Friday, December 28, 2007

Ultimate Resolutions..

Happy Holidays everyone. I hope the season finds you happy and well. I want to thank the approx 8000 people who have visited the site since I started tracking via Google Analytics.

I'll be back with a big interview and some think piece posts after my trip out west is over, but in the meantime I wanted to ask visitors what their new year's Ultimate Resolution is?

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Talking with Trainor- Dan Fassina

Nation,

Fresh off a UPA Masters Championship with DoG, Dan Fassina took the time to answer some of my questions about the game we all enjoy.

Montreal's Fassina becomes the first Canadian resident to win the UPA Masters. This was possible because his club team Mephisto was not active in the Fall series, and because Dan is good enough to play with DoG. He's represented Canada at Worlds (as recently as 2004 with the Masters team) and Mephisto has been a final four presence at Canadian nationals for over ten years.

What's the secret to his longevity? What are his opinions on other players, teams and the state of the game? Read on.

  • I've been advised you were on DOG's Masters team this year. True?

Yes, my regular club team, Mephisto, didn’t participate in UPA Fall Series this year so I put myself out on the “free agent” market and I was fortunate enough to be invited to play for DoG.


  • Describe the experience of playing with DoG?

It was an absolutely amazing experience. When I committed to playing with DoG my main goal was to get a chance to play with some of the players that I looked up to when I was learning the sport in the late 90’s. I was also hoping to get a chance to finally play at UPAs. I didn’t realistically expect that we would win the whole tournament.

It was a huge rush to get to play with legends of the game like Parinella, Alex De Frondeville, Steve Mooney, Paul Greff, Seeger, Lenny, John Bar and Jeff Brown. These guys also know so much about ultimate; I can’t imagine that there is a group of players more knowledgeable about ultimate than these guys. I tried to be a sponge around them and absorb as much information as I could.


  • What teams/strategies impressed you?

I was impressed with all of the teams that we played. I expected a few of the teams to be stacked, with it being a Worlds qualifying year but I didn’t expect all of the teams to be as strong as they were. Ten of the twelve teams had a realistic chance of winning the tournament. Going into UPAs I was thinking to myself, “it’s Masters, it’ll be easy,” but there were a lot of players still capable of playing top level ultimate. Surly had a handful of guys who were on Sub-Zero and BAT last year, Boneyard had some former Ring of Fire guys and OLD SAG was loaded with guys straight out of the Philly open scene; all of whom chose Masters this year to try to qualify for Worlds.

As for strategies, most of the teams ran the standard plays that you would see anywhere else in ultimate. It was all standard vertical or horizontal stack. It seemed like a lot of the Masters players were new to the division and have brought their plays and strategies from the Open game with them. The strategy that actually impressed me the most was our own offense. It was straight out of the 1994 DoG Playbook. It hasn’t changed since then; it is so basic and it shouldn’t work but we just shredded through defenses with it.


  • What does DoG do differently that any teams you have played with?

The big difference between DoG and any other team I’ve played on is the professional work ethic that they bring to every game. The focus that they bring to each game and the confidence in their abilities and training is unparalleled. I’m sure it’s largely a byproduct of their history of success but for them there is never any doubt about the outcome of a game. They are never disrespectful to the opposition but it’s more a sense that no matter how well the other team will play, DoG will play better. It’s a mentality that they back up with ridiculous amounts of hard work and effort.



  • Moving on to National stuff, how was your Worlds 2004 experience?

Worlds in Finland were a great experience. The Finns did a great job hosting the tournament and really made all the teams feel like they were taking part in a World class event. It was a lot of fun to play against all the teams that I had never faced before like the Japanese, the Brits, the Swedes and even the American team, which was based out of Miami, whom I’d never faced before. It was really interesting to see how other countries approach the sport. Another thing I’ll never forget about that Worlds were the fields. Turku had the best fields I have ever played on; the amount of maintenance they put into their fields is comparable to what golf courses do over here.


  • Would you like a second chance to win Masters gold at Worlds? Can Canada do it in 2008?

Since I normally play Open I think I’d rather have a chance to help Canada win gold in Open but if that doesn’t happen I would definitely relish a second shot at Masters gold. It will be difficult for the Canadian Masters team to beat the US in Vancouver but we do have the talent to pull it off. I think it’s too early to really talk about it because a lot depends on which players DoG and Tombstone will pickup to strengthen their rosters.


  • What's your strongest asset as a player?

That’s a tough question to answer. In my mind every part of my game is an asset but what goes on in my mind and reality aren’t always the same. I’d have to say at this point in my career my biggest asset is the experience that I’ve picked up over the years; it helps get me out of dicey situations, helps me get into the right positions on the field, lets me make the correct throw choices (most of the time), allows me to exploit other players weaknesses and minimize my own.


  • What's the most underrated skill in ultimate?

I’ve always been a very defensive minded player so I’m a little biased to that part of the game. I think the most underrated skill in ultimate is the ability to play strong silent defense. Players who play silent defense are easily overlooked because they aren’t getting big layout blocks and you don’t notice them since their player won’t get thrown to. But put a bunch of players with that ability on the field and you won’t need the big blocks, you’ll just pressure the opposition into turning it over on their own.

  • What was your take on nationals 2007? What teams impress/disappointed you?

I was happy with the overall level of play of most of the teams but there is still too large of a gap between the top teams and the middle and bottom of the pack. I think there were too many teams in the tournament; I’m a big believer that Nationals should be a competitive tournament and not an expensive, party tournament. It makes it difficult to attract teams like Furious and Calgary to Nationals every year when half their games aren’t even a challenge and I really can’t blame them for only coming when Worlds is on the line. I think it’s a huge problem for Canadian ultimate right now. The focus since Nationals in Montreal in 2003 seems to be to try to have the most mind blowing party rather than on hosting the most competitive tournament. CUPA has to decide which way it wants to go because it can’t have both.

I’ll get back on topic though; of course Invictus, Goat and Furious were very impressive but there were a few other teams that impressed me, especially Red Circus. They gave us a really tough game, they had a good mix of experienced handlers and really athletic receivers. They were just missing that little bit to really breakthrough to the next level.



  • Montreal Stuff.. how was the name Mephisto created? Are you an Original Member?

I wasn’t there when the captains came up with the name. I believe the story was that Mark “Shaggy” Zimmerl and the other captains sat around for hours trying to come up with a team name but couldn’t come to any sort of consensus. When everyone was on the way out the door Shaggy mentioned it was a shame they couldn’t come up with a name because he had this great drawing of Mephisto that he wanted to use as the logo. Right there everyone knew they had found the name. That happened in ’95 but Mephisto didn’t field their first regular team until ’96. I didn’t have anything to do with the team until ’96 so I don’t know if that qualifies me for original member status but it puts me pretty close. It also makes me feel a bit old. Shaggy and I are the only two players from ‘96 who are still on the team.


  • How did you start playing ultimate?

I started playing ultimate in the fall of ’95 with the Concordia University Ski Team. We did it as a team building activity during dryland training. It just so happened that the field where we played was on the way home from work for Shaggy. Ever few days he would stop off and play a few points with us. Over the course of the fall he managed to convince a few of us to come to Mephisto tryouts in ’96. The fact that I managed to make Mephisto with little to no experience is more a testament to how bad we were that year than of anything else. It’s been really exciting to have been on the team from pretty much day one and to have been involved in building the team from nothing to a perennial semi-finalist at Nationals.


  • What's the best Mephisto team ever (year)? Why?

Mephisto has had some really strong teams over the years. A couple that come to mind are the 1999 edition, which was the first Mephisto team that made semis at Nationals and the 2007 edition which made semis despite numerous injuries and a large number of rookies. But my vote for strongest team would go to the 2000 edition. We had a lot of great players on that team and it was the year that we finally managed to get the upper hand on Toronto when we beat Yes in the quarters.



  • What is your opinion on the state of ultimate in Montreal? Quebec?

The Montreal ultimate scene has grown tremendously over the past decade. My first year playing there were only 8 teams in the league and in 2007 there were something like 150 teams. That's just the summer leagues; there are now all sorts of fall and winter leagues thanks to the explosion of both indoor and outdoor field-turf fields in the Montreal area. Probably the largest part of this growth is thanks to the increase in Francophone players in Montreal. When I started playing, ultimate was almost exclusively a sport for English speaking university kids but it's finally starting to reach more people. A lot of the Anglophone kids would play in the league for a few years and then go back home once they were finished school whereas the Francophone players are more likely to stay in Montreal since they are already home.


Currently the Montreal league is being managed by some very capable people and I can only imagine that this tremendous growth is going to continue despite the same old challenges like field availability.

This growth obviously has a trickle down effect on the level of competitive ultimate in Montreal. Mephisto's success for so many years was on the backs of students at McGill who would spend three or four years in Montreal and then move back home. That's obviously not the best way to try to build a team but it was very tough to find the talent to play at the level we wanted without relying on those players. We finally have enough local talent to build a team almost exclusively with Montreal based players; that can only be beneficial to Mephisto.

There are a lot of other teams and leagues in Quebec that are starting to develop into strong programs. The challenge for them will be to gain the experience playing high level ultimate that will really help push their growth forward. The big difficulty is that the demographic reality of Quebec is that the types of people who currently have this experience are more likely to leave the province than to move to it. As the talent pool continues to grow in Quebec there will continue to be a dispersal of this ultimate experience from Quebecers who move within the province. It's a slower process than importing a top level player into your city but you can finally start to see the results of this as some pretty solid teams are emerging from places like Quebec City, Sherbrooke, etc..


  • Who's the best player in Montreal right now?

That’s a tough question to answer. I guess it depends on how you define the best player. According to my definition, it’s clearly me. Seriously though, it’s either Shaggy or Eric St-Amant. Shaggy is a remarkable player who has managed to play at the top level of the sport for a really long time. He was picked up by Goat for their latest Fall Series run and was used as a handler on the O line. Eric was also picked up by Goat this past fall; he is a machine. He’s relatively new to the game but anybody who scares the opposition as much as he does deserves to be considered among the best.


Pictured: Erik St. Amant and Mark "Shaggy" Zimmeral (#5)
Photo Source: Craig Stephen Photography

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Worlds 2008 Applications- Are we asking the right questions?

Nation,

With the exception of juniors, all of our teams that will represent us at the World Championships in 2008 have posted Team Canada Applications.

I really like the concept of adding players throughout the country to help bolster our respective lineups. It gives people throughout the country more of an affinity to Canada's efforts during the tournament. I also think that the decision makers on these teams are very serious about looking at applications. This is refreshing.

I don't pretend that these teams will compose a lineup much different than the ones that represented their cities at the 2007 nationals. However, given the progressive push by the USA, Australia, and Japan, Canadian teams needs to ensure they add players that can offset increased competition.

What are my thoughts on the current application process? I think we have to understand the logistical and financial problems that prevent true tryouts and evaluation. However, I think there are also some current flaws in the flawed process we know use. Let's look at some of the questions asked by the teams in their applications.




Photos Courtesy: http://www.wugc2004.org
Photographer: Juha Kankaanpää

  • Strengths as a player
    • Outside of personal bias and overestimation, this is pretty good
  • Experience
    • A necessary evil. It might speak more to past glory than current value. It's like when teams play a 32 year old free agent millions for what a player did in his late twenties
  • Current Team
    • Generally, good teams have good players. But, even better players may play on less successful team. You're not picking teams to join your team.
  • References
    • We have built in BS detectors to filter sport references. People usually pick people who will give them a superficial reference in the positive area.
  • Age
    • This is an important one for masters and juniors. Can you make a decision based on age? I see a lot of young players fresh off world juniors who lack the fitness of people in their late twenties and early thirties. You want to give future stalwarts a shot, but many ultimate players don't learn how to train/prevent injury until later on.
  • Height
    • "You can't teach height" (P-Mo)
  • Weight
    • If you're going to go there, why not just ask for a body fat ratio?
    • No fatties!!! Does your weight (within limits) affect your ability to play ultimate
  • Commitment Level/Availability
    • Very good question. The further away you live, the less chance you have. Most teams list their expectations, and they are ambitious.
    • Is being available more important than talent?
  • Role
    • Are players in the right/optimal role currently
    • Can you really peg people in ultimate? The game is pretty organic.
  • Photo
    • This was a random request, by the girls surprisingly.
    • If I think I know you, you have a better shot
    • If you're good looking, you have a better shot
    • I'm sure this could be requested after team selection
  • Top Major Tournament Finishes
    • This speaks to the team. Can't stress this enough.
  • Major Tournament Experiences
    • What's the value of a past worlds/nationals/upas?
    • If you played in many major tourneys, and choked personally in all of them, does that still go down as an asset?
  • Past "Big Game Experience"
    • Playing well 4 years in Helsinki is more valued than being able to play big in 2008?
    • How valuable is experience? If you don't know how it relates to your team's chances and player value, than why ask it?
    • Do we pick experienced players because it's safer?
  • Athletic Ability
    • No discussion/request for 40 times or anything of the like.
    • Like all the other questions, good intentions but...
What to do?

Really no easy way to fix this process. However, with the increase in game film and stats, it will be easier to scout and evaluate potential talent.

Here's an example. Go Big Recruiting is a website dedicated to posting game film of college hopefuls. It has replaced the process of sending many tapes/dvds to schools. Recruiters can instead log in and everyone can view your ability.

Like hockey, Team Canada recruitment will get better after we fail at the international level. From desperation and want comes the need for innovation.



Sunday, December 16, 2007

Practice Rumblings.. what really frustrates me..

Nation,

I try to keep this site geared towards the game in Canada, rather than about myself. However, I'm going to let off a rant off . Here goes:

People don't use practice to its full advantage.

Ottawa has an excellent men's league set up this winter. We're getting lots of great scrimmage in, and we're running great drills. But constantly (including players outside of Ottawa I've played with and watched), I see players who don't approach practice in a way that can translate into game success.

Unknown Ottawa Girl
Source: Ultypics.com
Photographer: Alan Pieroway


  • When you're running a drill, you run it like a game situation. Thus, you don't cheat in the drill in a way that wouldn't work in a real game.
  • Technique is F-ing important.
  • You should not measure a play being good/bad based on the outcome of the play solely. It's really the decision involved AND the execution. If you keep throwing the same bad break throw to someone's shoetops, but it gets caught, it doesn't mean you're onto a great strategy. Conversely, if you make the right play but fail in the execution, that doesn't mean you should limit yourself.
  • There is a difference between running a play/drill right and wrong.
  • I amazed at the amount of times people run drills like robots. Look/Adjust to your throwers/receivers..
  • Those warm-up throws are going to affect your game throws..
Good practice can make perfect. $hitty practice makes less than perfect.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Performance Enhancing Drugs in Ultimate?

Nation,

Dick Pound doesn't look so crazy now... does he?

Did anyone hear about the Mitchell report, which is rocking the baseball world? Of course you did. It listed many former and current major league baseball players who have used performance enhancing drugs. To me, a sport academic and a crazed sports fan, it just left me wondering who they failed to list/mention. (The report was limited because the Senator Mitchell was unable to subpoena or force any stakeholders to talk/participate). Unless you made a slip up at the border, you had a trainer who squealed, or if you failed a test, you were able to avoid infamy.

Roger Clemens Roadtrip!!!
Photo Source: Eyes of the Border

Why did so many people cheat? It's quite simple. J.C. Bradbury does an excellent job of describing Nash Game theory in his book "The Baseball Economist". Here's the gist:

"a solution concept of a game involving two or more players, in which no player has anything to gain by changing only his or her own strategy unilaterally. If each player has chosen a strategy and no player can benefit by changing his or her strategy while the other players keep theirs unchanged, then the current set of strategy choices and the corresponding payoffs constitute a Nash equilibrium.

Stated simply, A and B are in Nash equilibrium if A is making the best decision A can, taking into account B's decision, and B is making the best decision B can, taking into account A's decision. Likewise, many players are in Nash equilibrium if each one is making the best decision that they can, taking into account the decisions of the others. However, Nash equilibrium does not necessarily mean the best cumulative payoff for all the players involved; in many cases all the players might improve their payoffs if they could somehow agree on strategies different from the Nash equilibrium (eg. competing businessmen forming a cartel in order to increase their profits)."

So......

  • Players cheat because they want to get ahead (make more money, do better on field, last longer)
  • Players cheat because they know others may/do cheat
  • Players can't say no to performance enhancing drugs because they are potentially putting themselves in weaker position.
Sadly...
  • Nobody gains any advantage because everyone is doing it
  • Users don't get any more of the $ pie
  • Users are left with the long term side effects of the drugs
  • Those that abstain get punished (Maybe they don't make the big leagues)
  • Everyone outside the cheating players wins (Owners, Fans who like great feats, etc.)
The very fact that owners, teams and fans got benefit from PE drugs lead to the blind eye treatment. MLB commish Bud Selig loved the record setting attendance and the positive buzz that followed the home run chases, the record breaking careers and the money that came into the league as a result. When congress dragged pro sports to the table, it was a rare time that the MLB and its player's union could agree that this would be bad for business.

Okay... so what about Ultimate.

I don't think Ultimate has an steroid or human growth hormone problem. However, I think that if ultimate dreamers (That's right, you're dreamers... keep giving Petro Canada your personal info and signing up to the facebook groups) ever got their Olympic dreams fulfilled, they would be very saddened to find that Ultimate has more of a performance enhancing problem than we think.

It's bad enough if they tested for Performance Delimiting drugs! If our sport started testing (by Olympic standards) we would be surprised how illegal our supplements, pre game pick me ups and other activities are.

Be careful what you ingest. Be careful what you wish for, and don't be naive.

Poll question is.. does ultimate have a performance enhancing drug problem? Comments are appreciated.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

This is too much respect...

If you're Andrew Lugsdin, do you like seeing this or do you get a little freaked out..?

Indoor

Nation,

I've been around the Ottawa scene for over five years now. When I first started, the number of quality indoor locations with legitimate space and field turf was limited. Sure, the cost of playing during the long Ottawa winters was steep, but people in ultimate and competing sports were more than willing to pay.

After a two year stint in London (where we had no indoor facilities and thus, we had no ultimate except for some rare games/tourneys in the snow), I've come back to Ottawa and found a different marketplace. Not only has the market of indoor turf stadiums grown to the point of over saturation, but there has been a serious wane in the demand/interest by competitive ultimate players. I myself am only playing one night of men's comp, and avoiding the coed leagues that everyone once clamored to be a part of.






Why the drop in interest for men's and women's comp players? Here are some of the possible reasons

-Despite the great field turf, you can get your a$$ hurt
-The times can be pretty terrible.
-The dome game is different, and instead of being viewed as a place to experiment, is now a place to learn bad habits.
-Summer injuries and training programs make playing indoor less attractive
-Despite having two fine coordinators for cooed indoor comp play, people are often not signing up because they don't think the level will be good/high enough.
-Serious disconnect between coed and women's/mens ultimate (Perhaps Ottawa specific)
-There are far too many players who don't want to play better ultimate, and don't want to listen to high level players... leading to frustration on both sides.
-Combining three types of players (open, women's, coed) can be an ineffective scenario if the right leaders are not in place.

I don't even think it's a money issue (Hearing well paid civil servants complain about indoor fees is always quite a laugh for me). However, it will be interesting to see how this plays out in future years, and if the different divisions of competitive continue to go their different ways.

Thus, the poll question is

Describe the State of Your city's Indoor/Winter High Level Leagues?
  • Growing
  • Peaking
  • Dwindling
  • Winter League What? (No League)

Have a couple of awesome interviews coming up.. looking forward to posting them!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

The Lazy Star.. How does one Motivate?

Nation,

It's off season training time.

If you play competitive ultimate, whatever division, you've probably played with someone who possesses great talent but fails to get optimal performance from said ability. Let's take a look at the list of players that frustrate coaches and teammates
  • The millon dollar body with the 5 cent mind star
  • The dominates in tryouts but chokes at nationals star
  • The skilled/intelligent guy who can't pass the baseline physical tests star
  • The can't take the next step star
  • The recreational drug star
  • The can't stay healthy star
  • The mentally weak star
  • The plays for himself star
  • The skips practice star
Randy Moss 'I just don't respect you enough to run hard'
Photo Source: www.sfgate.com

Some of these players are easier to spot than others. However, many Canadian teams in May tryouts overlook the negative faults of these players and focus on the positives. Especially when dealing with the great athletes. These are not bad people- they just simply haven't been conditioned to improve outside of their comfort zone, have had bad examples to follow or have been able to get by on existing talent.

Unfortunately, rewarding players with team spots when they refuse to address their weaknesses (i.e. Fitness, Throws, Team Play, Drug Use, Injury Prevention, Off season training habits, Playing for the team) does not help your team. That amazing 6'5 lane cutter who cuts off everyone else will be your kryptonite when your chasing a national title. The great thrower who looks off the easy throw on game point doesn't hoist high level trophies without a whole lotta help. Any player susceptible to injury is worth a lot less to your team than you probably think/calculate at tryouts.

So, the poll question is

Can an ultimate team/captain coach motivate "lazy" star players?
Yes
No


How do you handle the type of players listed above. Do you try to work with these players? Do you cut these players from your team? Do you bite your lip and put up with these players for the sake of wins?

Paul Cobb: The antithesis of the lazy star.
Photo Source: www.ultypics.com
Photographer: Dave Knowles

Poll Result Analysis: Ultimate- Team Game of Game of Stars

Nation,

Last week I posed a question about the game of ultimate-

Does an Ultimate team with several elite players outperform teams with greater depth?

Here is the results of the poll:
Yes: 6
No: 8
Depends on the Stars: 8

It doesn't get much more even than that (okay, 7/7/7 would be the most equal result). There is really no right answer here.

  • People voting Yes to this question simply pointed out trios like Cruickshank/Lugsdin and Grant who can dominate you on offence.
  • Other Yes voters pointed out that stars can play offense and defence in ultimate, and can dominate on both sides of the disc (I would say once again that it's easier to manipulate star power on offense)
  • People voting No seem to be of the mindset that greater depth indeed carries the day. This becomes more evident at the end of the tournament, and more importantly at the end of a long summer/fall.
Long story short, People should strive to stack their team with stars who compliment one another, and bolster their roster with plenty of depth to lower risk against injury.

If I have to pick stars versus depth, I'll take ultimate's version of KG/Allen/Pierce and go for broke.

Team Canada Tryout Info- Update

Nation,

Received a friendly note from the executive director of the Canadian Ultimate Players Association (Danny Saunders).

The tryout information for all team except junior men and women's teams. Please see the following link for more info.

Team Canada Worlds 2008

If you think you're worlds worthy, get your applications in!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Team Canada Tryout Info

Nation,

I was asked to post this. It's directly from the CUPA site.


Team Canada 2008

The 2008 World Ultimate & Guts Championships are set to take place from August 2-9, 2008 in Vancouver, B.C. Canada will be sending a team to participate in each of the 6 divisions: Open, Women's, Mixed, Masters, Junior Open & Junior Women's. The core of each national team (except for the junior's division) will be the 2007 CUC champion for the respective division. Each team will be selecting additional players from across the country to add to their roster. Below is application information for each of the national teams.

Open Division: 2007 Champion Furious George

Furious George has now begun the process of selecting the team that will compete for gold in the Open division at next year's World Championships in Vancouver. If you are interested in playing on the team and you feel that you can be an important contributor then we would like you to apply as soon as possible and no later than Dec 31, 2007. You would be expected to travel to at least two tournaments on the west coast. Please send an email to furious@canadianultimate.com , telling us your:
  • Strengths as a player (what are you going to contribute to the team)
  • Experience (who you've played for and how long, please no mention of city league teams)
  • References (who can speak to your abilities and attitudes)
  • Age
  • Height
  • Commitment level/availability
  • Contact info

Mixed Division: 2007 Champion TFP

The application for the 2008 Mixed team is now available online. The deadline to apply is December 1st, 2007. 2007 Mixed Team Application

Masters Division: 2007 Champion Tombstone.

Tombstone, a Toronto masters team, was fortunate enough to win the Canadian bid to worlds which will be held August 3-9, 2008 in Vancouver, B.C.
We are seeking interested players from across Canada to join a core of Tombstone players at Worlds 2008. The main criteria for selection will be past "big game" experience and athletic ability. The qualification for the Masters division at Worlds 2008 is that a player must be at least 33 years of age by December 31, 2008.
Interested candidates should submit an email to list@turnerlist.com with a brief playing history, including teams to which the player has belonged and the tournament results of those teams. The email should also include a physical description (height, weight) and a general description of the role the player feels he could fill as well as a description of the players "Ultimate assets".
Interested candidates must submit a resume on or before December 1, 2008 in order to be considered for a spot on the Canadian Masters 2008 worlds team.
We look forward to hearing from you,
Selection Committee - The Canadian Masters 2008 Team

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Ultimate- Team Game or Game of Stars

Nation,

A quick discussion and poll question on an aspect of team composition in ultimate. First, let me give you a non-ultimate example:

It's the summer of 2007. The Boston Celtics, a once great franchise, are coming off a season where they compiled the second worst record in the NBA (24-58). A once great franchise is in trouble, leading the Celtics make two major trades to acquire future Hall of Famers Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett. They trade almost their entire roster along with future draft picks to nab these two players. Pre season critics point out the fact that despite Boston now having the best 1-2-3 (Garnett, Pierce, and Allen) punch in the league, the big 3 have almost no one to play with. The Celtic management clearly went for a high risk/high reward rebuilding option. (For analysis of Kevin Garnett and his departure effect on his old team, see here)


So far, this high risk strategy has worked. Boston has started the season 11-2, lead by the approx. 60 pts/game these three players score. The Celtics have much less depth than last year, but attributing more salary to the top of the depth chart has produced much better start.

Can we say putting all of your salary cap money at the top of your depth chart lead to more success in the NBA? No, because there are very few Garnetts, Pierces and Allens out there. However, this example has lead me to ask the question:

Does an Ultimate team with several elite players outperform teams with greater depth?

If these hypothetical teams squared off 10 times, how many times would each team win? Ultimate doesn't have a salary cap, has more players on the field and is a different game. However, is it a game where one or several players can control the game, or does the team with greater depth/ overall talent have an edge?

My opinion is this:
  • I think that Ultimate is more like basketball than football. I think one or several elite players can make a difference
  • I think that it is on offence that these elite players can make the greatest significant difference
  • I think on defence, depth based teams will most likely enjoy an advantage.
  • I think a team that relies on a few elite players only succeeds when the stars complement each other. (E.g. Three great handlers versus Great Handler, Great Cutter, Great Striker)
  • I think when you can combine greater depth with greater elite talent, you get the New England Patriots of 2007. You also get Furious of the past decade in Canada, and so on.
Let me know what you think.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Talking With Trainor- Andrew Lugsdin

Nation,

Few players have dominated the country's Open division like Andrew Lugsdin:

  • 3 UPA titles as a captain on Furious George
  • World Championship Gold and represented Canada on many occasions
  • National Championships with Furious George, WaX, and Nomads
This is just a few of the things he's done. For two decades, he's been a elite player on the elite team in the nation. He's a lock for the Ottawa Ultimate hall of Fame for his early career exploits in Ottawa. He's also seen as one of the best captains and leaders in the game.

By popular demand, here's an interview with Andrew. Many questions, many good answers.

How was the name Furious George created? Who is to be given credi
t?
This was before my time here so I don't really know the details. The team was formed in '95 when Vertigogh (the old guys) and Evil Genius (the young guys) combined. I heard that they had a team vote on the final two names and the other name won. However, Khai Foo was the one responsible for getting the team jerseys made and he vetoed the group and had them made as Furious George. Khai is the one who created the logo. He's a great artist here in Vancouver.

Who/What brought you into the sport?

A buddy of mine, Dan Nichols, formed a team in the Ottawa City league without telling any of us. None of us had heard of the sport before but he registered the team and so we were commited to playing. That was the very beginning but I probably got more interested in the game at McGill University where Steve and Eileen Wright were very welcoming to new players and they exposed us to a higher level of play.

What's your strongest asset as a player?

I think my strongest asset is my competitive nature. I like to compete and to win. Team sports have lots of different dynamics going on and players who focus on the outcome and not how they look while doing it tend to be more successful from my perspective.

What's your strongest asset as a leader? Do you feel comfortable being dubbed as a great leader?

I don't really think of myself as a great, or a not-great, leader so it's not something that creates any discomfort. It's just not something that crosses my mind. I think of myself as fulfilling a role on the team and it happens to a leadership role, no more or less important, than any other role on the team. If the team thinks that it will do better with someone else in the leadership role then I would happily change to another role. A team having good leadership is about having both a good leader(s) and good followers. If you don't have people that will support the direction that the leadership is pointing the team in, the team won't be successful. On Furious, we've been lucky that we've had an excellent crew of guys that think of what is best for the team ahead of themselves. In terms of how I lead, I focus on putting the team first and leading by example. After that, I just let my passion for the game and our team guide me.


Many of today's players might not know you were leading Ottawa teams to national titles before you days with the Monkey? What are some of your favorite moments as an Ottawa player? Who are some of your favorite teammates?

Yeah, the Ottawa days are a little while ago now. I remember my Ottawa days very fondly. I think everyone remembers the early days as something special and it's the same for me. I didn't really know anything about the game then but we loved to play. We had a bunch of young guys come up at the same time who were hungry to get better and every practice was so intense. The veteran guys - Phil Rodger, Jamie Wildgen, Cliff Youdale, Dave Pelletier, Rob Bohnen - were a hilarious group of guys so there were lots of good times and banter between the old and and the new. We actually got together two summers ago at the Ottawa No Borders tournament. We had guys come from coast to coast in Canada, from Austrailia and from San Diego. About five minutes into the tournament, it felt like old times (other than our play), same old jokes going round.

Pictured: WaX @ the 2006 No Borders Tournament (Photo: Mike Reade)


Which national title meant the most to you?

The first Canadian national title that we won as Ottawa waX in '93 against Vancouver is definitely the most special to me. It was a close game and we had come so far in two years to beat teams that had spanked us in the past. Winning the first of anything is always great validation of a belief that you have and will always remain special.


Which UPA title meant the most to you?

Again, the first time we won UPA's in 2002 was an incredible feeling. It was a dream that a few of us especially had been building towards for a number of years. We had lost so many players from the year before, over half of our 14 starters were gone, that it was a rebuilding year in many senses. To have so many guys step into bigger roles than they ever had before and to win against the best teams in world was great. The semis that we played in against Boston that year, where we made only 2 turnovers all game, also made winning that year pretty incredible.


Who are the best players that you have played against/with? Can you identify one player over the years that deserves to be called the best?

I have played with some incredible players over the years, true champions in my opinion, guys like Albob Nichols, Jeff Cruickshank, Evan Wood, Kirk Savage, young studs like Oscar Pottinger and Derek Alexander, amongst many others. I have been teammates with guys who play in less visible roles but who are so dedicated; these "grinders" form the foundation of successful teams. I've played with Biff (John Frame) since '92 (other than a couple of years where he played with the Boulder guys) and I have so much respect for what he contributes to the team. I've also had the opportunity to play against some great players. The ones that come to mind for me are the ones that I play against most often.

Recently, that's been guys like Nord and Chase because we've played so many big games against Sockeye over the last 5 years and I end up matched up against them so often. Those two guys play the game hard and are so good that it makes me push myself to try to best them and really that's what sport is about. That's why such respect develops between players because while we're competing to crush each other, without each other
to compete against, ultimate is kinda meaningless at the top level. I think it's really difficult to identify a single best player because there are so many great players in the game who contribute so much to their teams and there are so many critical aspects of the sport (great throwers vs. great receivers vs. great defenders) that it is very difficult to weigh the value of one person's strengths vs another's strengths.

However, if I get one player that if I had to build a team around it would be Mike Grant (pictured). Perhaps, I'm biased because I see him at practice all of the time but he's worked so damn hard to make himself the player that he is, and continues to work so hard, and he puts the team first at all times. These are things that I have great respect for and with the great talent that he has, it makes him a great player.


What are your thoughts on the 2007 UPA finals?

First, that it's always better to play in them than to watch them. I remember thinking when I got to the fields and noticed that the wind had picked up, I felt that the conditions would favour Sockeye as their offense has lots of quick, short passes as opposed to Bravo's offense which looks for the big huck more often. However, for the first 2/3 of the game, Bravo seemed to have no problem with the wind. The second half turned on a few big points, as it almost always does, that Sockeye swung in their favour. I thought Bravo played a very good game and had a great tournament and I think Sockeye is a very deserving champion, definitely the strongest team in the game right now.


Do you think Furious's absence from numerous national championships in recent years has been good or bad for Canadian ultimate?
It's probably not been a great effect but I don't really see it as that damaging either. The unfortunate reality is that for a number of years, there was a real discrepenacy between Furious and the rest of the country. This has left most of the players on Furious not very interested in atttending Canadian nationals when it means travel dollars and vacation time at the expense of some other tournament. I remember when it really become an issue for players. At '97 Canadian nationals, Furious played the 3rd Vancouver team in the semis and the 2nd Vancouver team in the finals. After that, it was impossible for the players to value the tournament very much. Fortunately, that is changing now, particularly with GOAT becoming a much stronger team over the last few years.

Who will lead Furious in 5 years? Can you see the young players being able to perform at the same level?

I think there is some good leadership potential amongst the young guys. Oscar (Pottinger, Pictured), in particular, I think will be one of the key leaders on the team. He already has the respect of all of his teammates and is everything that you want in a great leader. Will the young guys perform at the same level as what we've achieved in the past is an open question in my opinion. Certainly, I hope so. However, we just had our worst season in over a decade and a big part of that is because we are gradually losing part of the core group that has made us successful in the past and the remaining part of the core is getting older. If Furious is to rebound next year, there will have to be a number of young guys who step up and want to be the guys to get the job done when the game is on the line.


Comment on the state of Open ultimate in Calgary, Toronto, Ottawa, Winnipeg, Montreal, and other parts of Canada. Which programs do you see as emerging rivals, if any?

I think Canadian Open ultimate continues to get better. Of course it has to if it wants to compete internationally because everyone else is getting better. The US teams get better, the Japanese, the Australians, etc. For me, it's been exciting to see GOAT have such a successful year. They've been building over the last few years and this year is a result of all of that work. They're a young team that should continue to get better over the next few years. The other two cities that caught my attention at nationals this year were Winnipeg and Montreal. Winnipeg has a bunch of young players that play so well fundamentally. Rarely do you see a young team that is so clearly pointed in the right direction, usually there's a lot more chaos going on. Their challenge will be to continue to develop more talent to grow with the existing base that they have.

The top two Montreal teams surprised me with the number of
talented individuals that they both have. If they could get on the same page and get behind some strong leadership then I think you would see a team that could become really good over the next two years.

What does Furious do for off season training?

We don't really do anything as a team for off season training, everyone kind of does their own thing and I think that shows in how we start our season. We have an older team now that struggles to balance ultimate against other life priorities and every year we seem a little less prepared physically to challenge to be the best team in the world. About the only thing we do as a group (other than poker and beer) in the offseason is some of us play goaltimate on the weekends. Maybe we should start something more formal this year.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Leadership- Poll Results

Nation,

Well, the voters have spoken with regards to the Canadian Open Leadership question. A resounding number of you think that GOAT and Furious have the best leadership in Canada. Mephisto comes a DISTANT 3rd.

My thoughts on this result
  • I can understand how the leaders on GOAT and Furious are looked on so favorably.
However

  • I wonder if people mistake team talent and performance with leadership. Being at the helm of a great team and exacting victory over teams you should beat IS NOT leadership. That is management. Please see the Cito Gaston picture. There is a reason why he won two titles but never found work after. I do give the man credit for turning an "interim job" into a ten year gig.

  • I wonder if the smaller teams/cities in this country should have gotten a bit more support in the poll. There has to be some leadership in the Mangina ranks, and General Strike is getting some great performances out of their team. Red Circus is another team that had leadership and played beyond what others thought at Nationals
  • How did EMU get a vote?
I think the next few years in Canadian ultimate is going to be interesting to watch. Due to the large differences in talent pools in cities throughout Canada, I think it is possible that the second teams from Vancouver (already there) Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa will soon be beating the A teams from Regina, Winnipeg, Halifax and so on. Before I get flamed royally Luker A-Lurker Z, let me say why

-Way larger talent pool
-Youth Programs
-Training regimens and access to facilities
-People move to big cities, and away from small ones
-Sooner of later the leadership in the big cities will get it right for long enough to develop programs. It's already happening.
-We see the same pattern in most "serious" sports.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Foolish Dreams

You have probably heard about Petro Canada's
contest that is rewarding one of four "fringe sports the chance to pitch their sport to the Canadian Olympic Committee for "Olympic consideration".

https://www.iwilldreambig.ca/

My take?

I think it's silly. Don't bother voting.

Here are my reasons
-The COC has as much pull in Olympic sports as I do.
-Petro Canada is a corporation. This is a marketing strategy. They are capitalizing on the desires of fringe sport athlete.

Our game has a lot of issues to deal with before we can be considered for a sport. World wide exposure, on field issues (Refs, rules, etc) and off field issues (governing bodies) need to be addressed. That's the gist of the take I got when discussing the matter with former IOC vice president Richard 'Dick" Pound. If his son had not been an Ultimate stalwart on the Canadian scene for more than a decade, he might have been as dismissive as the other IOC/Olympic officials I have spoken to.

Sports are big business. The Olympics are a political amazon with billions of dollars at stake. We need to come a long way before we can start talking seriously about the possibility.


I love the game. The game is good. It's not just about the game though... and we must remember that.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Which team has the best leadership in Canada?

Nation,

We are in somewhat of an off season for competitive ultimate (there is really no off season for players that dedicate themselves seriously to this game). That means there is much more time to talk about the game, in between people working at their real jobs and doing off season training.

Leadership is defined as:
'the lifting of people’s vision to a higher sight, the raising of their performance to a higher standard, the building of their personality beyond its normal limitations’ (Drucker, 1985).

What's the difference between being a leader and being a manager? In layman terms, it's this- A manager relies on power/status or coercion to accomplish tasks/goals, and a leader does not. These two terms are not mutually exclusive, but they definitely do not mean the same thing. You don't run through walls for a manager. You don't reach levels you couldn't fathom without true leadership.

Leadership is in short supply everywhere in the world. Lots of posers, few legitimate people that can stand the test of time and excel at all the major areas of being a leader (Credibility, Vision, Communication, Passion, and Charisma) . Canadian ultimate is not exempt from a leadership void, and needs leaders in the CUPA office, and in all of the major cities.

However, I have seen some examples of leadership with playing the last few years. The very fact that captains of our national level teams can get 20 plus guys to practice/travel so much and wreck their bodies for a game with no money and limited "glory" is incredible. Some players, like Andrew Lugsdin, lead by example and give excellent speeches to motivate their troops in key games.

So.... my poll question is

Which team/city has the best leadership in Canada? Who are the leaders? What do they do well? Does a team have to be a winner to validate great leadership (I find it definitely helps the untrained eye to label someone as a leader)?



Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Goosebowl 2007 Recap

Nation,

As requested here's a recap of the Goosebowl tournament in Kingston this past weekend.

The Weather
  • Crap on day one. Wet with A LOT of wind
  • Much better on day two. Sun, a little wind, typical fall day for this region.
The Teams
  • A much smaller tournament this year, down to 16 teams from the regular 42-50 teams.
  • It was really weird to play Goosebowl and see open fields.
  • Costumes on the field were much less apparent then in past years.
  • The quality of ultimate depended on the teams and the games. There were wind alerts for the region on The Weather Network, so as one can imagine handler heavy teams had an advantage on Saturday.
The Party
  • Surprisingly awesome.
  • Many great costumes
    • John Haig and his brother rocking a Don Cherry/Ron Maclean look
    • Many Richie Tenenbaum costumes, including yours truly
    • J-Lo in a full on Cheerleader outfit... J Lo rocked the dance floor, enjoying his outfit far too much. :)
    • Pope Benedict made an appearance
    • Your usual plethora of guys dressing as girls, and women going in either the glamour or hooch avenues.
    • Dance Floor Idol of the night was the Exotic Estonian, Ms Vail. Moves upon moves.. just give the woman space and watch out.
The Results
  • Above the Law of Ottawa/Etc won the tournament with a 15-7 finals win, easily disposing of Bucketfish (Peterborough) and Slick Mittz (Barrie) in the quarters and semis respectively.
  • Les Bouettes lost in the final. The won both their quarterfinal and semi final on universe point. This Montreal team was surprisingly intense and focused on the ultimate and not the party. The 80's all stars are mumbling somewhere.
  • 3rd place was to be fought between Martha's Downstairs Kitchen (Toronto) and Slick Mittz of Barrie. Mittz were a summer junior team that made it to semis, showing some impressive skills from both their women and men. Curtis Kile and Pam Chadbourn should be commended for their work in Barrie with the juniors program.
  • Other top 8 teams included MUPH, Tabasco, and Bucketfish
  • MUPH had to be disappointed with their Sunday, after looking so impressive in their Saturday games and coming in as the #2 seed. This team, made mostly of former/current Guelph University players, were tripped up in the quarters. Those are the breaks.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

UPA Finals Recap...

Nation,

Just like the Canadian Nationals, the West was best at UPA finals this past weekend. In both country's national tournaments, only the masters division saw an Eastern champion.

OPEN

Seattle's Sockeye won their second straight title, and 3rd in 4 years. They defeated Boulder's best (Johnny Bravo) 15-13 in the final.

GOAT from Toronto/Ottawa reached new heights and answered many critics with a fabulous tournament. They tied for 3rd with JAM. Both of these teams gave great challenges to their semi final opponents, but came up a little short this year.

Furious went undefeated on both Friday and Saturday, finishing 9th. It really says a lot of Furious and their leadership that they could rebound and refocus from an 0-3 day one to win out and finish as high as they possibly could. They should be commended for that, and there is no reason to think that they will be ready for Worlds 2008 and UPA glory next year.

Women's

Fury won the women's title again in convincing fashion, 15-5 over Riot of Seattle. The team's plus/minus in the goals for/goals against was +83. As the years go by, we will probably look back to this tournament as an example of a team that was truly dominant in their division.

Capitals from Ottawa/Toronto finished 5th. They lost in the quarters to runner up Riot by a score of 15-5, but then kept the intensity to finish strong. They beat Zeitgeist for the first time all season, taking their match 12-10. They then beat Backhoe 11-10 to claim the five spot.

Much like our Canadian men, our women should be proud of their results. Had they not had the misfortune of being kicked out of Friday power pools despite a 2-1 day one record, they most likely would have had a better quarterfinal spot and a chance to go higher than 5th.

Mixed

Shazam Returns capped off a nearly perfect season with a UPA crown. Suffering only two losses all season (One to Rival in this tourney), they won 15-8 over Boston's Slow White in the finals.

Of note, the number 1, 3, 4, and 5 pre tourney seeds made the semi finals. Every division director hopes for that kind of consistency!

Masters

Death or Glory. It's not just about the brand name and the sweet logo.

Death or Glory added another national crown to their trophy case, this time in the masters division with a win over Surly (Minnesota, pre ranked #7) in the finals.

Looking at the scores, DoG survived many tough games, winning many games by two points or less. I think it may be time to get a debrief from Jimmy P.

Friday, October 26, 2007

UPA Finals Update- Day 2 Recap

Nation,

Quick update before a little shut eye. Making the trip to Kingston for Goosebowl early tomorrow.

Bets of luck on day 3!

OPEN

Reason to celebrate and reason to be disappointed if your a Canadian ultimate fan today.

GOAT, whose great season has been largely discounted on many UPA finals hype threads, had another solid day Friday. They lose 15-7 to Johnny Bravo (of Boulder , Colorado), but then take care of the legendary Condors of Santa Barbara 15-10. With this win, Goat moves on to Quarters against Chain Lightning of Atlanta. Thus, the Toronto/Ottawa squad has a realistic shot of making semis, and going further in this tournament than they have every done.

3 time UPA and defending World Champion Furious George looked to rebound from a dismal 0-3 day one. They needed to win both of their games and hope for a bit of luck/fate to get a crossover opportunity for quarters. They did their part, beating Rhino 15-1o and Pike 15-11. Unfortunately, the carry over loss from day one left them in a three way 2-1 tie from Rhino and Truck Stop, and Truck Stop advanced on a tie breaker. Furious is now out of the running for the title and will compete for 9th.

Here is how the Open Quarters shape up
  • Johnny Bravo versus Boston Ultimate
  • Chain Lightning versus GOAT
  • Sockeye versus Truck Stop
  • JAM versus Sub Zero
Women's

Bounced out of the power pools, the Capitals of Ottawa/Toronto looked to bounce back and get into the quarters in back door fashion.

Starting the day 1-0, Capitals defeated MOJO 15-8 and then shot the Loose Cannon team 15-4 to finish 3-0 and have a shot at making quarters. Down early to San Diego's Safari, the Capitals came back to win 14-12.

Coming back from weak pool relegation, the Capitals find themselves in the quarter-finals against Riot. This will be a daunting task.

The quarters look like this:
  • Fury versus Backhoe
  • Lady Godiva versus Ozone
  • Riot versus Ozone
  • Brute Squad versus Zeitgeist
Given the scores, Fury and Riot look like the absolute class of the division, and anything less than a matchup between these two teams would be a surprise.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Random Thoughts on UPA Finals and the Fourm Posting

-I think picking who is going to win this year in most divisions (except Women's) is a crapshoot. It makes for entertaining ultimate.

-How can there be so many passionate predictions on Ultimate forums? We have zero stats in this sport except win/loss records. Maybe it's the Masters in Sports Management making me a jerk, but how are people writing these predictions/explanations. It's just recycled cliches and myths.

-I think there is way too much mean spirited slagging and coarse language on rec.sport.disc. It's taking over the forums. I love clever quips like the ones found in the CDN Nats preview.. those are gold and everyone can laugh at.

-I think a post after UPA finals should be a discussion on whether Ultimate at the highest level is won by team depth, or by a small group of dominate players.

-For a long time, I have wondered if Furious could win without one of the big guys (Cruickshank, Lugsdin, Grant) being healthy. I wonder if today's 0-3 performance is a signal of things to come, or if it's a blip on the radar.

-I think the Iowa teams have great names.

UPA Finals Update- Day One

Nation,

Just a quick update on the Canadian teams. You can see the complete Results for each division by clicking on the respective link.

Open

Goat has a great day (2-1), taking care of Ring of Fire and The Van Buren Boys. They lose badly to JAM, but ensure a spot in the power pools for Friday. D line player Colin Green reports that he and his GOAT teammates are looking forward to tomorrow's games.

Furious has a surprising 0-3 day, as the last seed in their pool goes 3-0 and takes first in the reseed. I have no idea what happened to our favorite monkeys. Some people are saying on rec.sport.disc that Mike Grant is injured. Others point out to a consistently inconsistent seasons as the foreshadowing of this kind of performance. Scobel Wiggins Photography

Women's

The Capitals of Toronto and Ottawa went 2-1 on day one. They beat Lady Godiva and Box, and lost to Zeitgeist. Good enough to hold seed and move into the power pools right?

Wrong.

Lady Godiva, the same team that offered virtually no competition to the Capitals (losing 15-5 to the Caps) at their own Boston Invite tournament this June, beats the top seed in the pool (Zeitgeist) 16-14 to steal a power pool spot from Capitals. Looks like the storied team from Boston is still a team to be respected.

So, the Capitals must now win at least two games on Friday to get a cross over opportunity. If they win the crossover, they will play the top team from Power Pool E. That means Fury in all likelihood stands between them and semis.

Best of luck to the ladies.