Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Practice: Some Rough Numbers


I've been trying to agitate some of my readers in previous posts regarding whether or not A and B teams in a city should practice together. Breaking conventional wisdom is hard.

Here's a quote that really caught my attention

"Practice Time is Limited"

Strong statement, let's try and look at the rough numbers.. Over the course of the year, you probably practice as follows:

6 months * two practices a week* 4.3 weeks per month* 2 full hours of practice minimum = 103.2 hours of practice for the average frisbee team.

Then add the offseason sessions: 4 months of one practice a week, 2 hours per practice= 34.4 hours of practice..

So, your average team spends 103.2 + 34.4 hours of practice time during one year.. about 137.6 hours of practice time.
137.6 hours is a lot of time. You have time for a lot of integration. In fact, with 137.6 hours of practice time, the issue might be complacency more than getting specific team plans rolled out and mastered.

With proper attendance (which should be a given) you really have no excuses about a lack of practice time. Oh... that's right.. practice attendance is always an issue for "elite" teams in ultimate.

So, how many hours of the practice time you spent with your team was efficiently used, in your opinion? See the poll on the right?


Jeff said...

from this discussion, toronto will next year be having combined practices with goat, gt, roy, and especially dirt. if you think that's ludicrous, then you agree there is a limit to the number of people / varied skill at practice that maximizes efficiency. explain why 60 is a better number than 30, considering 30 allows for 3 lines of people (1 O, 2 D = 21 people) as well as 9 players who can fill roles or be groomed for future years.

however, toronto recognizes that it helps for less experienced people to get some decent experience at higher levels, and so it runs their "may goat league" yearly, which is about 3-4 practices and a tournament combined with goat, GT, and some players on the cusp of making GT. It has been a very rewarding time, and from experience more than the 3-4 practices starts to become a waste - and to steal your word, the players on the top team become a little complacent - which is where i base my opinion that combined practices with the top 2 teams would be a mistake.

finally, consider phoenix/OJ (men only) combining for practices instead of phoenix/firebird. Still a good idea? They are the future of Ottawa men's ultimate, no?

jhaig said...

I just want to preface by re-stating that I think that integration is important. Ottawa has combined for some of our practices for 2 seasons now, Toronto runs their GOAT league to start the season, and I believe Montreal had a greater focus on their B team this year as well.

I still think that you are selling short the importance of practicing within smaller groups that are more concentrated in their skill level.

It is important year to year for everyone from top to bottom on your team to improve. Obviously integrated practices are very helpful to B team players because it gives them a chance to learn from the more experienced players. Now this isn't to say that the more experienced players can't get anything out of teaching newer players but there are skills and experiences that are going to require playing at a very high level. A level that isn't available through combined practices.

Taylor said...

Just reposting this from the previous thread...

I'm going to state the obvious and say that it's not just black and white here. Joint practices are very important for the development of a system. a) it exposes players to a higher level and they are forced to raise their game and b) it's inspirational. These may seem similar, but I make the distinction that b) has a more lasting effect.

However, joint practices are not necessarily the best thing for the A team in the short term. The dilution brings down the level and intensity of drills to some degree. More importantly, it is harder to build team chemistry with twice as many people.

I would suggest that integrated practices be less frequent (1 in 4 MAX I would say). Ultimate is not a sport where you learn by instruction. The captain does not go around to everyone on the team to correct their throwing form. Instead, you learn by watching the top players and then implementing certain aspects into your game/form and doing it over and over. This implementation can happen during separate practices, while the A team works on their own thing without being slowed down. As I said, the inspiration that comes from playing with the best guys is huge and lasts at least a few practices.

Sport Management Steven said...

Jeff ? and Haig,

I never said every A B, C, and D team should practice together 100% of the time. Much like you're not saying every team should be segregated every second of the season. Please don't try to run with my points to make inferences that are silly. It kills the usefulness of the debate.

One of the points you and Haig seem to be making is that there is a clear difference between an A and B team. Yes? Really, outside the top ten players on a token A team and the bottom B team, the difference might not be that much between A and B players. So why can't there be a lot of integration.

And in terms of the juniors, you bring up a good point. I don't think GOAT should be scrimmaging every day with 5'5 juniors who wonder when puberty will kick in. However, open teams should definitely try to have a little more interaction with the food chain that they rely on. Our local high school and juniors program have teachings and coaching that are completely separate from the open program. With a little effort, you can better control and assist player development before they are open age.

jhaig said...

Well then who are you writing about? Ottawa and Toronto both have much higher levels of integration then they used to. Both I'm sure have tried to figure out what the right balance is for the amount of integration that is required. Both cities have taken different, but equally interresting and valid approaches to this, and it seems to be working. Admitedly, I don't know as much about Montreal, but I remember Mephisto players playing with Demon at early season tournaments, so I would guess they had some practice time together as well.

The only other city in the country with multiple competitive teams is Vancouver, and they seem to be doing alright for themselves.

So when you come and tell us that teams should be using better, or more A and B team integration it will be assumed that you are implying that Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver are doing a bad job of it. (This is a blog about Canadian Ultimate?)

If your post were from 2005 I could see where you were comming from, but over the course of the past 3 years most big cities seem to have already headed where you think they should be. So the my question would be: when, and how often should programs practice together?

Taylor said...

This whole discussion stemmed from this statement:

“If you won't practice with b teamers because it "affects the level of play", you're clearly short sighted and elitist.”

I appreciate that you're trying to stir the pot:

"I've been trying to agitate some of my readers in previous posts regarding whether or not A and B teams in a city should practice together. Breaking conventional wisdom is hard."

“I was way too over the top with the comment. I just wanted someone to take the bait.”

I’m not complaining because I’m used to it in your articles. Just don’t be surprised when someone misinterprets your opinion. As Haig has asked, what are your thoughts on an ideal integration system?

JC said...

Ok – you did it Steve, you finally enticed me to bite on this topic…..

I agree largely with the positions of Haig and Taylor on this issue.

The reason you have these differences of opinion is because it clearly depends on your individual perspective. From a “B-team” player perspective, maximizing integration is ideal for many personal and team developmental reasons that you and Taylor have already enumerated – succinctly – playing against better players/systems is the best way to make you better and this exposure is a motivating experience.

However, the same holds from an “A-team” player perspective – they have as much need and desire to improve as the B-team players and clearly the best environment for them to do that is to play with and against players that challenge them the most – i.e. – one another.

This is why every organized, developed sport has different levels of play (i.e. minor hockey (Competitive, House league, etc.) - to provide a streamed environment that best fits the goals and skillsets of the respective players.

Let’s not use the term “Elite” – it is way over used in reference to Ultimate teams. But, if your program is mature enough to have A and B teams, then the goal of the A team must be to excel and goal of the B team should be to provide an environment that allows players to develop to where they one day contribute to the A team excelling.

From a program perspective, the goal is to create a system whereby you first maximize the opportunity for the A team to excel, while secondly fostering a development pipeline with the B team. It seems to me that a 3:1 or 5:1 ratio of non-integrated practices to integrated practices combined with an open opportunity to move guys between teams based on performance is the ideal formula for this.

As for your suggestion that there is typically little to no difference between the abilities of “A” team players and “B” team players, thus supporting your theory for maximizing integrated practice time….I completely reject your premise. This may indeed be the case at the University level in Canada (something I am not familiar with) – but at the Club level in Canada this is simply not at all true.

Naturally, your personal position on this topic will have been shaped by your own experiences, as is my own. But, from a philosophical standpoint, this discussion sounds more and more like a socialist vs. capitalist debate with every click of the keyboard. On this topic Sports Management Steve, you are sounding more and more socialist – not what I expected from you :)…..

In summary – opportunities for movement between teams and limited practice integration are excellent strategies to maximize performance of the A team and provide development platform for B team – integrating too much will just gradually pull the overall talent level to the statistical mean…..which is not sufficient to excel.

Pierre-Paul Champagne said...

I play all my career in B teams (Magma and Les Bouettes (mixte)). I saw a lot of players improving, going from poor competitive player to good or pretty good competitive player. From my point of view, the biggest contribution that a A team could provide to B team players is to teach them intensity (during the drills) and commitment to the game.

The technical aspect can be teach by only 2 or 3 experience players who are good to transmit there knowledge.Honestly, I don't think the needs for A teams and B teams players are the same on the technical aspect.

So, I think A team should pratice with B team only during basic throwing and cutting drills (one drill or two by pratice and maybe a little bit of scrimmage). After that, 2-3 A teams players could lead the rest of the pratice (but they must be good teacher). This way, B team players could continue their development whitout compromising the development of A team players.

Sorry for the bad spelling, I'm francophone...


Druski said...

Steve, good posts of late (good to have you back in the blogosphere)... by stirring the pot, I think a lot of the relevant questions (and some of the answers?) are coming up in the discussion. I think the relevant one here is as Taylor's question "...what are your thoughts on an ideal integration system?"

The question has more breadth than some suppose. Clearly Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Vancouver have multiple and to varying degrees integrated (open) programs. A few of these have also had integrated/tiered Womens, Mixed, and Juniors programs. However several other cities are probably on the verge of this (Winnipeg, Calgary, and a few Ontario and Quebec communities... I may be missing some). These cities have players coming up from league play, high school, or university play but not always ready to crack the 'elite' team in the city. A good strategy for program integration would help the development of second programs in these cities, and make the 'elite' program more stable with consistent player development and advancement.

Sport Management Steven said...

Let me try to respond to some of the valuable input from the last posts.

-The original statement/post about the need for integration was in relation to cities that have two open teams and are not integrated. A poster from the west asked me about integration and my thoughts. Everyone tends to think I'm talking about my home program or your program.

-I try to not think of the integration concept as a player, but as a person assigned to bring a upa title to a city. If I'm in that position, what steps do I take and how do I structure my program.

-As for my opinion on the ideal integration system, I have to say that's a very tough question. You can't have a blanket solution that applies in every city. Much like economic policy in one country may not work in another. However, if I had to throw a bone.. I would say for a 60 person program

-Off season practices= full integration
-Summer practices warm ups and drills full integrated
-Summer Scrimmages integrated approx 25% or more of the time, not before the key tournaments (nats, upas, etc)

-Mr Champagne and Taylor pointed out that A team player's biggest impact is intensity. and not form or skills. I disagree. I really think that's another topic that we should discuss. Excellent throwers should be charged with watching and coaching the throws of teammates. Much like every other skill. Allowing people to figure out on their own really delays the talent curve. It's also why people play ten years and never figure stuff out.

jhaig said...

Fair enough. I agree mostly with your suggested integration. I do disagree that all off season practices should be integrated. The offseason is the best time to improve for any player and I think there are very valuable parts of this improvement that your top players will miss out on in your scenario.

moses said...

Hey Steve - I asked the original question but just finally read this conversation thread today and wanted to say thanks for getting a conversation going on this. And thanks too to all of you guys who have posted comments.

Preacher said...

Ok, I'll finally leave my mark on your blog Steve.
I disagree with your disagreement with Mr. Champagne and Taylor, about intensity. This might just be that I’m coming from the most laid back cities in Canada, where we actually can’t start training until the hills close. The SofaKings I would say are equal to most of the B teams in Canada. We only have one “A” team caliber player in the area, luckily for us he is one of the most know ledged and the most intense. The most important thing he brought was his intensity. The reason that the A team players are on the A team is because of it. To have them and their intensity there, raises practice to game levels and creates game situations; Which is what practice should strive for.