Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Players make plays

1. At some level, it doesn't matter whether you play horizontal stack, German, all-upside-down, or lefty lifts. If you make good passes, you'll score, and if you make bad passes, you'll turn it. All that the system does is to create more or fewer opportunities to make good or bad passes. Leaders are responsible for the system, players are responsible for execution.
2. If two teams are equal in talent, it's the team that makes the plays that will win. Sometimes those plays are just willing yourself to be open at stall 8, or selling a decoy cut to free up a long cut.
3. But more often, those plays are picking up your teammates when they make a sub-optimal play. This doesn't mean that you make hero throws or cut when you're not supposed to, but that you play heads up and balls out.
4. If you throw a pass that's incomplete, it's your fault. If a pass that is thrown to you is incomplete, it's your fault. If you're on the field and your teammate throws a high stall pass that's incomplete, it's your fault. If you're idle on the sidelines and a pass is incomplete because you could have seen something that might have made a difference, it's your fault. Because of all my talk over the years about root causes and team errors and "what's wrong with right here", I am probably most at fault for this attitude being part of the culture. But just make the play and shut up. The way it should have worked was that instead of blaming the guy at the sharp end, everyone involved should have realized that they contributed to the error. It shouldn't be, "Hey, the pass wasn't right at my gut, sorry I couldn't save you."

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

rules of the blog

Welcome, readers. Word of our little world has spread to the unwashed masses, it appears.

Here are the rules:
  1. Be nice. This isn’t rsd.
  2. Respect ownership. Although the Internet is public and this is all free, it’s still my blog, so please realize that you’re a guest.
  3. Comment only if you’re really adding something to the discussion. Don’t make pithy comments, unless you’re already in the circle or if you’re one of our good friends.
  4. If you have suggestions for topics, send them on. But you can also check the archives, too.

That is all.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Triple Threat redux

In July, I posted Sound Ideas from Crazy Frank, about our old friend Billy Berrou. I met Frank during our debacle at Santa Cruz, then played goaltimate with him afterwards, as described on his web page.

Now, I'm a little hurt that he developed a man-crush on Wiggins but I'm just a single threat like all of ultimate, but I want to give him his airtime. He still gets it wrong in insisting that it's not at all about yardage, but here he is:

"You've missed a lot Jim but I'll just chime in here on what you've written.

1) West Coast teams travel too much. Yes and no. West coast teams travel more than east coast teams but you all travel WAY too much.

I think you're all missing the point here though. The reason I'm determined to fix this flaw in the game is that traveling is a symptom of poor balance. If you're not balanced on your snowboard, you're going to land on your ass and crack your head. If you learn how to play ultimate without any consequences for traveling (being off balance), you're not going to learn very well.

2) Some people hold on to the disc too long.


Everybody holds on to the disc too long. You've played Goalty with me and seen me play. I throw a lot of throws in the 50-100ms range and my target range is to average holding on to the disc around 1000ms. In general, not that I have statistics to back it up, but I would say that the general communitie's average is closer to 4000-5000ms. That's 4-5 times longer than what I think it should be. Playing with a 3 count is a superb idea and something I've also done (except I only make the rule for specific players who don't seem to 'get it').

3) Elite teams cheat on the mark. Hmmm. Elite teams cheat and yes they foul a lot. This has a huge impact on me personally since my stance/game is predicated on balance. Imagine trying to snowboard and having some oaf 'foul' you all the time. It's disgusting. Not fun.

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.


First, take yardage completely out of the equation. It does not belong. Yardage is irrelevent

You can be a triple threat by UNDERSTANDING that your ability to simultaneously be able to penetrate, or dish, or throw for a scrore has a profound effect on how a defense plays you.

5) Sometimes its about position and not yards.


It's always about position.

6) The Swimmy move is the move of the future.


The move of the future is a backhand lift give and go. I didn't get a chance to watch Idris' team at Labor day where I heard they were running some dominator but I didn't see any one with ANY penetration moves and you're talking about the swimmy as the move of the future? You guys need to learn an array of reliable give and go moves. That's the future.

7) Become more ambidextorous. Yes, thank you Idris. This is probably number 1 and Jim left it off his list entirely. As far as your 3 point analogy, hmmm, I hear what you're saying but I wouldn't take it that far. I don't huck much left handed but I do FAKE a lot with it and I find that useful. I'm not sure a left fake on a 3 pointer would be credible my my lefty huck fake sure is.

8) Negative space. Again, right on. This really should be number 1 now that I think about it. Thank you. I only take it 'too far' because of over compensation for an already skewed situation. In a nice balanced attack, I wouldn't be so extreme.

Other comments:
" 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."

This is entirely upside down. Usually the first thing I do when I catch the disc (and motion hasn't been established) is to establish my balance squarely over my pivot foot and begin to identify where I can break down the defense with a penetration move. I can't understand why nobody else plays this way. To always look first for an upfield throw for yardage is an egotistical, self-centered, selfish, narcisistic style of play. It is unwatchable, borish and dull. This is an easy game, don't make it harder than it needs to be.

"And I don't think you can give Frank and credit for the idea that "elite teams cheat on the mark". People have been complaining about this for at least five years."

I don't want credit for anything. I'd like someday to go watch some ultimate and be intellectually stimulated, which is something that does not happen now.

People have been complaining about elite teams cheating for at least 20 years.

Some of the conceptst that I've borrowed from basketball are over 80 years old. Nothing new.

As for your play at Purdue, Adam, that sounds like a simple back door play if I understand you correctly. It is a good play, don't get me wrong but I take it quite a bit further than that. I run an offense where some players on offense, depending on their roles/positions, are actually cutting, throwing, etc. as if they were attacking the opposite endzone. Nobody does that. Not even my PlinkO boys.

"Does anyone not horrible besides Studarus routinely throw passes with both hands?"

Not anybody I saw at Labor Day (except wiggins but only when he was playing Goalty). What do you mean by routinely? Oh, and by the way, I do take back what I said about wiggings. He is NOT a triple threat. Not only does he lack the understanding of the effect he is having on defense, but he doesn't have much in the way of penetration moves. He is, however, with his upright stance, very good at dictating tempo to the D but seemingly at a loss to know what to do with that edge.

"So, getting back to Frank, he would like throwers and cutters to consider their throws and cuts in terms of offensive flow (the motion offense) rather than as strictly a yardage battle."

sort of. But...there aren't throwers and cutters. There is the thrower (who is THE cutter) and an offensive structure that allows him to cut into spaces, not throw into spaces. Make sense? It's not quite that rigid but the point is in the motion offense that the thrower is also the primary cutter but then this ties in with your remark above about first look down field, then look to disc and then look to penetrate.

"...push passes.."

For 25 years, I rarely threw push passes until very recently. My girlfriend wanted me to teach her how to throw (1 day in GG park) and so I came up with Hippy Hill, a simple drill that's on my website (it's similar to what Idris said about the PlinkO line drill, looks easy but it's harder than you'd think--try throwing 100 throws with a friend at short range, as fast as you reasonably can, always throwing with your catching grip). In any event, the push pass over the past 12 months has become a complete staple in my diet. It's the most compact throw, makes for a great fake and can be outrageous in Goalty with the power skyhook!!

Push passes rule.

"Daryl (KAOS, Jam, Rhino) throws a ton of lefty break mark backhands... and unlike _most_ people, doesn't travel."

WHATTTTTT????? Daryl travels like a MOFO!!! Are we talking about the same guy? Seriously, I like Daryl and everything but he cheats massively. Like I told Daryl directly, he's such a good thrower and hard enough to get a foot/hand block on when he doesn't travel so please give me a fighting chance to make a play by playing fairly by the rules.

Monday, September 19, 2005

"In your head" mistakes

Even if I can't always specify it, I have what I think is a pretty good decision-making algorithm in my head for evaluating throw choices (sometimes I ignore it in the early part of the season in order to improve my throws, but I tone it back as the season progresses, shutting it down if necessary in the end). But I find myself prone to a certain bias that throws it off sometimes. I'll call it the "in your head" bias.

Simply put, you get an idea in your head, and the next time the opportunity arises, you take it. I can go weeks without throwing a scoober, but if I throw one, I have to throw a second, preferably on the same point.

There are at least three variations on this theme:
  • I just completed one, let's try another
  • I just looked off one, I better try this one
  • This is the play call, it's probably a good idea

I just completed one, let's try another. The only remedy I can think of for this is to be aware of it and thus create a bias AGAINST the second throw to cancel the "in your head" bias. The second try might just not be a good idea because the circumstances may have been more favorable on the first try, or the defender might be expecting it (break me with a scoober once, shame on you, etc.).

I just looked off one, I better try this one. I sometimes put extra pressure on myself because I'm one of the guys the team looks to to create offense, and I feel like I should be able to overcome a non-optimal cut. (This happens more often in recreational play, to be sure, but also with my club team.) Solution: again, just don't do it. Just yell, "Sorry, too close" and look for the next option (or, in rec play, accept that it's going to be a non-optimal pass and hope for the best).

This is the play call, it's probably a good idea (or "this is the offense"). We have a certain huck play, and we forced it at least three times this weekend (out of maybe six times it was called) when the thrower probably would not have thrown it had the cut arisen in the course of normal flow offense. Look, the play is NOT "throw it deep"; it's "throw it deep if the cut is there." This starts getting tricky when it happens a lot, because then the play or the basic offense may be flawed because it produces a lot of these questionable choices. Solution: don't throw it and look for the alternative. If the play has no alternative, discuss one with the strategists. Afterwards, think about whether you made the right choice, what the critical variables were in forming your decisions, and what would have been necessary for you to have changed your decision.

PS. #99, with a 15-12 win over Twisted Metal in the finals, x-3 ish in each of the prelims. The finals was a steady building toward a 5 goal lead, then a couple breaks at the end before finishing them off. They're not the DoG Lite that Snapple + begats were, so there is more dramatic tension in the games.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Blogosphere 2005

Everyone's blogging these days. Except when they're inactive.

The Big 6: me, Idris, Alex, Luke, Zaz, Atlanta guys. Luke's is purely personal, but he's often funny, in Luke's way, and he's a presence, so he's in. The others are of general interest, although Alex and I tend to write about our team a lot.

Others to look at: Tim Murray, Hartti Suomela, Jim Biancolo, Marshall Goff, George Cooke (who has made it into ultimatetalk! Attaboy, George.) . Tim has been writing about himself, but the others are trying to do something of more general interest.

I think we'd all agree that we'd like to get more comments, and that people shouldn't be afraid of hogging bandwidth or taking over someone else's blog. They are there to entertain and to provoke discussion, as long as it's not NUA/Z-Boys annoying blather.

Mine is the most read, although Alex would of course argue that it's not because of content but because of name. He also forgot to mention that more people link to me. I often find other blogs by checking out my Referrals on and see a new one. Also I egosurf once in a while at technorati, but that doesn't seem too comprehensive for the little blogs.

Idris was the first of us to go online, and is often the most refreshingly honest because he's not playing this year and doesn't seem to care if he burns his bridges.

Alex is Jim lite. But please pay him a visit to get his hits up. He has had some interesting retrospectives on Worlds and Tuneup. I think it'd be a good idea to do some more retrospectives, maybe on other tournaments, or on matchups against particular opponents. It seems that most of our recent games against Sub-Zero have been one-pointers, so it'd be fun to look at the ones we won.

Luke is all over the place, talking about skiing or eating pancakes or losing his wallet in a dumpster ten years ago.

Zaz is putting out the best material now, but he'll slow down. I bet he wishes that some of this would have been put in the book, but you don't always think of everything the first time around. Definitely put this on your reading list if you want to improve your team.

Atlanta guys (actual title is "Coaching Techniques") talk about strategy and coaching, with some things like "Chain keeps losing in the finals" and interviews with World Games players.

We all comment on each other's site, too.

Tim Murray, most famous in ultimate for being the victim of my first Callahan, had an interesting inside look at Sub-Zero's very DoG-like victory at this year's Tuneup.

Hartti used to play with the Finnish national team before moving to the Bay Area for grad school 5-6 years ago. He is trying to come up with some improved high-tech stat-keeping and stat-analysis systems.

Jim Biancolo is a Masters player in New England. His blog is one about fitness, with some links and comments on modern research on fitness for "combat sports."

Marshall Goff mixes general commentary with commentary on me and an occasional photography post. Some of his pictures are in the book by Zaz and me (he said one of his friends asked, "Hey, how's your book doing?"). But he talks about Mixed, so.

George Cooke is a late entry. Look for some more insights into the inner backroom dealings of the UPA, since George is the National Mixed Director and was a chair of the World Games Selection Committee, plus he's a helluva nice guy.

PS. Track 4, Jim 3. Made it through this week's workout, running hard to the end despite too high of a heart rate and no one around to call me names for not finishing.

PPS. Started the new job, at the same place that my wife works. We talked about work over dinner tonight. If she starts golfing, we will have NO separation in our lives.

Monday, September 12, 2005


All hail the mighty Cougars, champs of the C division of the Sudbury Men's Modified Fast-Pitch Softball League!

Things looked bleak early, as they scored five in the first and five in the second while our cleanup hitter grounded into a 5-3 double play (one of two on the evening and three in the series) to kill a rally. We scratched out a run in the 2nd beginning with a 10 foot swinging bunt by yours truly. There were some defensive miscues and missed plays that allowed them to get that big lead, and I thought it was more likely that we were going to be victims of the mercy rule than to come back. But our D got better and they stopped whacking the ball so hard (a big lefty on their team hit it pretty well over the fence the first time but had two deep but harmless flies to me after that), and we limited them to one run over the next four innings.

Meanwhile, down 10-2, I came up with a runner on first in the fourth. The other team is a "sample size of one stats-based defensive approach" team which looks at what the guy did the last time and assumes that's what he does all the time. So, they yell out "Watch for the bunt!" "Hey," I said, "how about 'watch for the home run?'" I had taken two borderline strikes the time before, so after a first pitch ball, the pitcher was probably expecting me to take it and threw a down the middle low pitch, and wham, I lined it over the fence with plenty of room to spare. This seemed to bring some life back to the team, and we added two more that inning, and five the next to tie it up.

After a scoreless sixth, they pushed across two in the final inning, and had a runner nailed trying to advance to kill the rally. This may be a surprise to my frisbee teammates, but I had a full layout bid on a flyball (banged up my knee and elbow a little) in that inning. I thought I caught it, but when I opened my eyes up, the ball was not in my mitt. Rats, definitely would have made the front page of the Town Crier with that one. Down two in our final cuts, the first two batters got on, then a wild pitch put them at 2nd and 3rd. I was really thinking "walk off home run", and when I saw a pitch I thought was similar to the previous one, I took my cut, but it was only when the ball was nestling in the second baseman's mitt after a routine popup did I realize that the ball was outside, also, and I should have used the "outside pitch bad" rule instead of the "low pitch good" one. Fortunately for us, though, our next hitter got a single to tie the game (advancing to second on the throw home), and the following one got another well-placed bloop to bring the title home.

I think the team is still in the parking lot as I type this. I had to get home to relieve the babysitter (not a euphemism).

Final stat line of .439/.455/.756, with an OPS 100 points higher than it was last game. Whew.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

old people can still play,

some days. Yesterday was horrible. I felt like a typical 40 year old, kinda slow to get moving, and never had fourth gear, let alone fifth. Sprints at the end were brutal, almost like it was my first time out for the year.

But today was good. My defense was nothing to speak of, but I cut well on offense, which as we all know is all that matters.

That's one of the things that has hit me as I've aged. There are a lot more days when I feel a lot less than 100%. I was trying today to figure out how much better today was than yesterday. Mooney would say "infinitely", others would say "100%", I'm inclined to say "10 times better" (although I probably would have meant "10 times as good"), but it's something significant. I'm sure I could reduce the number of days like Saturday with a more rigid workout schedule (but the rest of life interferes with that sometimes), or something steroid-like for recovery, or trying to adapt my game a little bit more to reflect the reality of being 40 and trying to kick some punk's ass.

A side note: I don't think the presence of a 40 year old at the elite level means that ultimate isn't ready for big time. It's not as if there are a bunch of 40 year olds who are doing the same thing at 40 that they were doing at 27. Look at baseball's elderly: Barry Bonds, Randy Johnson, even the 38 year olds like Schilling or Larry Walker. They aren't journeymen.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Reasons no one goes undefeated at Nationals anymore

1. Kids today just aren't as tough as in the old days.
2. Teams 5-8 are better than they used to be (and 9-16, for that matter). The closeness of the games would seem to bear this out. There were only a handful of games on day 1 where the loser scored less than 10.
3. Teams 1-2 aren't as good as they used to be. It may be that the top players are spread out among more teams. It may have been true that DoG had like 6 of the top 15 or 4 of the top 10 or some such x of y players in the game, but I doubt that any of the teams now is better than 3 of 15 or 2 of 10 (although I'll be damned if I could come up with a reasonable list of the top 15). One reason for this could be that you need seasoning and exposure to become one of these super-elite, after or while you develop your raw skills. In the old days, maybe you needed to be part of a top 4 team to get that exposure, but now, kids get it in college and playing with whore teams and getting plenty of chances to put it on the line.
4. The schedule is hectic, especially compared to the 12 team Nationals up through 1995. Back then, it was 2 games per day, with 90-120 minutes in between. The 14 team schedule cut the break down to an hour between cap and the next round (and I remember that first year that at least one women's game was delayed because the previous game lasted for more than an hour past the cap because they couldn't score in the wind). Especially in the heat, which wasn't a problem in 94, 95, 96, 98, and 99 (and maybe 97, too), it's tough to grind it out for that many in a row.
5. Less importance in winning all your games, since you know that other teams are also going to struggle, and there's no guarantee you're going to get an easy quarters by winning all your pool play games. It's still more likely, but not as much of a certainty as before.
6. Shorter games. It's easier to pull off an upset in a game to 15 (or 13, with the caps) than in one to 19.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

The Indefensible

I once proposed this defense, partly seriously, but it hasn't been implemented yet. It's just a variation on the offsides trap.

A possible new Defense for the O

Premises, all true to varying degrees
  • The O has trouble getting turnovers against any reasonably skilled team.
  • Even reasonably skilled teams have weak links
  • All passes have some risk to them, and “good” passes have an acceptable rate of return for a given risk.
  • A plan that is good is theory is bad in practice if the players you have can not possibly execute the plan.

THE DEFENSIVE IDEA: Encourage the turnover-prone throwers on the other team to make risky throws. For example, let a bad hucker on the other team get a somewhat open long cutter so he can overthrow him.

RATIONALE: We all have (or should have) developed a set of risk/reward curves for our throws, with a different curve for each opponent or level of difficulty for opponent or game situation. Another way to look at this is that you’ll consider many things when considering whether to throw a particular huck: how good the other team is, how windy it is, how good the deep defender is, how good the receiver is, how open the player is, where on the field you are, what the score of the game is, etc. A situation can change just a little, but the risk changes from “worthwhile” to “unacceptable”. So, if your offense is so good that you will certainly score if you make short passes, then it makes no sense to try a huck that has a 90% chance of completion (disregarding for the moment such factors as fatigue, long-term strategy, practice, confidence, etc.).

I have to say that occasionally, the best chance that the O has at getting a turnover is if the other team misses on a huck. We are banking that the other team fails to realize that the risk/reward curve has changed.

Defensively, we need to make only small adjustments to the faceguard/last back defense.
“Last back” has to delay on the switch so that the pass gets thrown. When you switch/poach, you can either try to prevent the pass by switching as soon as you see it (and so that your teammate can also switch), or you can try for the block by switching as late as possible so the thrower doesn’t realize you’re going until it’s too late. This D would favor waiting. We get burned now by switching too soon and they get a free underneath cut.
We need to have some way to let the team know whether the player with the disc is a good hucker or a bad one. The two ways we could set this up would be either “if players A or B get the disc, we want them to huck” or “if anyone except X or Y gets the disc, we want them to huck.” We would want some guys on Furious to huck, but not Cruickshank. Perhaps the player covering A or B yells “FORCING!” when it is apparent the player is going to catch it (but not when he’s about to catch it, as that’s unsportsmanlike conduct).
We probably will want to force a few players back to the disc. So, perhaps A and B get forced back to the disc, while the others are faceguarded and forced away.

Another variation would be to encourage certain players to try difficult break mark passes.