Wednesday, March 04, 2009

My weekend in Sarasota

Although most everyone knows what went down, I will give my take.

Flew into Tampa late Friday night. Since it seemed I was the only one without other peeps from my team/city/etc, I was fortunate enough to slide into a "Slow White" car. We coeders stick together. After waiting for a bag that never arrived by someone else in the car (first thought: sweet, this guy will never make the team...), we were out of TPA around 11.

The usual nite of barely sleeping/thinking too much. Off to the continental breakfast where of course I ran into several ultimate players. Off to the fields and the usual Sarasota in October whether. Nice and sunny and windy. BUT we played on the other side of the road. Crazy. I did not know that even existed.

Anyway, after the usual throwing around, we get an intro to Coach and then active warmup from a member of the selection committee Mr. Wilmington. Split into 4 teams, then right into our first drill, a version of "Superstriker" if you ever played on Michigan/Sub Zero with me. The difference, there was no need for motivation. The focus and intensity was there from everyone right from the first throw. No need to worry about laziness, b/c if you were lazy, it would stuck out.

Next up, the "stations". 3 conditioning/agility/speed type things along with one stop with the coach to discuss briefly what he wanted to see. First up, a triangle of cones where you say "Stalling One Up" shuffle to the next cone say "Stalling One Up" shuffle to the 3rd cone and say "Stalling One Up" then shuffle back to the first cone say "stalling one up" and then back around the cones in reverse order. Do that twice. Not too bad.

Station 2, the "tennis ball cone drill". A cool agility drill that I feel many more club teams will be doing this summer and fall. It is a bit hard to describe in words, but basically 2 rows of 3 cones ~3 yards apart. 5 small cones have a tennis ball on them. One of the middle ones does not. Bascially, you moved a tennis ball from one cone to one that does not have one. Such that each cone does not have a tennis ball at one point. A lot of shuffling and running backwards. Apparently, I am very bad at putting a tennis ball down on a cone with my left hand while running backwards.

Station 3, talk to coach. He laughs at how I finished 2nd to his team at Mars like 3 years in a row. And then tells me to try and be a cutter and create from downfield. Advice that I tried to follow, but would handle a bunch over the weekend (but I still feel I created downfield :))

Station 4, 70 yard timed sprints. 2 of them. I supposedly ran 8.0. I will take it, but not sure I buy it. THe fastest was something like 7.3ish. Not sure if anyone was THAT fast there, but relatively, there were people there easily half a second faster than me. Gut check, what am I doing here?

After that, I believe we began playing. A couple of games to 3. One of them went longer. My team was pretty darn good, mainly because we got in a comfort zone together very fast. Moved the disc quickly. And well, we had a bunch of talent to. I felt I did alright, it was good for me as I played with the one guy that I had played with before (Mr. Former Teammate). That was definitely part of the reason that I handled a little bit, because he and I play the exact same way. And it was ez to handle and move the disc. And we had plenty of really good cutters, so I just wanted to distribute. I am not sure if we lost any of our 3 games, one of the games was tight, the others we controlled them. A good sign.

After that, lunch.

After sitting with Mr. Other Cross COuntry Runner, we decided that half a panera sandwich was the best call. And I think it was.

Now, during our last game, I got in a bit of collison going for a dump and my ankle rolled a bit. During the warmup after lunch, my ankle was super tender. And here is where doubt creeps in. The worst possible thing, injury during tryouts. So, I run over to the trainer and get a quick tape job. This had to work, I kept telling myself. I have pretty good ankles, so I was hoping to just shake it off. After a couple of 2-[4-(2-methylpropyl)phenyl]propanoic acid's, I went into our first post lunch drill, the triangle of death.

Basically, one thrower runs back and forth getting swing from a stationary thrower and then thrower to in cuts then out cuts. A great drill.

I went first because I wanted to test my ankle and get it out of the way. And I was horrible. Definitely thinking too much about the ankle. Near the end, I did a little better as exhuastion from the drill crept in and I stopped thinking about the ankle.

At the end of my throwing, I remember walking back to the line going "Oh Fu$k" and then remembering that I am a pretty good player. And that this was my chance to play for Team USA. I can take the easy way out and let the injury take over. OR, I can fight through it. Basically, the Ibuprofen kicked in and my ankle felt alright the rest of the day. I am one to really try and make my pain the worst if there is going to be pain. So I tried to always plant on my left ankle, just to test. I wanted to prove to myself it would be ok. Of course, it was not bad. It never swelled up. And tryouts continued on.

After that drill, we did another scrimmage where the rule was you had to throw a pass to the opposite gender. A very ineresting concept. We tweaked what we did on O a bit and well, it did not slow us down. This first team I was on played very well together. Good times. The only time this was ever really was an issue for us was after a huck from a girl to a guy, only the 4 guys were downfield. Basically, "Ummm, ladies, one of you has to get down here"

AFter that scrimmage, some more drills. First, a marking drill with 3 other people. Basically, straight up mark with the thrower trying to hit a stationary target. That target then swings it to the third member of the triangle. The marker moves to that person. Repeat. For a minute. Everyone did it twice. First time, no arms. The wind was getting a bit more difficult, so just as hard for the thrower in some directions.

Second drill was another marking drill, but with cutters moving from the middle to the break side. Pretty typical that every team does. I was marked against Mr. Youngest Guy there. Of course, I am the last person throwing. And of course another group is watching me. Of course, I get point blocked on an invert. So, what is the solution? I nutmeg him on the next attempt. It was completed too. I am not sure if that is Team USA material, but it felt good. And now no one remembered that I was pointblocked!

Then we switched to new teams. This team, although still a lot of good players, did not gel right away. The other team did. They won. We struggled.

Ended up with some sprints.

Then finished off my sandwich (smartest decision of the day). Went home, showered, ate at Carabas, hot-tubbed, watch coach play the piano. Went to bed.

I was tired for sure, but not dead. I felt a little more like college when I played ~80% of the points as opposed to zero/flycoons when I played mainly one side of the frisbee and therefore not nearly as much. I was comforted by my thought that I knew I would be fine physcially and fitness wise on Sunday. Now if I was good enough...

I felt I played pretty well. Saturday was definitely my turnover day. I was 1-4 on deeper throws. 2 horrific backhands, that I needed to throw much better in the wind. Instead the wind carried them out too much. My other turn, I threw it just like I wanted, just too far. I missed Ms. Studd, by about half a yard. I was bummed about that. I did not have an "easy" drops, but missed a disc that was rising over my head on an in cut. I thought I had, but could feel my fingers slip off the disc. And I threw a disc a bit too high to someone and she basically did the same thing that I did on my drop. I was bummed about that turn as I totally made a big pump fake to force the d to guard the deep and hear Ms. Speedy came down the middle perfect. It could have been caught, but I could have thrown a much better throw. Oh well...

I was happy with my o for the most part. I did not think I had terrible decisions, just some bad throws. I played ok on D. I got a foot block and I believe a help deep d. I stopped some in cuts. I helped out on some deep cuts. And I got beat back to the disc a couple of times. Nothing out of the ordinary. Nor did I feel overmatch (and I did not feel like anyone was overmatched by me...).

So my feeling for Saturday was, I presented what I can do. I can be a primary offensive guy. I can also be a secondary option that creates space, is patient, and works the break side/continuation very well. I felt that was what I was doing the best, breaking the mark. Continuation cuts. And keeping the disc moving from side to side. I was able to help the thrower whenever he/she was in trouble. And continually gave my team options. But I never dominated. I think by the end of the day, I was looking to fill the role as #5 or 6 on the field, not necessarily #1. ALthough that attitude did kick in occasionally.

ON Sunday, the weather was not so nice. Definitely the threat of rain. And then it started to rain and it was supposed to be bad. It never got horrible. Good news for us.

The ankle was wrapped again, but no longer a problem. I was bummed that I let myself stress out about it so much when it happened.

Anyway, active warmup. A drill or 2. And then more playing. New teams again. I think I lost both scrimmages on Sunday, but I felt I played much better. One should have been a turn as I tried to throw a forehand, upline, upwind, around a defender. Instead, I hit the defender, but the bounce was caught by a different teammate. One miscommunication defender, where I thought the dump was going upline and well, he didn't. But besides that, I felt I played pretty well.

Oh I forgot a cool defensive cutting drill we did. Both on Saturday and in between scrimmages on Sunday. O and D start in the middle of the field. 2 5 x 5 boxes on the front corner of each endzone. The O could cut to either box. Instead of the cut being either an in cut (to one cone) or a deep cut (to the other cone), there were throwers stationed about 15 yards from each box. So basically, cutting either way would be an in cut. A little confusing to write about, but a ton of fun to watch. Well, maybe not watch me do this, as I did not have the recovery speed of some of the guys. Particularly 2 guys, Mr. I Got Nutmegged by Tim and Mr. Tall and Skinny and Fast. These 2 guys put on a defensive clinic. So much so, that I made sure to watch anytime there were playing defense. I got close twice, never hit the disc, but on both times I was close, the O did not catch the disc. I will take what I can get.

The 2nd scrimmage on Sunday went well too. We lost it, but it was a tight game. We played a 1-3-3 and I was the chase. Great move by me. Remember when you play against a team with really good throws to not be the chase in 1-3-3. I think they threw 40 plus throws. I almost got the last one on a layout. I believe the receiver bobbled it. But it was still fun. I look marking in the zone. FUn stuff.

We ended with a MTF with minis and then another sprinting drill that was also a race with the other half of the men...

All in all, an unbelieveable weekend of frisbee. I was super psyched to be apart of it. Got to play with a ton of fun, awesome frisbee players. SOme that I have wanted to play with for a long time. Others that by the end of the weekend, I wanted a shot to play with.

As for myself, I am happy how I played. I could have turned it over less. I could have gotted more ds. But I did not play terrible. I did not make horrible decisions. I never felt like I got totally burned on d. So yeah, ok.

I definitely went for the angle of good teammate, solid decisions, keep the disc moving, match-up against anyone and not lose the battle (or at least beat him more than he beats me). I was vocal on the line, off the line, on the field, etc. Basically, i was me. There were a lot of alpha dogs/primary cutters/etc. And probably better suited for that than me, but I felt what I can add is someone to create space, keep the disc moving, and play solid team d.

So if they want that out of me, I showed it to them. If not, I completely understand. There are so many teams that they could create out of these 2 weekends. I feel I could add a lot to many of those teams. But there are even more teams that could be created that does not involve me. And I understand that. I have tried out 2 other times for teams. Once with Truck in 97 and I felt that I knew I was going to make it. And Zero in 01. And I felt like I knew I was going to make it.

This is different. I would love to be a part of this team, but am I really one of the best options? I don't know. I think I am. But after this week, there are like 34 other guys who could say that too. This team is going to be awesome.

As far as others, I will not comment specifically, but I would say there is one woman there that NEEDS to be on the team. And really thinking about it, I would definitely choose 2 girls and 1 guy (besides me :)) from this camp. Not to say, that the team would be horrible without those 3. But those 3 left the biggest impression on me from the camp.

We'll find out soon.

SOOOOO that is the frisbee portion of the story, stay reading for how I got back to Brevard.

After we get done playing, I check my cell. My flight has been cancelled. Uh oh. Evenutally get to TPA in enough time to wait in line for 2 and a half hours to see what the deal is. I was flying through ATL and well there was snow. Luckily, Mr. Oldest Guy at the Tryout also had a Delta flight through ATL. So I let him cut and we hung out. When it was our turn (~ 5pm), we find out there is no way to leave TPA until Tuesday.... All flights on Monday are completely booked. Supposedly, every seat is filled.

So we decide, how about flying out of ATL? He can make it to his destination and well I can drive from there. So, he gets an early Mon morning flight and we decide to rent a car. Road trip!

We start to find a rental car. First, $300. We talk them down to $200. Then a quick call to my sister who pricleines a car for $100. Interestingly enough, we got Budget who earlier claimed not to have a rental office in Asheville. But they did. While we are crossing the Ts, I see Ms. Stanford at an adjacent rental car place trying to get a car. SHe was going to Orlando, I ask her to join us, why not? It is not that far out of the way. She excepts the offer. And By 6:30 we are out of the airport.

Unfortunately, Mr. Oldest Guy at Tryouts had left his cell phone in Sarasota, so we drive down there, pick it up and then hit Orlando.

The rest of the trip was uneventful. We both took turns sleeping and hanging out. We were in ATL by 4:30ish.

At this point, I knew Brevard was ~3 hours away. I wanted to get out of ATL before any sort of rush hour. And I knew I would have to take at least one nap break. So I took off and got just short of the SC border. The roads were fine and was excied to be getting back to see my fam, but also I knew I had to work on Monday. I stopped at a Denny's took a quick snooze. And then, got started again. Now the worst part of the trip. Hands down. ON the stretch of I-85 in SC that I drove, I saw no less than 8 accidents. One with a SUV on fire. Another with a semi jack-knifed across all 3 lanes. Another with 2 semis just stopped in the middle of the freeway. And at least 50 cars on the side on the road. Not good times. The roads were slick at times, but man, this was ridiculous. Needless to say, it took over 4 hours to get the last 100 miles... I was home at noon. After hoping to get home ~8:30...

Ugh, but I made it home. I am still really glad I went. And I glad that I road-tripped back home. It definitely had a college feel to it.

Good times.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

I am a national champion whore

This season was a bit different than every other season that I ever played. First of all, it really just lasted 3 days at nationals. I did not try to get in great shape, my weekly workout routing consisted of at least 5.5 miles of biking (to and from work). A couple of 20-30 minutes runs a week. One day of less than stellar pickup frisbee. No track workouts. No speed, plyos, etc. Basically, I would consider myself if good general health. Not in good frisbee shape. But that did not stop me from ending up in Sarasota.

Technically, I guess my season started sometime in late August when I was put on the Flycoons roster. I told them I was not going (no vacation days to use at work until 09) to nationals. Then a couple of weeks later they told me I had to pay my UPA dues by Sectionals. Although I *knew* I was not going, I still paid them. Then I spoke with them after their 2nd place finish at regionals and they wanted me to end up in Sarasota. I laughed, why? A better finish at regionals this year. Better performances at nearly all tourneys. I did not seem like a necessary piece. In fact, it was fairly obvious that they were better off. A little bit of e-mailing on the Monday after regionals. And then riding my bike to work on Tuesday, I decided that I was going.

It has been a bit of a rough transition to western North Carolina. The usual moving stuff. Adjusting to a new place. A house that needs some love. And just normal day to day stuff that all of a sudden a couple of days of frisbee in the sun on the beach seemed like the right thing to do.

So my Thursday started like any normal nationals Thursday. Waking up early. Of course, I was still in Brevard and not in Sarasota. This is how bad of a whore I was, I did not show up to the first day of nationals. As you can tell, I was not the most committed person on the roster. But I went into work early so I could bag out a little early and catch a plane. 2 plane rides, 1 major delay on the plane, renting a car with 2 exhausted kids under 4 and I was finally in Sarasota by 12:30 am on Friday.

Thursday was of course spent watching the score reporter from work. Basically, would I be going down there to play frisbee and try to win. Or would I be going down there to drink and socialize. When I left, the Flycoons had won the first 2 games, basically giving them a very good shot at the power pools. After I did not hear from anyone for a bit, it was obvious they had lost the last game. Luckily, we were not screwed by point diff, but we would be heading up in the power pool 0-1 having to face Shazam and then ACS.

I was picked up at McDonalds so my fam could have our car and hang out on the beach all day and get ready for Halloween. I stepped onto the dew soaked fields and it felt like home. It felt liked I had been playing all year.

The first step was to introduce myself to our team. Although I played with the Flycoons last year, they had been aggressive in the offseason and picked up several people that I did not know. When it was time to play, it was against the defending national champs Shazam Returns. We could stay with these guys for about a half last year and then they would blow by us. They were deeper, more prepared and more focused than us last year. So I was at least interested to see how we would play these guys.

It was tight early. We traded breaks early to about 3s. And then I finally got to go in. I was not sure how much I would be playing, but I knew it would be on d. Which, especially early, would be great. That would be a great way to get back to playing frisbee. My first point I felt like it was going to go one of two ways, either really well or just awful. If it was the latter, I had already told myself to take off my cleats, grab a beer, and begin cheering. If it was the former, well, start trying to take other people's p.t.

We were pulling upwind in the usual cross/upwind that Sarasota offers. I was guarding the dump when a throw upfield was turned over, I spent a couple seconds cherry picking waiting for Will to pick up the disc. Once he did, I took off and the huck went up. Catch just short of the goal and then an easy goal thrown. Ahhhhhh, just like old times.

I forget what the score was, but we eventually took half 8-5ish. And roled from there. I started to play more as we won the game 15-9. This was perfect for me. I was playing d. And going deep, I think getting 2 or 3 deep balls. When we did get the disc on a turn, our o did not take long to convert. So not much throwing in the wind by me. Perfect. I foot blocked a woman for the first time. Check. No turns. A d or 2. A lot of running in the cup of the zone. And made a bad call that the observer upheld. (Pull rolled out of bounds, one of their teammates stopped it by the line and they ran to it. I thought that was illegal. I was of course wrong. And the observer and Shazam both let me know. I apologized and promised not to get in anymore rules arguments the rest of the weekend.)

So we were now 1-1 in our power pool as were the other 3 teams. Basically, we could still anywhere from 1st to 4th (not comforting). But if we won, no matter what we were in the top 2 (that is good). So while some tried to figure out the scenarios, I tried to focus on the fact that if we won, we were in the quarters. Plus, we were playing a team that just won a double game point game. And they were from the cental region. I felt confident.

This game started out 2-2 and then went to 12-2. The game was pretty much over b/c well they seemed to not fully invest this game. Several of their main stays were not on the field and therefore, we just had to get to 15 without embarassing ourselves too much. I tried to play as much as I could in order to get back in the flow of things. We won, 15-3. And won our pool so we would play in the quarters against a team in the pre-quarters. One turn for the day, a less than perfect scoober to Emily on the upwind goalline. Of course, I was reminded about that all day b/c I was the only willing to try anything upside-down...

I did not stick around for too long as it was Halloween and wanted to try and get my kids to trick or treat. Unfortunately, naps got in the way. We would trick or treat at the flycoons castle, but that was about it. We were all still tired from the previous day travels. After a dip in the hot tub, I went to bed.

Saturday morning quarters. Against Slow White. They looked different from last year. Younger and less experienced. It was windy, so I considered that a good thing.

And really, this game was the same as the first 2. Our O a little shaky at start, but always holding serve. The d taking a couple of points to really get going. It was either 3s or 4s. But the half ended 8-4. We were sparked by a huge d by Kat near our goalline (then it was not until after the game I found out she used to play on Slow White. It pays to know your teammates). From there we marched on, I think the final was 15-6. It was a cool feeling to be going to the semis. Although it was not a cool feeling to feel like my throws were a bit lacking. As opposed to Friday, I was around the disc more on Saturday. Whether this was a conscious decision to play me with less handlers or not, it involved less handlers. And well, 2 turns in this game. Both on high stalls which I misread what the dump was doing and then tried to get creative to avoid the stall (a hammer that got lost in the wind and a huck that was too short). Both times it was obvious that I had not played much with the handlers I was in with. Hopefully, that was not going to be exposed.

On the bright side, our O was playing very well. IN the 3 games I played as a flycoon, they had only been broken once. Finished out games strong and made good decisions. Our d was able to generate turns with both zone and man. And also we were able to convert fairly clean. All good things going into semis. My experience with coed is fairly limited, but I felt that really we could win. And really, it appeared there was no reason not too. The team seemed to be playing well. Everyone seemed to enjoy their role (I mean, I had not played all year, and there did not seem to be any major complaints. Or at least not obvious ones). But I guess, when you are always winning, things are easy. I am not sure we were every behind in any of these games.

We get to play ACS in the semis, which is good b/c we crushed them yesterday. Of course, they would be playing all their stars more so we had the usual this is a good team they will be better speech.

And well, they were. 4-4. I think we played 3 out of the 4 points in zone and that did not work. Eventually, switching out of it into person. We got them. I don't remember anything particularly awesome about anyone's play, just a lot of pressure. I do remember being in one point where it seemed like they made a lot of passes and did not go anywhere before we forced a turn. And then scored. So it was pretty cool. I don't think I got a d or scored or assisted. I do remember a high stall invert to Scott that everyone seemed to like, so I will mention that. So yeah, we take half 8-4.

The 2nd half, we appeared to be more tired. Our legs were spent a little on O and D. And #25 on their team definitely stepped up his game deep. And more some reason we challenged him a bit going deep. Not the smartest of decisions. They brought it back to 12-10. Our d could not convert. And our O had played a couple of longs points (although they were only broken once or twice in the 2nd half).

So I play my first, and only, O point of the tourney. And we have to receive going upwind. We turn it early, but they turn it right back. I was a cutter and found myself trapped on the wrong side of the field. Meaning their were cutters that I could not get around to start my cut. After a timeout by Markie, I felt like I could get more involved. I get a comeback cut and we are eventually off to races, particularly me, Markie, and Daph. Working the disc around. Mark over throws an invert to me, but it is perfect to Emily. 13-10. And they seem spent. Our next d point, we had some chances, but Pbbbbt. We score on O, much easier this time. 14-11. Last d point, I am in guarding Seiler. And they just look nervous and not confident. More example, I pretty much was letting Seiler have the disc on the first cut, but they did not throw it until he was even with the disc. They play around with the disc and march backward from the brick (ugh that's right we pulled it out of bounds on gamepoint, with them going upwind. Luckily, it did not hurt us). Something happened, quick turn, quick score. Game over. 15-11.

So yeah, we are in the finals against Shazam. Right in the middle of the day (you know when everyone will complain that the open was early and the coed was at lunch. I used to complain about it too, but once you play in the game, you don't care).

Team meeting at 9 and then lights out.

Get there early watch Jam over Ironside. Warm-up and play the finals.

Sloppy the whole first half, as you can appreciate if you watched. The wind was bad, but not awful. I have played in worse Sarasota winds. But I guess the nerves. We try zone and person early with little success. My first D point, we have a chance to convert, but I miss Emily deep on a really shitty forehand deep. (turnover #4 on the weekend) At 4s or 5s, we get the only break of the first half (I think there was only one break, at least that is all I remember). It was not pretty. I believe 17 turns. I had a drop (turn #5). A punt (turn #6). And I feel like another one... At least one injury sub, maybe 2. I was happy with my d, but obviously less than impressed with my o. We start to struggle with the disc near their endzone, not good. After a turn, I just punt it. For no better reason but to give us room. The call timeout right after the punt though. Luckily, they were as dead as us. In the end, our only break of the first half comes on a high stall up the line pass that was macced then greatested and then laid out to catch the goal. So ugly point, but a pretty fun way to score it. Kind of sums of the point quite nicely.

So we take half 8-7 and we will be receiving. Our focus on halftime, trying to play offense better... We are a team that needs the handlers early and often. I felt we were too stagnant behind the disc. It started in the ACS 2nd half and kind of continued into this game. If we were going to win, the handlers had to wake up and get the disc. Instead of throwing upfield and walking to get the disc at count 5, we had to throw the disc and get into position then. The windier it is, the earlier you have to get into position. We were not doing that.

And the 2nd half was a little better. We moved the disc faster and more effectively (I think). I will not try to argue that this half was pristine, but it was much better for us at least. We were able to mix up our zone and person pretty effectively, I think. At least enough to throw them off guard a bit. In the end, I think our depth wore on them. We were really a deep team both men and women. Fast forward, they turn it over on a dump. One throw. Goal. Game. 15-11 we win!

It feels great. I will say it does feel a bit weird since I did not really work terribly hard this year. BUT, everyone on the team went out of their way to include me and that felt great. I really felt like a full member of the team. And really motivated me the whole weekend. I could never shake that feeling that I was stealing p.t. from someone. But I usually feel that anyway and no individual that way. In fact, many people told me that I was playing well. That feels good. And definitely made it feel more rewarding. There was no bitterness and well, they had every reason to be. We were all there to win. I guess I was a bigger part of that then I expected. I am so glad I went and well, it makes me want to get in frisbee shape again so I can play better.

So, why did we win?

Our O was awesome. No 3 point runs. Only broken 4 (maybe 5) times through 5 games. Not bad, especially for co-ed... It definitely allows your whole team to fire up if your offense is scoring. If you can't get the d on the field, you can't win. Part of that reason is most teams use a smaller rotation on o (we were about 11 or 12), so that means the bulk of your players play on defense. If you offense is struggling, a lot of players are on the sideline not playing for awhile. So when they do score, all of them want to play, but they can't. SO you have to play your "best" players. Except they are not as good, because they are cold... And then resentment sets in. And that is when you have p.t. issues. Our offense helped us avoid this.

The ability to create turns with both zone and person. We could change up the d pretty well on teams (really only ACS on Saturday was our zone ineffective). Being able to have multiple defenses that create turns is good on so many levels. I felt the other teams could never predict what we were doing. Besides always forcing home. And that is good.

Depth. We could use at least 16 men without losing much. ANd that was impressive. The flycoon heads did a great job of getting more quality on the team. And everyone was in for it. I loved it. Many handlers. Many cutter defenders. Basically, there was a good chance the person guarding you was somewhat fresh. And motivated to get d so they could get more pt. That is a good feeling to have in your teammates. The trust that if you can't get it done, there are 3 or 4 guys that can do just as well if not better.

So yeah, it was a fun year. And by year, I mean 3 days... Seriously, it was a great time, as Sarasota always is. I am glad that they did not take me off the roster and kept bugging me when I said I was not going. Frisbee is fun. And if you are keeping score, you might as well score more points than the other team....

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Hodag Influence

It seemed like quite a performance by the Hodags at nationals. I, of course, was not there and only watching online, refreshing occasionally at work. Although I am a Michigan grad and was hoping they would at least hold seed, I must admit to rooting for Wisco as much as Michigan. First, I am a pretty lame alumnus of Michigan, I have not even seen magnUM play since 03 at Mardi Gras. I have never donated any $$$ to the program. Nor could I identify anyone on their team if I saw them without any sort of Michigan stuff.

The Hodags on the other hand I have at least played against or played with over the past couple of years. And really, the last college ultimate player that I have any influence (Shaner, by way of captaining) over played his last game. Before I gush about him, I will gush about the hodags in general. The worst part is, I do not even feel dirty about rooting for them. I used to hate Madison.

First off, they were one of the biggest reasons that Sub Zero became relevant again. After 02, we were in an odd place. Losing most of what people knew as Sub Zero. 03 was definitely rebuilding, we still had plenty of talent, but we went with a pretty stern, you have to commit to us rule. And we tried to focus on getting good, local talent (not just talent living in the area for the fall), but if you were from the Twin City area, we really wanted you.

And for the most part it worked, we had an ok season has we picked up some local kids who would become essential players over the next couple of years (Q from Winona then Madison, Naz from Cloud, Schmzelzeze from Olaf, and Rupp from CUT). Not only were these good players, but they wanted to stay around MInneapolis. Eventually, our inexperience caught up to us and we finished dead last at nationals (although I would try to argue it was not that bad, b/c we lost out on prequarters by a 2 point point diff. But we did finish dead last).

03 also saw us lose control of the region. Truck surpassed us and at times made us look silly throughout the summer and fall. Luckily, everyone was pretty much committed to growing the local talent. We retained most of the team from 03, plus we added a couple more young guns to the mix (Shaner who took the winona/madison route, Berkseth from Olaf, Jeremy from Minny). The well was not dry, but the experience was raw. Many of the guys that we were picking were not from primetime college programs. The big game experience in most central region ultimate is not the same experience that we needed in order to put Zero back to relevance on the national stage. We were in effect teaching everyone how to play solid ultimate, not just for a game or a half. But for a full weekend. Learning how to win the close games. And learning how to be efficient. It was a bit frustrating at times to try and focus on what we needed to do to get better.

Truck was still the regional best, although we played them better. But we were getting more concerned about Madison. After winning in 03, the 03 club Madison team did the best out of the 3 central region teams (please no jokes). Throw into the fact that many of our team never beat the Hodags in college. You can call it arrogance, but it can also be seen as an expectation to win. If you play frisbee at Madison, you expect to win. That cannot be said for a lot of the college frisbee in Minnesota. Core contributors of our team had never beaten the Hodags.

And in 04, the Madison club had a bit of an attitude about them. To me, it seemed that they were playing not only to do well in the fall, but in a way to say, hey we only need Hodags. They knew how to win in college and it seemed like they may have the potential to win some games in the fall. Combining not only their college talent, but keeping some of the more recent alums around, they were a scrappy club team that knew how to play together. And at sectionals, we would split 2 games with them, both going to double game point. They would pull out the finals, making a run late in the game, I believe.

2 weeks later, we would have to beat that at regionals. We lost a close game to Truck in the finals and they had beaten Chicago in the backdoor. But we were too much for them. After being close early, we had a good run, sparked by a trap line/no dump late defense that really took advantage of their inexperience downfield. We took 2nd and they ended up losing the backdoor to Chicago.

And on that day, the seeds were planted for the top Hodags to come play for Sub Zero. Sitting on the sidelines, some of discussed what would ever happen if we were able to cherry pick a couple of Madison guys. Or would a 50/50 combo of Zero + Madison could ever work. I do not remember who threw it out there, but the couple of us there talking about all were interested in it. If we got the right guys, it could work. They needed the experience that we had and the somewhat stability a slightly big city can create. We needed their constant influx of talent, much of which was rooted in the Midwest.

If Madison beats us at regionals, who knows what would have happened. Definitely no combo. It would have fueled the all we need are Hodags attitude. And eventually we may have lost Q + Shaner. Not only did we beat them, but for the first time in a while, we pulled away from them. We won by 5 or so. Not a blowout, but enough to be seen as convincing. That was a huge mental thing for us.

The best part is, the guys who we ended up taking in 05 + 06 (and from all accounts 07) did it with a full commitment. Their was no ego playing. No demand for everything. They proved to us not only were they great players, but also great teammates. From day one, we were a team, they came from a successful program and we were building a different successful program and they meshed perfectly. Madison is 4 hours away from Minneapolis and they were there more than I ever imagined. These guys want to play ultimate and they want to play well. They want to win. They want to make everyone better. Of course they have a lot of talent, but just as important they have the right attitude. It does help to have a huge university, but they know how to utilize that atmosphere. It is pretty sick.

And this brings back to my original reason for posting, Shane. Even though he did not start there, I find it hard to imagine those guys without him. And yet, you get the feeling if you took Shane away, that would still be great. That is amazing to me.

When we took him, he was a raw athlete with the throwing skills of Leo, my 19 month old (seriously, he has a sweet flick, as good as Shane's in 04). There were 2 reasons that we took Shane, basically the 2 things we told everyone who tried out for Sub Zero.

#1 - play defense. Shane was not the smartest defender, rarely anyone who has been playing for ultimate for less than 2 years is. But 1-on-1, he was amazing. This guy dominated all the tryouts and a lot of the returners. Who earned the nickname Horse at the beginning because of his build and his speed. Most ds in tryouts were made by him. Many were scared to match up with him (and not for risk of injury).

#2 - be a good teammate. He not only was supportive and encouraging to all the Zero guys and tryouts, but he was a sponge. He wanted to learn. He took responsibility for his mistakes (not sulking after a turn, rather realizing and learning from the turn or break or whatever just happened). Many people had more offense skill than he did, but you could just see him learn so much throughout the tryout process. Lastly, he earned all the pt he got. Initially, we thought he would barely play. By the end of the year, he was playing huge points in big games for us (well, as big of games as the 13th place team at nationals can play in).

And Shane turned out to be one of my favorite teammates ever. It is great to see that he is the prime time player that we hoped he would be.

And from every account you read of the hodags, you see these two things mentioned about them. They play great defense and they are a great team. Obviously, they were this way before Shane got there, but he just added to it. That is why he and so many of those other outstanding athletes work. If you believe in your team, you will succeed. (And yes, it helps to have athletes and throwers, belief is not enough). But thinking about what I love about ultimate is focusing on a common goal and (Assuming your goal is to win) working your butts off to achieve it. It feels good to invest so much into something that pays 0, takes way too much time and energy, but knowing that everyone else is doing it too. Not only that, but everyone wants to do it.

Much like Shane, It is insanely stupid, but so much fun.

p.s. thanks to everyone who responded or e-mail. I will be in the atlantic coast region this summer

Friday, May 09, 2008

A question.

Hello, I have been distracted from thinking about frisbee. And really, I am not thinking about frisbee that much right now as getting a full time job has been my highest priority.

Well, that may have worked out, but I am inquiring opinions from like-minded individuals (frisbee players) about 2 different areas.

If you have any thoughts, knowledge, experience, about the cities below (not so much ultimate related I have that under control, but more area related, culture, activities, neighborhoods, housing, politics, etc).

Here are the cities/areas I would like to gain knowledge about:

Brevard, NC (~30 miles west of asheville, nc)

Albany, NY

Please share in the comments or you can drop me an e-mail (timmy930 at gmail).


Thursday, February 07, 2008

set plays vol. 1

The one thing I really learned with BAT was how helpful and easy set plays could be. If everyone is on the exact same page and looking for the exact same thing, scoring can be ez.

Our main set play for a middle stack - Goldencut or Golden

The usual 5 guys set-up in a middle stack. Someone catches a pull and centers it to the thrower that initiates the play. There is a slight delay in the play, you wait for the d to get down and set the mark. Once the thrower has it and the marker is set, the guy in the front of the stack cuts break mark (assuming the stack is in the middle, this guy runs parallel to the goalline for ~5 yards, enough to get the defender away from the stack in fear of a pick). This cutter best sets up this play if he also calls for the disc on the break side. Once the cutter is away from the stack, he takes off deep. The obvious thing here is to try and get your person to overplay and hit them going deep. Next, you have to read the defenders. If the last back defender is even/not paying attention to the guy last in the stack, this should be a goal. The guy in the last position of the stack just needs to start coming in to draw the defense even more.

If the last back defender is more aware, he might be inclined to help out deep. If that occurs or as it is happening, the guy last in the stack should be cutting in to the open side. Again, the cutter probably should not wait for the switch, rather try to force the situation with the last back defender. Cut before the 2 defenders have a chance to switch usually allowed either a wide open deep or a wide open under on the open side.

If the under cut gets it, then you have a cutter going deep that might be covered one on one. And possibly with an open thrower.

Also, if this play works once or twice early, you can improvise later and just have the guy not cut deep and look for a throw on the breakmark side. There are many things you can do with this, but the standard is described above and worked for a long time with both Truck and magnUM. And easily the play that I called the most while in Michigan.

"San Diego"

This play was for when we got the disc after a turn on the sideline. I have seen many teams run this, not just San Diego. First, there is a ho stack of 4 on the same plane as the disc. You could say there are 4 handlers spread across the width of the field. The 3 "cutters" are in an angled stack (~45 degrees) and the first cutter is ~10-15 yards on that diagonal from the thrower.

As the disc is being checked in, the first cutter goes deep. After a second or so, the cutter should look to make eye contact with the thrower. The thrower has a couple options. #1 Throw it. Obvious. #2 Not throw it. Also obvious. In both of these options, the cutter still runs deep. #3 Pump fake. If the thrower pump fakes, the cutter stops and comes underneath for the disc. {This is very powerful and something I always tried to teach teams I captained. If someone is cutting deep and you want them to come under, pump fakes. It works more often then you might think. Especially if you have a good thrower who really sells the big pump gake}

Now, as the first cutter is going (See the 3 options above), the second cutter in the stack (middle position of the starting diagonal stack), waits about a second and then takes off deep. His main role is continuation for the next pass. Although a player experienced in this set will realize that often times this guy is open deep. But for now, he is looking for a deep cut, but mainly looking for continuation (more on this in a second).

Right after the second cutter busts deep, the last cutter in the diagonal stack busts toward the discs (basically down the same diagonal line toward the thrower). Basically, he is looking for an invert from the thrower. This is open a lot of the time. The first cutter (the guy who started the cutting) must lookout for the third cutter when the first cutter is doing his comeback.

Almost all the time, one of these 2 guys (either the first or last cutter) are open. Once they get the disc, the middle cutter is now the continuation cut and should have plenty of field to work with. THe cutter who did not get the disc on the under should be thinking about a scoring cut or another continuation (bascially busting ass downfield).

Most of the time that the downfield guys were not open, it was due to poaching from the ho stack. That is fine. It sucks not to get an easy 1 or 2 passes downfield, but you will be able to get the disc off the line, which is just as important. And then you can get into your offense without being trapped on the line. Good times.

That is all for now, there are a couple other plays I may talk about later. These were the 2 main plays we ran back in Michigan and they worked pretty well. I hope you find it enjoyable.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Offense 2 - Primary & Secondary

Soon after my first year in college ultimate, I tried out with Big Ass Truck which at the time (and still is) a mixture of AA, Lansing, and Detroit area. With occasional help from the western side of the state. When we (Karl + I) made it, it was largely Lansing + Detroit area, but soon the center of the team would move to AA.

Anyway, the offense we played was fairly simple. 3 handlers - with dump and swing mentality. Go from side to side. Once you swung the disc, you look upfield. I really don't remember much of what the downfield cutters were suppose to do. I do know we assigned Primary + Secondary. Basically, the priority of cutters downfield, man/buddy, #1/#2, etc. If you were primary, you were cutting on a dead disc after we got the turn. And if we received the pull, catch pull - center - primary - secondary was the role.

I do not remember if we discussed what the other 2 cutters were supposed to do. I don't remember the role after the sequence played out.

For college, we did not have much structure and we loss our main strategician b/c he was out of inelgibility. So, that responsibility fell to me and Karl since we played on truck and also I was co-captain that college season. What I am trying to say is we ran the same offense for the college season that we did during the fall with Truck.

What this offense did was attempt to play to our strengths. Risky throws. And few cut downfield so people would stay out of the way of our main offensive threats (not major offensive threats competitively, rather the main threats on our teams).

The majority of the hucking/risky throws came from the handlers even though they were rarely in position of gaining yardage. And the bulk of the yardage was the primary/secondary.

Initially with truck, it was great b/c we had more deep throwers and thus more opportunities to cut deep as a primary/secondary cutter. And that was my world the first year that I played, all hard/deep/break throws were made from the handler position. I focused mainly on being a cutter and gaining yardage/scoring goals.

It was not until Tune-up (97) that I realized the importance of this primary cutter (or really any cutter downfield) to be able to be an extension of the handlers. Meaning, throw deep, throw riskier throws (not just dumps and open downfield throws). We played against teams that had cutters who could do this. I remember watching this and trying to guard against this and thinking this was just amazing. It was unbelieveable that guys who were responsible for going deep and for gaining yardage could also turn around and throw it 40+ yards. Or break the mark, creatively, on the goalline. I remember getting back to AA and that week at college tryouts to really start looking to put it deep.

Playing against inferior opponents, you get in a turnover war. Or the couple throwers we had were too good for them, that cutting was easy. It was not until this tune-up that defenses could play and were used to playing against good cutters and throwers. Teams very early on realized I was a much bigger danger going deep then coming back to the disc b/c I probably had a completion %age in the 70s or 80s. Many teams would aggressively back me (or our other excellent deep cutters) allow the 10-15 yard gain and wait for the ensuing turn.

(Which against Z one year resulted in me getting point blocked twice in one possession of the disc. Good times.)

Or the other strategy was aggressive, close fronting with a much more aggressive mark then I ever saw on the thrower. Basically controlling the huck at the marking level and controlling the comeback cuts at the cutting level. This strategy was not so much at tune-up as Nationals that year. But it would stick with me and is basically the d philosophy that I believe in today. But that is another story.

Both of these strategies are good, but if you can put the disc in the hands of another excellent thrower downfield (not just in your handlers like our college team or even Truck), the defense will be on the heels. Incidentally, i think this is the biggest change in the game over the past 10 years, the ability of more versatile cutters, cutters that can make you look bad going deep and can make you look bad with your throws. It seemed like in 97, teams had 2 or so guys who could do this role. Now, it seems like every team at nationals has several guys who fill this role. And you have to play more honest defense on everyone.

From then on, anytime I thought about offense I thought about 2 key points. First, you want at least one cutter (preferably all 4) that can make a difference cutting or throwing deep. Of course, this seems obvious, but at the time I started playing, it seemed that only handlers threw the breaks and the hucks. And the cutters gained yardage and cut deep. From Tune-up on, I tried to become more of a deep throwing threat not so I could handle, but so I could punish people for playing behind me and waiting for me to dump it. If I could get the disc, turn and jack it for a goal, well, I would become much more dangerous.

If you center the disc to someone who is a deep throwing threat who then throws to someone for 15 or yards and that person is a deep throwing threat, well then, you got something. You shortened the field and still have the ability to score on one pass. And hopefully, your next cutter will be able to do that score on that next pass. Or sell it well enough that he gets another 15+ yards. 2 throws, at least half the field. What a revolutionary concept.

The second thing that stuck with me is that handlers do not have to be excellent deep throwers. If you can move the disc from side to side (who cares where the mark is), then you could get the disc to your one or two better cutters when they came underneath. And it seems to me that it is an easier bomb when you get the disc coming back or on a swing. As opposed to getting a dump and looking for the huck (again, something that is pretty obvious).

I really won't go into the weaknesses, but we never did talk about cutter 3 or 4. And both of these teams really did not have the cutters who could put it deep. Although we tried on the college team, it took a while to sink in.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Offense 1 - Horse & Buggy

Hi. So what I am attempting to do is describe the offenses that I have run over my career. Although the first o's I ran would be a more convential 3 handlers, 1 or 2 middles, and 2 or 3 deeps. Standard pickup type stuff, but we never really discuss these o's so yeah, I won't count them.

The first time I really had an offense described to me was in the winter of 97 when we came back from Xmas break. Our college team (along with a bunch of local club players) convened in Oosterbahn Fieldhouse for our first practice of the semester. I started playing in July of 96 (summer after my frosh year) in South Bend. Came back to AA and started going to club practices.

We were really young and so most of the fall was spent with the basics. What I am trying to say is we were not throwers. So the "horse & buggy" is a 2-5 offense set with the stack in the middle of the field. We would catch the pull, center it, and then work it up one side as much as possible.

We really only had 2 throwers, Brian Lane a med student from the Yale B team and Jon Bakija a grad student who was a precision thrower. After that, not many people could handle. Mike "national champ" Jaeger handled and so did Wu, but they would be much better if they could have been cutters with the rest of us. But they had the unique ability to throw both forehands and backhands well.

Anyway, what did the 5 of us do. Well, the cutters basically did the stanford O. We waited our turn and cut from the back of the stack. If we got the disc, we usually looked back right away to a dump (although I think we called it "cag" for some reason). We were not really good at continuation from cutter to cutter.

There was not much swinging of the disc from side to side. Part of the reason was only 2 handlers and no other "short fills". The main reason was we hucked it a lot. Probably the reason Jon and Brian enjoyed it so much.

So what did I learn from this?

- Reading the disc, we hucked it a lot.

- How to read teammates' cuts and when to cut out of turn. Being that we *only* cut from the back, teams figured this out. I feel I learned about positioning of the defense. Not just my man, but especially the d behind me. Any and all fronting was met with a quick cut deep, especially if I was not in the back of the stack. I was definitely the first one on the team to cut out of turn, but I feel I did it appropriately. Meaning, I only cut deep when that space was open and my guy was fronting me in the front of the stack. Also, taking a completely different lane for cutting.

To get more specific, we really only cut in/out from the back of the stack on the open side. It was probably Sectionals by the time I learned, holy cow there is no one on the break side. So you can easily drift over there, separate from the stack, and then go deep. When the timing would work, the back of the stack cutter is going in and you are going out. Thus, the back of the stack is in transition and the endzone can be a little more open. It helped to have throwers that always looked deep too.

- If someone plays even with you (not fronting not backing), it is better to go deep then to cut underneath. I felt that most defenders are focused on stopping the under or at the very least you can get them to bite on the under fake and then go deep. Any team that I have been in charge of, I try to get this point across, go deep (or at least try to go deep) if your defender is even. The under cut is pretty useless and especially in college much riskier then the deep (reasoning- when you turn it over, it is a good punt).

Basically, it was a good offense to be on a decent team. We liked to play defense and we liked to huck. Most of the other guys took care of the ds, I tried to take care of the scoring. It is good to "grow up" as an ultimate player on a less strict/regimented offense. It makes you figure things out and allows for a bit more creativity as a younger player. Although I would have loved to play on a team that was nationals caliber right from my first year playing college ultimate, but I think it allowed me to get better as a player earlier. And I had fun with that.