Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Trainor Teaches: The Basics of Team Strategy


One of the best things about coaching or captaining a team in any sport is formulating a strategy and seeing it realized into a victory. Personally, some of my best moments as a captain in ultimate have been defeating much more highly touted and experienced teams (at different levels) with a well thought out game plan. That undergrad business degree with a major focus in strategic management is useful at times.

I, like so many others, also love the role of Monday morning quarterback in many sports. We all seem to be able to detect what to do after the fact. Jacksonville should have rushed New England more. San Diego should have gone for it on first down. Dallas and Green Bay should have gone with more run and short pass plays. More often than not, the people I converse with know their sports and their assessments are very good.
Suttron Versus Scott "Beast" Stinson
Photo Source: Ultypics.com

The difference between those that do and those that watch is simple: Knowledge of the basics of strategy. Not just one way, or end results, but a through grasp of overall strategy.

There are many ways to win in Ultimate. Outrun. Outplan. Outthrow. I think teams on the cusp of National, UPA and Worlds contention have to do a lot more on the strategy side to compete with the Sockeye and Furious of this world. "Playing Your Game" and "Just focusing on ourselves" doesn't quite cut it.

Thanks to the teachings of Dr Eric Buckholz, I can offer up a little primer of the 4 major blocks of strategy:
  • GO (with your strengths)
  • DENY(the strengths of others)
Before I explain each, it should be noted that EXPLOIT and PREVENT are often complimentary to each other.

GO (with your strengths)
  • Under this strategy, you get to use your strengths and talents
  • Usually accompanied with confidence (You're focused on what you do well)
  • You force the opposition to be reactive, and not proactive
  • Ignores the enemy gameplan
  • Enemey might be able to easy defeat your strength
  • Relies on ability to control game to use your strength. No control =no strength
  • The enemy is looking for it
Best to use on Offence or Defence?
  • Offence, because defence is more reactionary in nature
DENY(the strengths of others)
  • Use prior knowledge to your advantage
  • Prepare team to use strengths to deny
  • control of the game/ frustrate usual strength of opponent
  • Focus on opponent makes you unpredictable
  • Overcome talent difference
  • Might not work if enemy changes plan before or during the game
  • Despite your efforts, you might be unable to stop your opposition
  • Does not focus on your strengths
Best to use on O or D?
  • Usually a defensive strategy, reactive in nature
  • You could use on Offence, with regards to killing the clock
  • Psychological factors ( positive for your team, negative for opponents)
  • Plays the percentages (High chance of success)
  • Usually allows one to use their own strength
  • Takes advantage of good scouting and research
  • May not have great strength in the area you need to exploit
  • May open up your own weaknesses
  • Does not consider counter plans or surprises
Best on O or D?
  • Offence
  • Offence allows you more control in most sports, and allows you to better engage in exploit tactics
  • Reduces unforced errors
  • Easier to limit enemy gains
  • At times has the element of surprise
  • Great strategy for late in games with time limits
  • Might very well limit your strengths
  • You might not be able to stop your enemy, and lose valuable time in the process
  • Can change team/player performance in a negative way
  • This strategy still allows the opposition to make plays
Best on O or D?
  • Can be easily used for both. It's a low risk strategy that is effective in games with finite time limits.
  • Especially effective near the end of games

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