Wednesday, June 8, 2011


Let's compare two similar players with the same quantifiable skills and dimensions.  One of the intangible differentiators is experience.  We've all seen those tall, fast kids who are always open at the wrong place or wrong time... or the squad of youngsters who can't keep from throwing into the lazy old guys' poaches.  We often chalk this up to a lack of experience.  Well, i've been working on a definition for this type of experience.  You can let me know what you think.
  1. Experience is knowing where to look
  2. Knowing what you're looking for.
  3. Recognizing what you see.
  4. Knowing what to do.
  5. Doing it.

Now this process gets smoother, faster, and more reflexive with time and "dedicated practice."  Spotting a poacher in your peripheral vision starting to peek over her shoulder and lean toward the lane as you're winding up is like a chess master recognizing patterns on a board.

However, the development process can be sped up.  The amazing thing is that the impediment to player development in ultimate comes often in step 1.  They're just looking the wrong direction, and that should be the easiest part.  Blame it on a lack of coaching.

So a few quick examples i see ALL the time:

Zone - break containment:  You're in the cup and you have the disc trapped.  They get off a dump and swing.  The zone's goal here is to contain downfield yardage and reset itself.  Too often the cup players are running across the field watching the disc.  If you're the first cup player across, you should be looking across and behind you to pick up the threats.  I call this looking behind you "checking (over) your shoulder".  As your running, you can see almost the entire field and there are seldom more than 3 downfield threats downfield in this situation.  See what your downfield defenders are taking out, communicate with words and pointing, and match up.  Once you've contained, you can reset your zone.

It's called "flex and contain."  When your zone is trapping, you're packing your defenders in.  When the trap gets broken, you need to "flex" by expanding the defense, scrambling to contain threats, and then reset.  And the only way to "flex" well is if you're checking your shoulder to find the threats.  May seem obvious, but i swear i've been on nationals level club teams that did not do this even close to consistently.

Ok, i've written more than i expected.  2 more examples to come.


  1. Chunking.

    Sure, I could link to the Wikipedia entry here, but the thing is I note most often in terms of ultimate experience is how complex your description needs to be to comminucate an idea.

    Do I need to say "Here is the three-step process by which you will contain their offense and push them back to where our D wants them to go" or can I say "We want to push them back to the other sideline" and let the player reason out the remainder?

    Depends on the player and the associative networks activated by the concepts of "trap zone" "open receivers" "visual field of D vs O" and the like. A step further, how can these notions all be tied to one concept? How can these ideas/responsibilities be activated unconsciously?

    Practice chunks of the game. Over and over again with variables. The brain then learns to act on the problem without repeatedly re-solving the problem. Without thinking "If I do X and Y, result C will be best for my team" the defender will simply do X and Y because the brain has linked those behaviours to an increased rate of success.

    I ramble too. Time to get to A-League.

  2. There is no upper limit to the number of words or amount of complexity one could use to communicate an idea, but of course there is an optimal amount, which differs by context. This forum is of course a context constructed to allow for more words and complexity while accepting it's a suboptimal conduit for knowledge and a *understanding*.

  3. I seem to have pointed in the wrong direction with my words.

    Agreed, the number of words is relevant to the context. The context I was pointing (poorly) at is what those words relate to in the brain. The context is less "the game of ultimate" than it is "an individual's understanding of what the game of ultimate is".

    To take a different tack, your 5-step process is the conscious manifestation of what is actually a 1-step process: Do it. Yes, we must work up from conscious to unconscious practice and all of that, but reversal can be useful in encapsulating more information into one thought or action. More "awareness".

    1. Where to look.
    - What about where *not* to look? You should not look to static parts of the field. Then, one would want to look at the part of the field which contains the most information.
    2. Knowing what you're looking for.
    - What about what you're *not* looking for? For example, I'm *not* looking for players, which means I'm looking for space.
    3. Recognizing what you see.
    - What does this mean? If you are consciously thinking "this is what I see" you are losing time. A prime example of this, to me, is recognizing "zone or man" defense. No matter what the defense is, what you do to counter it is based on the same principles. The experienced player does not identify what he sees-- what he sees is the negative form of what he does.
    4. Knowing what to do.
    - Know what not to do. This seems simple enough, but is something that gets lost in the prescriptive style in which ultimate strategy is disseminated. It can even be twisted around to say dumb things like "don't ever huck to the same third of the field" when what is meant is "don't turn the disc over" and "some people turn the disc over when hucking to the same third".
    5. Doing it.
    - Not doing it? Nope. this makes no sense. The key to playing a sport is doing it. What is it that one does in ultimate? Complete passes. How does one complete passes? By throwing to spaces to which your teammates can get to before your opponents.

    Now we're getting to the actual crux of my typing. What is contained in the notion of "do it"? How much information is packed into those two words? When you have the disc, you complete passes to your teammates which implies that there are opponents. This implies that they are trying to stop you. to prevent them from preventing you is to "do it". Or is "doing it" scoring goals?

    I know some of this is rambly bullshit, but I'm trying to point at something that I haven't entirely determined the look of, and if I just type more of this BS to myself... well... I'll never actually test the thoughts out, will I? Besides, here i'm just a commenter

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. It occurred to me that by initiating the conversation, i'd draw out and increase the okayplayer's online presence. It's possible that it'll be a month before i realize that this blog is just substituting for emails we might otherwise exchange.

    Yes, experience is largely about awareness and using that awareness well. In another world i'd say wisdom is using knowledge well. On the field that wisdom is expressed very quickly. On a blog, (would be) wisdom is expressed very slowly.

    To what level of do i want to take this discussion? To a level usable for a coach or a captain or a player trying to remember in his own head.

    I need to remember the tone i'm trying to strike.