Posts tagged ‘sport’

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.

June 19, 2012 at 9:26 am 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

Tournament Preparation – What to bring…

In a previous post I wrote about how to prepare for a tournament from a training and fitness point of view. Not long after publishing the post I realised that another important element of tournament preparation is making sure you bring along all the right things to get you through the tournament.

This post is about making sure everything is available to you when you need it to be. I like to know that if I need something during a game I will be able to grab it and get on with playing. I don’t want to have to fret about not having the right bit of gear for a certain weather condition, or the right food for my particular energy-levels at any given time.

By being prepared with all the right items I can focus on the important aspects that are happening on the field without having to worry about anything else.

The first consideration is a bag to put everything in. I’ve dedicated an entire post to the bag I use for Ultimate Frisbee tournaments so you can check that out here. Once you’ve got the bag sorted there’s a bunch of stuff you’ll need to put in it:

Ultimate Clothes/Accessories

Who knows what weather you will be playing in across a 2-3 day tournament? In southern Australia it is impossible to plan for any weather in particular so here’s how to cover everything:

  • Jersey/Shirt – Your team jersey!
  • Shorts – Shorts that match your jersey or whatever your team is going with.
  • Compression Shorts – Worn under your regular shorts if it isn’t cold. Quite good for your muscles over a tournament.
  • Base Layers – I like wearing a base-layer when I’m playing, one that wicks away sweat. They keep me warm when it is cold, and keep the sweat off me when it is hot. At a tournament they also help keep my jersey fresh for more than a day. They don’t have to be expensive, I use these ones from Torpedo 7. I bring one for each day of the tournament.
  • Socks – I bring heaps of socks, at least one pair for every day of the tournament and potentially 2-per day. Fresh socks are amazing mid tournament and also help prevent blisters from sliding round with sweaty feet in hot conditions.
  • Cleats/Boots – Some people have tournament-specific boots. I just have some trusty Asics that I love and wear whenever I play Ultimate
  • Cap – Helps visibility and also helps keep the sun off your face. Alternatively, if it is raining/cold it keeps your head dry and warm and stops water running down your face.
  • Sunglasses – I squint a lot in the sun so prefer to play in sunglasses if it is sunny. Some claim it is a disadvantage if my teammates can’t see where I am looking but it hasn’t seem to be too much of an issue.
  • Compression Tights – If it is really cold you’ll want some coverage on your legs. Compression tights allow you to run around with coverage without getting too hot (as opposed to some sports-oriented tights that are fleecy and generally too hot for running in).
  • Arm Warmers – Probably my most crucial bit of Ultimate kit aside from the usual stuff. I have found cycling arm warmers to be brilliant for variable weather or warming up. Your arms stay warm without adding an extra layer to your chest, which then gets hot when you run. The biggest benefit is you can just pull them off when you warm up, even mid-point. Some are water-resistant such as the Castelli Nanoflex ones that I have. I originally started using Arm Warmers for cycling but I can highly recommend them for Ultimate.
  • Beanie – If it gets really cold I will play in a beanie to keep my wears warm.
  • Underpants – I play Ultimate in briefs whereas I generally wear boxer-briefs. As a result I need to remember a pair per-day.
  • Waterproof/Windproof Jacket – On cold days you’ll want something warm to put on between points and in breaks between games.
  • Sweatbands – On hot days I like to wear a sweat band on my throwing arm. Mainly this is for wiping my face but if it is really hot it also stops sweat running down to my hand a bit.
  • Gloves – I’m not entirely sold on the idea of playing in Gloves as yet but I do currently carry a paid of the Lookfly Ultimate gloves with me and wear them occasionally. As a mini review, I wish they let you choose which hand you throw with so the other hand could have five full-fingers on the gloves rather than two useless cut-out ends.
  • Thongs – Similarly to having fresh socks, being able to take your cleats off and wander round in thongs at lunch time is amazingly good for your feet. Do it!
  • A frisbee! – You’ll need it for warm-ups and to kill time in the airport.

Food and Liquids

You need to stay hydrated and well fed throughout a tournament. This requires some preparation:

  • Drink Bottles – I bring two and have them full and on the sidelines within easy reach at all times. One is for water and one is for electrolytes/sports drinks.
  • Sports Drink – In the past I have carried a tub of Gatorade around however more recently I took a tube of Nuun tablets to a tournament. These were much more portable (smaller) and heaps easier to prepare in a drink bottle each time. I try and drink water and electrolytes equally, aiming for a bottle of each per game.
  • Gels/Energy Bars – Running all day for several days in a row saps energy. You won’t feel hungry but you’ll need fuel. I bring 2 energy bars per day but can substitute one for a banana if there are some available at the tournament (they are a bit easier to eat mid-game). I haven’t tried any Gels as yet but they’d be fine if you can find any that taste nice!
  • A bowl and Spork – Some tournaments offer dinner but require your own cutlery/crockery. I normally bring along a bowl and a spork as I’m not overly keen to eat off a frisbee.

Medical Stuff

  • Sunscreen – apply regularly and liberally. Nothing worse than having to deal with sunburn on the second day of a tournament.
  • Anti-Inflammatories – Either Voltaren or Nurofen. If you get a sprain or a twinge or an ache you can safely start taking anti-inflammatories to help you through the tournament.
  • Paracetamol – If you’re taking Voltaren and need some extra pain relief then Paracetamol can help. Nurofen has pain relief built in.
  • Sports Tape – My feet aren’t used to spending a couple of days cutting hard in lots of different directions. I can start to develop blisters after a while and sports tape can help to avoid that.
  • Ankle Brace – I’ve sprained my ankle a few times during tournaments. If it is still ok to run on a brace will help avoid doing more damage whilst you continue playing.

Feet Taped Up – Helped to avoid some impending blisters. Not sure what was going on with my bruised toes…

Regular Clothes

Generally speaking if you’re going away for a weekend tournament you won’t actually spend a lot of time wearing your regular clothes. This section is really up to personal preference and baggage allowance! Last tournament I brought what I wore on the plane plus some shorts and a spare t-shirt.

Toiletries

Whatever you would normally bring when you’re travelling – don’t forget any prescription medicines or similar. Also, don’t forget your toothbrush! I forgot mine last tournament 😦

Other general travelling stuff

The usual travelling stuff applies:

  • Phone Charger
  • Book to read
  • Chewing Gum
  • Headphones – probably one of the worst things I have forgotten.
  • Phone
  • Wallet
  • Plane Itineraries – I store mine on my phone normally.

I think that’s about it! Hopefully that’s a useful list of things to bring to a tournament, along with some tips for a few things you may not have considered.

How about you? Is there anything missing on my list that you would bring? Any pro items that I’m missing?

May 14, 2012 at 10:21 pm 6 comments

Running with a backpack – Take 2!

Whilst browsing through some statistics about the traffic on my blog I noticed that I receive a reasonable amount of visits from people looking for information about running with a backpack.

I have written about this subject in the past however I feel that it is necessary to clarify my stance on the subject. The original post was written in haste and was more of a general whinge about some injuries that I was dealing with at the time. In reality I have very little experience running with a backpack.

I feel bad for the people who stumble across my original post when researching this subject only to find a piece of work that hasn’t really looked at the subject in any seriousness. I didn’t provide any useful advice for people who are looking for backpack running options or techniques.

As a result I did some research myself to try and help people along. I only did some brief looking around but I think the following pages will help:

How to run with a backpack – from The Blogging Joggler

A Good Backpack for Running – from Cool Runnings Australia.

I will edit the original post and add a note at the top directing people to this post. Good luck to any backpack runners out there!

May 9, 2012 at 6:23 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

It’s official, running with a backpack sucks!

Edit – May 9th 2012 – This post has been superseded by a more useful post on running with a backpack! If you’re actually after some advice or options please read this new post – Running with a backpack – Take 2.

I have often seen people running with a backpack and thought that it would be extremely annoying. As a kid I ran with a backpack a few times and found it to be very uncomfortable. However, I thought that with a decent backpack and some running experience maybe it wouldn’t be so bad. I can confirm that it is as horrible and uncomfortable as you would expect – even with your bag strapped on nice and tight.

Today I went to the physio who told me I wasn’t allowed to ride my bike for two weeks. This came about as I have some fairly intense pain around my left knee and calf muscle. In short, some instability around my hips and riding with my seat too low has allowed my knee to be unstable whilst riding. This has stretched the patellar tendon and my calf muscle has been overworked to compensate.

$120 later I’m equipped with some daily strengthening excercises (which I will do!) and a no-ride policy for 2 weeks. Given I ride to work every day this is going to be inconvenient. In fact, I now needed a way to get home!

I had a number of options:

  • Ride home anyway – one last time before starting my two week break
  • Catch a bus home
  • Stay around at work late until Maz rides home and then comes back to get me
  • Run home

Given I’m not riding for two weeks I needed to find an option that would suit me tonight and for the next 10 working days. I decided that, having never run with a backpack, I would give it a try. I was planning on running at lunch time today anyhow so all my running gear was on-hand.

Well it was horrible. Despite the tightness of the straps my bag still bounced around all over the place. It was moving so much that my iPhone, which never skips, was skipping! After giving up on music I continued running but ended up having to hold my backpack to stop it from moving. Running without my hands looks and feels ridiculous and is hardly any fun. My top was riding way up my back due to the friction of the backpack as well.

I did track the run and you can see it by clicking here to check out the Runkeeper log.

As you can see, it was rather slow and I walked in many places as I was too fed up with the bouncy bag., It’s just over 3k to get home so really I should be able to do it comfortably under 15 minutes (which isn’t that much longer than riding really!).

So now I don’t know what to do. I think I might try minimizing the need for a backpack. I use it to carry food and clothes primarily (given I normally wear riding gear). If I bring a bunch of food to work in one go along with a bunch of clothes I should be right for a week potentially? Not sure yet…

I should be able to carry the essentials (phone, wallet, security card and a house key) in my SPIbelt.

I miss my bike already…

September 22, 2010 at 5:36 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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