Monday, July 30, 2007

Wildwood and Ultimate Sub-culture

So this past weekend was wildwood. This tournament is just too much fun. I wish I could articulate how great of a time I had, but there just aren't the words. Ehhh, but i'll try anyway.

First off, this tourney is in the cesspool of all cesspools, Wildwood NJ. I would be afraid to even enter the city limits if I wasn't an ultimate player, I can't believe people vacation there. Imagine a sea of neon lights, carnival rides and billboards fused with a high school football hero turned over weight gas station attendant. There are 1,000+ ultimate players on 200+ teams. AWESOME!!! My team (Trash Gets Picked Up) was in a non-competitve bracket and we won. Next year we should probably go for competitive, but for a guy who was in a rut, it was nice to whop up on some teams and get some W's that I helped earn. I also had my cousin in from Cali, who blew away my team mates both on and off the field (I mean come on, its my blood). We won the party (I think) and basically dined on every fruit on the perverbial wildwood tree. Tons of stories and just a great time.

Now this weekend reminded me, as most ultimate tournaments do, of the fantastic sub-culture that is "Ultimate". Most folks see ultimate as a "hippy sport" which is fine, thats more or less true. However after 40 years of evolution, the sport has morphed into such a fantastic caleidoscope of personality and social interaction. Not unlike hockey players being straight filth or football players being dumb jocks, ultimate players have been distilled into such a spectacular stereotype and I am so glad to be a part of it.

So what do I mean? What stereotype? I believe that, on the whole, ultimate players are first and foremost, very friendly, very open to meeting new people, very encouraging of stranger-stranger interaction. On average if you pull aside two ultimate players from anywhere in the US or canada or mexico or wherever they will get along. They will laugh and drink together. Make reatrded jokes, fuck with eachother for shits and giggles, etc... I like to call this "spittle", or general commeradery. Unpredictable and light hearted socializing and I think most ultimate players understand this. I think this stems from the fact that ultimate is played primarily in tournaments where people are bascially on vacation with work and school completely off the radar. People get together playing a sport they love, there is usually some sort of party and everyone just enjoys eachother's company and its easy to get to know folks cuz you all already have a huge thing in common, ultimate.

Let me give you an example. I was playing flip cup with, I dunno, 12 strangers, (how awesome is that?) and I meet this guy who intriduces himself as the "fake jeff". Being a little confused I asked "who's the real jeff?". The "Real Jeff" was apparently a friend standing next to him with his namesake and rather than share the name, they had a 1 on 1, best 2 out of 3, battle to the death flip cup championship (wait, think about it.....that doesn't make sense). HA!! Excellent right? Come on thats funny, "best 2 out 3 battle to the death"? Anyway, apparently the "fake jeff" lost and got stuck with either "fake jeff" or what the real jeff had renamed him, "Nick". Regardless, funny business. Anyway, while we are waiting for more beer, the two duke it out again for the right to be called "real jeff" and "Nick/Fake Jeff" wins. Uh oh, tables turned ehh? And he and I celebrate his victory and he says to me "alright, now I am the real jeff", but I reply, "Dude, fuck that guy, you should be the Un-Real Jeff" and he replies "YEAH, thats works, i'll take it". Yeah so stupid drunk kids being retared but the "spittle", the banter, the interaction is pricless and you all have been there. After 50+ tourneys I have compiled a library of stories that are homologous and I just can't say with enough enthusiasm how much I love this interaction that ultimate has.

I also feel like as ultimate evolves, however, the UPA is slowly shying away from this kind of interaction. Now this isn't the UPA being a buzz kill, Ultimate is just getting so big and popular that having a raging party with more and more people every year at nationlals, for example, the liability increases and its more trouble than its worth. Some players are just so young or reckless and "the spittle" turns from stupid shenanigans and random hookups to over the top mischief like jumping off balcony's into pools and alcohol posioning. I feel like this is a tragedy however. I feel like partying and ultimate are one in the same. At least for me. Tournaments are fun to play in and from 9a-5p you play but from 5p-9a you party. This doesn't necessarily mean black out vomit fest, but getting retarded and getting into some trouble (peeing in public, pantsing some one, getting ridiculous on the dance floor etc..) is really important. Its what makes beeing an ultimate player so much fun. Its one of the things that binds this collection of young and old in a myriad of friendly competition and human contact. I also feel like as the sport matures, people begin to value their W/L record at the end of the tournament more than the tournament itself. Teams go to bed early so they can get up early and play well, TDs don't push to have good parties, and players are starting to avoid the hangover affect. Now this isn't wrong, its just boring.

So whats my point? I believe that the party aspect of ultimate is very real and very important. It is not something to be ignored or discouraged. Done responsbily, yes, controlled, yes, but done none the less. We used buy 40s for layout Ds, therby rewarding good play and encouraging a bit of boozing. Gotta love the stellar defender thats gotta choke down 3 40s in a night (probably would share the love). But in any event, we as frisbee players need this, we need to have fun with eachother because to fight it is to go against why we play disc. I am not saying we need to take games less serious, but just have fun on and OFF the field. It'll be more fun that way, at least for people like me and I think I am in the majority. I guess my criticism (cuz I always have to bitch at someone) comes with things like the UPA having a showcase game instead of a party at college natties this year. The showcase game was cool, but I think a party would have been more enjoyable. I mean folks have been watching good disc all day and watching the likes of Jason Simpson, Nick Handler, Miranda Roth, and Richter is nice, but I think most folks just wanted to get drunk (or at least socialize). There was a small party and it was great, but it was small. The party in 2005 (corvalis) and 2006 (columbus) were awesome, very Potlatch esk, and I loved it and I think most folks did as well. And having teams be all "Big League" and not showing up to party and hang out is lame to. I mean come on Richter doesn't show to recieve his callahan award in 2004 and Beau isn't there this year. I remember Chicken at the party in 2006 when he finished, I dunno 3rd(?), he is such a good guy, class act, but come on Mama Bird, "why ya gotta be like that?".

So what do I want? Well, I suppose first, it would be nice for people to understand hitting bongs (both beer and others) are fun and should not be discouraged. Partying and socializing at tournaments is fun and should be celebrated, not marginalized. Let people loosen up and hang out. After all thats how couples can meet and date/marry, thats how contacts for teams across the country develop, and basically its how friends are made. it's, in essence, everything that is great about disc once you take your cleats off. In moderation, and done responsibly. But the sub-culture is so awesome in ultimate and trying to weed it out is a travesty and I just hope that, what I call "modern frisbee players" don't ruin it. "Modern ultimate players" being people that start playing ultimate early, say high school, and treat it like a varsity sport with intense focus and concentration to training and competition as opposed to enjoying the experience as a whole. Thats another blog entry in and of itself, but as a teaser, just don't take my game away from me. I love this sport probably more than anything and I have devoted more time than I would care to admit researching, writing and talking about ultimate. Celebrate your roots, don't treat disc from the 60s-90s as a collection of hippies that didn't know better, but rather your roots. Their spirit is yours, their draw to the game is still very real exists in every true ultimate player today. Just love the game on and off the field and don't let competition ruin the sport.

Match Diesel

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Sports Scandals - Ultimate

So in sports today there are 2 major scandals going on, the Michael Vick dog fighting scandal and the Donaghy gambling situation. First, I think the situation is initally hilarious because these two scandals just happen to involve sports that are not in season. How happy are Tom Jackson or Steven A Smith that they get to get pulled out of seasonal retirement to comment on occurances in their respective sports (football and basketball, respectively) despite the fact that no one will really care about either sport for another 1-2 months. Now NFL/NBA Live at 1:30am on ESPN has some substance. I suppose this is not unlike the summer of 2005 when Terrell Owens was headlining ESPN with his training camp antics. In any event, I think that these two situations (Vick and Donaghy) are very interesting. For some insight into either one check out and for the Donaghy story, check out Bill Simmons' July 24th article because it is really cool.

Ok, long into, why do we care? After hearing about all of these scandals I began to think about scandal in the realm of ultimate and I immediately remembered probably the biggest and only real scandal (that I can think of) in recent memory. I am referring to the UCSB Black Tide disqualification in May of 2004. I thought it would be interesting to give my account of the situation considering the fact that I was moderately affected by the situation.

The story (at least from my perspective) begins at Sectionals in 2004. Now I was no A team star, in fact I was just 1 of 2 B team captains for UCSD B. However, in 2004 UCSD was a decent squad. We were coming off a good year (I didn't really know all the ins and outs of tournament performance at the time, so i don't really know how good we were record wise), but more importantly, it was the year after we lost on double game point to Colorado in the game to go to nationals. We only had 1 bid that year (2003) out of the SW and Colorado went on to make semis and be the only team to score double digits on Wisconsin in Texas. In any event, in my eyes, we were clearly the best So-Cal team. However, at sectionals that year Black Tide beat our A team 15-11 and won the sectional tournament. Yikes, not good for our moral, and Black Tde seemed like the team that was gonna take either the 2 spot for nationals that year with Colorado taking #1. So a few weeks later, regionals takes place in Santa Barbara. As usual Colorado, UCSB, and UCSD all crusie through their games en-route to the 1 spot semis. The semifinals (if I remember right) were Colorado/Arizona and UCSB/UCSD. Colorado steam rolls Arizona and I watched Black Tide take down our A squad 15-11, again. So its Colorado vs Black Tide in the finals. Now this was Beau's freshman year and this was the year Colorado won nationals by beating Cal 15-7 in the finals. Colorado had arguably the best offense ever assembled with Parker and Chicken as handlers, Richter (callahan winner that year) and JV as middle cutters and Beau as a deep. Quite intimidating. But what will be forgotten about that year is how good Santa Barbara was. The team was led by the very talented, albeit scary as hell, Mike Brown who had the likes of Asa Wilson, Jonathan Hester, Rory Orloff and most of all Tim "Hand" Henshaw-Plath. Now most folks have never heard of "Hand" but this dude was fucking good. The guy was awesome in the air, a smart player, great throws and had several years of black tide disc to look forward too. However, I think he tore his ACL (I think) and never really broke out. Too bad.

So, the finals. UCSB comes out with their sterotypical zone D and it literally shuts down Colorado. Despite playing in UCSB's stadium with little wind, Parker's hammers sail out of bounds and UCSB takes control. I'd also like to mention that "Hand" managed to sky the crap out of Beau on a huck. However, he spiked the disc in celebration while not being in the endzone, turn over, Colorado's disc. In any event, UCSB shocked the #2 team in the country (Cal being #1 after beating Colorado 15-14 at the first Centex) 15-11. In that game i believe Mike Brown laid out into a team mate, a no-namer in Nate Bouxsein, and I think broke his jaw if memory serves me right. This sucked for several reasons, 1) Nate was actually a nice guy amongst arguably the douchiest UCSB team ever 2) he was one of 2 captains and 3) It took him out of the series (an irony that will surface later). In any event, Colorado is now playing UCSD (coming off a win against Colorado State) in the back door finals. UCSD had only beaten Colorado once in our hostroy (Pres Day '03 show case game) and now had to play colorado in the "game to go" for the second year in a row. This time, there would be no double game point and Colorado's seemingly perfect offense and the indefensible and impervious Beau went up and down the field on our best player, Kubiak, in a 15-11 beating. This game was depressing. UCSD goes down hard. UCSB is elated. First trip to natties in 2 years, they are in good shape. Colorado is shocked but they are still going. UCSD still has yet to get passed either UCSB or Colorado and has yet to break their nationals cherry.

(Sorry for all the exposition, I know I get wordy, I but I just want folks to know how good UCSB was that year and how important this next series of events were given the previous occurences.)

Now for the scandal. This was back in the day when Greenough or whoever was trying to set the tone for UPA registration and legitmacy and rightfully so. In any event, the UPA finds out that Nate Bouxsein actually is a grad student at UCSB and was an undergrad/captain at Northwestern University. This is quite perplexing considering 2004 was his 4th year on Black Tide and would make him wayyy out of eligibility. In order to set an example, Greenough decided that Nate's eligibility was invalid and he deemed Nate ineligible and because he had played for UCSB through the series, Black Tide now had an erroneous roster and were now disqualified from nationals. Now this was huge for several, obvious reasons. 1) UCSB had just knocked off the #2 team in the country and, in hindsight, could conceivably gone on to win nationals 2) Nate had gotten injured at regionals and would not have played at nationals anyway 3) he was more of a coach than anything and, despite his captainship, was not a play maker on arguably one of the best teams in the country. All told, this was a big deal.

Now as a UCSD student this was actually good news. A friend and team mate of mine had a little brother on UCSB and word got to him that UCSB had been dis-qualified. It was later confirmed when Greenough informed the captains. Later, the captains revealed to our team at our Alumni Day (quite serendipitous) that UCSB had been DQ'd and we were going to take their place. Long story short, we get the 13 seed at nationals, mange to go 1-2 in pool play with a win against MSU and a close loss to Wisconsin (we got raped by Cal). Took down William and Mary in Pre-Quarters allowing us to make quarters and with Colorado's national title, the SW managed to maintain its strength bid. This gave UCSD some long needed confidence and we managed to reload and make another nationals run. This time earning it by taking down UCSB at regionals in 2005 and we made semis (albeit the easiest way possible) giving the SW 3 bids for 2006, and the rest is history.

In any event, I thought that this was a crazy story because 1 single player managed to change not only his own team but change the future of several programs. Had he been eligible or just not played, Black Tide may have earned thier 7th national title, Beau may never have become such an icon, Richter might not have won the callahan, UCSB might have made natties in 2005 with a national title as a recruting tool, UCSD may never have made nationals even to this day, and so on and so on.

I guess peripheral to the whole scandal business, it goes to show you just how important a bid to nationals is. There is always talk about the metro east or the NE or the great lakes possibly getting undeserved bids and I am not saying that they don't deserve them, but realistically, a nationals bid is something to be treasured. It is so difficult to make it to the show and every year there are teams sitting at home on memorial day that could very well dominate at nationals. UCSB only lost to Colorado 16-14 at regionals making Black Tide a serious contender. Had Colorado won that quarters game at nationals in 2006 against Georgia we might have seen Black Tide, not Florida or Colorado or Stanford in the semis, yada yada yada. Take home message, size bids are crap. 20 team nationals format, 4 strength bids, 2 bids per region. That is all.

match diesel

Monday, July 9, 2007

I love this game, right?

I suppose that most of my writing is bascially a snap shot of where I am in my ultimate career and as I mature my opinions will change, as will what I write about. At this point, the newest lesson and the current issue comes with burning out.

For the last 2 full years, I have managed to play for my college team, then my club team, captain my college team, then captain my club team. That is 4 total seasons spanning close to 24 months. I suppose this is a lot of ultimate. Over the course of this I have been to ~30 tournaments and managed to have my weight fluctuate from a very fatty high of 240lbs to somewhere around 200lb, currently. So what is the problem?

Recently, things as far as disc go, could be better. I am having feelings of impatience, frustration, fear, not to mention physical problems with my plantar faciitis and my shoulder. For weeks I have been thinking constantly about what is wrong with me and what I need to get my game back. After a lot of thought, I think I am just burned out. I think I have been playing so much for so long that I have forgotten why I love this game and what it means to me. I suppose it has become more routine than anything, like getting the paper or coffee in the morning. I feel like why I love this game and what I love about it have become lost. All I can focus on are small modifications and more conditioning. Ultimate has becone more about trimming the perverbial fat from my game rather than just enjoying a sport that has changed my life. Now I don't think conditioning is a bad thing, it is very important and any idiot can see that. But I think an off season or at least a breather is very important in this game. I guess it is no coincidence that I am writing this entry now, seeing that it is July. If you look at the tournament schedule there are only 1 or 2 tournaments in the month of July and none for really elite ultimate programs. I suppose teams are finalizing rosters and starting to work on setting up their offense/defense. Over the next few weeks squads will also be conditioning and bascially planning so that they will be at their best come the series. What they are not doing is pushing themselves to win tournaments and get absolutely everything out of their squads. They'll save that for the fall, now its all about developing the game plan with the team for the year.

I guess I never really understood the lesson in this until now. I suppose I am at an interesting position in my ultimate career, one that I am sure most people are in or have gone throught at some point. You play college for a few years, you get good in college, you understand whats going on, you are more or less set on where you are gonna live year round and you start looking for club ultimate in the off season. However, in my case, you have done this and now you are returning to your club team for a second (maybe 3rd year for some) and the club season is just as big a deal as college and it is necessary to work hard (if not harder) to get the results you want. In this lies the conflict. If players are conditioning all winter to peak at the right time for the college series, I think it is very difficult to hold on to that physical and mental prowess through the summer and into the fall. I think a break, or off season is very important. I remember team mates at UCSD that would not touch a disc all summer because they wanted the break and I never really understood why. Maybe for the better players out there, a skill set is constant and all the matters is the physical shape you are in. However, for me, and hopefully I am not the only one, there is something to be said about peaking mentally and having the game plan to win for a set periond of time. I wish this period of time could be indefinite, but the amount of work that it takes to be good at this game, with the practicing, conditioning, recruiting, training, tournaments, significant and keeping it constant is pretty difficult. I suppose that is why a break is so important. I guess I never really understood why there was a lull in summer disc in the month of july until now. Pushing a squad to play and practice and work their asses off (with no real compensation involved) is a tall order and a breather is necessary.

So whats the point? Well I feel like 1) people like Dylan Tunnell, Tim Gehret, Kurt Gibson, Zipp, Jacob Goldstein, Oscar Pottinger, Morgan Hibbert etc... are really amazing specimens. To play high level college ultimate and then immediately jump into club ultimate is an extremely difficult task, considering that you are playing year round. 2) Ultimate players are just like regular atheltes in the sense that an off season is important. A time to not play, a time to rest one's body and one's mind from the game is positive. This doesn't mean that you can't play or practice, but it does mean that giving 110% indefintely is bascially impossible. I think a better route would be to remain goal oriented, plan month by month (during the summer or the college season), and work to peak at the right time.

Ok, so this is me, who cares. I think this does have some implications for elite disc through this years club series and into next year. First off, lets look at Canadian Nationals (sorry I am a huge furious fan). Beginning August 9th, Furious (and potentially GOAT) are going to begin their run for World's in 2008. This means that Furious better be ready to take down anyone in Canada by early august. Their current record is not flattering but I believe that Furious sets the bar when it comes to peaking (just look at Kevin Cissna's interview by Rob after the 2006 Solstice Final on UvTv). So they have to peak (at least somewhat peak) in early august as opposed to september this year. So what does that mean for the Emeral City Classic? Last year Sockeye beat Furious in the finals of ECC 15-12, but Furious went on to beat them at regionals 15-13. So the question becomes, "Is Furious going to better, worse or the same as last year?". Looking at their current record, one might think they are weaker, but they didn't show many signs of life in the summer of 2006, at least none that would have people predicting them in the finals at UPA nationals. However, there is an incentive to improve significantly and early this year because Furious will have to beat a team they have lost to already this year and this game will determine who gets to represent Canada in 2008. I sincerly hope that Furious isn't already popping the champagne because GOAT is a great team and it will take a lot of work to get the 2008 World's Maple Leaf on a Furious Jersey. So lets assume Furious doesn't choke (which I doubt they will do) and are ready to take down GOAT and win Canadian nationals. Does this means they are gonna be ready for ECC, which is scheduled for the following weekend (that is unless they have more work to do before club nationals)? I am not going to pretend to know whats going to happen in Eugene, but I do think that Furious' performance at Canadian Nationals and ECC are going to very interesting. This is all a prelude to Club Nationals in October. If Furious has to be their best a month early, what does that mean for club nationals? Are they going to be able to compete with Sockeye's best, if the fish see all they have at ECC or labor day. I certainly hope Furious can keep a few Aces up their sleeve while still being able to take down GOAT. They managed to do this in 2003 by winning canadian nationals as well as taking down the Condors for the UPA championship, but the Condors are not regional rivals and I have no idea when and if they played during the summer that year. So I think this makes August an interesting month for ultimate.

Another thing to think about is the preparation that Furious is going to have to make when/if they win Canadian Nationals. Assuming they win, they will have to begin the year long preparation for the trip to World's, right? Wrong, World's is in Vancover in 2008. What a bonus if you get to compete in your home town for a world tournament? I can remember when the condors were going around in 2004 trying to raise money for World's in Finland. I have no idea if Furious did the same thing, but they are certainly not having to raise cash for plane tickets or hotels if in fact they are playing in their own back yard. I think that this leaves them open to focus purely on their game and their strategy rather than having to sequestor the necessary fundage and planning that would necessitate a trip of several thousand miles. I suppose Sockeye is in the same boat considering that if they win UPA club nationals they'll only be a ~3hr drive from the world tournament. In my opinion, however, completely neglecting where teams are coming from, I think there is something to be said about extensive preparation. Just like team USA did in 2005 with the whole ebay auctions and competing at Potlatch and Poultry Days preping for world's, teams need to prepare and plan using their country's support for such an important tournament. I think this is good because it will give teams a sense of nationalism, pride and responsibility in doing what they can to represent their fellow citizens.

However, if the two best teams are already a relative stone throw away from the tournament, is this kind of preparation even needed? And if it is not needed is the energy saved better suited for physical and mental preparation? I am not sure a situation like this has ever presented itself in the history of ultimate, but I think it deserves some thought. If the severity of the tournament does not continually manifest itself with work needed to get there, how can it be truely appreciated? Considering that the trip to Club Nationals is going to be an order of magnitide (if not more) harder than world's, are teams going to be more or less prepared. I bet the differences (if any) will cancel eachother out, but I think it is an interesting idea.

I guess I have a few main questions. 1) Will Furious at the 2007 ECC be better or worse than in 2006? (impossible to surmise, I know, because even if they are better, they could still lose to a better sockeye) 2) Can Furious hold onto/maintain their seasonal development through the club series after having to peak 2 months before Sarasota? 3) Is Furious at Canadian Nationals the best they are going to get? If so, can they put up a fight against Sockeye at sectionals/regionals/nationals? If not will they have more to gain after taking down GOAT? 4) Ultimately, if Sockeye sweeps UPA club nationals and then world's will they have the same "hangover" as furious did in 2004? WIll having World's so close to home serve any benifit to the Fish? The monkey? I suppose an interesting stat is that the winner of the last 2 WUGC world tournaments have failed to repeat at UPA nationals the following fall (DoG won in Germany in 2000 and lost to the Condors that October, Furious won in 2004 and lost in semis to JAM two months later). Also, if Sockeye does make a run, Idaho will be the first player (I think) to play at WUGC for two different teams.

match diesel

Monday, July 2, 2007

Mental Game: Offense vs Defense

So this past weekend was Jazz fest up in montreal. Weather was very good overall. Some spouts of rain, it was windy, but all in all no complaints.

After a less than stellar performance at BI, it was nice to come out on Saturday and take our pool 3-0 and win the cross over. I felt I played well at times and not so well at other times, but all in all good. Sunday, however, not so good. i think I was better off staying in bed. In any event, teams improving, yada yada yada, no one cares.

One thing I did think about, and this is not a new thought, is the idea of mental control affecting stamina. Now that isn't exactly clear, so let me explain. I feel like when I am on offense, which is usually the case cuz I handle, I feel like I can play forever. it doesn't matter how many points I have played, what the weather is like. When I am on the field and we have the disc, I rarely ever feel exhausted. Its almost as if the disc gives off energy. Conversely, I don't feel the same way on D. Not that I don't like D, or can't run for an extended period of time, its just that running around trying to shut my guy down takes a physical and mental toll on me and I don't feel the same seeminlgy invicibility that I do on offense and I suppose I sort of have an idea why.

On offense, you have control. You know where you are gonna go, you know where the disc is, you have a goal and should have an idea of how to get there. This is nice because it gives you focus. You can concentrate all your physical and (more importantly) your mental energy on maintaining possession and getting the disc in the end zone. I feel like this is almost a distraction from exhaustion. You need your legs to work and when its your time to cut, you put them in motion the best you can and, at least for me, they are there for me (more or less). However, defense is very different. You are not in control. Your role on the field is reactionary. You want to shut your guy down, you want to prevent the score and ideally you want to generate a D. However, none of these things are in your direct control. I feel like with this, you use your legs at moments that are not necessarily ideal for you. Maybe you are fast, maybe you are ready, but your running is dictated by your opponents. I feel like this difference is huge for mental and physical stamina on the field. With the ability to control when and where you cut, I feel like you can use your body to its maximum potential and maintain a high level of competitive ability. However, on D, you hope to train and condition as hard as possible so that when that moment comes when you have to run down that huck and try and get a D, or beat your guy to the cone, you've got the legs to do it.

So why do I care? Whats the message? Coming from a person that is not as athletic as most on the Open field, it is important that I learn how to make up the ground between myself and the guy I am covering. This is not easy. How is it possible for a defender (who is reactionary) to shut down and prevent a cutter/handler, who is in control, from getting the disc/scoring? If the guy I am covering has the same feeling of limitless legs on O, how can I, with the feeling of limited legs, make his life difficult? I think the answer is maintaining strong mental stamina. There are moments where I run and run and run and at some point, i don't even care who wins the point. On those marathon points, I just want the pain to stop, I just want the point over. Its thinking like this that'll kill ya and I try and stay away from it. I feel like the best thing to do is to keep your advantages in mind and position yourself as best as possible. A lot of people, like parinella, write about positioning and what not because its so important. Chasing a guy around the field is a waste of energy. Only when you affectively put yourself in a place where you can either 1) prevent a guy from going where you don't want him to go (ie deep) or 2) induce him to cut to place where you want him to go (ie a place where you have a play) can you affectively play D. Keeping this in mind, I feel, improves my defensive abilities drastically. I like to put myself about 1 yard down field of my guy (on the open side) to push him under. I feel like this distance is enough to prevent him from juking me out and torching me deep as well as just enough to give me the room to make up the difference either with a bid or some good old fashion running. More often than not, if you can stay within 3-4 feet of your guy, he/she will get looked off and you are effectively doing your job. This might seem like a small mundane detail but it allows you to have some control on the field. You put yourself in a place that is not entirely reactionary and you can potentially dictate where your guy goes. This is not unlike baiting a D, bascially letting your guy think he/she is open by slowing up a bit and then when the disc goes up you pounce. This, in addition to training and conditioning, can really improve your defensive abilities on the field, I feel.

This also goes for zone as well. If you are running cup, which is basically one of the most physically demanding positions on the field, it is important to run with purpose and direction. The basic idea is to chase the disc around and lock down on the thrower with 3-4 players in some sort of cup. However, running with purpose or control, can really save your mental and physical game. I feel like those 1 or 2 glances over the shoulder to let you know where the offense is positioned can really benefit your game. If I know that there is a wing ready for an up field toss as the disc is being swung, i know I have to get on my horse. However, if I take a glance and see that my fellow down field defender has him covered and there is actually a popper waiting for a quick strike through the cup, I can run and put myself in a position to stop that. This I feel is not entirely reactionary, but more preventative and it also gives you a goal and a purpose, rather than just running.

Therefore, maintaining this mental focus and concentration is huge for playing effective ultimate. On offense, it is handed to you in the form of scoring and your offensive strategy. On defense, however, it is so important to establish this goal, this purpose, this focus, because all of this allows for improved concentration which allows you to forget about your legs and think about shutting your guy down. And this focus on shutting your guy down is even more important because like any problem, it is better to look at it in terms of potential solutions as opposed to overwhelming yourself. Just like a big work project, its better to take one step at a time, focus on one goal, then another then another, as opposed to looking at the whole project, and thinking "Damn, I am so screwed". On the ultimate field, rather than thinking, "Wow I gotta run to keep up with this guy", its better to be more like, "Ok, I am gonna get to this spot, push him here, react this way if he goes where I don't want, trust my mark, and hit the ground if necessary". Maintaining this mental focus is no easy task, but if it is done, the endurance that you train for will be all the more helpful and your defense, I feel, will as well.

Offense, I am continually learning, requires an extreme amount of mental focus as well. However, rather than having your fatigue affect your focus, your patience is what is important. I am not a very patient person, although I am trying, and trying to play good fundamental offense is soo hard at the club level. The defense is good, but the main problem I think, associated with patience, is the idea that if you turn it, the odds of getting that disc back (in club) are much slimmer than college. You can't expect that the other team will screw up. Especially in those seeminlgly easy down wind points. If you over throw your target or push a break throw that isn't there and you now gave up the disc and they are going up wind, at the club level, they might very well get the score without turning it. Upwind doesn't necessitate an easy turnover at this level. That is why patience and mental focus are so important, and for me, so difficult. Hopefully things improve as I play more, but its tough and painful. You want to win, you want to score, you don't want it to take forever, but this game is about field position and movement, not scoring. If you hold on to the disc well, you'll win. No team wins becasue they have a guy that hucks well or a guy that can break any mark. Teams win by not getting broken (O-line getting scored on) and that happens with patience. A huck or break might get you a goal but not a W.

Whats worse is that as I write this I know I am going to screw this up. I know exactly what I need to do to perform the best that I can, but actually putting it into practice is such a challenge. I suppose that this is similar to consistency. Consistency, or the ability to play well all the time, not just in spurts, is one of the toughest things in this game. Being able to be 100% at anything, in cuts, deep shots, defense, breaks, is such a valuable assest and it comes with mental focus (and some athelticsm). I suppose a lot of the elite players out there know all this, but for students of the game, like myself, these lessons are the hardest to learn, but I am optimistic and hopefully, one day, I'll have it down, or at least close.

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