Friday, July 29, 2005

picking a US All Star team

There have been a lot of comments in the previous post about the World Club teams, one of them a question from Mick asking whether the US is going to send an all-star team one of these Worlds.

Here are some questions:
1. Would an all-star team be our best team?
1a. Of the top 20 players in the game, how many of them would commit to this team and the whole tryout process?
2. Does the Champies champ deserve to go regardless of whether they're the best team that the US could send?
3. Is this just too logistically difficult?
4. What about Mixed and Masters?

Would an all-star team be our best team?
Yes, for sure, given even a couple weekends of practice together. Schemes aren't that complicated, and enough of the top players will have played together on club teams that familiarity won't be too big of a problem.
Of the top 20 players in the game, how many of them would commit to this team and the whole tryout process?
And would be selected by the selection committee, I should add. Idris seemed to think that a lot of the best players weren't on the team, while of course acknowledging that the ones selected were pretty damn good. Perhaps with the team being coed, some of them were less excited about the idea, or maybe they were passed over because they wouldn't be good coed players, or perhaps they just couldn't find the time for the whole tryout and practice camps. Anyway, this is an issue. With the Champs going, virtually all of them go.
Does the Champies champ deserve to go regardless of whether they're the best team that the US could send?
Maybe. I know some of my teammates back in the day felt strongly about this one. And there is something to be said about familiarity, and being able to practice and train together frequently.
Is this just too logistically difficult?
This has been why the US has never seriously contemplated it before (there was a point/counterpoint editorial and questionnaire about 15 years ago in the newsletter, I'm sure you all remember). The US is just so damn big and the top players are spread out among enough teams that it would be really hard to pick the team and have them play together enough. Australia may be of comparable size, but their top players are mostly on two or three teams.
What about Mixed and Masters?
Would these teams be restricted to players who played in those divisions in the fall series? Could you apply or try out for both Open and Masters? I say that if you're holding tryouts and want the best, you take the best. This would probably infuriate the "true" Mixed and Masters players, however.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

picking teams for 2006 World Clubs

The timing (November 2006) and location (Perth, Australia, on the west coast, 11 618 miles from Boston) of World Clubs next year will undoubtedly lead to a weak field. How many of the US teams who attend Nationals will also attend Worlds in near-full force? I think the UPA might have to make some changes to the eligibility rules in order to get competitive teams.

Below are some ideas to improve the quality of the US teams that do attend.

But first, here are the simplified eligibility rules for rosters:
  1. Teams are selected in descending order of finish at Nationals, extending to Regionals somehow if not enough teams from Nationals choose to go (happened as recently as 1995, when there were about a dozen US teams at Worlds). (Oh, and if your team is a bunch of dicks, you might not get picked either.)
  2. Anyone on the team in the qualifying year or the playing year is eligible.
  3. Anyone not on another roster in the playing year is eligible.
  4. An additional 3 or 5 players can be added to the roster.

  1. Teams that do go will probably be short-handed by a lot.
  2. There might not be enough Nationals teams that choose to go, forcing Regionals-level teams to go. (And how do you determine whether NW#5 should go over S#4?) And since WFDF uses Worlds rankings to help determine bid allocations for the next Worlds, this could affect the US in 2010 as well.
  3. The qualifying tournament is more than a year before the event.

Ideas (UPA would have to get WFDF approval on these):
  1. Significantly expand the number of ringers allowed.
  2. Allow teams in the same region to combine.
  3. Allocate, say, half of the spots to Nationals qualifiers, and hold a separate qualifying tournament for the remaining spots. Set an early deadline (May 15) for Nationals teams to commit, then hold the qualifying tournament in June. Put strict requirements on the rosters for these qualifying tournaments, e.g., all players must either play with that team in the fall series or they must attend Worlds. The situation you want to avoid is having a group of ringers qualify the team but then not attend Worlds.

Monday, July 25, 2005

U-S-A! U-S-A!

The US brought home the gold at the World Games. I'd be interested to hear analyses of the games, insights into what made certain teams more successful, how the males and females played together, who hooked up at the parties, etc.

The US spread out their goals thrown and caught pretty well, compared to the Aussies, who seemed to rely on Tom Rogacki (4 GC, 22 GT) and Matt Dowle (17 GC, 9 GT).

That is all.

Friday, July 22, 2005

World Games stats

Source: Rosters at Germany and Finland list women first. Japan and Canada list men first. US and Australia integrate.

Scores and goal scoring at

Day 1 completed: Men 1188 goals caught, 156 goals thrown. Women 69 goals caught, 30 goals thrown. (Note: I think this is a 4M/3W game, as rosters are 6M/5F.)

US is about average, with 28% of GC and 18% of GT done by women. Japan is worst, with only 5 GC and 3 GT by women. Totals (please scroll down):


Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Mixed strategy

So, a question for the Mixed players out there.

A lot of Mixed teams, some of them good ones, just seem to throw it to their guys. Let's call this the Hang Time strategy. Meanwhile, other teams go out of their way to design plays and offenses to focus on the women. Let's call this the Red Fish Blue Fish strategy.

The Hang Time strategy seems to be used by teams that have exceptionally athletic men or exceptionally unathletic women, while the RFBF strategy is used by teams without exceptionally athletic men or with exceptionally good women frisbee players.

The question is: What strategy would you expect a team with good men and good women or mediocre men and mediocre women to be most successful with?

(There are other questions like: why is the RFBF Strategy considered more strategic, and could each team improve by using a bit more of the other Strategy.)

What did the fantasy stats for the US WG team at Potlatch show? In 2001, the guys had 42 goals thrown, 34 goals scored, and 37 turnovers, versus 10, 19, and 10, respectively, for the ladies. At the 2001 WG, it was 102, 74, 75, vs 12, 38, 28.

George Cooke said that he thought that the women on the 2005 team were going to be the throwers.

And how about a more typical situation where you don't have any dominant players or athletes, just your run-of-the-mill semi-serious Mixed team. What should they do, and what is it that they actually do?

Monday, July 18, 2005

more on drills

I didn't mean to be so negative last time about drills. I was mostly commenting on drills for advanced club teams, not for beginning teams that need to work on basics like catching and 20 yard passes that don't turn over. If that's your team, then it'd be very inefficient to spend much valuable practice time on subtle skills (maybe a little just to get players thinking and to make it fun).

My wife is putting together a women's team and I sat in on their practices this weekend. They had low numbers, so had to do drills and just drills. They ran a nice combination of break-mark throws and cutting to the break mark, with plenty of time for each group of O and D to discuss what went right and wrong and how to improve.

They also did Idris' cutting drill (make a move within 3 steps, decide within 1 or 2 steps whether to continue, and if not go the other way), which went well but suffered a little because the D wasn't that good. (Even when I was running through on D as 3/4 speed, I was still making plenty of mistakes, but I don't think they read the mistakes at all, and instead went through their planned motions. I had read them my new "five rules" of cutting, and they seemed responsive, although I don't know how much they were able to incorporate.

Anyway, I thought of a couple things you could do by yourself with 6-10 discs.
1. Throw long passes to an exact point, or to a small marked-off area (say, 5 yards by 10 yards).
2. Throw successively longer passes. Begin by throwing at a target 30 yards away. Your next throw has to be longer than your first. Continue until you fail. Long passes often fail because you're just throwing to throw them too hard. Most golf shots are not hit at 100%, because they aren't nearly as controllable.
3. Discathon. Set up a course, or go through a sparsely-wooded area. Two discs. Throw one, run after it, throw the second just before you pick up the first.

With two people:
1. Throw and run, pretending you're making specific cuts.
2. Throw in a crowded area with restricted passing lanes, say, a street with a bunch of parked cars, or again, in a sparsely-wooded area, or around the house. This forces you to contemplate the throwing lanes, and will help you figure out how to deal with poachers and cloggers.
3. Throw standing still, pretending you have a marker who occasionally fouls you.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

drills, good and bad

In general, I don't like drills, because they usually seem stupid to me. They take too much time while doing little, they teach bad habits, or they're too basic.
Drills I like:
  • 3 on 3 on a mini-field. Lots of touches, cutting, and high stall count passes, no chance to hide.
  • Seegerball or any of its variants. Any game involving two teams, a field, and multiple balls/discs. Teaches fast break offense, O and D with man advantages, and evaluating risky strategies. And fun, too, especially if there is violence involved.
  • Some version of the cutting drill. This is the only conventional drill on the list, where you have lines of people doing about the same thing. I like it because it focuses on a technique that includes decision-making rather than just mechanics.

Drills I hate:
  • The endzone drill. Dump, swing, loonnng cut from the back, repeat. Especially bothersome when you add defense or require x completions in a row. ALTERNATIVE: split up into two teams, flip the disc 10 yards out, one team is on O and the other is on D.
  • The endzone drill. I hate it that much, it deserves two places.
  • The comeback drill. Two lines, one player cuts, throw the disc. Zook! Thwack! It's only mildly better when you cut at an angle. Barely tolerable when a marker is added. ALTERNATIVE: poke your eye with a needle.
  • Any drill where you add an incentive (an extra minute on an Indian run for everyone on the team, say) that changes the way people do the drill. For instance, take the drill where one player runs back and forth for 90 seconds and the other throws him leading passes. Without that incentive, I try to work on useful but difficult passes, say, pretending the mark is all over me and I have to stretch out to get the pass off. But with that incentive, I'm much more likely to take the "100%" pass that I don't need to work on. ALTERNATIVE: reduce the penalty, or eliminate it while stressing the mental images that make the drill good.

Good drills: get lots of reps, offer a chance to reflect on whether you did the right thing or not, require decision-making, fatigue you, mimic some aspect of ultimate.

Bad drills: have lots of down time, have poorly-designed incentives, have an easy way to get around the purpose of the drill, simulate something artificial.

Maybe it's just the way that my mind works, but I can instantly see the flaws in and ways to get around a drill that someone else designs.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

sound ideas from crazy Frank

If Frank didn't exist, Idris would have had to invent him.

Our old friend Billy Berrou has actually had some good ideas (i.e., ideas that I agree with) mixed in with his rantings. Let's try to compile a list.

  1. West Coast teams travel too much.
  2. Some people hold on to the disc for too long.
  3. Elite teams cheat on the mark.
  4. You can be a triple threat by throwing the disc for yards, dishing it to someone who then makes a throw for yards, or doing the give and go for yards.
  5. Sometimes it is about position and not yards.
  6. The swimmy swim is the move of the future.

What am I missing?

I'll expound on just two of these for now.
Some people hold on to the disc for too long. We'll sometimes play a "three second O", where we pretend that the stall count is 3 (except it doesn't actually count as a stall if you get to 3). As you might expect, the disc moves quickly, but what you might not expect is that you can still make long cuts and other cuts for yardage. To play this O, you need to be able to anticipate, both as a cutter and as a thrower. Basketball stat geek Dean Oliver, author of Basketball on Paper and a good friend of some West Coast frisbee players, suggested that one good metric for the fluidity of an offense would be how long it takes to release the disc. And who can forget Jam's unstoppable Plinko offense?
The triple threat. Right now, there is a hierarchy in throwing options. You look to throw for yards, then if that's not there, you look to get the disc into better position, and then after that maybe you cut for the give and go. Perhaps it would make for a more efficient offense if throwers looked to dish it as a primary option.

Or, we can just continue to pile on, which is fun.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

sudden death

I was pondering the flip the other day, and whether you could avoid giving the flip winner an advantage in a capped game. One way would be to play to time, or perhaps the first half is to a fixed, even number of goals. Then the Atlantans were talking about it on their blog, and I remembered a suggestion from TMQ.

Make all games win by 2, and if it's tied at the cap, you play an extra point of sudden death, but with a twist. Have another flip. The flip loser determines where on the field the disc is to be put into play and in which direction, and the flip winner gets to pick whether to play O or D. Presumably the loser will pick a point where they think their chances of scoring are 50:50. If there's no wind, that point would probably be deep in the endzone and near a sideline. If it's a moderate wind, that point might be at the 30 yard line going upwind.

Further, you could make the whole game this way to change the O/D balance. Do away with the pull, which is boring anyway and which my team is no good at, start off each point with the disc at a predetermined point (midfield for lower skills, 10 yards deep in the endzone for high skills), and then let them go. In this scenario, you would give the scored-upon team the disc all the time. Teams can still sub between points, and maybe you can have a five- or ten-second period before the disc is live where the teams are allowed to run around to set up. On windy days, you could specify that upwind points start at midfield while downwind points are in the endzone, to make every point close to 50/50.

What do you think? Where is your neutral point?

Rules for cutting

Rules for cutting

1. Cut sharp.
2. Cut hard.
3. Cut decisively
4. Think, but only before or after the cut.
5. Know when to just run.

Cut sharp. Don’t round your cuts. Plant on one foot, push off hard, and go. The longer it takes you to change direction, the less separation you will get from your defender.
Cut hard. Don’t jog out there when you are actively cutting. One place where this is especially important is at the start of a deep cut. For your first 3-6 steps, go all out without looking up or back, until you’re near top speed and have some separation and can check back to see whether the throw is up and where it’s going. Further, cut hard when you’re the decoy in a called play, or else an astute defender will know that it’s a fake.
Cut decisively. As Idris said, “Oh, you had ‘em.” You really only have time for one or two efforts before you become a clog. Commit to something, if that doesn’t work, quickly try something else, and if you don’t think you’re open in the first three steps, get the hell out of the way.
Think, but only before or after the cut. During the setup phase of the cut, you might have a chance to think about what you’re going to do, and can try to manipulate the defender into giving you a straight path to the disc. But once you are in motion, you can only react. You need to internalize all the small details (defender body position, field space, playing conditions)
that let you know whether you’re open or not without having to think about it. After the cut, you can think about what it was that made it work or not so that you build up your experience, until eventually it will become more of an instinct.
Know when to just run. You need to learn when you can just sprint in a straight line and be open. Fortunat calls these “opportunity cuts.” These arise when you know that the disc has changed positions but the defender does not, because you have kept him busy enough that he can’t check in. But this also arises in the middle of a faking sequence, when you can recognize the exact moment that the defender has committed himself to another direction and you can cut behind him.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

learning the game

A loyal reader writes:
who have been the major influences in your ultimate career? from whom did you learn? were they players you emulated? opponents that forced you to get better? teammates who actively taught and coached you?
or is your style all your own, sprouting from your head like athena from zeus?

The short answer is, no one taught me nuthin', though I have learned from people, and that's why I am how I am, for better or worse.

One of the frisbee accomplishments that I'm most proud of is that I feel that I helped to create an open, almost academic atmosphere of knowledge sharing. Although some teams still guard their "ideas" and playbooks, you'll now find a lot of high-level players freely (or for $19.95 from Human Kinetics!) passing down whatever they know about the game to whoever wants to listen.
You kids today don't know how lucky you have it. I can't remember a single piece of direct instruction or advice from the first 10 years of my career. (Of course, there have been times in my life when you couldn't tell me anything.) There was always some general team-level strategy, but it never translated into "you need to do this or that, which you can do by implementing the following."
The two things that did help me were playing with and against some top players, and hanging out with Dennis and Alex (or maybe that's four things, depending on how you count it).
Playing with top players allows you to see repeatedly the things they do and the decisions they make, in a way that getting schooled 15-2 twice a year at tournaments does not. It also helps you get over your fear of them, and lets you think, "Hey, I can do that." You're also able to separate the truly top players from those who are simply good complements who would not stand out in weaker surroundings. One such standout that sticks in my mind as I write this is Jeremy Seeger, who was fundamentally perfect.
Playing and hanging out with the Tea Party in the years 1989-1994 was also important, as these were really my formative years in my understanding of the game. We talked about frisbee, we figured things out, we were able to try out the ideas on a good team. Even if we were just rehashing things others already knew (but were keeping secret!), it felt like we were on the cutting edge of technology, and it was exciting.
And I guess there is a third (or fifth) thing that made me me, and that is the writing. Having to describe what it was that I did forced me to think about it more, and to learn from it. You really need feedback in order to improve, and if it doesn't come from a teammate or opponent, you have to do it yourself.
Having said all that, I think some of the drills we've been using the last few years (but not that one you all know I hate) are good at teaching.