Last week I couldn’t make practice and so went to the gym instead. I worked pretty hard and I really felt it the next day because I hadn’t done any kind of stretching or warm down.
I started playing with the Mohawks in 2006. In those six years we have never had a culture of warming down. Occasionally at a tournament we would do some cursory stretches but we’ve never had a proper warming down routine or habit.
We should really have more respect for our bodies than that. If we’re training as hard as we should be we should be making the time (probably only about 5-10 mins) to cool down afterwards. Trudging straight to Falmer Bar for a pint and burger is probably not the best way to help your body recover.
Please share your tips for warming down – I genuinely want to know cause I want to start making it a part of my routine after practice and training.
So as we have said previously, this weeks social will be PUB GOLF!! I hope seeing as we have had a break all of you will bring your party suits along (and suitable golf attire) as it will be a big night.
We will start at East Slope at 7:30 for the first hole and as the meeting point. Following this we will make our way through campus first to the Co-op to see fellow Mohawkers such as Rapo, followed by Falmer Bar then town.
There will be 2 courses – 1 for the hardcore guys like me (cough) and one for the people who want to take it easier. We will end in a club which most of us probably won’t remember and it will be a lovely evening for all!
Due to Women’s Regionals this next weekend, they are having the sportshall for the normal indoor training session on Sunday. This means there is no official training session for men. Feel free to organise a chuck around or pick-up game outdoors but please don’t use Russell’s Clump as we’ve been instructed not to use it at the moment.
As I’m sure you will all agree it is important for the women to be able to training before an important tournament. So I hope you will all understand the reason for changing things this week.
“If there’s no future in it, at least it’s a present worth remembering.”
Welcome to the Spirit of the Dude (SotD). I will talk about things that I think about concerning ultimate which generally revolve around the spirit and community of ultimate. So even though I don’t know where this blog will take me, my first few posts will be about spirit related subjects. Here comes the first post: The Stakes.
For those of you who don’t know me, currently I’m doing an MA in Digital Documentary. Even though my passion is feature films, I chose this course because Sussex University had one of the best ultimate teams in the country and they didn’t have a hands on film programme. I am serious. So even before coming to the UK for the programme, I wanted to make my dissertation documentary on ultimate. What better thing to do other than bringing them together right?
So this week, I went to talk with my instructor about how to approach the project, which part of ultimate can it be about, what to focus on and what to leave out. With my instructor I was struggling. It was not just about ultimate but also how to make it an interesting subject for a documentary. Before meeting her, I thought I had some good ideas but just as I started explaining to her what ultimate was and what made it special, I realised that nothing was getting through and I wasn’t talking about anything interesting even to myself.
With a quick twist to wake her up, I started going into more important things like ‘Hawks winning nationals, Brighton’s success in Europe and the pressures these created and suddenly she asked such a simple question that just caught me flat footed: “So what’s at stake?”
This is a question I sometimes ask myself. Why are we pushing ourselves so hard (OK, ok, why are people pushing themselves so hard since I generally sit in front of a PC)? What are we getting out of this? Why are we putting so much effort into ultimate when the most you can earn is a title which only matters in the ultimate community itself?
Most people playing ultimate right now will never earn a living playing ultimate (organizing, teaching/coaching or other means might bring some money yes, but making money by playing is not possible yet, which is another topic I’m planning to talk about in the future), so future career is not an answer. Prestige seems like a good reason, but when you come to think of it.. Sometimes I talk to a muggle (non-ultimate person, yeap I’m smart), and I would say “Mohawks were national champions last year!” or “BU won Mixed Euro’s in ’09” and the answer I get is generally something close to “Oh, that’s nice.” or “good for you guys.”. So prestige only works among players, which yes, can be a factor, but by itself is it enough of a reason? Since I’m not a great player and won’t have great successes in my career it’s not for me and the majority of people who play.
I believe the stakes comes down to why a person plays ultimate. I play for two reasons:
1- I love watching a disc fly, it was love at first flight (cheesiness alert), that’s why I love long plays (and as much skying as possible please, one good reason to play with players like Ash and Callum). Watching a disc fly, reading the flight and catching it is just an amazing feeling that can only be understood through playing.
2- The community. Not just the local community one plays in but the community of ultimate in general. The spirit we have and the crazy that we share. I love the fact that it doesn’t matter which country I go to right now, if there’s an ultimate scene there, I have a bed (or at least floor) to sleep for free and someone to share a pint with and then chuck around the next day.
But there are no stakes here still right? Here comes the stake and the main reason I play for: I love being part of a team. Wanting the same things with a bunch of people and fighting for it, together. At times screaming at each other, at times wanting to punch each other in the face but always fighting together. The only stake for me while playing ultimate is letting my team down, if I’m playing bad, I care because I bring my team down with my bad play. So when push comes to shove, all that matters, all that is at stake, for me, is my team. Because in the end, twenty thirty years from now, it’s the times I’ve spent with these people that I will remember, the good ones and the bad ones. All that matters is the team we form.
What’s at stake is the people in your team. It’s why we play, or at least why I play.
I’m aware that this is not a clear answer since we haven’t established the what and why of the team. The crazy that we share? Maybe we can talk about that in another post.
I wish I could’ve come up with this answer with my instructor at that point, but what can one do, these things come out when I sit down to write.
What do you guys play for, what is at stake for you? Are we all crazy?
Welcome, to the blog of me, Therapist. I won’t blog as regularly as the regulars here but when I get some sort of motivation or inspiration I will put my thoughts down, check that they’re OK with somebody who is better at writing than me and then send them your way. They will range from anything I fancy writing about in Ultimate frisbee, I hope you like my thoughts.
I have never struggled to get free of people and get the disc in my hand at university level. I have scored goals by reacting quickly to a handler getting the disc in a good position or merely outpacing my mark and letting a handler pop a disc into just the right place for me, but never before playing for the GB Beach Open team did I learn to get free of people for fun.
At university level I have played my fair bit of offense and been an easy(ish) reset at times by running back on a cycle play or running break side for a swing continuation. But I always let others use the open lane to get free and work it there – I considered myself a reset if the handler got stuck. The point here is that I never really “cut” and by that I mean going through the mechanics and motions of running one way, changing direction sharply and going back the other to receive a disc easily. Playing for GB Beach, however, I found myself on the O line with nowhere to hide and was left frustrated because of my inability to shake my man, or not being fast enough to solely rely on flat line speed and not longer being “just” a reset when required.
As a quick aside, for Brighton 1 I have tended to stand pretty still on offense to save my energy for defense where I felt more useful. This stems from a lack of confidence on disc to the extent that I didn’t want the disc unless physically scoring. So my lack of cutting at Tour, whilst not very helpful, has not been too detrimental (I hope).
We had a variety of set plays that we were playing through. I knew the plays and I knew where I was supposed to receive the disc, or at least be available to receive a disc should the rest of the play be blocked elsewhere. However, all too often I made a run (notice, NOT cut) into the space I was meant to be and wouldn’t be free enough. More often than not the rest of the play had worked OK so it wasn’t too much of an issue but a good amount of the time I was not helping out offense out at all and so it made it trickier.
There was one play in particular where I was a wide up-field player in horizontal stack and I just had to come under to clear space and receive a swing pass if need be – I just ran under with my man on my shoulder. At uni level this was often OK, at Burla/Paga this had done me fine, heck, at trials for the GB Beach team I had got free plenty but suddenly, with somebody experienced on my shoulder I was not a free man, and that annoyed me.
I think I got told three times before I finally made a “cut” for that particular play. People weren’t annoyed with me when they told me (it was three separate people so perhaps I got lucky in that sense) but wanted me to get free in the right place at the right time. My problem was not just that I was not free enough should the handler want to throw me the disc but actually, since I had not tried to make my D go long at all first but merely run towards the space I need to occupy I was there too early and so by the time the handler looked at me I probably was not even in the ideal space and so them giving the disc up to me was actually now a bad option.
On the third such being told I actually took on board the advice and lo and behold, it worked! My man bit on my deep fake (just 3 or 4 hard steps and he was a gonna – too scared of me I reckon) and I streaked free under just in time for the handler to hit me with a 10 or 15 metre gain. I had time to compose myself before my mark got to me and reset the disc to a moving handler who punted it long to a free guy deep (who had probably sent his man the wrong way under looking for a swing) – the play worked and finally I was a part of it!
The rest of the week was a dream – I was scared of very few people and felt I could get free of them for fun. I took this to Burla (more relaxed, I fully appreciate, and the old style me could still have got free most of the time) and felt I played really well and was finally able to dominate O points like I had always wanted to, and all because I had learnt to cut properly.
The point, though, to this here blog, is that I learned this fundamental part of ultimate at the end of my third year of playing, so much like Shim is saying in his blog series (that he learns new things every week, even though he has been playing for 6 or 7 decades) I learned something huge whilst being, in university circles, an “experienced” player. I had been a captain for two of three years playing without ever really learning how to cut effectively, which in hindsight is pretty terrible.
I always taught people to cut properly (hence Ashley always having cut well – that was me, not Felix, or anyone else, maybe) and shown them in demonstrations the mechanics of cutting but when it came down to the crunch I didn’t do it and relied on reaction time and speed to get free. Now, however, I feel like a good cutter and back myself to get free of most people most of the time – and end up in a good position!
From this blog post then, you should take that you can always learn something and quite often you can still improve on the fundamentals of your game even if you’ve been playing ages. Don’t ever think that you’ve got the basics down to such an extent that you don’t need to work on them. Challenge yourself – get somebody with a huge force to mark you and make them bite on your fakes, get somebody who you have never gotten free of before to mark you and make them fall over trying to change direction when you do or watch me make anybody look like a chump. You can improve on all aspects of your game, so why not try?
Regards, and best of luck improving your basics!
We can exclusively reveal that we now have a Mohawk that can jump higher than Ash.
Natalie Frances is a committee member of the trampolining society. This means that we can legitimately complain to her next time we are delayed at Sunday training. All blame must be attatched to Natalie and it is definately all her fault personally. That said it is a credit to the Mohawks scouting network that we were able to poach Natalie away at the peak (no pun intended) of her success. We believe that university sport is the perfect trialing ground for ultimate, we are the most successful team after all.
Natalie’s Mohawk boyfriend Wham introduced her to the sport last year. Natalie has certainly made an immediate impact on the Mohawks being, among other things the only fresher Squaw to go to Open Indoor Regionals. Rapidly becoming a familiar face at tournaments and socials, it is a shame that she found ultimate late in her student life. She is surely destined to a future in ultimate at club level for years to come. However we are forced to reveal that this is yet another example of a Mohawk to have never done a three pint challenge. Although Natalie’s integral status as ‘designated driver’ at tournaments perhaps excuses this oversight.
One of those sensible people that have a plan for life we understand Natalie is training to be a Maths teacher. Working at a school in Brighton she will soon qualify and be let loose on the white board all by herself. Unconfirmed reports have suggested that Natalie does actually have eyes in the back of her head, those kids better watch out!
However this career may have to be put on hold after rumours that Chelsea FC have been sniffing around. With Chelsea worried about finishing outside of the top four it is rumoured that a large transfer fee may just prise Natalie out of the Mohawks only months after she joined. Roman Abramovich is on record as saying ‘I will pay anything, she can’t be worse than Torres’.
Shim’s blog and its focus on learning got me thinking. It’s important to recognise what you’re learning as individuals at training, week on week, and boy did I just eat up that zone post for week 2. But equally, as a club, it’s important to recognise what you learn at each tournament, year on year. So, this post is a bit less psychology, a lot more tactics (specifically uni women’s tactics, but some of it can definitely be applied to other divisions/levels). Learning from tournaments and dissecting them afterwards is one of my big loves as a coach and as a player, so here are some examples of ‘what I learned this half-decade’ (definitely not as catchy as Shim’s blog title, huh?). A few of these I think are pretty critical points, so I’ll probably come back to them in tactics posts over the coming months: consider this a preview. A very long preview…
When I joined Squaws in 2006, there were two experienced women at trainings. We got lucky with one Canadian and one Latvian pickup. Bob rocked up from Belgium for UWON*. We had a group of 6 or so freshers who played and hung out to varying degrees. The end of this academic year was our first UWON victory. Since then, the club saw three of those freshers (and one late arrival – hey, Bobbi!) go on to win the title again in 2009, and then for a whole new batch of freshers (and one old loser who can’t seem to graduate) to take the crown back in 2011. With no other university women’s team managing to get even close to this success, I have this vague niggling feeling that, hey, we might be doing something right.
Yup, this is probably completely inaccurate and monstrously egotistical, but I believe that part of Squaws’ strength is that we are constantly learning from our successes, and from our mistakes, as individuals but most importantly as a team.
Year 1: 2006-2007. ‘The Year Bob Won Nationals’
Yeah, yeah, so some of us had to run after the lobs and actually catch them for it to work, but Bob’s big discs (whether offensive hucks or devastating pulls) tore university women’s ultimate apart. We had a defence which got us turns (boring, boring zone) and our ‘yards gained’ from turning over in our attacking endzone, and then turning them over in the same place, meant that we had it a lot easier when we actually started thinking about scoring with our offence. Except for when Bob tried to layout D our own players… but that’s a different story altogether. Anyway, lesson learned: to be in with a fighting shot at women’s outdoors, you NEED the long game, and you need to be unafraid of turnovers.
Year 2: 2007-2008. ‘Where has everybody gone?’
The two experienced players graduated. Our pickups left. Bob was left with a bunch of reasonable second years, and some eager freshers. It wasn’t enough. There had been a year where, for whatever reason, recruitment had failed and no players had returned the next year. We had no third years. As second years, we were pretty decent, but not good enough to make up for the missing tier of experience. We finished 7th, which was alright considering, but it just didn’t feel like enough, given how well we’d done the year before. This year, we learnt the lesson of recruitment: you can never afford to take a year off, and you can never afford to have no returners from your first years. Because otherwise, in two years’ time, regardless of how strong your team is this year or next year, you will be screwed.
Year 3: 2008-2009. ‘Good throwers should do your throwing’
We lost our first game at nats 2009. It was against Pies and in the cross-wind, we couldn’t get through their zone. We made the mistake of putting two of our stronger throwers upfield, because they were also stronger upfield players. With a zone which lets you pass it between your handlers lots, we had more unforced turnovers than we could cope with having our less experienced throwers back, and the disc never made it into the hands of the experienced players behind the ‘cup’. Changing this for the final (at the suggestion of one smartest ultimate players I know – cheers, Longface) won us nationals. Yes, the tactics of 2007 made an appearance again (huck and D, and loads of zone), but the change of getting the disc in the hands of our strongest throwers for the final changed everything. It helps that we live for upwind-downwind, but the lesson from this year was pretty clear: at uni women’s the people you have handling are your strongest handlers. End of.
Year 4: 2009-2010. ‘If only we could throw…’
Describing the effects of the 2009 graduation on Squaws can be done with one word: decimation. We went from a nationals winning squad to having 2 freshers staying on, our captain remaining, and me sticking around for a masters which would almost completely wipe out my ability to attend trainings. I will not mince words: we got really bloody lucky. 2009 saw the most athletic intake of Squaws I’ve ever witnessed (and also the biggest). We had 2 whole teams from Sussex at indoor regionals for the first time, and these kids could RUN. I think we were all a little skeptical when Felix told us at a training early in the Spring term, that if we all threw around more we could win nationals. As usual, he was right. We came 3rd at nationals, losing out in a wet and scrappy semi-final against Flatball. Finishing 3rd was amazing, but for me certainly, there was a feeling we could have done better. We faltered upwind on offence. My feeble sidearm couldn’t match the power of my backhand, and with Flatball taking away our main deep shot with some sensible forcing we were forced to work the disc under. We had too many throwaways from less experienced players attempting under-passes, and went down 7-3. The lesson was pretty clear: reduce your unforced turnovers, and get the disc back to your handlers more effectively.
Year 5: 2010-2011. ‘I can’t picture the boys warming up like this’
UWON 2011. I could write a lot about the tactics we played, and played against. I could probably write a treatise about the awesomeness of having a lefty and a righty handler on a team. I could praise everyone for how much work they put into preparations and trainings this year (I should probably do that sometime…). But really, the lesson I learned this year was about team unity and team atmosphere. Uni women’s is not top 8 club level. The warm ups you run should be different, your team talks should be different, the way you approach tournaments should be different. We’d got it wrong in the past, and the clash of experienced club players expecting way more than was fair from second years or freshers had helped nobody. I’d recognised this in previous years, but never quite got the adjustment sorted. This year, the whole team got it right. We were basically idiots. The whole weekend. We did the usual plyos for warmups, but inevitably degenerated into a dance-off in the centre of the endzone. We had outrageously scripted team celebrations for when we scored (personal favourite: the body-builder with fainting women at their feet). And without the captains saying anything explicitly, people relentlessly built each other up as teammates, with nothing but support for one another, regardless of what had just happened on pitch. It was, without a doubt, the best team I have ever played on in terms of atmosphere. The lesson we learned this year was to remember to have fun. Oh, and that it’s always good to lie to your team, tell them there’s a hawaiian theme for the party, and make them dress up in bikinis and grass skirts.
*UWON: University Women’s Outdoor Nationals. For those not in the know…
Sorry for short notice about this but training is officially cancelled today.
Unofficially it is not – in that we will be doing things very similar to normal training, just not on Russell’s clump. This also means that, if you do come along (please do) then you’re playing at your own risk, and not necessarily training with the University of Sussex Ultimate Frisbee team.
Sorry for late notice in this, I got told at 09:16 this morning and have just logged onto email for the day.
To sum up: people will be playing frisbee, just NOT on Russell’s Clump today. Their playing will take much the same form as training so at 1pm there will be some Mixed Ultimate going on (ALL women, Kneetu has invited men) and then from 2:30pm the “usual” stuff will happen.
Week two seems to have been dominated by learning and teaching zone defence. Our first two open squad trainings were spent talking about our junk and FSU, then Sunday indoors the women’s team were practicing zone and we play against a zone almost every Monday night in Hove.
Now take a second to imagine trying to explain any particular zone defence.
When I was asked to explain our indoor ‘house’ zone I realised something strange. The default, when we’re talking about zones, is to go through each position in turn, saying what they are responsible for. I’ve a couple of problems with this – but the most important is that it misses out the central element of any defensive strategy – the team objective, and this is an element which I think we should be putting at the top of our agenda when it comes to defensive strategy. Allow me to explain.
Ultimate has an offensive bias. The structure and rules of the game place the impetus with the team in possession – they know where they’re going to run from and to and when. The way we compensate for this is using defensive tactics – ideally forcing the offence to make the most difficult throws, cuts, have the smallest margin for error or use an option they’d rather not. In doing this we are tacitly accepting that we can’t stop everything and settling to instead limit their options and try to dictate what the offence does. So there is a paradox here: Even though ultimate has an offensive bias it is the defence that dictates the play – let’s call this Shimmy’s First Paradox.
Shimmy’s First Paradox leads to a second paradox in that the defence can simultaneously succeed and fail. Consider the simple example of a one-way force, which aims to push the play towards a sideline. If the offence scores by using passes up the open side, getting nearer and nearer to the sideline and never getting off it then the defensive strategy has succeeded despite having failed to prevent the score. We will call this Shimmy’s Second Paradox.
This doesn’t sound right. It sounds like defence lacks a killer instinct when clearly the point of defence is to get a block. The problem is that because unlike playing offence, where you can predetermine the movement of the disc, on defence you can’t plan where you’re going to get your blocks (you might have an idea about where it’s likely to happen though). A block is achieved by an individual making it happen. And this leads to Shimmy’s Third Paradox: The individual goals of any defensive strategy are not the same as the team objective of the defensive strategy. An example to demonstrate: In a one-way force one of your individual aims is to not get beaten to the open side. So when this happens you’ve failed, but as we discussed before, if a team plays and scores up the open side then one team goal – restricting the offensive play to one side of the pitch – has been achieved.
If you’re worried that I don’t believe that D-teams should aim to get blocks that’s not what I’m saying at all. Of course they should. What I’m saying is that “get a block” can’t be called a defensive strategy.
Back to zone. So we can probably all describe what each individual position does in, say, our outdoor junk zone, without thinking too much. But how about a team objective for this defence? I’m willing to bet that if we asked 100 Mohawks our survey would say there’s a notable difference in individual interpretations of team objectives in zone defence.
A defence is strongest when the whole team is working towards the same aim (if you need proof then remember the last time when someone on your team got the force wrong and how it undermined the whole defensive effort). So by neglecting to understand what your team is aiming to do within a particular defensive strategy you are reducing your efficacy as a defender. So from now on, when you are learning or inventing a new defensive strategy, consider asking yourself or your team mates the question “What is the team objective of this strategy?” Making sure everyone is on the same page in terms of team objectives turns a line of individual defenders into a far more formidable defensive unit.
Okay. This has ended up a quite long blog post. I hope you’ve enjoyed it and it’s made you think a little differently about defence. I think there’s a lot of interesting thoughts which come out of this line of thinking, so please post your discussion points, abuse, arguments etc. below.
I got round to adding the Three Pint Challenge (3PC) page back. I’ve added a few times I had noted down but if I’ve missed yours, comment below.
Even if you remember the list from the old site, check this version out. Remind yourselves of some of those crazy times. Mac & Bob in 16.9 sections, Mac’s solo effort or the Felix and Mac’s white wine time.