Thursday, December 22, 2011

Another Week Off

It's another week off for me; leaving for Galveston to see my grandma. (93 years old!) I'll be back next week.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Week Off

I am not posting this week on the Skyd WtF - I am making room for something else. I will be back next week.


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Zone O

I did not write this! I think Jim Parinella wrote it for the UPA newsletter. He sent it to me unreferenced, but I assume it is his work.

Also found this in the article "Offensive Thoughts" which appeared in UPA Newsletter in August 1999:

Take advantage of temporary 2 on 1 or 3 on 2 mismatches. Unless you’re playing against an extremely focused and practiced defense, you will have many short-lived opportunities to exploit this power play. Anticipation and immediate reaction, as with man to man offense, are important. It’s a rare defense that will simultaneously have one player making a bid for a block while another adjusts to cover. For example, if two poppers are on either side of the middle middle, who bites on a fake left, the other popper is open UNLESS the wing or point adjusts at the same time. If the offense doesn’t know this, then the defense will be able to recover in time to prevent the pass. Just about any 2 nearby O players have a potential mismatch situation. The poppers exploit the middle middle. A popper and a wing work on the side middle. A wing and a deep work on the deep. The off-handler and a wing or popper split the off-point. A good defense will constantly be making adjustments to prevent someone from being open for too long, but it takes a great one to make that time window almost non-existent.

I think most downfield O players run too hard when the disc is still in the cup. When the cup gets broken, that is the time for an all-out fast break. But when the disc is stationary, too much movement merely alerts the defenders as to their whereabouts.

And use the overhead to spread out the cup and side middles.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Sports Illustrated

Oregon ultimate in SI this month. It makes me a little nervous; I'm not sure its ever good to draw the scrutiny of a giant. Still, Nij (Weatherhead) does a nice job of representing the positives of club sports without at all bashing the varsity athletic department.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Going to Regionals

I am off to NW Regionals this weekend and here is the short explanation of what I am going to be watching. I'm still not exactly sure because the schedule is a, how to say this graciously...unfriendly to spectators. Also, Mizu and I are going together and since we have three little kids we don't actually get to talk to each other about what we are doing. We know we are getting in the car after work on Friday and driving back on Sunday, but that's about it. On to the games.

1. The two good open games are Revolver-Rhino and Sockeye-Furious (classic!). They are scheduled simultaneously (are you kidding me!?) at 9AM (are you kidding me?!?) Ugh. I am not really sure what I will do about these. I had really hoped to spend Saturday morning in Seattle hitting the old breakfast haunts, but damn, Sockeye-Furious.

2. Zeitgeist-Further. Further has never beaten Zeitgeist and if they want to make Nationals, they would do well to win here. The top two teams in each pool are guaranteed two shots at making the Show, while everyone else must battle it out for the game-to-go. A big chunk of Further played for a team I know pretty well, so I am a bit partial.

3. If I skip the men's games in the morning, I will probably stay and watch the last round on the women's side which will feature Riot-Zeitgeist and Traffic-Underground.

1. Round 1: Men's semis. This should feature some combination of Sockeye, Furious, Rhino and Revolver. The chalk has Sockeye over Rhino and Revolver over Furious. Mandatory watching.

2. Round 2: Women's final. Should be Riot-Fury. Adjacent fields sport the 3-4 (winner to Natties) and 5-6 games (loser goes home).

3. Round 3: This is the tough one. It is the men's final. It is also the men's 3-4 game with the loser going home. It is the women's game-to-go. I will watch Sockeye wherever they are and Further if they are in the game-to-go (otherwise they are finished). Fortunately, all these games are scheduled onto the same quadrant of fields.

4. Round 4: Men's game to go. There is no feeling in the world like watching the game-to-go after you've already qualified.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Why Mini?

So big thanks to everyone who helped with the nerdy challenge. You all saved me a ton of time. In thanks, I'd like to explain the frisbee reasons I was curious.

Mini is an awesome tool for development of individual skills. Unlike 7s, where a young player might touch the disc only 4 or 5 times a practice, Mini affords them a countless touches in a very short period of time. Touches, marking, defending, reading...every essential skill is practiced at game speed in a game like setting at a rate you can't match in a full-sided scrimmage.

I was interested in using it as a tool at the team level. In particular, I wondered if it would be possible to set a possession goal and use mini scores as a way to evaluate this goal. What I mean is, could you record the scores to a whole bunch of mini games and then go back and figure out what the possession rate was? Actually, I knew you could do this work, but I needed the algorithm to figure out the rates. That was the reason for the nerdy challenge.

Using Alpha Chen's probability generator, I cranked out possibilities established expected values and was able to come up with an expected value number for each possession probability. (The spreadsheet is here.) There is a bit of inaccuracy because Alpha Chen's simulator is a Monte Carlo generator and comes up with different values on each run, but from a frisbee standpoint, it doesn't need to be exact.

Here's how it would work: You play mini. Everyone keeps a running total of their score for all their games and how many games they played. (Golden Goal scenarios still 'score' as -1, -2.) When you are done, you add them all up and divide by how many games where played. Compare this number to the chart and voila! You know how you did on possession percentage.
10% = -1.4
20% = -1.2
30% = -1.0
40% = -0.5
50% = 0.1
60% = 0.7
70% = 1.2
80% = 1.4

Last thought. Some of the direction for this thinking came from Anson Dorrance's Vision of a Champion. In particular, Ch 12 and 13.

I think my reasoning is solid, but please, if I messed up, let me know. Thanks!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Skyd + Nerdy Challenge

If you haven't seen already, I have moved over to Skyd. I am going to keep this space open for little odds and ends and things that don't quite fit or are a bit less formal than I intend the Skyd writing to be.

Here is the nerdy challenge: I am looking for a function where the input is the chance of a possession ending in a score (p). Obviously, 1 - p is the chance that a possession ends in a turnover. Then output is the probability of each of the six possible endings to a game of mini. The three 'wins' being: 3~1, 3~0, 3~-1 and the three 'losses': 1~-2, 0~-2 and -1~-2. Please ignore the Golden Goal variation for right now.

I brute forced it for p=0.5. This had the nice property that 1-p=0.5 as well, so the outcome tree was essentially symmetric and the probabilities easier to manage because I just used negative powers of 2. I quit after 5 generations and then estimated the remaining 20% of the probability based on the observed trends. Here is what I got:
3~1: 4.4%
3~0: 23.6%
3~-1: 18.2%
Winning: 46.2%
1~-2: 9.2%
0~-2: 18.6%
-1~-2: 25.6%
Losing: 53.4%
This was a bit surprising. I expected the chance of losing to be much higher. My intuition told me that it was two steps to lose and three steps to win, so it should divide out on a two-thirds, one-third ratio. But it turns out that you always have a chance to win, but you don't always have a chance to lose.

Help? Ideas? There has to be an easier way.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

D Positioning Off-Man

I want to wrap up my general discussion of defensive positioning with some comments on how to play defense off-man. By off-man, I mean with a large cushion of 4 or more steps. I am not talking about scared or lazy defense where you back your player to avoid being beat deep, but a hungry aggressive defense that is looking to cover one-and-a-half. (One-and-a-half meaning your player and help on others.)

1. The foundation is anticipation and energy. You anticipate the action and use energy to bring yourself to the play. You must constantly watch the run of play looking for openings. You recognize the space when your offensive player does and break into it simultaneously.

2. You need protection to play off. Because you are allowing separation, you are vulnerable to a one-pass shot to your player. That's why playing off of the front player in a vertical stack is usually pretty dumb - the thrower just beats you. There are different kinds of protection but most fit into three categories: traffic, distance and value. The classic off-man position is last back. This works because there is usually a lot of traffic underneath that prevents the thrower from hitting your player with one throw. (Incidentally, this defense was a big motivator for the expansion of the flat stack which moves the traffic out of the way.) Distance is another big help. If your player is far from the thrower, it is easier to play off. The throw is tougher and is in the air longer, giving more time for recovery. An example of this is when you are covering a sideline cutter in a flat stack and the disc swings away from you to the far sideline. That shot, some 50 yards across and up the field, is ridiculously hard and allows you the luxury of dropping off of your player and helping to the middle of the field. The last kind of protection is value. Teams poach off of the swings in horizontal offense all the time because the swing to the sideline has little value to the offense.

3. If you are going to play off, be prepared to switch. You can see the whole field. There will come an situation where you or a teammate is beaten and need to help each other out. The key is to close out the separation immediately after the switch. That is the energy piece. Anticipation sees and makes the switch, energy closes it out so that you don't give up an easy shot.

Done properly, playing off-man is very effective, but it really requires smart play and a lot of mental work. The advantage is less physical work and an increased likelihood of a help d. The disadvantage is that when it doesn't work, it looks really, really bad.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Kung Fu Throwing

Kung Fu throwing or Ninja throwing is a system developed by Mike Caldwell and I in 2005. I wanted to come up with a structured throwing plan to help developing throwers. As the only two Fish who lived on Capitol Hill at the time, Mike and I would meet often to throw. I solicited him to help me with this and to our surprise we found that it was an excellent system for established throwers. (We were in our 7th and 9th years on Sockeye.) We did KFT once a week the entire season and my throws were more consistently on than any other year.

The philosophy of the KFT seeks to improve a thrower in three ways. First and simplest, repetition. The entire program takes about an hour and features ~450 throws. Second, it seeks to challenge the limitations of a thrower by pushing them to throw beyond their comfort. Not so much in terms of distance, but in range of release. Lastly, the central portion of the program tries to articulate the different components of a throw. It separates the wrist from the arm from the shoulder from the hips from the feet. Young throwers are often limited to a single forehand where the handwristarmshouldertorsohipsfeet have to all be doing the same motion every time. What if a defender takes it away? What if you need to get around a marker? Really great throwers make adjustments large and small to their footwork and release points in order to beat defenders.

A warning about KFT: it is very physically rigorous. Mike and I felt taxed by it and we were in incredible shape and our bodies in ultimate frisbee conditioning for years. KFT should be treated like a workout and you should pay attention to your body. Pay attention to the upper hamstring on your step leg (not your pivot leg) because that is where most of the stress of this workout goes. Also consider a partial workout to begin. Cut the 25s down to 15s or even 10s to start.

Here's the workout:

Part I Warm Up w/ 25s
Throw 25 forehands, backhands and hammers at distances of 10, 20 and 30 yards
Throw 25 full lefty forehands, backhands and hammers at comfort distance (usually ~15 yards)
Stretch 5-10 minutes
Be disciplined about distance. The 10 yarder will feel way too short. You may not be able to throw hammers at the full 30. Try. When Mike and I developed it, my shoulders were wrecked and I couldn't throw a 30 yard hammer and so I just threw a mix of weird forehands and backhands. Throw the lefties. It is tempting to leave them out, but this workout really exacerbates the blacksmith syndrome inherent in training for ultimate and the lefty work will help balance you out.

Part II The Kung Fu
At comfort distance, throw 10 forehands and backhands...
1. As low as you can release
2. As far as you can release from your body
3. As high as you can release
4. Compass throwing. Imagine a compass with your pivot foot at the center. Pivot N and throw. Pivot NE and throw. Pivot E and throw and so on around the compass. Go four times around, twice throwing forehands and twice throwing backhands.
5. Rinky-dink. Throw 100 throws at a distance of 2-yards. The goal is rapid catch and release. Aim your throws to be easily catchable, but placed in such a way as to allow your partner to practice a variety of catches. Don't regrip! However you catch, you should throw. If pancake, throw hamburger. If you claw-catch over your head, upside-down backhand.
6. Optional Throw 10s at comfort outside in and inside out.
Completion rates should drop in this section. Mike and I had a focus goal of no turnovers the entire workout, but we never counted this section. The point is to challenge your technical and physical limitations, not to be perfect. Your throws in this section should feel awkward. The optional piece is there if you want. It makes the entire workout a bit long, but it is a nice extra piece of work.

Part III Hucking
Huck for 10 minutes.
Skip this part if you and your throwing partner are very unbalanced in power.

Part IV Pivoting and Focus
25s with pivot at comfort
Fake, pivot, throw. You are working on a snap fake and quick grip transition. Forehand to backhand should be one handed. Backhand to forehand should be a small off hand check. If you are working on a particular move, now is the time to practice it.

Part V Stretch again.
Do it. All the recent press about in ineffectiveness of stretching has to do with the effects of stretching before working out. The science on stretching after is still solidly pro-stretching.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Your Hard Work is not My Hard Work

I went to Eugene yesterday hoping to play some mini, even though I'd been told it wasn't going to happen. Thinking it would start at 530, I got to Roosevelt around 545 only to find out it wasn't due to start until 630. I threw with a couple of guys for twenty or thirty minutes and no one else had shown up yet. Irritated and bored, I went over to South to run repeat 800s on the track. For fun. Because I was bored. Your hard work is not my hard work.

A few years ago, a friend of mine asked me if I'd offer some advice to a young, up-and-coming team she'd been doing work with. I said sure and began an email correspondence. I found out their leaders were very gung-ho and motivated, but the rank-and-file of the team less so. They had a big meeting at the beginning of the fall laying out team goals and everyone said they were in. Yet attendance at track practice was woeful. It turned out their captain (like me) had run track in high school and liked running track workouts. He was both more motivated and enjoyed running.

My advice to him fell into three parts. First, recognize the situation and the difficulties it entailed. Second, structure opportunities for people to do hard work that they enjoy. Does half the team hate running? Set up a mini game instead. Schedule a structured throwing program like Kung-Fu Throwing. Lastly, expect to build buy-in slowly over the course of the year. The advantage that a program like Carleton or Stanford Superfly enjoys is that when you sign up, you are signing up for a ton of hard work. A developing team will struggle with this because many of the players didn't sign up for a ton of work. They signed up to run around, throw the frisbee and drink beer. Sprints? Uh-uh. AM throwing sessions? Nope. Weight room? Not interested. It takes time to convert individuals and teams to a new mindset. Often, this process extends across seasons as the personnel on the team change over. The less motivated graduate or retire and are replaced by the more motivated.

Leaders, it is important that you understand what it is you are asking of your team. Make sure that you have built the motivational foundation that will support the work you are asking to be done.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Dip D

This is part 2 in a series on defensive positioning, part 1 is here.

The essential difference between classic (fronting) positioning and dip d positioning is that instead of standing between your player and the disc, you stand behind them. Over the years, I have known a number of teams to use this defense successfully. The first I encountered was the 96 Pie Queens led by Arlie Stern (of Fury.) She called the defense 'contain' and they played it as their standard man-to-man. Sockeye 1.0 (95-98) played this defense in conjunction with a straight up mark, typically for the first 2-4 passes. The goal was to prevent a quick score off of the pull play by overloading the deep throw with both the defender (Dip) and the mark (straight up.) Just as with a zone transition, the defense reverted to classic positioning after the first few passes. The short CUT teams (05-08) played it as a way avoid getting hucked on.

Dip D is a more conservative defense than classic fronting. In classic fronting you are taking the under (the easier throw) and giving the out (the harder throw.) You are more likely to get a turnover on any particular pass, but you are also more likely to get scored on. The decision of which defense to use hinges on percentages. The more skilled a team, the less effective Dip D will be. Playing Dip will force a team to throw ~10 passes to go 70 yards. Playing classic will force a team to throw ~5, but at least one of them will be low percentage. A skilled team (like an elite club team) will have no trouble hitting the half-step-open cuts that Dip yields. A college team? Depends on the team. A high school team? Unlikely. A city league team? Probably not.

As an individual defender, you may want to play Dip from time to time. Are you on an island? Against a more athletic receiver? Great thrower with the disc? Offense going downwind? All these question pertain to the likelihood of getting beat deep. As that likelihood increases, you should consider playing Dip for a portion of the stall count. As those things change, your positioning changes.

Finally, a little technique. This defense can be played more or less aggressively. The bad-defense technique is to give a full step (or more) under, wait for the cutter to move and then follow them to put on the mark. I would only recommend this in two circumstances: you are way over-matched athletically or the cutter can't throw at all and you are baiting the throwaway.
Better is to play closer to your player. This will require you to be alert, to anticipate and to reposition a lot more as your player moves and sets up for their cut. In the version of Dip D I learned with Sockeye, you were close enough to touch your player's back with your chest. If they tried to go deep on you, you held your position and forced them underneath. This method requires a fair bit of technical footwork to be effective (it's easy to get turned) and legal (its easy to commit a foul) and I would not recommend it for non-competitive situations like city league.
There is a middle ground between totally passive and totally aggressive. The cushion will be a half step. The trick is anticipation and tenacity. Know when your player is going to cut; if you pay attention, they'll tell you. Begin moving with them. Once they commit to their cut (usually ~4-6 steps in), commit to defending it and fly to the point of the catch. If it is a bad throw, recognize and block it. If it is a good throw, recognize and get the mark on.

To recap: This is a good team d if you are playing in a situation that is pretty low percentage. This is a good individual d if you think you are going to get beat deep. Like any defense, it is best if executed with anticipation and energy.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


I've always been ambivalent about Potlatch. It's fun, sure, and silly and ridiculous but all too often the ultimate is frustrating and unpleasant. So it was with great dread that I traveled up to Seattle with the family to hang out while Mizu played Muck-a-muck. (If there is one thing that is certainly true - Potlatch is awful if you're not playing. Don't do it.) Here's what I learned:

Potlatch is a great tournament for kids.
Unlike a college tournament or Regionals or ECC, there are a zillion adults looking to tap into their inner kid. I can't count the number of people my daughters suckered into playing one ridiculous game after another. Add in costumes, props and giant blow-up toys and you have Disney-land without the $250 a day price tag. I spent two days supervising, but not entertaining. Big thanks especially to Trish, Nij and Captain Crunch.

Until Tom Crawford goes to Potlatch and Poultry Days, he won't understand ultimate.
Ultimate has always had two faces: absurd and serious. This contradiction is built into the very fabric of the sport. Don't believe it? Take a half step back and watch a man spend all his disposable income to scream like a blood-encrusted Viking beserker about touching a round little piece of plastic.
Crawford and Deaver are working as hard as they can to move ultimate away from its ridiculous, silly, hippie roots. I don't always agree with what they are doing, but at least in Deaver's case I know he understands what he is doing. Crawford? No. Until he has tried to throw a forehand while wearing a cardboard box decorated like a box of Wheaties or catch a breath on the Smoke Field, I won't trust him.

People need to step up.
An ongoing complaint of mine is that people don't bring it like they should. A potlatch is about over-the-top and wasteful extravagance. A trip to Value Village and Archie McFee's doesn't cut it. Get real costumes. Get some sweet props. Build a giant structure. Here are some unused themes:
Cars. Build a couple (or more) wheeled cars to push around the field. I'm not really sure how this would work, but imagine a having vehicles to race or joust on or throw water balloons from and all it takes is a couple sets of knobby wheels and plywood.
Tricycle velodrome. The name says it all. Just keep Damien Scott and Mike Grant away from it.
The Duelists. Wrestling. Foam swords. Paint ball guns. You don't like my foul call? I want satisfaction.

Success in Muckamuck depended on your shirts.
CUT had spray-painted tees. Texas had ugly tie-dyes. UW and Oregon had mismatched old jerseys. Ho-dangs and the Tweeties? Full uniforms. On the women's side, the robotically identical Stanford beat Carleton in the final. While Mizu Kinney and Kate Clark played valiantly for Syzygy, their plain white t-shirts didn't match and ruined the Northfielders' chances.

Congrats to Frankus.
Frankus Flores of Downtown Brown made it 20 straight Potlatches this year. That's all but the first two. Nice work!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Defensive Positioning

I had a question come in from an old Fuguer (who bytheway need a good, dumb name like Geezergy.) She asked a series of questions related to defensive positioning:
1. DIP D - can you tell me when this is ideal?
2. Having a cushion - also, when to use verses DIP?
3. Poaching on the dump for the first few seconds, then getting right back on
4. Switches and dump D, too.
I'm going to get to all of it, but it is a lot, so it may take a bit.

Before talking about dip and cushions and switching, I'd like to cover basic, fundamental face-guarding positioning. The classic position is:
1. Between your player and the disc....
2. shifted half a step to the open lane. (Not the open side, the open lane.)
Take a look at this clip from the 07 Sockeye-Bravo final. Once the disc moves to Moses on the sideline, there are a series of Sockeye out cuts running down that sideline. The Bravo positioning is perfect - giving a half step deep and shading slightly to the open lane. Well, until Beau gets caught napping.
Something to consider about this standard club-ultimate defense: it is high risk, high reward. Championship caliber ultimate teams are completing 95% of their passes and 60% of their possessions. A turnover is a BIG deal. All the players are constantly making decisions about the percentages. It's not a question of open or covered. Offensively, it's a question of can I hit this throw (because the receiver is open for something.) Defensively, it's a question of limiting options to what the thrower doesn't want to throw (because you can't stop everything.) In this clip, the defenders are limiting the thrower to a straight-away 40 yard touch throw downwind. Not an easy throw and it doesn't come until Chase has a 5-step cushion.

If you are playing college ultimate or co-ed or city league or something where the completion and conversion percentages are lower, you might want to use something other than classic positioning and I'll talk about those next time.

Monday, June 20, 2011


I went to watch Solstice Sunday, when the weather was lovely (unlikely Saturday's deluge) and was rewarded by a number of interesting games and a Sockeye over Furious final. All in all, things look about like they did last year in terms of relative position and strength of teams.

They looked very impressive in the final after a very lackluster semi over little brother Voodoo. The semifinal had all the markings of a disinterested bully letting some frustrated nerd kick him in the shins for a while, knowing he could pound skinny-four-eyes when he felt like it. (I didn't really follow it, instead focusing on the Rhino-Furious semi.)
Sockeye looks good, athletic and deep. They are very young and what experience (Moses, MC, Talbot, Bestock, Fleming) they have is mostly playing offense. They played a good mix of junk and man-to-man in the final. Furious lacks a great thrower and that made all the junk that much more effective. When it worked, it looked brilliant. When it didn't, it looked like crap. That's junk for ya. Offensively, Furious couldn't manage Sockeye's long double cuts which led to a number of wide open huck goals. It is also a testament to Sockeye's stack discipline that these cuts stayed open since they are so long to develop.
There is a lot of upside for this team. Their young talent is really yet to find a place on the team. Julian CW played great and had a consistent role on offense, but Chris CK, DSky and Simon are still looking for a spot to contribute. Sockeye also went through the tournament without most of their bigs: Nord was AWOL, Rehder and the Dutchman on the bench with injuries.

Same shit, different year. They still look more composed, athletic, conditioned and confident than everyone else. For the most part, they play the same game they always have, but I do have a few comments.
1. They are a very cutter dominated team. Their handlers are very good, but it is the cutters that drive the engine. Their cutters are fast and well conditioned, so they move and move and move. They are very good at using shiftiness to get open. Shiftiness meaning they slide a half-lane one direction or another away from their defender to create separation. The thrower is then responsible for a little break, usually a slight inside-out.
2. As they have gotten younger in the last few years, they are more and more a man-to-man team and less and less of the zone dominated team they were.
3. They threw four or five goals into space past face guarding defenders when the cutter was on the run. From a defensive perspective, this is really scary. From an offensive perspective, beautiful and startling.
4. The scariest thing about this team is that there is no sign they will falter. The great DoG teams of the 90s finally fell down because the bulk of the team was over 35, so they lost to a younger, hungrier and more athletic Condors. Fury just reloads and gets younger and stays as good.

This is a solid team that is lacking any A+ players and relying on defenders, role players and supporting players to carry the entire load. Facing a man-to-man situation, they weren't able to create easy openings, allowing defenders to stay home and not help. As I mentioned earlier, they are lacking a great thrower so they aren't able to consistently challenge the outside of a junk defense either. They are quite good defensively, but don't have the depth (or won't play it) to sustain a push across two games. They came from 4-8 down in the semis to win 15-12 over Rhino and that really limited their ability to make a push against the Fish in the final.

This team is very young. A huge portion of this team graduated from college in the last three years (if they went at all) and almost all of the players they are using as handlers. They are working on some new things offensively and struggled with it. They weren't able to generate consistent movement up front and when they did, it didn't connect with the cutters downfield. In general, they were lacking deep cuts. In the final, they got rattled and frustrated and then Fury just rolled over them. The positive for Riot is that they are still way on the bottom of the learning curve. With the youth and speed they have, they should be able to get better and better.

Ugh. Up 8-4 at halftime in the Semis against Furious, they choked it away. First they let Furious sneak back in and make it a game. Then they let Furious score 4 in a row to win 12-15. Ouch. The crazy part is that Rhino willed it to happen. In the years before Jam's 2008 title, Double Happy/Jam had a rep for coughing it up when it mattered. At Worlds in 2002, after Sockeye came back from 10-14 to beat them 15-14, a gleeful Condor came up to me and said, "It's not you, you just have to be there when it happens." (Thanks for the complement.) This game felt exactly the same. A good team like Furious is going to make a push. They won't roll over at halftime. A good team responds. You take the punches, you sag on the ropes and then you come out swinging. As soon as Rhino felt the push, they started thinking, "Not again." They talked more on the line. Their body language was defeated. And this was while they still had the lead!
Give some credit to Furious. Led by Morgan Hibbert, they played great defense refusing to give up a comeback cut and challenging the Rhino players to go deep. When they did, the markers forced bad throws and bad timing. When Furious got the turn, Rhino's defense was lackluster and Furious banked everyone.
The good news for Rhino is that the talent is there to beat Furious. (They did on Saturday.) The question is can they beat Furious while fighting with themselves.

All the other teams
Didn't see them. Talked to Kira a bit about UBC and Traffic. They were pleased to have hung with Riot in the showcase game, but sad to have been crushed by Fury. Voodoo looked surprisingly good against the Fish in the semis. Underground looked surprisingly good against Riot in the semis.

Friday, June 3, 2011


I'm still having a pretty rough time with how our Nationals went.

We built a team identity that was incredibly volatile. When we played well, we were unbeatable. When we played poorly, like in the semis, we lost and lost badly.

I can't escape the feeling that this is a coaching mistake. Meaning my mistake. To build a team that you know contains a flaw seems foolish. It was a team built to be great, not good. If we'd played great the whole way through Nationals, I would be feeling vindicated right now.

I want another month with this team. Come back to Eugene. Back to practice. Iron out the kinks. Be great.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Spirit of the Game Committee

I have been crazy swamped lately trying to get ready for Nationals. I have been watching video obsessively and trying to tie up the loose ends in the other parts of my life so I can go with a clear conscience. I'm going to avoid predictions and speculations about Nationals beyond saying that there is a ton of parity. A ton. When the dust settles on Monday, we'll anoint a champ and anoint the 'good' teams and the 'bad' ones, but if we've learned anything this year, it's that one tournament doesn't mean much.

However, I do have something totally unrelated that I want to talk about before I leave for Boulder on Thursday morning. USA Ultimate has decided to revive the Spirit of the Game Committee and I was asked (by Meredith Tosta) to serve on it and I agreed to do so. Here are the other members:

Meredith Tosta
Will Deaver
David Barka
Jim Schoettler
Leila Tunnel
Catherine Greenwald

I am posting now because I'd like to solicit feedback on what people's thoughts are. Nationals is a great place to network and talk about stuff because it's one of the few places where we are all together. I am a little unclear on our mandate. Will and Meredith are swamped organizing D-III Nationals, D-I Nationals, Easterns and Westerns so there hasn't been much work or discussion yet, but I imagine it will pick up post-Nationals. I am beginning to work on ideas and thoughts about what can and/or should be done. I am trying to keep my ideas pretty general at this stage. There's no point getting detailed before there is any overarching vision.

Here are the two main ideas I am mulling over:
1. We need practice to back up theory. I teach middle school and we use the PBIS (here) model to instruct behavior. People need specific directions to learn behavior. Right now, the USAU's Ten Things You Should Know About Spirit are the most specific instructions in existence and they are still very general. What would more specific instructions look like in ultimate? How could it be delivered?
2. Focus on coaches. More and more college teams are driven by their coaches. As our sport matures and coaches begin to outlast players we will see more and more programs like the Stanford women where two and half generations of women have passed through with the same coach. Those coaches have a profound impact on their team's culture.

What are your ideas? You can comment them here, email me directly ( or find me in Boulder. I am not sure how much down time I will have, but I'll have some and I'd love to talk shop.

PS - I am quite aware of the irony involved in my membership on this committee. I'm not quite sure what else to say about it, but I thought I'd better mention it.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Heat and Sideline Safety

Here is the text of a letter I sent USAU regarding heat, sun and player safety. I will add this: if you are playing in Boulder Memorial day, you should have a plan to deal with the heat.

Will, Beth and Jeff,

I am writing you all in an official capacity because I have concerns about athlete and coach safety at Nationals in Boulder. This will be my third trip to Boulder as a coach for college Nationals. (99 and 08 were the other two.) In each of those years, my team had a player suffer from serious heat and/or altitude sickness. The player in 99 was sick to the point of vomiting and should have been hospitalized. (I wasn't informed until well after the fact.) The player in 08 was hospitalized and missed the last day of play. Although I don't know the details of hospitalizations and missed games throughout the tournament, I know that heat stroke was a major concern last year as well. I banished my own team to the tent during play to get them off of the sidelines and out of the heat and sun, but ended up suffering heat stroke myself and spent three hours in bed under cold towels on Saturday after pool play.

There are two policies I would like you to adjust and reconsider.

The first is the limit to two sideline support staff. With most teams at 20+ players and at least one coach, it is unrealistic to expect that 2 people can support 21 throughout a full day, let alone four full days. While it is important to keep foolish alumni under control (I am a CUT alum after all...) I think that this could be accomplished in a way that still allowed an appropriate and safe level of support for the teams. Please consider raising this limit to 4 non-players.

The second is the shade tent policy. It is unrealistic to fit 20+ people into a single tent, unless you squeeze them in, which defeats the purpose of cooling shade. Each team should have the opportunity to access two tents.

Thank you,
Lou Burruss
Oregon Fugue

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Regionals Recap

I wrote one for USAU here. I've gt just a couple of comments that didn't make the general report.

First, the format issue is so weird. The USAU is trying to balance a zillion different concerns in their formats. Well, at least three. First, they are trying to get everyone a reasonable number of games which means at least five. (No matter that teams are forfeiting because they're worked over by the end.) Second, they are trying to determine the perfect quarterfinal match-ups entirely within the framework of the tournament. This often means exhaustive pool play and crossovers. Third, they love elimination games. (No matter that round robin ranks everyone.) There are some real advantages to this approach, particularly the elimination games. One and done is a nice way to settle the issue of who goes with some clarity. The real problem is the soft pool play. It encourages teams to throw games. The latest controversy emerges out of the South-Central open division, but teams have been 'throwing' games for a long time. (Quick aside: is it throwing a game to sit all your starters? Is it throwing a game to play equal playing time? Is it throwing a game to intentionally turf the first pass every possession?) The real issue is that there is fluff in the schedule. When there is fluff, people will take advantage of it.

Second, the 'coaching experiment' I referred to in my report was to play O and D lines. There are two dangers in playing O and D and we got torpedoed by both. The system only works as long as the O team is scoring consistently. (UBC went on an 8-3 second half run.) The split of O and D creates divisions within the team. Essentially, it creates two teams that are pasted together. Managing this division is one of the big personnel challenges on any team with an O and D split. Fugue needed only one day to discover that we hated it.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Preview + ReStructure Thoughts

I wrote a preview for USA Ultimate which you can read here. There were a couple of things I wanted to comment on that didn't make it into the article.

I hadn't yet talked to Whitman when I wrote the article for USAU, but I had been curious about their decision to not attend D-III Regionals and Nationals. Here's what their captain, Kelley Hall said:
"There wasn't a DIII regionals this year with the restructuring otherwise our decision may have been different. Unfortunately DIII Nationals is very far away and very expensive, and just wasn't feasible for our team. In addition, we collectively decided that we wanted to take on the challenge of playing some of the best teams in the nations just to test ourselves and grow from the experience."

I really like the idea of D-III. I think it will take off in 4-5 years, but right now it doesn't seem to be hitting on all cylinders yet. There is a level of commitment that teams have to cross to be a nationally traveling team and most D-III teams aren't there yet. It costs a lot of money to run a season that features a 5-7 tournaments. This commitment has to be fed occasionally by a return on investment i.e. a trip to Nationals. Most D-III teams (outside of Carleton and the New England) haven't in a position to compete for D-I Nationals and so they have never built up the financial commitment for a big-time season. As D-III teams experience success at the D-III level, we should see a slow increase in stability and participation.

The other team that didn't make the preview (because they declined their bid) was Utah. I had a long conversation with their captain, Cricket, who had organized enough women to drive the 16 hours (!!!) for a one day, 4-game Conference tournament. Had they accepted their bid to Regionals they would have needed to fly or to drive 21 hours to Burlington. Put Regionals in Vancouver (which will happen) and that's a 23 hour drive and a border crossing. Ugh.

The restructuring process was very good at managing and anticipating growth in the east, where there are a lot of teams and look to be a lot more. It did a much poorer job of managing the size issues in the west (which isn't getting any smaller.) In a lot of ways, our region only works because there aren't really any teams in the Big Sky. Should they ever get enough momentum, then we suddenly will have a pretty big (sky) problem. The men are already dealing with this; Utah is sending a team to Regionals. The South Central's version of this problem blew up on rsd a few weeks ago as Texas A&M was greatly indignant about the addition of Colorado to their region. (I can't find the link, sorry.)

Within these regions, it is very difficult to have growth when a new team is looking at a 16 hour drive to play. It just won't happen. They'll get a little momentum and then - poof! it's gone.

Here's a simple solution:
1. Two new regions: Big Sky North (MT, ID, WY, AB, SA) and Four Corners (NM, AZ, CO, UT)
2. Twenty-four team Nationals
You fix the geographic problems in the Northwest and South Central. You provide the extra bids to cushion the expansion. And three extra bids to further cushion the inaccuracy of results that will occur from time to time. (CO is going to send a team 90% of years anyway.)

Friday, April 29, 2011

Conference Recap

Somehow we tricked Washington, UBC and Western into driving all the way to Eugene to play Sectionals. Then we lost in the semis.

The final standings were UW, us, UBC, then Western. All four of those teams had substantial talent still standing on the sidelines. The top three teams are all separated by a hairsbreadth. The scores of the three games they played (13-12 UBC over Oregon, 13-12 Washington over UBC and 11-9 Oregon over UBC) are a good indicator of how close these teams are. Western is the clear 4th best team in the conference/region. (We have so few teams out here in the sprawling West that our regionals will be a repeat of conference play for 7 of the 8 teams.)

Our first game against UBC was back and forth the whole way. We took a 4-1 lead, but after that no one ever lead by more than one. We gave up the lead, then took half, then gave it up again and couldn't regain control down the stretch. UBC played a great game point completing ~15 passes without a turnover against some pretty good man-to-man defense to win. UBC is a really interesting team. They are incredibly deep and resilient. Although I think they have the players who could be superstars, they don't play that way. Instead, each player does her little part. They don't quit either; they just keep plugging away. The depth they have lets them play a bit of a different game from most teams. It is very much a 15-15-15-15 game as opposed to the 5-5-5-50 game we play.

After we lost we went down onto the dirt road to play OSU, who we beat 15-1. Their entire team pretty much graduated last year, but they miraculously put together the foundation of a good team. They are entirely freshmen and sophomores and there are a few women on there who look to develop into good players. Then we played Western. The weird thing about Western is that they are clearly the 4th best team in a Region with 3 bids. They know it. We know it. UBC and Washington know it. It is a strange situation. We started off playing very flat. We were stilling feeling the UBC game from earlier. Then Cali (sp?) hurt her ankle and that was pretty much the end of the game. (Western is very reliant on 3 players: Cali, Lindsey and Katie.) We woke up and went from 6-6 to 15-8.

Meanwhile, UBC coughed up an 11-8 lead and lost the finals to Washington 12-13. I watched most of the end of the game. Washington just quit turning it over. UBC's offense didn't look all that much worse than it had earlier, but Washington did a really nice job of cashing in their opportunities. The cool thing about UW's game is how pleasantly old school they are. They run a vertical stack and they bring their high count bail off of the front of the stack. It isn't the 80s-90s vert stack that Seaweed runs, but more of a 1998 DoG vert stack. Short, tight and crowded.

We were very excited to play UBC again. They were very bummed to play us again. A front came through ten minutes before game time and the weather went from 65, still and sunny to 45, windy and gray. Very windy. We were pumped. They were not. We were happy to turn it over and play defense. They were not. The final was 11-9, but at one point it was 11-7 with 6 minutes left before the hard cap. Again, testament to UBC's resilience that they scored the last two.

Looking ahead to Regionals, it is a coin flip for who wins. It is a coin flip for who has to play Western in the game to go. Whoever plays well at the end of their games against each other (of the big three) will win. Whoever doesn't will lose. I am very curious about are whether or not Whitman (who accepted the bid up from D-III) has enough game to challenge Western. I am curious how Western will manage their scarce resources. Will they try to sneak attack in semis? Or will they rest and rest and rest and go all out in the game to go?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Conference Week 1

My brief (and based only on the results page) thoughts on the first Weekend of Conference Championships are mostly about parity, parity, parity. Not every favored team lost (see Michigan or Ottawa), a lot of them did. Here are the highlights.

1. UW-Eau Claire over Wisconsin. 9-8. Has Sol ever beaten Bella? UWEC, which looked like a non-contender in the Cold and Snow Division behind Syz, Iowa, Iowa State and Wisco, suddenly has inserted themselves into the discussion.
2. UNC over UNCW. Three weeks after a disappointing (18th) finish at Centex, NC got a second straight victory of Seaweed (who lost in the finals at Centex). Both these teams, cushioned by 3 bids, are going to Nationals, but this rivalry just gets better and better. I can't help but think that they're going to meet at Nationals with a lot on the line. (Again.)
3. Colorado doesn't make Regionals! This is biggest shocker. They were in semis last year! I am stunned. I am saddened for their coach Tina, who has been a co-traveler with me my entire career. (I played against her at College Nationals in 93 and 94, when she was playing Open with Jojah.) I think this will be another stick of wood on the Colorado-Should-Be-It's-Own-Region discussion. (It should be.)
4. I think I missed a game....

This weekend
1. Northwest. We play the same teams this weekend and then again at Regionals. How good are all of us? No one knows. Has Western grown enough to challenge UW, UBC and UofO for a spot at Nationals? We'll see.
2. Southern Cal. Can UCLA challenge UCSB? Historically, the Skirts have played inconsistently at Sectionals and Regionals. They do what they need to to make the Show, but don't seem too stressed out about winning it. (They lost one or the other of these the past couple of years.) UCLA sure could use the win.

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Power of a Name

A conversation I had this week got me thinking about the power of names...

Following a disappointing season in 1998 (including the nastiest dirt road ever) and several years of internal acrimony (several posts in its own right), Sockeye fell apart. Eight guys, mostly older, left to join up some Rhino and NYNY guys to make the super-whore-team Blaze of Glory. Those of us who were left set out to pick up the pieces. It was clear right away that the team was going to be nothing like it had been in the past. Whole sections of the offense (Shekky, Tommy, Federbush) had left and big chunks of the d-team's ability to score (Keith Monohan, Ricky Mel, Gary Brady, Jonny G) had gone too. We were a new team.

We recognized we were a new team and planned for a new name. I can remember sitting around in the Jaded House and throwing around possible names: Emerald City, Pod, who knows what all else. Nothing seemed any good. Finally after two weeks of one idiotic name after another, we gave up and became Sockeye again.

Immediately, the expectations and attitude of the team changed. We weren't some young, dumb upstart team anymore we were Sockeye! We were legit! We were contenders! (We weren't really, but that's not the point.) When we kept the name, we kept all the expectations. We kept the attitude. The three consecutive trips to finals in 95, 96 and 97? Ours. World Gold medal in 97? Ours.

Without the name would Seattle have still turned into the dominant team it was 2004-2008? Maybe. But maybe not. There is no way we would have won without the return of all the great Seattle juniors players (Nord, Chase, CK...), who at one point made up a third of the team. I know that a big pull for them was to play for Sockeye. Not Seattle necessarily, but Sockeye. All through those dark years of 99-03 (which Roger and I still call the Dark Years), we were buoyed by our expectations. By our Sockeye expectations. We kept chipping away at our inadequacies until we met and surpassed what had been.

Names have power. They carry with them the weight and strength of past achievements and expectations. That's why I get a little smile every time I see that Ring is still Ring and Chain is still Chain and the Lady Condors are still the Lady Condors. That's why I mourn a little for the loss of a team like DoG or Godiva or NYNY or Windy City.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Greatest....

On a lighter note, I found this book at Smith Brothers this past weekend. Without question, the most insightful (and funny) book ever written about Ultimate. I read it pretty much straight through in the car when I was supposed to be going to the grocery store. In a bemused and somewhat embarrassed way, I felt like I was reading my own biography and finding out it that it had been filed in the Sports-Humor section. Hm.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Centex, Bids and More! Part II

There are several really interesting comments to yesterday's post and my replies out-grew the comment box, so here they are in their own post.

On the bid allocations/Centex format:
One unfortunate consequence of the bid allocation and the format was the last round game for 17th between UNC and Texas. UNC had to put most of their team on airplanes and had only 8 women left for the game. Texas wanted to play (probably partly to avenge Saturday's 11-12 loss) and refused the double forfeit. How much of this decisions was influenced by the bid process? How much was influenced by just wanting to play? I can't help but think that it is influenced by the anxiety about bids. Every team from every region felt it. Everyone was watching how their worst-best-team was finishing. We were watching UBC struggle. The Central teams were watching ISU and Syzygy. The California teams were watching UCLA. UNC was worried about their own finish and Texas, as the best finisher in the South Central could do no better than 17! (Thanks to Lindsey for taking the time to explain some of UNC's thoughts on the system. My own frustrations were with the format and less with the bid allocations process, so I was probably projecting a bit.)

on Going forward/Next year
It is unclear how teams and tournaments will react to the system. It is pretty clear that there will be some changes because the current way the system is set up doesn't work. The early spring tournaments were set up to get people a lot of competition against a lot of teams. Wins and losses had no real consequence beyond team psyche. Experience and practice were the goals. Obviously, that is not the case. Here are some real changes that are likely:
  • Western goes to Midwest Throwdown. Western went to Stanford Invite this year and lost every game. 3-15 is a rough record. Had they gone to Midwest Throwdown, they would likely have come out at least .500, maybe better. As the 4th team in our Region (this year at least) they need to do something to bolster their chances of a 4th bid.
  • Teams 'mess up' rosters. Both UCLA (no Korb, no Kodiak) and us (no lots of people) would have been wise to not turn in rosters for Centex. Is this legal? I think so. Is it ethical? Good question. I don't know if Ottawa intentionally failed to submit a roster to Prez Day, but it would have been smart of them. They're flying across the country. They are leaving behind their star, Anne Mercier. They are playing westies who've been outside for months and there is still two feet of snow on the ground at home. This seems both smart and ethical. Is it ok for a team to decide two weeks before a tourney that they don't like there chances and then not turn in a roster? That seems a bit more dubious.
  • Tournaments restructure. I think Lindsey's concerns about experience and pressure a good ones. As teams begin to reevaluate their decisions about what tournaments to attend and how to approach them, there will be pressure on tournaments to change the way they are doing business. There was a similar change 10-15 years ago when the early spring tournaments really blew up. Prior to 2000, teams didn't travel all that much before spring break. At Carleton in the early 90s, we didn't even throw outside until Saturday morning at Easterns. Fly to Vegas? Fly to San Diego? Fly to Palo Alto? In February?
  • All this adds up to the fact that the landscape is changing. How will it end up? Who knows. Will it get to a good place? Who knows.
On parity
There is more parity this year than last year, partly because of natural fluctuations in the development of teams, but also because there is more talent across the board. Last year saw four teams (UW, UCSB, UofO and Wisco) at the peak of long periods of improvement. All four of those teams are worse now than they were at this time last year. That doesn't mean they won't surpass their previous incarnations; it's just a measure of where they are at this moment. At the same time, there are a number of teams (Cal, Stanford, Carleton, Wilmington, UNC, Michigan, UBC, UCLA...) who returned to the season largely intact and on the rise. The result is a whole lot of teams converging at the top.
Coaching plays a huge role in parity because it keeps teams from collapsing. Michigan is a great example. (Although if I'm wrong on this, Flywheel, let me know.) Their great 2009 E-Bae led team just missed quarters and then a ton of their players graduated. Historically, player-led teams collapsed at this point, sometimes folding up completely. This didn't happen and I would credit it to the continuity that coaching provides. While Flywheel is the example I used, it is by no means the only one.
As to our own (U of O's) losses and injury struggles: a loss is a loss is a loss. Teams beat us. I don't think you ever want to ignore a loss ('97 Sockeye, anyone? '05 Sockeye, anyone?) and you don't want to make excuses. If a loss is out of your control, how will you change it?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Centex, Bids and more!

Sorry for the long delay in writing. I have been sending out reams of emails to Fugue about this-that-and-the-other and not really had time to write. It's another in a long line of conflicts between myself as a coach and as a commentator. (A conflict which probably deserves its own post, but not today.)

Centex In General
I'm going to say some nice things and then complain a bit.
1. Well run as are all of Michelle's tournaments. She just does a good job of making sure that all the details are attended to. We have gotten a bit spoiled over the last few years as the institutional memory in our sport has gotten better and better and the tournaments have steadily improved.
2. It was very nice to go to a women's only tournament again. Last year, Prez Day and Centex were only women. These were the first tourneys I'd been to that were only women and I was surprised how much I enjoyed them and how little I missed the men's teams. Since I don't give a rip about the social scene and don't really care about watching men's teams play (except to see CUT paste the Hodangs) I don't miss the boys. Unlike Prez Day and Stanford, at Centex this year the best women's games got the best and most central fields instead of being delegated to the secondary locations.
3. I hate the format. I am reminded very much of the old Chicago Tune-Up format which in the late 90s was to Club what Centex has become to the college women. Every team in the country went and that glut made an unmanageable format. In an effort to please everyone and make it possible to have a divided and yet open format both tournaments had a huge number of games squeezed into a very small amount of time. At Tune-Up it was 6! pool play games on Saturday. At Centex it was 4 games on Sunday starting at 8AM. If these games were against SW Wichita State and Olympic Peninsula Forestry College and are going to wash out at 15-2, no biggie. But our four games were against Wisconsin, UCSB, Washington and Stanford. Nobody reached 11 points in any of these games. Bah!

Centex for Fugue
We staggered into the tournament with major injuries all over the place. Here is our out list to start the tournament: Julia (concussion), Bailey (hamstring), Krista (foot), Rachel (ankle) and Lily (ankle). Butters played only Saturday (Achilles), Sophie (hamstring) and Aubri (ankle) didn't play the last two.
Nonetheless, we managed to eke out a wins over Stanford (Sat) and Wisconsin (Sun) with some great defense and just enough offense. We dropped one to UNC that we shouldn't have. We were up 8-3 and lost 11-12. Four first-pass turnovers probably hurt us. Credit to them though-they played very well and cashed in on the opportunities we gave them. We played great defense in the quarters against UCSB and had plenty of opportunities to win, but couldn't cash them in. We lolly-gagged on the field switch from the Wisco game and weren't ready to play. We went down 0-3 and couldn't close the gap and lost by the same margin 7-10 or 8-10.

Bids to Nationals
Weirdness in the bids. There is far more parity in the women's division than anyone expected and some strange things happened.
1. State of California?! After their reputation got the rules rewritten, the state of California failed to cash in and has only three bids. Yikes! The new adage that You Region is Only as Good as Your Worst Good Team really was proven here. UCLA, Korb-less and Kodiak-less plummeted through the standings at Centex and cost California a bid. I wouldn't count them out at Regionals, though.
2. Cowboy Region?! The region strength bid came through for this group. With a mess of good teams, (Colorado, Co College, WUWU, Texas...) but no great ones they get two bids which I think they deserve.
3. Atlantic Coast. I talked to Lindsey Hack on Sunday and she was PISSED about the schedule and the format and the bid! But it all worked out. UNC's finishes elsewhere in the season prevented a total collapse ala UCLA and UVA's nice results propelled the Atlantic Coast to 3 bids. Wahoowa!
4. All in all, despite some weirdness in the actual placement of teams (like UW being 2nd despite not making semis in any tournaments this year) I think the bids were allocated fairly. If I'm wrong for any reason, I'd love to know.

The Regular Season
Here's my problem with the USAU's system. Now is the time we should be ramping up. Now is the time I should be getting freaked about the games within my Region. UW. UBC. Western. But those games don't really matter until regionals. A month and a half in the heart of the season will pass without a meaningful game. It doesn't make sense that we are all stressing about games in February and then not about the games in April. In every other sport, the regular season is against the teams in your division/conference/region that matter, not so much. I spent a lot of time this year talking with Danny (UW), Tasi(UBC) and Jinny(Western) about other teams and scouting reports and whatnot. Can you imagine Les Miles co-scouting with Nick Saban? Or Gino comparing notes with Muffet?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Inner Game: Words are Worthless

from "The Typical Tennis Lesson"
"Imagine what goes on inside the head of an eager student taking a lesson from an equally eager new tennis pro. The pro is standing at the net with a large basket of balls, and being a bit uncertain whether his student is considering him worth the lesson fee, he is carefully evaluating every shot....Before long, [the student's] mind is churning with six thoughts about what he should be doing and sixteen thoughts about what he shouldn't be doing. Improvement seems both dubious and complex, but both he and the pro are impressed by the careful analysis of each stroke."

Back when I was coaching Syzygy in the late 90s, I got a hold of a bunch of statistics from previous college nationals. What I saw was stunning. Looking at just the semis and the finals, I found that teams were able to go 70 yards without a turn only 1 in 9 tries. 1 in 9! 11%! Why not huck and play d? Surely we can throw hucks that are better than 11%. Up to that point, I'd coached Carleton in a very conservative and classic dump-swing-comeback style, but throughout the 99 season I again and again exhorted the handlers to huck it. I'd quote them from the statistics. I'd encourage them that their throws were good enough. I'd call plays that set up a huck, but no matter what, we couldn't get away from our short little handler-handler-handler game. I don't know if we'd have beaten Stanford in the finals (they were magnificent), but as it was, we had no chance. All those words hadn't changed a thing about how we played. I walked away from that year feeling like I'd squandered an opportunity.

When I came back to coach again in '00, I made one small change in the way we did business. We ran a huck drill every practice. It was our main conditioning throughout the season. Structurally, the offense was the same, but looked totally different. We hucked and hucked and hucked some more. It wasn't always pretty, but it sure was effective.

I don't trust that words will produce a change in play. Now, when I see something that we need to adjust, I immediately begin trying to develop a plan to physically practice it. The goal is to get the players from idea to action. At the outset, I will talk about what we are doing, but typically only to put it into context. Often, it is less a skill than an series of actions, like the various scenarios in the triangle offense. So at the beginning, I use words to paint a picture, a visual framework. Then, a physical demonstration. After that, it is usually a scaffolded series of drills that move us from the very basic up through full speed and almost game-like scenarios. This process usually can be done within a practice (sometimes two) although you should never expect a drill to yield results after one run through. That first run-through is only to learn the drill itself. Subsequent run-throughs will produce results. Once the drill is learned, the skill is practiced and implemented in games, the drill can be brought out at later practices when fine tuning is necessary.

By way of example, look at learning the dump-swing against the trap. Begin by running a three person drill where the cuts and throws are set up. Then add a marker who just stands there. Then make the marker live. Then add a defender on the first handler and make her live. Maybe you play 2 on 2 if you think that piece needs work. Finally you are playing live 3 on 3. Later, if you come back from a tournament feeling like your dump-swing broke down, you break out these drills. Maybe you start at the beginning and go all the way through. Maybe you start in the middle or at the end. The only words involved in the process would be, "We need to tighten up our dump-swing, so we are going to run the dump-swing sequence of drills." Then trust the drills, not the words, to effect the change you want.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Inner Game of Tennis for Kindergarteners

I started reading The Inner Game of Tennis again last night. I was immediately reminded of how much I love this book and how much influence it has had over my thinking as a coach. It is such an excellent example of the adage that if you truly have something to say, say it simple and plain and short. While I was reading, my daughter Opal who is in kindergarten was working a floor puzzle. She took a break to check out my book.

"What are you reading, Daddy?"
"The Inner Game of Tennis, sweets," I replied.
"What's the story?" she returned.
Here I paused. "Well," I puzzled trying to think what the story was, "it's a book about how you have two brains. A Word Brain," and I touched her forehead with three fingers "and a Doing Brain." I cupped the back of her head up under her hair.
"When the teammates are playing frisbee, do you think they are using their Word Brain or their Doing Brain?" I asked her again indicating her fore-brain and brain-stem.
"I don't know."
"Well, when they are playing frisbee are they using words or are they running and jumping and doing things?"
"They're running and jumping and doing things."
"So which Brain are they using?"
"The Doing Brain."
"Right," I finish. "This book tells the story of how to get the Word Brain to be quiet so the Doing Brain can do."
"Oh." And back to the puzzle.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

What's Next

I am going to let the Refs... series die an uneventful death; hopefully this is what actually happens to the idea of refs in ultimate. In the next couple of months I am going to talk a lot more about coaching, beginning with discussion of this book. If you haven't read it, you should. I originally read it in my early days as a leader on Sockeye (99?) and coaching Syzygy. It really set me on the philosophical path I have followed ever since. I am excited to read it again after a second decade of ultimate and see what it has to say.

On a related used book store note, I also found this in the ultimate frisbee section (!?) for $3. It's so outdated that it lives and is thought-provoking in an just-different enough kind of way.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Rankings and Wild Cards

There is no question the USAU rankings are messed up. Just look at UCSB as one example. They played in the finals at the Santa Barbara Invite, losing to Stanford. Then they won Stanford Invite, avenging their only loss. And they're #9?! Please.

That doesn't mean that the rankings aren't doing their job. They aren't designed to pick a champion, but rather to assign wild cards. The if-it-ended-today list is California with 4 bids, the PNW and the Cold-and-Snow with 3 each, the AC, Great Lakes and Cowboy divisions with 2 apiece and everyone else with one. You can quibble with whether or not one bid is a good idea or not (it probably isn't) but that's the system we've got. Looking at the list and knowing the teams on the bubble in each region (Western, Sonoma, Wake, Penn, Iowa State...) I don't think the allocations are unfair. It'll be interesting to see how things shake out after Easterns and Centex.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Stanford Invite Recap

We lost. I have to hand it to Santa Barbara for playing a strong and efficient game that set them up for victory. The difference was simply legs - sort of. There is no question we ran out of energy and oomph and that killed us. SB was equally tired, but their offense can run with minimal effort - ours (if we even have one) cannot. They didn't always score, but when they did it was easy. When we scored (which we did some) it was ugly. With our starters either hurt (Bai and Butters) or exhausted (everyone else), we played an open rotation throughout most of the final. No excuses though - they beat us.

I came away from the tournament feeling like there are 7 teams out here on the west coast that are all pretty much even. Who wins is a question of who is playing well that particular game. It'll be interesting to see all these teams running out at Centex and where they will fall relative to the east coast powers. My suspicion (after seeing UNC at Prez Day) is that there are likely 10-12 teams all bunched at the top right now. Very few of these teams are fully formed yet and given how many teams are relying on new players to fulfill important roles, I see nothing but upside for most of them. Who comes out on top depends on who grows the most week to week. This week it was SB and so they won.

Here are my thoughts on all the teams there:
SB: They are quickly developing their rookies and second year players and getting them to play within their system. Finney has stepped into Kayla's QB role from last year, but with her own spin on it. Finney is much less of a big thrower than a take what is there thrower. She doesn't run much, but when she does, it's effective. Alina has stepped up to serve as a very good second handler: solid and efficient. This team is not deep, but they are very good at getting the most out of what they have.

UBC: Really the flat-out opposite of what UCSB is. They and Stanford might be the two deepest teams; both of whom are playing 16 or 17 deep. I'm not sure that the TBirds know quite who they are yet and it is scary to watch them figuring it out. They run a pick-your-poison offense that runs up the lines on the edges and comebacks down the middle. Their depth and constant churn challenge their opponents to keep up. If you can - you have a shot at winning. If you can't...

This team is more than just Kodiak and Hawkins. Kodiak went out with a foot injury and BLU still beat UBC Sunday morning in a must-win. They went on to get pounded by UCSB, but winning the pool (losing only to Cal) is impressive. They (as always) run a classic dump-swing and are doing an excellent job challenging the mark in the 2-4 second range of the stall count. They are fundamental sound , although a little less clean in their spacing than usual. Their zone is quite good.

The Stanford O is the same that it has been for the last few years: catch, look at the cutters for 5 seconds, recycle to the handlers, look at the cutters for 5 seconds, recycle to the handlers...This weekend, I didn't see them scoring easy goals. Lots and lots of 8,10,12 pass possessions some ending in goals and some in execution errors. Very few decision errors. Ruggs will stretch the field for them with her forehand, but she is the only one. They are playing so so deep right now. As all those rookies and second years get better, their possession O will begin to solidify.

The Pie Queens are a good defensive team that will go as far as An-Chi and Claire will carry them. I watched them in the showcase against Stanford, the finals of Prez Day and bits and pieces here and there. As a team, they are solid. They have a good core of handlers led by Palak. An-Chi is a ceaseless cutter and her forehand huck is about ten yards stronger than defenders seem to think it is. She and Claire (neon hat) have figured out how to work together and that has been the difference for them.

This team is so young and so talented. They have every piece you'd want: throwers, speed, size, depth. They are still figuring out what they want to be and who goes where and who is going to do what. All they know so far is that it should be different from last year.

They looked much better this weekend than at Prez Day. They are integrating their young talent and got a nice victory against Cal (that knocked Cal out of semis.)

So thin. Maggie was out all weekend and it showed.

Western Washington
I talked for a long time to WW coach and Syzygy alum Jinny Eun. We both agreed that they should have gone to Midwest Throwdown and contended for a spot in semis rather than getting pounded at the Invite. They did have disc to win against UCLA, but they also got blown out in a number of games.

The Hellions are still solid, but they don't have the weapons they did last year. It was nice to see Frankie is still at it.

Santa Cruz
This team has returned it's core from last year and is definitely a step above where it was. They played great, particularly considering they only had a weeks notice (or less that they'd be playing.)

Same old disaster.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The 12th Man, Stanford Invite and Useless Bid Allocation Speculation

In my case for SotG over refs, I tried to argue that our current system is more accurate, as fair and now...probably no more biased either. Someone (with more time and money) actually did some real research and made a very interesting case for the cause of home field advantage. Rather than rehash what someone else said better, here's the link that tells how its all the official's fault.

I'm off to Stanford Invite in a couple of days. My quick preview is that we will get to see UW for real. When we played them back in Bellingham a month and a half ago, both teams were so raw and riddled with imperfection it's impossible to read anything into it. I expect them to be a top 5 team and I am excited for the game.
Before that, we will see UCSB in the second round. Any time you play a team in a championship, you are linked to them forever, whether you won or lost. While a lot of key players have left both teams, those who remain remember. I don't imagine there will be much time spent getting up to speed; both squads'll be ready. On a side note, UCSB's schedule sucks. Generally, I like the two-pools-into-semis schedule (it takes me back to the old nationals schedule from the 80s and 90s) but UCSB as the 3 in the pool plays UW (the 2) in the first round and us (the 1) in the second. Those games should be spread out in the schedule. And not first.
I am interested to see Stanford. Their win at SB Invite and their roster (intact from 2010 minus Damon plus grad students) make them a top 5 team.
Except for Carleton, its a Pacific NW and California tournament. A bit disappointing, but the rise of tournaments like Easterns and Midwest Throwdown mean less incentive to travel this far.

If you are a fan of college ultimate, it's time to quit paying attention to the front runners and start watching the teams that matter - the bubble teams. Sure it'll be cool to see us v. Stanford or Pitt v. CUT on the men's side, but right now those games don't matter. The biggest game on the women's side is Western Washington v. Carleton. Why? It's all about bids right now. My rough guess is that the top 16 teams will earn bids for their regions. The remaining 4 spots will fall to regions with a single bid. Carleton sits as the second team in the Cold and Snow Region at #12. Western sits as the fourth team in the PNW at #27. Their record (3-6) needs to get fatter at the front end if the PNW will earn four bids. Don't forget that UW, UBC, Iowa and Iowa State haven't played enough official games to be ranked yet. Carleton would love to make some hay knocking off the West Coast teams above them, but they need to beat Western.

I picked this game because its two teams I know well and at the tourney I'm attending, but there are a ton more in both the Men's and Women's this weekend. (The games like Sonona (#11) v USC (#21) don't really matter because they're in the same region.) Wash U v Colorado College. Northwestern v. Iowa. Colorado v. Iowa State. On the men's side, Oregon, Washington Cal and UBC all want to go to the show. They all need to win (against the likes of SDSU, Wisco, Texas, UCSB.) You want to stay one step ahead of all the other regions. You want your two to beat their one. You want your three to beat their two. You really, really want your four to beat their three (or two or one.)

Monday, February 28, 2011

Last Chance

I am going to wrap up the ...Why Refs are a Bad Idea series in the next week or two. So far, I've covered accuracy, fairness, bias, watchability, growth, promotion, and $$. If there are any other aspects of reffing yall are interested in or think I forgot to discuss, let me know.

Friday, February 25, 2011

$$$...or Why Refs are a Bad Idea

It's all about the $$$. If you want refs, be prepared to pay. A lot.

A two-ref system basically requires that each team carry a ref. (Two refs per game, two teams per game, one ref each.) Experience with observers tells us that it is incredibly difficult to get observers for games. A couple years ago at Solstice, I arranged to pay the observers $100. I thought $100 seemed like a pretty good incentive and that I'd have no trouble getting luck. Realistically, you have to push that number up around $300 or more (plus travel) to make it worth peoples' time and you'd still be getting crappy refs. Let's look at the numbers.

A typical tournament is going to require a ref work ~9 hours a day for two days. Even if you call Sunday short, you are still looking at 16 hours for the weekend. You want to pay them $300? That comes out to be $15/hr, which is short of what co-rec referees make to ref city league soccer games. Anyone co-rec players out there think that's the quality of reffing that's going to bring our sport forward? If you want quality refs, you should expect to pay $500 a weekend. Per team. Per tournament. Plus travel. For a Nationals contending college team that's an extra $2500-$3000. For a Nationals contending club team that's an extra $3000-$4000. Nationals not included.

Paying and having refs would not be optional. This past weekend in San Diego, a couple dudes showed up and observed a few Open games, but the majority of the Open games and all the women's games at Prez Day went un-observed. It wasn't a big deal because the current system we have, where the observers follow the players' calls and the players lead the officiation can function smoothly with and without observers. We can play a tournament without observers and it isn't going to greatly effect the game when we do have observers. But refs!? If there are going to be refs at Regionals and Nationals, there damn well better be refs at every major tournament.

At Oregon this year, we have already had two starters leave the team because they can't afford it and a number of the women are scraping by. Adding $2500 in a sport where most teams receive little to no funding or external support would be difficult. It would be difficult for the dedicated teams and impossible for the developing teams. Teams already balk at paying $200 for Sectionals. What would happen if it went to $700? They wouldn't go.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Prez Day Recap

It was a hectic week, leading to a series of travel/weather disasters but ending in a victory.

I was actually quite grateful for the terrible weather, the drive to San Bernidino, the team not sleeping but an hour or two, the getting lost and arriving at the fields 25 minutes before game time, my flight being canceled so I missed all day Saturday and on and on... There are always things you cannot control and you have to roll with those things and come out on the other side. To get a chance to handle a mess of external adversity was a great thing. We weren't perfect, but good enough to win out on Saturday.

Sunday and Monday the weather was lovely: sunny and 50 with a thrower's wind. I love the Prez Day schedule with it's leisurely two-game Sunday (if you are in the top four.) We opened with Carleton and they struggled with our zone and never made it much of a game. As always, it was a bit sad for me. Then we played Cal for the pool and the 1-seed. They couldn't handle our zone either and we ran away in the first half. Emotional fatigue set in during the second half, our d fizzled and we traded out to finish 13-7. Still a great day.

Monday was a weird one; we played three California teams in the quarters, semis and finals. First up was Sonoma State. They are legit, but so so thin. When we played them on Saturday, the combination of weather and the fourth game of the day blues meant they had no interest and no fight, so we beat them 13-2. It was different in the quarters. They hung in early (4-3) before we tightened up and put on a three point run to close out half (7-3.) We kept up the pressure and finished up 13-6ish. The challenge for Sonoma will be to manage their talent. Maggie and Brin can ball and their supporting cast is getting better, but they've still only got 13 players on the roster. However, finishing tied for 7th will only help their chances of making Nationals; they need the wild cards.

We played UCLA in the quarters and they played great. Kodiak and Hawkins are the heart of this team, but the rest of the Bruins played great. We actually played great defense, but had lots and lots and lots of unforced errors and kept giving them chances to score...which they did. Lots of UCLA scores on their second possession of the point. We had the gut check timeout at 9-10 UCLA and ran 3-1 to win 12-11.

Cal again in the final. We mixed up the d, shifting back and forth between man and zone. An-chi played, but she looked hurt. She made some great throws, but wasn't the physical presence I expect her to be when she is healthy. The first half was close (7-5) but as our defensive pressure wore them down, we pulled away and won 13-6.

Looking at the landscape, things are still a bit unclear. The top teams are not as good as last year when Oregon, Washington, Wisco and the Skirts came into the season fully formed and dominant. The teams that came into the season with most of their roster intact look quite good; better and more polished than everyone else. I'd put UNC, UCLA, Cal (probably Stanford and UNCW) in that category. There are other teams (us, Wisco, SB, Washington) that are overhauling and look rougher and have farther to go. We definitely missed UNCW, Stanford, UBC and Washington; they are all top-10 and the tournament would have been very different with them. Stanford Invite should be great.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

That's the Worst Game I Ever Saw! or Why Refs are a Bad Idea

Actually, when it comes to watchability, refs and SotG are about the same. What determines watchability is the execution. We can all remember ultimate games that were awful and painful to watch and we can all remember basketball/football/soccer games that were awful and painful to watch. There are certain things that make a game more watchable and more exciting and things that detract from that, but reffing and SotG don't really have anything to do with those.

First off, no one likes to watch a blow out. The other day I went to watch the (evil) Cardinal play the Lady Ducks and it sucked. Other than Nia Jackson's valiant drives it was a depressing display. There's only so many uncontested offensive rebounds followed by uncontested lay-ups you can watch. There's only so much interest in wondering if the Ducks can hold the lead under 20...30...40... But refs and SotG don't have anything to do with that. Blow outs happen.

No one like to watch a game with a ton of stoppages. I mildly follow high school basketball here in western Oregon and twice recently, teams have used the hold-the-ball technique to eat the clock. There isn't a shot clock, so if you are undefended, you can hold it indefinitely. In the recent Mapleton-Triangle Lake game, Mapleton held the ball (literally held it) for 2 minutes of the 4th quarter while clinging to a four-point lead. A handful of years ago, Siuslaw held the ball the entire first quarter, before putting up a three at the buzzer. First quarter score? 0-0. There are always nooks and crannies in the rules for teams to exploit - if they are willing.

While there is no difference here between a reffed and SotG in theory, although there are some much needed changes that need to be made to the observing system to effect the necessary speeding up of the game. A couple of years ago at Solstice, I implemented an observing system designed to speed the game up and make it more watchable. I went through a ton of uncut game footage and timed and categorized all the stoppages. Here were the biggest issues: time between points, bricks, arguments, calls. Most frequent call resulting in stoppages? Foul on the mark. Traveling was not a major issue. (Footage was from club nationals.) Here are the important changes to remedy these issues.
1. Less time between points. The NFL runs 40 seconds. Surely we can get to 60. It will be an adjustment, but not nearly the adjustment going to 90 seconds was. In the 90s, Schwa (masters of eating the clock) once were timed at 5 minutes between points!
2. Brick at midfield. A brick almost doubles the time between points as Joe Handler swaggers off to get the disc, survey the field, check it in....yawn. Defenders hated this rule, but the number of bricks dropped precipitously when we tried this at Solstice.
3. Quick observer rulings. The current policy of time for players discussion of calls achieves two bad things, while failing to achieve its stated goal of allowing for player determination of a call. First of all, letting the players discuss means any call that needs discussion takes 2 or 3 or more minutes to resolve before play can get going again. Also, it creates an opportunity for drama. When observers step in quickly, the opportunity for players to argue and carry on is snuffed out. The supposed goal of observers waiting is for the players to have time to resolve the call, but that only happens maybe 5% of the time and the remaining 95% of calls result in argument, drama and an observer ruling. At Solstice, we used a simple "walk-to" rule. When a call was made, we (the observers) started walking to the play. When we got there, we asked the players, "do you have a call?" If they said yes, they made it. If they were still arguing, we made the call.
4. TMFs for bad calls. The object of this policy is to prevent teams from controlling the game by making lots and lots of calls. Once it is clear that a team is going to make lots and lots of calls, they should be held to a high standard of accuracy and punished if they don't reach it. Also, players should get TMFs for cheating even if it isn't called. At the club level, only about 10% of marking fouls are called because it is such a disadvantage to stop play. These uncalled fouls should generate TMFs even if the thrower isn't calling them.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Get in the Back of the Line, Sucker!...or Why Refs are a Bad Idea

Right now, ultimate is in the front of the line. A line of one, but we're in the front. As soon as we add referees at any division of the sport, we move to the back of the line. Behind soccer, rugby, lacrosse, rowing, tennis, name it. In case you haven't noticed, resources are incredibly scarce out there right now. Even sports on the big time are struggling. As we consider these issues, we should consider where we are, where we are going and how we can best get there.

Right now, under SotG, our sport is growing at a breakneck pace. We are outgrowing soccer, lacrosse, name it. This is absolutely fantastic. There is nothing that will help our sport more right now than growth. A big part of that growth it SotG and self-officiation. Most of our growth is coming in the youth division and parents love SotG and the culture it brings to our sport. The moral lessons inherent in ultimate and SotG are ones that every parent wants to teach their kid: respect, restraint and honesty. Not only that, the culture of ultimate is a welcome respite from the nastiness of high-stakes soccer or basketball. At the core of that culture is SotG. Every game you play, SotG helps build that respect and culture. To be able to say to a parent, "Ultimate is self-officiated at all levels," is incredibly powerful.

Club and college ultimate should serve as banner divisions to promote the growth of our sport. As such they should do so within the framework of SotG. It kind of goes back to If it Ain't Broke... We are growing at a torrid pace with SotG at all levels. Why would we change it? As a brief aside, both the college division and the club division need some changes to function better. The Open College division needs to make some changes in the way games are observed to prevent the kind of debacle we saw in the finals last year. Less time for discussion, TMFs for every bad call and censuring of coaches. The Club division needs to get out of Sarasota and out of October. Please! Who watches those games? Put the finals in Boston or Seattle where you will have 10,000 fans and youth players watching.

Now that I've distracted you from my main point, let me conclude in a high quality, middle school conclusion kinda way. The most important element for the development of our sport right now is growth. We are currently growing at the fastest rate of any sport in the country and we are doing it with SotG functioning at all levels. Not only should we keep SotG at all levels, we should strengthen the presentation of it at the Club and College levels so they can serve as flagships for the sport.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

If You Had One More Eye...or Why Refs are a Bad Idea'd be a cyclops. Refs make mistakes. Always. All the time, every game, no matter how good they are. When you ask one person to completely police a game, they are going to mess up. Our current system of self-officiation plus observers is incredibly accurate. Even the worst games are called more accurately than the best reffed games.

Let me define 'accurate.' In this situation, what I mean is whether or not the outcome of an individual call is correct. Is the 'travel' a travel? Is a 'foul' a foul? In ultimate, the answer is yes and yes and yes. In reffed sports, the answer is sometimes yes and sometimes no.

Accuracy hides a much bigger issue: fairness. Each individual call may be correct, but if one team is systematically calling a lot of stuff that the other team isn't, you end up with an unbalanced and unfair game. This happens all the time in reffed games. The difference in ultimate is that it is the competitors themselves manufacturing the advantage. This issue of fairness and the ability of one team to create an advantage for themselves is the strongest argument for refs.

A few thoughts on this. First, adding refs won't increase accuracy - it will decrease it. It won't increase fairness, either. It will actually create more games that are decided unfairly. All it will do is remove the control of that unfairness from the players. Finally, don't be confused into thinking that adding refs will keep people from working the rules to their advantage. On the contrary, adding refs will greatly increase the amount of cheating and gamesmanship as players and coaches learn to really take advantage of the rules, enforcement and the officials.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Bellingham Invite

We went up to Bellingham to play in the Invite this weekend. This is the third year of its existence and the third year we've won it...sort of. It has slowly become a really nice tradition for the team and myself. Mizu, the girls and I usually stay in Seattle and visit with friends. I miss that on Saturday, but the tourney is only one day so I get Saturday night and Sunday to hang out.

This year, bad weather, bad offenses, short rounds and yappy coaches (guilty!) made for a number of capped games. My suspicion that us (U of O), Washington and UBC are all top-10 teams was confirmed as we three-way tied, all beating each other. Here's a review of those three games:

Round 1: UW v UBC. UW came out screaming and handed it to UBC early and went up huge. I wasn't keeping score, but I'm going to guess that they were up 6 at half. UBC was playing okay, but they dropped so many passes - at least 8 in the first half and 3 goals over the course of the game. They couldn't stop UW's offense or match their intensity on defense. In the second half, though, UBC switched to zone and UW started to falter. (It was very clear that no one had worked on zone offense yet - everyone's sucked.) UBC ran out of time and lost 11-9 at the hard cap. The nicest thing for me in that game was to see Stefi Chow back on the sideline after a year off.

Round 2: U of O v UBC. What a weird, lackluster, ugly game. Bailey was out with a hamstring and Julia went down with a bruised heel on the second point. We weren't quite sure how to proceed without those two in there. Neither team could move it on the other's zone and there was turnover after turnover. Still, we managed to earn a two point lead with about 8 minutes to play...and gave up three to lose 9-10. Blech.

Round 4: U of O v UW. After beating PLU 13-0, we were going to face UW. Our captains got us riled up and ready to go and we came out with the intensity we'd needed in the morning. Our defense gave UW fits and they never could get a rhythm. At 8-6 us and 5 minutes to play, we all realized that UW would need to score two to force overtime. Instead, we scored 2 and won, 10-6.

Our Western and PLU games were blow outs (13-1 and 13-0) respectively, so it's hard for me to say a lot about those teams. I know Western played UW to 7-9 and one of their best players was sidelined for our game, so...

Tomorrow I'll get out a Why Refs are a Bad Idea... post. This one will be about accuracy.