Posts filed under ‘Ultimate Intelligence’

Ultimate Intelligence – Ultimate Rob!

Recently I was approached by Ultimate Rob and asked if I would like to become a contributor on his site. I was really happy to be provided with this opportunity and one of the main drivers was knowing that my thoughts on ultimate would be exposed to a broader audience – hopefully helping more people as a result.

My future ultimate-related posts will be published over at Ultimate Rob. My latest one was published recently and can be seen here:

Ultimate Intelligence – Calm under pressure

If you’re interested in ultimate-related content then Ultimate Rob is a great resource. There’s heaps of good material there already and more to come  – keep an eye on it!

As for this blog, I have a few non ultimate-related posts floating around in my head. One of them is a review of the bike I purchased recently for commuting duties. Apparently my previous review of the Tatonka Barrel bag has been useful for people judging by the traffic to that post.

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June 19, 2012 at 9:26 am 2 comments

Ultimate Intelligence – How to train your mind…

All developing Ultimate players will eventually face the reality that they have a physical shortcoming that needs work in order to continue their growth as a player. For example, your long-range forehand may not be very reliable, or you may suffer from fatigue on longer points.

In any sport it is a reality that each person’s unique physical makeup will create a combination of strengths and weaknesses. Some people’s natural physical state allows them to run fast, others may be able to jump high. Training is required to develop those natural skills but also to fill in any gaps.

It is important to recognise that the same can be said for the mental attributes that a player brings to the field. A person’s upbringing and experiences in life all add up to produce their unique state of mind with far more potential for variance than the same person’s physical attributes.

For physical shortcomings there is generally a reasonably well established path for improvement. Regular throwing sessions with a focus on weaker throws, or setting up a more regular running routine, are two approaches that would work to improve the physical shortcomings mentioned above. The question then becomes, how do you train your mind?

Perhaps the same approach used for physical improvement could be used for mental improvement. My interpretation of that approach includes the following steps:

  1. Identification
  2. Measure
  3. Goals
  4. Train
  5. Measure
  6. Implement

For example, in the examples mentioned above:

Long-range forehands

  1. Identification – You’re struggling to maintain accuracy over longer distances with your forehand. Your reliability and success rate is low.
  2. Measure – Figure out how far you can throw reliably at this point.
  3. Goals – Set yourself a realistic goal. This would be how far you want to be able to throw reliably, and the time you’ll give yourself to get there.
  4. Train – Practise throwing, as often as you can. Mark out and aim for your current distance and maybe your goal distance.
  5. Measure – As you train, keep measuring to ensure you’re progressing towards your goal.
  6. Implement – After a while your confidence will grow, deservedly so. Time to throw some long-range lasers into the end-zone!

Fatigue on longer points

  1. Identification – Any point over five minutes leaves you unable to keep up with your opponent, or get away from them.
  2. Measure – Time yourself running over a reasonable distance. I find 5k is a good indication of stamina.
  3. Goals – Decide on a distance and time goal (or pace) to work towards. Give yourself a period of time to work towards that goal.
  4. Train – Go running! There’s plenty of ways to get better at running. Google can help!
  5. Measure – Continue to measure your progress against your benchmark. Watch the improvements, work towards your goals.
  6. Implement – Next time you’re on for a long point and there’s a turnover bust to the end-zone leaving your defender flat-footed!

Applying these same steps to a mental improvement can be a difficult process. We can work through it together, based loosely on my own experience with some mental shortcomings I have worked on:

1 – Identification

Identifying a mental shortcoming that is affecting your game is a really tough thing to do. However, if you observe your actions and reactions to the things that happen on the field you may start to notice a trend.

For me, I am quite capable of giving myself a hard time if I stuff something up.

The warning signs to look out for are generally any negative feelings. Am I starting to feel frustrated? Unreliable? Maybe even angry? At my worst I can convince myself that I’m better off on the sideline than on the field. You can imagine how this must make my teammates feel. I’m negatively affecting my own game and also theirs!

I feel that the key is to be on the lookout for negative emotions. If you’re not feeling positive then there’s a chance there’s some mental aspect affecting your game. As mentioned above, there’s a huge amount of scope for what the issue could be depending upon yourself as a person.

2 – Measure

Setting a baseline for a mental improvement is also a really hard thing to do. It takes some serious thought and honesty to understand that, on a bad day, 60% of your less-than-perfect throws are causing you to despair about your worth as a player (This is my own example again here!). Obviously I have no way of knowing if 60% is a real figure. For mental improvements I think it is enough to recognise that you’re doing being negatively affected more often than you would like.

3 – Goals

Goals for mental shortcomings are easy – you want to eradicate them! Realistically though, you can’t eradicate a mental shortcoming completely in the same way that you can’t throw perfect long-range forehands every time. Experiencing a noticeable improvement is a worthy goal. Keeping your cool for longer throughout a game is certainly something you can work towards.

4 – Train

Initially I thought that mental training could only really be done in-game. Upon further thought I realised that a useful attitude can be developed at all times. If you’re at a training session and your goal is to not-let-the-bad-throws-get-you-down then focus on that whilst training. Train your mind at training! Learn from your mistakes, but continue with a positive outlook.

5 – Measure

Keep yourself accountable when you’re playing. I had to get myself into a position where I could objectively analyse my own behaviour when I was stuffing things up. Was I being affected as much as in the past? Was I able to carry on and give my best performance to the team?

6 – Implement

Next time you’re at a tournament you want to be physically and mentally trained up. From a mental point of view you should be in a position where you are positively contributing to the performance of your team throughout the whole tournament.

Final Thoughts

As you may have gathered, the process of training your mind isn’t necessarily as straightforward as training a physical attribute. There are a lot more variables and less-tangible things to consider. To assist in training your mind it is worth considering enlisting a friend or teammate. If you really want to make a difference to your mental state then let someone on your team know. You will feel more accountable and, even more importantly, they will be able to let you know how you are improving.

I’ve alluded to some of the mental shortcomings I’ve dealt with in the past. After my most-recent tournament our captain commended myself (and another player) on how we have improved mentally. It was a hugely successful tournament in many ways (silver medal baby!) but receiving that feedback was certainly a highlight.

In terms of being accountable – I’ll let you all know that I’ve still got more to do. In the grand-final my mental shortcomings were starting to make themselves known. I have a few regrets, and fear that the close-game could have come out with us on top if I had maintained a better mental perspective. I definitely don’t want to let that happen again!

 

June 4, 2012 at 6:54 pm 2 comments

Ultimate Intelligence – Head to the end zone!

This is the first of a series of Ultimate Intelligence posts that I hope to write. These posts will hopefully provide some useful information that you can use to improve your game in a variety of ways. For the most part Ultimate Intelligence will be about on-field performance and may include tips regarding tactics, physical work or mental perspective.

This post will focus on an improvement that can be made from both an attitude and a tactical perspective. This isn’t necessarily an advanced tactic, any player could take these instructions on board and incorporate them into their game.

The premise of the post is that it is important to recognise that your role on the field changes when you see the disc heading into the end-zone. In particular if you are not the intended recipient of the throw (or marking the intended recipient when on defence) your job doesn’t stop as soon as the disc is heading into the end zone.

It is extremely common for players to see an attempted goal being thrown and respond by stopping what they’re doing and watching to see what happens next. This is a mistake and a simple change of perspective can improve your usefulness on the field significantly.

The benefits of this altered perspective are different depending upon whether you’re currently on offense or defence. We can take a look at each:

Offense

Imagine you’re playing on offense in the following situation:

  • One of your team mates has made a cut towards the end zone.
  • The person with the disc has identified the cut and put the disc in the air, the disc is heading towards the end zone.
  • You weren’t necessarily cutting but it is within your ability to get to the end zone at roughly the same time as the disc.

My advice is to get to the end zone as fast as you can! Definitely don’t stop to watch the play unfold. Definitely don’t wander towards the end-zone without intent. Definitely sprint disc-wards!

The reason for this course of action is to fulfil a supporting role. One of the great things about Ultimate is the “freakish” plays that occur on a semi-regular basis. People can pull of impressive things by being in the right place at the right time. Often this seems like luck or fluke but being pro-active can certainly help.

In the situation listed above there are a number of possible outcomes where it would be useful to have another offensive player around the disc:

  • The cutter’s defensive player gains position and gets a hand to the disc. They smack it away for a block but don’t catch it. The point is still winnable providing the disc hasn’t gone out of bounds. How often have you seen players scoop up the scraps of a contest for a score?
  • The intended recipient of the throw misreads the disc, or the wind picks up for a second. Again, a supporting player can clean up.
  • Depending on your speed and location on the field you might actually have a better play on the disc than the intended recipient. Communication on the field is key to making this a success however!
  • Should the cutter’s defensive player catch the disc, you are an option for pressuring the first throw after the turnover before re-locating your player and getting back to your own defensive duties.

In summary, by having a proactive and supporting attitude you can come away with some glory and increase the percentages of the intended goal coming to fruition. There’s no reason not to head to the end zone if you can get there on time. That said, two cautionary points:

  • Don’t get in the way of the intended recipient. If you do have a better play on the disc call it early. Otherwise your job is to hover around the bottom of the contest for the disc and tidy up if the disc floats free.
  • Keep an eye on the players you’re leaving behind as you cut away. If the defence is successful in preventing the score you’ll need to get back to your player on the turnover.

From a personal point of view, I’ve caught many points that weren’t intended for me by making sure I was available as support in the end zone. I have also made difficult and important blocks in games, only to have one of the offensive players follow the disc to the ground and score all the same. I will probably write a future Ultimate Intelligence post on why you should always catch the D!

Defence

Imagine you’re playing on defence in the following situation:

  • One of your opponents has cut towards the end zone, but not the player (or within the zone) that you’re marking.
  • The offensive player with the disc has recognised the cut, put the disc up, and it is heading towards the end zone.
  • Your player isn’t doing anything threatening, but it is within your ability to get to the end zone at roughly the same time as the disc.

Again – don’t hesitate, get to the end zone as quickly as you can! Similar to the offensive situation provided above, you are in a great position to be able to influence the outcome of the point. In this case you’re looking to generate a turnover.

You can effectively forget about the player you are marking temporarily. Nothing else matters aside from ensuring that the throw isn’t completed so it isn’t important what your player does, unless they also head towards the end zone in which case you want to be in front of them anyhow!

The following may occur:

  • The offensive player gets a hand to the disc but fumbles. Their defender may still be in the air or committed to a certain direction, you can step in and grab the disc.
  • Your team mate gets a hand to the disc but doesn’t catch it. The disc is falling within reach of the offensive player (or another offensive player). Again you can step in and make sure there is no score.
  • As an offensive player, it is more psychologically intimidating if there are several defenders around you influencing the outcome. Mistakes happen under pressure, you’re providing pressure!
  • You may get to the disc in a more direct path than the intended players, stopping the disc from even making the target.
  • Your team may get the turnover, you will be in a great position as a free-player to start the disc moving back up the field in a quick manner.

Essentially the flip-side of the offensive advantages apply on defensive. You provide more pressure and more likelihood of a turnover by being available as a supporting defensive player in the end zone.

I recall a point where a good long-cut was made to the end zone by an opponent, closely followed by my teammate. Everyone else on the field stopped flat-footed to see the outcome. It was going to be an impressive contest, involving two of the better players on the field. My teammate was able to out jump our opponent however it wasn’t a clean block and the disc started tumbling straight down. The offensive player landed with his eyes on the disc and immediately attempted a layout grab as the disc fell in front of him. Lucky for our team, I had followed the disc into the end zone and quickly pushed it out of his reach whilst it was falling. I saved us a point. It wasn’t particularly glorious or impressive, but a simple proactive run saved a point.

One final point to make is that, on defence, you can be pro active when the disc is headed towards the end zone even if you are nowhere close enough to make a play. Don’t assume that the throw will be successful. There’s always a chance of a turnover until the disc has stopped spinning in the offensive player’s hands. Watch for the result, but start moving towards your required position as soon as you’ve seen the disc flying towards the end zone. Your offensive play positions can be setup and ready to go early!

I would also like to credit a Tassie player who drove these points home for me whilst I was playing one night. I was watching the disc fly into the end zone from not too far away when Mike Baker yelled at me from the sidelines to run it down. It was a bit of an “Aha” moment where I thought “Why didn’t I go after that? I definitely could have made it and I definitely could have been useful”. So – thanks Mike.

Update!

Interestingly Brodie Smith released a highlight video on his Everything Ultimate YouTube channel today. Two of the plays in the video demonstrate the point of this post perfectly.

In the first play the defender tidies up an attempted block. In the second play the supporting offensive player makes the score off a throw not intended for him. The plays are next to each other in the video, starting at 1min 24 seconds in. The whole video is worth a watch though!

May 21, 2012 at 9:16 pm Leave a comment

Ultimate Intelligence – The Power is Yours…. The O advantage

I have received a lot of advice about Ultimate Frisbee in the years that I have been playing. Due to the nature of our community much of this advice has been welcome and positive. I’ve definitely been able to develop my game based upon things that other players have said to me.

That said, certain pieces of advice have stuck in my head more than others and over time I’ve been able to experience the relevance of those gems and also come to appreciate how accurate and important certain advice can be.

In this post I want to share some of the most prominent advice I have received. It’s not necessarily revolutionary or some sort of hidden advantage. Like most good advice, it’s common sense but the trick is in adopting it and making sure you use it.

So here it is: When you have the disc in your hand you control the outcome of the point.

I don’t think these are the exact words as they were told to me but the idea is there. In a broader sense the point is that there is no better time to make decisions with a cool head than when the disc is in your hands. It’s up to you to take the best option in order for your team to score the point.

Often this may go against your instincts. Just two days ago I attempted to huck a backhand well before the stall-count had even started. The cut was great and there was a player to throw to but alas my skill and patience were not up to scratch. Perhaps if I had taken a second to settle myself the throw would have hit the target. Even more likely is that I would have re-assessed and waited for a cut that better suited my throwing capabilities. This could well have been a dump-cut.

Thinking about this in a broader sense recently I realized that this particular piece of information is part of the fundamental balance of the game of Ultimate Frisbee. There are lots of factors that contribute to the “fairness” of every sport. If it was overly unfair between offense and defense then no-one would play, or rules would be adjusted to remove the swing.

In Ultimate Frisbee a large swing in favor of the fairness for offense is the fact that they have the disc in their possession. This is a huge advantage! A team with a reasonable skill level of throwing and catching could potentially dominate a higher skilled team providing they kept their heads cool and focused. I have seen the success of teams be very hampered by their desire to play with a flourish, rather than in a focused, team oriented frame of mind.

Don’t get me wrong, I love risky throws and huge catches. They make the game all the better and fun to play. The point is that these opportunities will still occur due to other factors, you don’t have to create them.

So after all that here is my spin, my advice. Next time you have the disc in your hand and you are staring up the field looking for an option, try and remember that the outcome of the point you’re playing depends on what you do next. You’ve got your 10 seconds, you should have a dump cut just waiting behind you. Make your move.

On top of that, approach any offensive point in a positive way. Your team has been handed the advantage and it’s up to you to make it work in your favour.

September 28, 2010 at 9:51 pm 2 comments

Ultimate Intelligence – Focusing on the positives….

Last night I played in the grand final for our Tasmanian Ultimate Challenge (TUC) league. This league is considered the “premier” league of Ultimate in Tasmania which essentially means that it is the highest skill level game you’re going to get without joining a state team and heading to a mainland tournament.

The team I play for is called “Bread” and its made up of a great group of people who have played together in a number of leagues and, maybe most importantly, all have a similar attitude to Ultimate.

Throughout the TUC league Bread had mixed success. As with many Tasmanian leagues we suffered various absences as key players were unavailable for games. This occurred due to illness or overseas travel. Two of our players were off representing Austrlia in Germany for a number of weeks.

As a result we had to fight for a place in the finals. Being a 4 team league (Tasmanian Ultimate is by no means a large community, especially at a “premier” level”) we essentially had to work our way from the bottom of the ladder to the top. This involved beating every team possible in consecutive games over the course of a few weeks.

Last week we played for the right to play in the grand final. This was a very challenging game and our entire team was nervous throughout the proceedings. HUC (Hobart Ultimate Club) are known for their relentless accuracy and also a sweet dosage of speed that serves them very well.

Despite our concerns we managed to come away with a win. In my opinion this was the best game of Ultimate our team has played in a long time. We had most of our players avialable and everyone stepped up playing with a precision and level headedness that was most impressive.

On a personal level I was extremely pleased with my performance. My throws, difficult and easy, came off well and I managed to pull of some great catches as well. I felt very valuable on the team and haven’t felt happier after an Ultimate game for a long time.

Which brings me to the subject of this post. Sorry its taken a while to get there but as I haven’t written anything for a good while I thought I’d better provide some background information.

As mentioned, last night we won the grand final however I came away from that game feeling the exact opposite how I felt after our semi-final. Sure, I was very happy to have won and so pleased that we had pulled through as a team. The score was 9-8 and we scored the last point after the final siren.

Despite the victory I played rather badly. Realisitically speaking I reckon I dropped 70% of the throws that came my way. This included easy swings to me across the field, throws directly at me from a cut out of the stack and also flying one handed grabs for hammers deep in the end-zone corner.

During half time I had to take a moment away from the rest of the players to try and contain my frustrations. Things didn’t really improve in the second half and I started feeling like I’d be better off staying on the sidelines than being on the field.

After the game I commented on my dissatisfaction to several people and they tried to cheer me up. I also tried to cheer myself up and together we all came up with a number of excuses:

  • The conditions were bad (It was very windy)
  • You’d been sick for a week and were still recovering
  • The throws weren’t ideal
  • Your marker was playing harder than normal

None of these really fit however and truth be told I’m still not really sure what the answer is. Probably a combination of all of the above and other factors I haven’t even thought of. Despite all those things, the fact I kept focusing on was that the disc was in my hands several times, very catchable. In many of the opportunities I wasn’t even under pressure.

In typical Gen Y fashion I pointed my need for a pep talk towards a popular social networking site. Other team members had posted their happiness with our success and in an embarassingly needy fashion I complained again about my performance and how I was upsest with what had occurred.

Our captain, Steve, replied and basically said that he’d thought I played well. He pointed out several throws that, in the difficult conditions, had come off really well and been important to several of our points.

After reading his comments I felt much better and as I continue to think about them the feeling of annoyance at myself is decreasing. In my haste to focus on my catching (which was undeniably sub-par) I had forgotten about the other valuable aspects I had provided to the game.

Personally I think that happens a lot in Ultimate. I’m not a particularly needy person and I’m quite happy to tell myself I’m doing a good job most of the time but its evident that at times I need to get someone else’s positive perspective to keep me going.

From this entire experience I have concluded a couple of things:

  • A good captain is encouraing and focuses on the positives as much as the negatives
  • A good player focuses on their positives as well as their negatives
  • A good player focuses on other people’s positives. Whether you’re on the same team or not a compliment can go a long way.

It’s easy to applaud the big things in Ultimate. The run-on hand blocks, the desperate sprinting cuts into the end-zone. Layouts in both defensive and offensive situations.

However, the solid offense, the willingness to keep running and keep trying are often overlooked. Personally I think that keeping your offensive player (when you are on defense) under careful control is one of the most overlooked skills and abilities in the game.

Lets start applauding our defensive players who keep on top of their offensive counterparts. If a cut isn’t successful its not just because the offensive person failed to cut well, its also because the defensive player knew what they were doing and moved in the right way at the right time.

Lets also start focusing on the positives of our plays. You can lose points and lose games whilst still doing great positive things in your points.

September 21, 2010 at 6:02 pm 5 comments


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