Friday, February 8, 2008

The Ultimate $lut- Do you love them or hate them?


In ultimate, at the competitive and league levels, we have a unique type of individual that goes from team to team each year in search of the situation that suits them best as a player. Moving between league teams, switching between coed to womens/mens, this person is a mercenary.

We have a nickname for these people- ultimate $lut.

Please see the corresponding poll question to the right of this page.

I won't name any names, but I will give you a past discussion with the most honest ultimate $lut I've ever met. Person X was a very experienced female player that had spent many years playing national ultimate and is known throughout the 3500 member league as a skilled teacher. During one summer season, she picked up in mid season with a team I was on (Her regular top team had no room for her) and stepped in admirably. The team was top 8 in the city, she got a very nice role, and she was quickly a part of the culture of the team. Naturally, I expected her to return based on her efforts and her experience. When I asked her before the next season again, she said:

"No Steven, I've managed to pick up with another team that's going to be good. The experience was so fun... but I'm an ultimate slut...."

Why are these players tolerated/coveted by teams? Simple reasons
  • They are skilled
  • Teams need skill
  • Teams have a very short win now philosophy in ultimate
I'm not saying we should implement a reserve clause in ultimate. Far from it! I do however think that the ultimate $lut can be a harmful thing to a ultimate team and a program that wants to challenge the big teams of the continent.

Is it impossible to expect loyalty from players given that teams in ultimate are also generally disloyal to its players? Is it a vicious circle?

Let me give you a brief quote of what Nicolo Machiavelli had to say about the topic:

Mercenaries and auxiliaries are useless and dangerous; and if one holds his state based on these arms, he will stand neither firm nor safe; for they are disunited, ambitious and without discipline, unfaithful, valiant before friends, cowardly before enemies; they have neither the fear of God nor fidelity to men, and destruction is deferred only so long as the attack is; for in peace one is robbed by them, and in war by the enemy. The fact is, they have no other attraction or reason for keeping the field than a trifle of stipend, which is not sufficient to make them willing to die for you. They are ready enough to be your soldiers whilst you do not make war, but if war comes they take themselves off or run from the foe;

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Women's Ultimate in Ottawa- What's Next?


2004 was an interesting year for women's ultimate in Ottawa. Following a 2003 nationals finals collapse that cost the city a berth at Worlds, there was great tension in the female ranks. Many felt a stable secondary team was needed to assist perennial national championship contender Stella. Others felt that politics and old guard were preventing younger/unknown players from developing and surpassing current starters.

What ended up happening was interesting. A second team did emerge that season, but was run independently by Jaime Boss, Sweet Marie Celine St-Jacques, and Justine Price. Maeve, as the team was called, was full of young exciting talent that proved they were ready to compete nationally at finals. The squad finished 4th at the 2004 nationals, and many thought they would soon surpass Stella in future seasons (Stella finished 3rd at that nationals).

That did not happen. Stella managed to emerge with the talent Maeve developed, and Maeve folded. It was replaced by a team named Scarlett, which was a direct B team to Stella. Many players who couldn't make the move to Stella bolted for Ottawa's coed team, and Scarlett greatly suffered. It was really a lose lose, as the females that went to coed also lost because.. it was Ottawa coed.

So, Stella had great seasons in 2005 and 2006, winning a national title and a silver medal in respective nationals. In 2007, top players from Ottawa joined forces with top Toronto players to try and win the 2008 worlds berth. The Stella brand was "retired" for the season (which has been criticized), and Scarlett was pretty much left to their own vices again. Many solid females were lost to coed again, but Scarlett had a great season lead by the leadership of Ottawa 'legends' Deb Murphy and Justine Price.

After a dominating 2007 season by the Capitals, the team failed once again in the national finals, unexpectedly losing to Vancouver's Traffic.

It's 2008, and it looks like Stella and Scarlett will be sisters again. In order to find out how the family is doing, I set up an interview with Stella captain Danielle Fortin. I wonder if lessons have been learned in the past five seasons, and what will/should be done in the next three years to bring a worlds women's berth to Ottawa.

Capitals at Flowerbowl 2007
Photo Source: Ultypics and Alex Benedict

Talking with Trainor: Stella/Capitals Captain Danielle Fortin


In 2004, a second women's team, named Maeve, was full of young exciting talent that proved they ready to compete nationally at finals. The squad finished 4th at the 2004 nationals. It was a springboard team for many females who are now highly regarded players in national and UPA ultimate today.

One of these players was nicknamed Baby D.

Danielle Fortin has gone from second team rookie to one of the Stella/Capitals captains in less than three years. While not serving as a Stella captain this year, She continues to be known for being a skilled thrower, well liked teammate and hard worker. She gladly accepted my offer to do an interview and she will hopefully be the first of many women's division players we profile.

Danielle Fortin
Photo:Corry Berghout

Was the Capitals a Toronto team, an Ottawa team, or really a team representing both cities?

The Capitals summer team included a representation from both cities. We were surprised that after writing down the last couple names on the roster that there was a even split of ladies from each city. It was pretty cool. We mixed things up in the fall by adding players from up North and out West.

What is the status of the Capitals for the 2008 season?

Caps jerseys will be hung up for the 2008 summer season with players taking what they learned in '07 back to their home teams. As for the fall - there's always talk between the two cities on joining forces and that's where it sits right now.

What was the highlight of the 2007 season for the Capitals?

This is a tough one - but I'd have to say either winning Boston Invitational or our finish at UPA's. Both Ottawa and Toronto have competed in the Boston Invite each year but have ended up watching the finals from the sideline. To win it all was pretty awesome. I believe it was the first time that a Canadian women's team has ever won the tournament.

What was the 2007 lowlight?

With the bid to Worlds on the line - our finish at nationals.

What happened at Nationals 2007? Specifically, the 2007 finals?

We had a strong tournament with only 14 points scored against after six games. It was a cool feeling being in Toronto. Four months earlier we found ourself playing on the exact same grass meeting our teammates, setting goals and figuring out what it meant to be on the Capitals. Our goal for the season was to be recognized as a unified, gritty, highly skilled team. There's no doubt we achieved that. It's unfortunate that the bid to Worlds rested all on one game - but that's sport. The finals was a big game for the team as many of our players found themselves there four years earlier while others were making their first appearance in a CUC final. Many factors played into the loss and I think we'd all dissect it differently as we had different experiences. It's always great to play against west coast teams as they bring experience and intensity after having a season full of high-caliber games and tournaments. It would be great if we could be exposed to challenging games throughout our entire season.

Photo Source: Capitals Ultimate

Was the UPA finals performance (5th) considered a success?

Of course! It was the highest finish for the team. Having the opportunity to play against some the top UPA teams in playoffs can always be considered a success. Our pre-quarter game against Safari was what allowed us to meet up with Riot in the quarters. Coming back from being down 11-6 to win the game 14-12 was...pretty cool. Mother nature was on our side that day.

Who was the team MVP for 2007 season overall?

I honestly don't think I can name one. Sure comparing one game to the next there was a player that really brought their best game out but when I think about a season that was over 6 months long it's hard to name just one person. It truly was a team that worked together to make the best out of the unique situation we had created.

What should we expect from Ottawa women's ultimate this summer?

Definitely expect some new faces on both Stella and Scarlett this summer. It's going to be a big building year for the program. From what I've seen in the gym, at scrimmages, and other training sessions it's going to be a good group of women that have been training hard to get back outside and challenge each other.

How would you describe the women's current relationship with its local association (OCUA)?
The women's program has a good relationship with OCUA. The competitive cell as a whole is working hard this year to get the right documents in place so that the teams can go into the season knowing what will be going on. It's always a challenge balancing personal/team development with clinics and other volunteer activities so any planning that can be done ahead of time is a bonus.

What players need to step up this year?

Every player looking to play this summer has to step it up. Last summer provided many players with unfamiliar experiences whether it was playing Capitals, Scarlett, or co-ed. Sharing these experiences with each other will only make us better so it's key for everyone to show up with their A-game.
Photo Source: Scarlett Ultimate

Who is the best female player in Ottawa? Who is the most underrated?

Top player - I'd have to go with with Ali Flynn (Lemay) (pictured, photo courtesy Corry Berghout). She brings experience, knowledge and skill to any team she plays with. On the field she's got a collection of throws that most can only dream of and her defense on the bail and in zones is so much fun to watch. She also has a great ability to anticipate movement on the field. I think the best thing is seeing how much time she puts into figuring out strategy and her own game. She's a good role model for those looking to play comp - you don't just get there without putting in a little effort.

Most underrated would have to be the Little French Girl (LFG). Marie-Andree Imbeault (Magoo) came into the Ottawa ultimate scene 3 years ago as a cutter. After a month or so on Stella she was put behind the disc to be one of the team's starting O-line handlers. She can make some sweet grabs and great break throws that are so quick you usually miss them. She's also great at breaking through zones. I think her "quiet" nature has fooled many because she's a big part of the party on any team she plays for. You can't replace a player like her on the field.

What is your assessment of the brand equity of sister team Scarlett?

It's getting better each year. Like we've seen in the men's program - it just takes time. It's great seeing more and more university students and recent high school grads playing with Scarlett as it's a great place to work on individual skills while gaining competitive tournament experience.
Photo Source: Scarlett Ultimate

Does anyone want to play with them? Will this be a good year?

I think there are a good number of women that would like to play with Scarlett. It's encouraging to see that players have made the transition from Scarlett to Stella and Capitals. Looking back at the team's 2007 roster and season I can't find a reason why it wouldn't be a good year.

How does the women's program measure success for Scarlett? What needs to be done to ensure Scarlett success?

Success can be measured in a bunch of ways - having players move from Scarlett to Stella, seeing players developing, and higher finishes at tournaments. For Scarlett to be successful there needs to be a good group of women playing on the team that are dedicated to getting better and working together. There should also be a good link between the two teams (Stella and Scarlett) as well as with the other competitive teams.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

The Clutch Player: Real or Fake?


Interesting Super Bowl XLII (42 for those of you who never quite caught on to roman numerals) finish.

A much maligned Eli Manning is now a champion and a celebrated hero in New York. Manning, who has had a career full of criticism from teammates, fans, and media, is now being described by some as a clutch athlete who has "grown so much as a leader and a player".


I personally never thought Eli was a terrible NFL quarterback. I also don't think he is as good or better than Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, or the upper elite QBs of the league.

I think Eli is a average quarterback still with potential development and a lot of seasons left. The reasons for hating or loving this guy are not based on rationale. Was he really worth a first overall pick if his last name wasn't Manning? No. Was he really as bad as everyone thought he was this year during the regular season? He was pretty damn mediocre. To be fair, it didn't help that his receivers dropped the most balls in the league this year.

Let's compare the Super Bowl MVP performance of Manning to that of another super bowl winning quarterback:

Eli Manning - 19 completions, 35 attempts, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception
Quarterback ?- 12 completions, 25 attempts, 1 touchdown, o interceptions

See much of a difference?

The mystery quarterback is none other than Trent Dilfer. Dilfer continues to play in the league as a backup. He is one of the much maligned Super Bowl winner, benefiting from a terrific defense much the same way Manning did.

Was Manning clutch on Sunday? I say no. He gave the same performance he always averages. His defense was its usual brilliant self, and benefited from Manning's offense reducing the turnovers that lead to defending closer to their goal line.

So does the clutch athlete exist? Do you think players in Ultimate are clutch?

If you read the Wages of Wins, you will find even the great Michael Jordan only exceeded his regular season stats in the playoffs twice. The years he did so might surprise you.

I fear we may label players in ultimate as clutch or not clutch based on one particular game or play. Over time, we find that certain players perform game tasks with a certain level of consistency. Assuming everyone gives it their best in every game, we shouldn't have clutch players- we should just have people randomly playing at their top level or people who play below their level for various reasons (nerves, injury, matchup, etc).

Thus, the poll question seeks to look at this topic. Let me know your thoughts on this discussion, I know if I'm wrong my readers will be clutch in correcting me. :)