well and more importantly I was never really present for any of the games. While my body was there I was always torn with having left my daughter to go to some tournament for the weekend. With my mind split my level of play was low and we lost in the game to go. It was a bummer not going to nationals, but I was happy to be at home with my baby girl.
Last year the time commitment was much lower since I was playing Master's. I suffered some injuries during the season, including a partially torn ligament in my throwing hand. At nationals things went well and we broke seed. In the last pool play game on Friday I injured my other hand (just a bad sprain) and while we were able to win the quarters immediately afterwards the next day was different. Sure, we were playing eventual champs Surly, but given a night to think and worry about another injured hand I wasn't mentally present for the semis the next day. My play wasn't terrible, but was muddled. I was always thinking about my hand and not present in the game happening on the field.
This year I was talked into not retiring late in the season. While I knew physically I wouldn't be in as good a shape as last year (10 months off nursing injuries will do that) my goal was to be more mindful of the game. I did the things that I was taught to do and focused on listening to signals as they came in and not searching for them. While we dropped a game in pool play we had a stellar finals against Tejas. We (the offense) were never broken. When we did turn the disc over we got it back quickly (in one case by me getting a run through Callahan). We have more studs on the offense than last year, but for me the difference was the game felt slower (and not just because I am slower). I was taking things in as they came and able to react quickly and effectively.
For our players to be at their most successful they need to be able to process information and react quickly. This allows them to use their training to the fullest extent. The previous years there was always something else going on in my mind and that slowed my game down. This year my focus was not to ignore those erroneous signals coming in (I still missed being away from my daughter and worried about my body) but do allow them to pass quickly because they are not in the present.
This will be particularly important at nationals this year. We (Reckon) are likely to be seeded 3 or 4 overall, and therefore a 2 seed in our pool. The last game of Thursday will be against the 1 seed and will be tough. Success in that game will require us to play our best and to be in good health and good spirits. Looking forward to that game during the first two rounds will reduce our mindfulness. By thinking of things that will happen in the future we are no longer as in the present and it will have an impact on our performance.
But as coaches we know that we have to think about the day as a whole. How will we manage legs, what strategies are working, and are we getting people enough reps are all things that we coaches consider. I'm not advocating that coaches stop thinking about those things, but rather the players. What a good coach can do is talk to his/her team ahead of time and prepare them to be mindful in the games. This may involve some training of how to be mindful (I've heard rumors of excellent things Tiina used to do with her boys to work on this), but also should involve a discussion where the coach indicates that it is their job to worry about the whole day. If players are used to being un-coached then whole-day management is a concern for them. But with a good coach the burden of the whole-day strategy should fall on the coaches should and that should allow the player to focus on the game at hand.
I know I will be continuing to work on being mindful in Sarasota this year. I can't guarantee that it will mean more wins, but hopefully it will allow me to play better and have more fun. This is the last year I'll be going to Sarasota after all. I might as well have a good time while I am there.
Friday, September 09, 2011
Watching the tape a few times it looks like it was less a case of Revolver shutting down Chain's O and more a case of Chain completely giving the game away to an efficient Revolver team. Of the significant turns that I saw Chain give up most boiled down to chemistry. Kind of surprising that chemistry would be an issue in a final, but I guess that is what happens when Chesapeake gets rained out. All of the other teams had been to an elite tournament before Labor Day, and while it didn't show during Saturday (still eagerly waiting for that tape Rob), maybe that was the difference.
Here is a quick breakdown of the turns I thought were most significant:
-Reset miscommunication between Asa and Swanson
-Reset miscommunication between Grant and Swanson
-Huck from Swanson that was too far for Dylan
-Huck from Nick Lance that was too far for Dylan
-Swanson throws a swing pass behind a cutting Asa
-Poole throws and inside break behind Asa
-Miscommunication when Spiva breaks off a cut as CK is releasing
-Reset toss to CK from Dylan is caught for a callahan
-Miscommunication huck from Nick Lance to Grant as he turned under
Chain looked in control of this game early, getting a quick break off of a Revolver errant throw. But after that it looked like Chain players didn't know what each other were doing. Between the resets and the miscommunications Chain players were often caught changing direction right at the point of release. The hucks felt like desperation throws (although early in the count) because they were typically right of the pull and from a stand still. Great throws for distance, but no flow or good angle. I can't recall a single time that a Revolver player got a clean D on a Chain player. Even the throws behind Asa weren't blocked by Revoler. Asa was wide open, but Chain couldn't get the disc in front of him. From Greg is was particularly terrible because Asa was wide open cutting to the open side from an unmarked Greg. Poole's misthrow was a little better because it was an inside break, but that throw also felt like a desperation throw. Also, when did Dylan become a handler for Chain. I can think of two places Dylan is not one of the best players in the game: at the reset and as a distribution handler.
I guess the lesson to learn here is how important it is to have your players on the same page. To know where the next cut is coming from, and to know where the reset is going. One of the big differences I've noticed watching Revolver is that they are very good at knowing where the next look is and having a person there. In contrast to Chain looking a little frazzled on the reset, Revolver almost always looked effortless. They typically threw a quick pass to a particular spot before the mark or reset defender was prepared (I'm starting to call this the Thrower's Option). Even when that was shut down it was clear that the game plan was either to run the reset behind the thrower (in the middle of the field) or run the reset down the line and pull another person backfield (trapped on the line). I would have been hard pressed to believe that small chemistry issues could result in a 15-6 game, but that is what it felt like watching the tape. After Rob puts up more video I'll spend a little looking at the rest and seeing what is there.
One last note: I think part of Revolver's victory was determination by Robbie Cahill. He caught more deep shots than I have even seen him catch for Revolver, and independent of who was on him. I don't know if the Saturday loss stuck in his craw, but after his first goal he threw an uncharacteristic spike that made me think this game was a little personal. Great game Revolver. We'll get 'em next time, Chain.
Thursday, September 08, 2011
So here are a few of my unorganized thoughts about the video. Kyle is going through the NexGen videos one by one if you want to check that out for more detail.
NexGen: They looked real good. I was surprised by their wins, even if they were against early season/understaffed versions of elite teams. It made me feel like the separation between elite college players and elite club players isn't as wide as I would like. Especially when you look at those members of NexGen that are getting starting O-line roles on the big club teams. Their style seemed a little erratic at times, and maybe a little huck happy, but they were good at moving the disc and seeing the whole field. I saw a lot of high release throws, especially for short breaks. The big thing that I didn't like was all of the spiking. I understand that these are excitable kids playing in big games against (in many cases) their idols. But the amount of spiking, and the intensity makes the video hard to show middle/high school kids since they are so impressionable. Shame, because there are some great gems in there about breaking the mark, seeing the field and hustle. Unfortunately our middle school kids will mimic anything they see and while some of the more team-oriented spikes were fine (George doing the bus for example), the kicking and elbow spiking is too much.
ETP: This is much more my style. Teams are gearing up for the season, strategy can be seen and trends detected. It has been a few years since I have been to or really watched Nationals, but in that time it seems like everyone has adopted the sideline stack iso pull play. Even Sockeye seems to pull everyone to the line immediately after the pull. I'd figured this was going to happen for a while, as defenses get used to playing against horizontal stack it makes sense that offenses shift to be fresh. In football we go from cover 2 to press ever few years, why not in ultimate. Since the 00's were a decade of mostly horizontal and defenders tend to be young, todays crop of elite open defenders don't have a lot of vert stack experience and it shows.
Watching the games it looks like most teams can't really hold a mark and defenders are constantly caught on the wrong side of their guy. The marking makes sense. Teams were afraid of the long ball and the center under cut from years of H, so the adjustment was to go flat and poach off of the side handlers. Great strategy for horizontal stack ends up being terrible for vert. Reset defense seems poor, and like I said marks aren't stopping anything. Typically the breaks are coming around the mark, but I'll get to that later. Right now it looks like the marks are going for frustration rather than containment. Hoping that by getting the thrower to go with their 4th option they can get a misread or miscommunication turn. That sounds like great defense, and often is, but unlike and H, there are multiple lanes in a vert stack and often defenders are getting caught on the wrong side by an overly mobile mark. I'm sure defenses will adjust, but that may be a big difference maker at Nationals this year. Not at the top of the heap, but which 8 teams get into quarters may depend on who can run a good vertical defense and actually contain the disc. Right now it looks like Revolver is the best at it, but I haven't seen any footage of Chain.
Revolver also seems to be running this offense the best. They move the disc laterally well, in part because they know how to set up the swing cut well (just like Jam did in '08) and seem to have a knack for being where the thrower is looking. Most of the offenses I see (particularly out of the mid-atlantic) aren't on the same page yet. The thrower is flipping through lanes quickly, but cutters aren't in those lanes fast enough. The difference that I see out of Revolver, Sockeye, Ironside and hopefully Chain is a commitment to stack management so that they consistently get the swing when the window is available. One other note about offense is that most of the breaks I am seeing by 2nd tier teams are around and high. Revolver, Mark Sherwood and Mac Taylor in particular, is well utilizing the quick inside break. This gets the disc upfield and typically leaves the thrower with a longer time to throw before the mark gets there. Those are big differences, especially as teams ty to get flow downfield.
There is plenty more to say, but I want to watch the Labor Day footage first.
On a more coaching note, Middle School season is here and off to a good start yesterday. Having Jess Cofrin (new Women's Head Coach) helping is a great asset, especially for the 50 kids we had yesterday. I've got some good ideas for how to teach these new players space and flow. I'll comment on those after I get a chance to try them out.
Friday, May 20, 2011
Friday, April 08, 2011
On Bid Allocation: There was overwhelming feedback from players to “make the regular season meaningful” and to “stop determining bid allocation from the previous year’s nationals.” Those are two of the big driving forces behind the structure this year. I can imagine coaches challenge now of having duel, oft-conflicting goals (help earn your conference/region bids and develop the lower half of your roster), but this was a very known trade-off and I have a hard time imagining this fundamental part of the structure changing in future years.
Also on Bid Allocation: It has got to be better than having to play consolation games at Nationals to earn bids the following year both for the teams playing and the teams dependent on that strength bid (who are often not the same).
On ‘messed up’ rosters: While I’m too lazy to look back at the actual USAU rules, I believe that there was some sort of threat of penalty to intentionally “mess up” rosters. That said, it would not be too difficult. Add one unique non-playing but eligible student to your roster above and beyond your actual roster for each regular season tournament. For the events that help bolster your rating keep that player on your series roster. I do believe that this is highly unethical and am surprised to see you question whether it is or not. I like the idea that someone mentioned on the USAU board that, for teams with ineligible rosters at some events, only the games from that event that improved that teams overall season rating be dropped (any games that hurt their rating with ineligible players be dropped).
On parity: I agree with you that coaching is a factor, but the other big factor impacting that is the growth of HS Ultimate. You mentioned Flywheel. On that ’09 team they had three HS experienced freshman (Annie Fisher, Paula Seville, and Vicki Chang). Those three added depth to that team and have helped with long term continuity of the program.
In Lindsay’s response she mentioned the Tufts sophomores, Hailey and Claudia, both former HS players. Having them in addition to a solid coach and a solid groups of Juniors and Seniors makes Tufts competitive with top teams (albeit after an easier road to the top bracket).
And Lindsay’s own UNC is led by former HS player Leila Tunnel and bolstered by a solid young crop of former HS players from the work that Lindsay and others have done building the youth scene in NC (How she has time for it all, I will never understand)
On Oregon’s Injuries: I realize now that wasn’t a very fair question to ask. I know the difficulties of trying to impartially comment on a topic I have a vested interest in. I should have expected one of those stock coaching answers. That said, based on all the scores I’ve seen and all the commentaries I’ve read it seems pretty clear that the second tier of teams is large, but if Oregon is healthy they stand alone in the top tier. If Oregon is banged up, the field is wide open. At least that’s the story I’m going in to the series with.
Monday, July 26, 2010
This really struck me—this is Cricket we’re talking about; when have his throws not been there?—but it’s something faced by a lot of players. After a certain point (likely post-college), for those continuing to play at a high level, all of one’s discretionary workout time becomes focused on getting stronger and faster, and less on disc skills. It’s a lot easier to hit the gym for an hour than it is to find someone to throw with in the middle of the day.
Despite working out hard all winter, a friend of mine did not, as she hoped to, make BENT this year. She came to tryouts in great condition, but she’d hardly touched a disc in the preceding months. And this player is a capable handler with a monster forehand, so I can’t imagine her throws had seriously degraded since last club season. Regardless, they were not as practiced as the BENT captains would have liked to see.
Many players, looking to get to the next tier, have found themselves in situations similar to the above examples. Whether it’s the offseason and staring down tryouts, or the months of preparation leading up to the club or college series, there’s never enough time to do everything one wants to do to feel prepared. So ask yourself what’s going to benefit you the most in coming weeks: hitting the gym or track for a few more reps, or finding someone with whom you can fine-tune your throws? To further complicate things, it’s likely the answer will change over the course of the year.
Physically, I felt better at Wildwood than I have at a tournament all year, but I had some gruesome turnovers on throws I used to be able to make, so I have an idea what I could be focusing on in August.
Thursday, June 03, 2010
Coaching a college team has come and gone for me (for now). What a blur. On one hand, I'm thinking a ton about what I would have done differently, what I could do better, suggestions for the team next year, etc. On the other hand, I'm enthusiastic about just being a player again.
I can't help but think that this was a down year for college ultimate, talent-wise. I never saw a team dominate a la mid-2000s Hodags or Tim Gehret's Florida. It seemed like in a group of 6-7 elite teams, and the team that had the best few days any given weekend could win that tournament. The weekend of Nationals it was definitely Florida. Top to bottom, it seemed like they rallied around Brodie extremely well. Also, props to Chris Gibson for being the workhorse of that team, guy was always guarding the other team's best player.
My coaching performance:
Overall, I was pretty happy with it. I had a couple of players tell me that I seemed to grow into the role more at this tournament than at any other. I feel like in a couple of our wins I suggested some strategic adjustments that contributed to our success in those games.
One interesting idea that I came away from the games with was the unique way in which the overall amount of time on the field associated with ultimate affects coaching performance. As a player, the way that muscle fatigue over the length of a day, then the length of the weekend affects your ability to sprint, cut, and throw is pretty obvious.
What became clearer to me this weekend is the toll that playing 2 games a day for 3 days takes on your mind and on your voice. As a more vocal coach, I was unable to speak above a squeak on Sunday. More importantly, following an emotional and high-adrenaline win over Oregon on Saturday, I had trouble staying zeroed in on what was going on against Cornell later that day. As players, we tend to eat well, drink, stay in the shade, etc. to keep our bodies prepared for more exertion. I'm curious whether there are good ways to fight mental fatigue over the course of the tournament (this is of course relevant to both coaches and players.
The tournament itself:
The layout, schedule, format, facilities, and amenities were top-notch this year. I was impressed with how observers handled games, Player packs were actually full of stuff people wanted, which I'm sad I can't say is true of my only opportunity to attending natties as a player last year. I thought this year's nationals represented an awesome step forward for the sport and that Madison, which is full of ultimate enthusiasts who were fantastic as volunteers all weekend, was a great venue. I think future championship sites based in ultimate 'hubs' (ATL, Pacific Northwest, Minneapolis, Boston) would be wise choices.
Travis and I attended the required clinic for coaches who wanted sideline access during semi-finals (a credential we wouldn't end up needing, sadly). Overall, I thought that the most useful aspect of the meeting was an opportunity to get to know the other coaches that were at nationals and to learn a bit from the ones with more experience. We were generally in agreement on most subjects and I think having met some of the other coaches sets a good precedent for cordial interactions when teams meet in tournaments.
The material we covered wasn't all that interesting, mostly common sense stuff. I understand the necessity from a liability perspective, but I wasn't floored by the amount of depth that the USUA (still weird) was able to present in a shortened session.
What bothered me most about the presentation of the coaching clinic was the guy responsible for presenting and what appeared to be a "one-size-fits-all" approach to coaching. What we were presented with was clearly geared toward high school coaches and I don't believe our presenter had ever actually coached any level but high school. The presenter had this obsession with the "soccer parents of the future," an assumed demographic of moms and dads who are hyper-controlling and obsessed with their kids' well-being, even after they have left the nest and started up with college ultimate. I have yet to see one of these parents in an ultimate program I have been associated with. Moreover, I haven't seen many infringe on college activities generally.
To me, there are some obvious differences between age groups in question including, but not limited to: a) athletic ability, b) competitiveness, c) capacity for rational thought. What resulted was a program that was less geared toward players on clubs that have a lot more autonomy. The bulk of responsibility for both Georgia and Minnesota fell on the captains. I'm not totally sure that the University of Georgia's administrative folks even had an awareness that Trav and I were involved with the team, aside from spillover from when Trav dealt with them as a player/captain. I think presenting as though we have some kind of liability/responsibility related to the University proper is a bit silly, honestly.
On a related note, the whole thing was presented in terms of some kind of idealized world, what I assume to be the USUA's vision of the future. This vision projects a lot more control onto coaches than we are actually shouldered with. The requirements of coaches under this rubric such as full attendance at every practice and tournament and responsibility for good facilities were better suited to paid employees of university sponsored athletic teams. As of right now, we are volunteers (consultants really), whose role on the team is subject to decisions made by captains and officers of sports clubs that are on the periphery of a school's interest. In my opinion, it would be a lot more helpful for the USUA to provide coaches useful information based on the realities of ultimate (i.e. where we should hope to b with regard to responsibilities/administrative stuff/shaping our teams' behaviors) today than to prepare them for what they believe the future might look like (this isn't to say that investment in training ideas for this future is necessarily a bad thing...)
The UPA's new "brand"
I can see the appeal of the name/image change, but I think there are more than a few problems. Some of these are unfounded fears and opinions about what we might lose by abandoning the upa. One of my favorite aspects of the old organization was how much they talked about it being a "grassroots" organization. Admittedly, this cliche is pretty devoid of meaning, but in reading about the USUA, I haven't heard any of the old democratic rhetoric being thrown around. Of course, I didn't seen a ton of anyone's suggestions taken up visibly by the upa, but I least there was some indication that the intention was there. Second, and this one's a little more silly, I'm not sure if the creating a United States Ultimate Association will mean that Canada can't play with us any more. It just seems like they've got such a strong base of interest in the game (Canadians seem to love weird sports) and their teams have provided a lot of history to our competitive Series. Who knows if these changes will actually happen, but it all seems like reasonable speculation at this point.
Probably my biggest concrete concern with these new developments is the hiring of the new "CEO of ultimate" (his words, not mine), Tom Crawford. Of course, the discursive suggestion associated with that self-given title should raise some eyebrows, given that he also told us he doesn't know much about our sport. Given his admitted lack of knowledge of the game, I wish he'd be more up front with the fact that he's more in charge of changing the public image ultimate than ultimate itself. I wouldn't want anyone with such an obvious expertise deficit to presume that he has a role to play in changing the essential mechanics of how we play, but it seems like that could be a possibility.
I saw the new CEO a couple of times over the course of the weekend. What struck me the most was his interest in telling people about the 10's of 1000's of coaches he's worked with, rather than taking an interest in our community. Despite his 'deep interest' in coaching development, he left the clinic before the coaches started talking about their concerns, leaving little chance that we could glean much useful knowledge from his experiences with the olympic committee, nfl, mlb, nasa and whoever else he's worked with. He seemed to spend a lot of time driving around in a golf cart and not much time watching the game. During finals, he tossed out hats with his new brand on them rather than actually watching Florida win the thing.
Suffice it to say, I wasn't really impressed with the UPA's choice of a fresh take on leadership.
Really the worst ultimate I saw all weekend, with bad calls on both ends. Of course, this is a shame given the amount of talent on both teams. Chippy calls, long delays, and some less than sportsmanlike conduct made a lot of the vocal displeasure coming out of the crowd reasonable. I had watched both teams all weekend and they were playing with less unreasonable calls and unnecessary physicality in every other game. The problem of lesser sportsmanship in games of greater importance in ultimate remains one of the toughest things for me about the game.
I've been on teams with rivalries with both of these teams, so it was weird to be rooting for Carleton. I've never had much respect for the style of modern Florida ultimate and this year was much the same. Their calls and physicality really bothered me less than what I perceived to be their disinterest in the game. Brodie and a few other key players never seemed to put their full effort into working for the win (note that this is totally different than making the game seem effortless) and to me this connotes a general disrespect for opponents as well as the sport. Couple this with (limited) media exposure from CBS College Sports and I think their win was not great for the game.
From a spectating perspective, despite being able to relate to their feelings about the outcome of the game, I thought that the crowd booing Florida after their win was totally bush league. For everyone who is unfamiliar with ultimate, it makes the players who make up the majority of live audience seem like petty folks and sore losers. I honestly would have preferred crickets.
The big finish:
I don't think I'll post much more on this blog. Honestly, I meant to write more over the course of the season. If I get time, I may do a few small things on some stuff that occurred to me while we prepped for natties, but we'll see.
Thanks for reading. Good luck in club.