In this day and age of ubiquitous video, access to footage is easy and it is entirely possible to spend days and days watching film. Film has its uses, particularly analysis of yourself and other teams, but it isn’t necessarily a great tool for new and creative thought. For that you need outside inspiration. I’ve always been an omnivore, pulling ideas from any and everywhere. Here are three examples:
Offense: Asa Mercer v Washington
About ten years ago, Spring Reign, the Seattle middle school tournament, invited a bunch of Sockeye and Riot players out to come, hang out, play a showcase game and generally provide some prestige to the event. It was fun. The finals featured Asa Mercer and Washington middle schools. It was a good game. Mercer was lead by a rugged defender, who by poaching on Washington’s deep shots was able to keep her team hang around. Unfortunately, Mercer didn’t have the offensive chops to keep up as Washington literally ran away with it.
Washington was led by two tiny handlers who used a unique space and cutting style. (Remember that this was ~2001 during the heyday of the vert.) They took their five downfield players and spread them out all around the field, but were careful to keep the area in front of the disc clear. The two handlers then ran a wide open attacking set that gained huge yards for advantage. After catching the big runners their work had created, they’d pick out their shots to the downfield players who were open by the dramatic repositioning of the disc. This offensive concept – spread everyone out, create attacking motion with your handlers and then take shots downfield – became the foundation of Oregon’s 2010 national championship offense.
I’ve always loved this blog – it is far more analytic than most and therefore most interesting. I won’t go into too great of summarizing detail because you can (and should) read the article. I saw two really great implications to take out of it. First and tangentially, is the futility of statistics in ultimate. Statistics are dependent on a large sample size, both in prediction and application. Another way to look at it is that you need a lot of data to say anything meaningful and you can only predict across a large number of events – a single event is just gambling. So until we get SportsVU in ultimate (wow!) a lot of statistics is guess work and horribly prone to confirmation bias.
There is also a defensive takeaway in here as well: help more. Defenders spend far too much time and effort covering people who aren’t doing anything. Yes, ‘just-guard-your-guy defense creates clarity. Yes, it helps your team build a ‘man-up’ attitude. Yes, it fosters accountability for your defenders. But it is rarely the most efficient thing to do. Go back and look at the film of the Japanese women from WUGC 2012 (here‘s pool play vs. USA) – that’s the textbook film on using help to constrict space. There is a great deal of defensive growth to be made by adopting a basketball mentality of help and rotation.
Leadership: The Tyranny of Structureless
The lack of resources in ultimate force us into all sorts of weird leadership structures. Although most teams have settled into the now-standard captains plus committees system, I am constantly looking for was to improve leadership structure and to ensure the sustainability of it. (College teams in particular are prone to collapse with the graduation of institutional knowledge.) This article really does a great job of laying out the issues around building leadership structures and the possible solutions. I also stretched to consider whether the kind of issues discussed here extended onto the field – that is, if you use a structureless system of offense or defense are you just creating informal playing structures and making it that much harder for the uninitiated to figure out? As a bonus, for those of us interested in feminism and radical politics, the middle portion offers a window into the early development of the women’s rights movement.
Starting in a couple weeks, the Win the Fields blog post is going to transition to an advice/Q&A column. You will still see big opinion/news features ala last winter’s NexGen stories, but they will run separately. There is no particular type of question I am looking for – I’ll take technique, tactics, strategy, leadership, culture…anything, really. So send me your questions, I’ll answer them. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Feature photo by Alex Fraser – UltiPhotos.com