Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Chesapeake write-up

luke said...

where is the chesapeake write up?

Luke, fine question. Of course, it would be much easier for me to do a write-up if I had actually been there. It has been very frustrating missing tournaments this 'fall'. In the last few years, I had only missed sectionals up to this point, but a combination of factors caused me to miss both the Colorado Cup and the Chesapeake Open. But that doesn't mean I can't write something up...

So, it was a rainy Saturday morning when the tournament started. DoG was overall #1 seed by virtue of it's victory over Pike at the premier East Coast season ending spring tournament the Boston Invitational. DoG started with an easy victory over #4 Machine, followed by a rainy bye, and then a meeting with their regional rival GOAT. Despite the score, the game was (closer/less close?) than the score indicated. A 3rd game against last seed LCN held to form as DoG walked to a 13-7 victory. In the final showcase game against Chain Lightning, DoG's offense got on track. Despite a slew of turnovers, they were only broken once the entire game. The defense was unfortunately unable to hold up their end of the bargain despite a number of early opportunities with the disc.

Meanwhile, over in the other pool, after some early jitters (and a 13-3 pounding at the hands of Potomac), Ring of Fire got back on track with victories over BAT and the minor upset of #1 pool seed Pike. This was good enough to get them the 3rd seed, an early morning crossover game with Philly from the Open division, and then a quarterfinal game with DoG. After a tougher than expected 13-9 victory over Philly, Ring took it to a clearly overmatched and tired DoG, whose offense was a pale shadow of the previous day, running on fumes and wondering what was happening.

After being bumped to the losers bracket, DoG was able to get back a little of its pride against another regional rival, Twisted Metal, before punting in the 5-6 game against LCN as LCN wanted to get going on the drive home (and had already lost to DoG).

In the winners bracket, only 3 points overall separated the 3 semis and final games, with Chain continuing it's hot streak with a semis victory Potomac 11-10 and Ring beating Pike in a squeaker 13-12. Chain seems like the real deal, with AJ showing the way both on and off the field, bringing Chain back to respectability (or maybe to real respectability for the first time). Unfortunately, Chain couldn't rally to win in the finals, losing by a point to Ring, 15-14. And Ring showed real character after starting the tournament 0-2 to rise out of the pre-quarters and win their final 6 games. Looks like Sockeye set a good example to follow in last years champies with their pre-quarters path.

Interesting scores: Although Twisted Metal ended with only 2 victories, they had some very close games, and it is interesting how they do in certain matchups, beating Ring and giving Pike a VERY tough game. As for GOAT, which team showed up and which one will be at Regionals? How will DoG do this weekend in Santa Cruz with almost their entire squad against the 'Big Iron'? Will this make a difference? And just imagine what I could have written if I had actually been at the tournament?

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Tuesday, August 23, 2005


As a dinosaur, and someone who was playing high level ultimate in the early 90's, I find occasion to notice differences in the game between now and then. Howevever, now i want to talk about something on a related topic, injuries. I don't know if other elite teams (although based on the ECC preview, DoG is no longer an elite team, or at least out of the running for this year's title) have this issue, but for the last few years, we have had significant problems with injuries depleting our practice numbers. And I have been trying to prod my fossilized brain, but I really don't think we had these issues back in the 90's (injuries, not low numbers).

In 92 and 93, we went the large team route (merger of Titanic/Earth Atomizer), and had large numbers. After we blew it up following the 93 debacle and started DoG in spring of 94, we made a conscious decision to have low numbers. In order, we had 19, 19, 19, 20, 20, and then the final merger year of 25. And I recall that we rarely had less than 7 on 7 (although I expect that Jim will correct me on this point). One thing that we did do was invite some fillers to flesh out numbers for us, people who were willing to practice with us even though come tournament time they wouldn't be with us. Not sure if they thought they might slide on the team that way (which is not unreasonable), but it didn't happen.

What I'm trying to bring this back to is injuries. Since 2000, we have had at least 24+ guys on the team every year (it seems). And yet we still often still have difficulty fielding a good practice. At least for the last few years, we have been consistently sporting 3-6 guys on the sideline at practice, nursing some injurie or another. And these injuries almost always appear to be soft-tissue/internal/muscle/indefinable/describe as you will as opposed to a broken bone or something obvious. The only obvious one this weekend was Matt still recovering from nose surgery.

Observation #2 is that the injured players are usually young. I'm still trying to figure out if that is because DoG in general is now really young, or if there is some other rationale. I know as I have gotten older, I have started to stretch more (I NEVER stretched until probably mid to late 90's), and if I ever do some sort of muscle injury (insert joke here about how I would actually have to run to injure myself), I promptly make an appointment with Russ Robar, our unofficial team massage therapist, who we have brought to Nationals the last few years. The man is a miracle worker. He got me back playing the next day after a dehydrated calf pull suffered two years ago against Johnny Bravo on the BRUTALLY hot day that saw like 4 people drop in that game.

The one thing that I find completely intolerable is when somebody on our team pulls up lame with some muscle aggravation, and then expects to work it out themselves, and ends up missing a week or two of weekend practices (or tournaments). I think it is finally happening less frequently now, and people are starting to see Russ or somebody else more quickly, but the season is short enough, and I don't care who you are, physical intervention from an EXCELLENT massage therapist will make ALL the difference, and will shorten recovery by an unbelievable amount of time. Apparently one issue is that Russ usually isn't covered by insurance, but how much money are you already spending on the sport that you can't see him one or two times to take care of a muscle pull. And if it is going to take longer than that, then your muscles are already *(&(*#&$ed, and you were going to miss the season anyway.

So, are there more injuries now than there were 10 years ago (for those that can actually comment)? And if they are hitting the younger players, why? Less preparation? Overtraining? Bad training? Stupidity? I don't know, but it is definitely affecting our team.

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Thursday, August 18, 2005

Practice/ridiculously hot and humid weather

After making fun of Dennis McCarthy for years for continually getting heat exhaustion when the weather got really hot and humid, I finally got an idea of what he felt during practice on Sunday (actually, I didn't really, but it seemed like a good opportunity to get some digs on Dennis, who NEVER modified his behavior based on the weather, ie., drinking more fluids when it was hot out, as a small example). More below.

This weekend had two of the hottest/most humid days of the summer, and naturally we had practice both days. While some would consider that this can give you great preparation for Sarasota, which has been known to have hot humid weather in the past, I don't think is really the case. At nationals, you have significantly more breaks than you do when you are trying to practice. We ended up with roughly 1-2 subs per team. While these practices had more drilling than I normally like (my distaste for drills is a subject for another post), we still had a number of small scrimmages each day. And when you are effectively playing every point, whether offense or defense, you get used up might quickly.

Sunday was slightly cooler, but I think we all agreed that the weather FELT worse than the previous day. I don't know if it was more humid, or whether we were just so worn out from the previous day so that this affected us more. The late day BBQ followed by another BBQ in downtown Boston with some associated drinking probably didn't help the hydration, but those are the risks.

Saturday's practice included a scrimmage to 7 with double-score that took well over an hour and only resulted in a 7-4 score. It was comical at times, with points where each team had at LEAST 7 turnovers apiece (sometimes on the double score), including consecutive 1st pass turnovers for 3 straight passes in the middle of the field. Naturally, we were forced to do some mid-game sprints due to the ugly nature of the game. While I'm sure Ted did not intent this scrimmage to the end of practice, it ended up being so, except for the 11-minute Indian run that I bailed on and almost puked after 9+ minutes (so close) because of the duration of the game.

On Sunday, long breaks, short scrimmages, and somewhat intense drills marked another long day in the sun/heat. Towards the end of practice, it was clear that everyone had had it. After turnovers, the defense was not quite as intense, waiting for the other team to make the turnover instead of trying to force it. Of course, this got us a chewing out by Ted, but by then, we were too peaked to even notice. I wanted to bail 2/3 the way through the last scrimmage, but there were effectively no subs, so I had to gut out the game, and then staggered to the sideline, removed my cleats, and then rode the scooter home without doing the sprints (and missed the beer because I didn't deserve any).

So, the question is, what do other teams do in these cases? How do they modify their practices when it is that ridiculously hot and humid? Should it be shorted, or same duration with longer breaks? I don't know, just that this was a really tough weekend.

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Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Track workouts

Last night ran the team track workout on my own so that I could go play corporate later. I have never been fond of the longer distances. The workout was 2x200, 3x300, 4x400, 3x300, 2x200. I ran 35, 36, 60, 63, 63, 86, 87, 88, and then blew off the last 400 so I would be able to finish the workout, then 65, 68, blew off the last 300, then 37, 38. When I got home (10 minutes from the track), I was sweating profusely, and the nanny observed that I was beet red. I definitely still felt a little ill. Granted, it was also pretty hot and humid at the time, but still.

As I get older (38 and going), these longer distances really take their toll on me. I remember back in the early 90's when we were doing 4x3x400 and I would be spinning off 73-4's for every single 400. That is frankly inconceivable to me now. My longer distance times have slowly grown over the years. The biggest positive change in my conditioning was when Bryan Doo joined DoG in 2002(?). He is an excellent personal trainer now working with the Boston Celtics, and he ran agility workouts for us on Thursday nights (track on Tuesday). We were finally doing workouts that satisfied my requirements, which were enhancing quickness and short sprinting. Since then, we have continued to do the agility workouts, and they have definitely helped extend my career.

Interestingly enough, in the last few years, my personal performance at Nationals has continued to improve. I attribute this to the more useful conditioning due to the agilities workouts, the usual veteran wiliness, and because I have been throwing fewer long throws (fewer cuts, team de-emphasis, who knows). The competition with Wicks in the early aughts helped also as we competed for fewest turnovers, who could get through a day at Nationals without a turnover, etc.

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Wednesday, August 03, 2005

What happened to the clam?

I commented on Marshall's blog about this over here, then realized that it deserved its own, more fully fleshed entry (or at least belongs here anyway, even if I don't add anything really new...).

I find that the clam today has strayed far from its humble beginnings. I freely accept that Earth Atomizer did not invent the clam, but from that team through to the combo Boston teams to Death or Glory, we definitely perfected and elevated it to the highest echelons of the game and made it a part of the defensive playbook of many teams. However, at this point, I question its usefulness, at least the way DoG now plays it.

When Earth Atomizer started playing the clam back in '90, it was a very aggressive, 0 to 1 pass (at most) defense. It originally started as a way of stopping the big gainer from the cutter at the back of the stack. A caveat here is that pull rules were different back then in that the pulling team was NOT penalized for pulling the disc out of bounds. If the pull landed in the endzone the player could walk the disc up, so they were not in a rush to put the disc into play. And if it landed out of bounds, they could take it in the middle of the field (but no brick). So when you wanted to set up the clam, you inevitably pulled the disc out of bounds and had the leisure to get down on your man (clam by man) or into your positions. The key was that there was VERY little differentiation between the clam and a fronting D with the last man back. When the disc was checked in, it was the responsibility of #4 (who is supposed to cover the break mark side of the stack) to watch for 3,4,5,6 to cut on the break side. The only thing that #4 might do was to move up from the 4th position to the 3rd position and play slightly (couple of feet) on the break mark side, and this would only occur after the disc was checked in. It was the rare team that would be immediately able to identify the clam based on some slight movement of one defensive player after the disc was checked in. Most importantly, 3 and 4 did NOT flare out of the stack unless 3-6 in the stack cut. And the preferred goal was to time your flare so that the throw was in the air and make the D, not to just stop the throw and hope this would result in a high count throw or god forbid a stall. 3 or 4 would pick up and then play man defense on whoever cut from the stack and then 5 would fill the spot of whichever of 3 or 4 flared out to take the next upfield cutter. After the first pass was completed, we were playing man-to-man.

Now the clam has devolved into more of a zone, giving the thrower the ability to try and find an open guy as 3 and 4 automatically stray out to their sides before the disc is even in play, making it obvious that there is a junk defense being played. Part of this is the change in the pull rule providing disincentives to teams to pull the disc out of bounds, and it is the rare pull that will stay up in the air long enough for the defense to get down on the pull and truly set up (and also rare that a team will truly be in a stack on a pull as opposed to trying to run their pull play in the melee right off the pull). However, this evolution was occurring well before the institution of the brick and/or play the pull as it lands in the endzone. And it reached its zenith (nadir?) during the infamous Boston 8 at Mother's Day in Philly in '93. That team won a difficult tournament including a semis victory over a reasonably full and stacked NY, NY squad (pre NY breakup). The philosophy was to play clam for the entire point, minimizing running, keeping the game close, and conserving energy for the end game push. This was the first time where the clam became truly a multi-pass defense. And unfortunately, it never came back from that.

Now, at the highest levels, the clam only serves as a change of pace defense for a point or two to get an offensive team out of its rhythm, and most teams have no problems beating it as it looks more like a zone (and is never hidden). There is actually very little to differentiate it from a zone, except for more man coverage up front. Also, 3 and 4 no longer stay with the cutter as they come in, but they try and hand off their man to 1 and 2, because they shouldn't be leaving their area (for the subsequent passes). This is where the clam usually breaks down.

Consequently, I will be proposing to my team a return to the roots of the 1 pass clam, and I have no problems posting it here because the point is, you won't recognize it on the field until it's too late. And it may very well have to occur on an out of bounds of pull, but the frequency of turns should make up for the loss of 25 yards, or it might become a default defense of clam by man when the disc is pulled out of bounds.


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