WUCC: A Seattle Trainer’s Perspective

by | August 21, 2014, 3:56am 0

Just got back from Italy. Holy crap.

WUCC 2014 was an incredible experience I was traveling with Riot and Sockeye, who ended up doing incredibly well– 1st place for Riot, 2nd place for Sockeye. WOOT! I came home with three medals and feeling extremely proud of the players and my contributions to both teams. I also got to meet some great people, connect more with players from other teams I’ve traveled to work with, and gave a presentation about training for ultimate. Rain and mud, sun and heat, travel and lodging, balling and injury – there were a lot of variables that impacted each team and player uniquely. I can speak to what I encountered and what I saw, and that’s what I want to do. What did I take away from Club Worlds?

Theformat and logistics of the tournament were new to me and challenging to many. My teams’ housing worked out incredibly well: both ended up in places that were excited to have ultimate players staying there, were flexible and accommodating, and were close to the fields. My understanding is that this wasn’t the case for a lot of other teams. Some were housed in the “dorms” (most of us have seen [pics/videos] of that subpar situation), and others ended up being a long way from the action and having big commutes. Less-than-supportive housing and long travel times add stress and discomfort to an inherently intense time.

Most ultimate tourneys are shorter with more games on each day — a sprint, not a marathon. I helped several players manage their energy and self-care so they didn’t burn out too soon, and gave nutritional advice to my teams between games (“Hey, no protein now, you’ve got a game in 20! Carbs and water! THEN protein after that game!”). I also ran into the Italian “problem” of meals comprised entirely of carbs and fats (pizza and pasta) with trace amounts of protein (which is vital in repairing muscle and aiding recovery).

Teams also played more games in total than they usually do at this point in the year, meaning more wear-and-tear on bodies potentially less conditioned than in other times. Worlds is a really long week, with usually only one or two games being played per day. Strategies for getting adequate rest/recovery/food are incredibly important — if you’re undernourished or under-rested or dehydrated by day four, you’re in trouble. That being said, there was a ton of time to lie around and rest and foam roll when you weren’t playing, which was awesome.

One of the more interesting logistical elements in play was that game times/locations were being changed at the last minute due to waterlogged fields. Sockeye had a game scheduled at 11am that, at 11 the night before, was changed and relocated to 8:30pm. Obviously that’s a big change, and required some scrambling to readjust team time, transportation, body care and mentality. It seemed like an incredibly complex task as tourney directors to try to manage everything, one that I wouldn’t have wanted to take on.

And then there was the weather. The first day of play was cancelled, and the second day (and the couple after that) were played on fields that were mostly slippery mud. Playing ultimate with those field conditions causes a ton of stress on connective tissue and requires small stabilizing muscles to play a larger role than usual. Some of my players experienced weird tweaks and problems that were new and alarming to them (“I feel like I strained my quad…that’s never happened to me before…WHAT DO I DO!?”) as a result of sliding around when they were trying to cut and mark. Managing and troubleshooting these early problems was incredibly important, of course, but it was more important than I realized because of what happened next.

The rain stopped and the ground started to dry out, and as it did, it hardened. Players were putting more force into a stiffer surface (in some cases almost like clay) while running and jumping, and this force was being absorbed by muscles and tendons that were already stressed and confused by the prior conditions. Several Rio-otters and Sockguys had gotten injuries at the US Open a few weeks previous to Worlds, and even though they had mostly recovered, the conditions made them vulnerable to re-injury or straining something that compensated for the injury. Performance-wise, obviously play was a little messier and it was harder to reach top speed through the slime. The heat returned in full force towards the end of the week, though, bringing with it the constant need to manage fluids and find shade. Fatigue comes on stronger and quicker in hot conditions, so having warm days at the end of the tourney was a challenge – I saw some of the effects of that during the finals.

The level of athleticism and skill I witnessed at this tournament was incredible. So many nail-biters, so many ridiculous layouts, such incredible spirit and heart through adversity and success. I was able to appreciate on a level deeper than I have before how much strength, conditioning and good technique were key factors to the success of all the high level teams. The ability to get open through the mud, get that extra inch of vertical for the D — that’s good physical training right there. I did my best to prepare my teams to play at that level, encouraging them to address their weaknesses preseason and early on, building up their base level of strength/power and self-knowledge. But the work I did with them the month prior was all technique: accelerating, decelerating, changing direction, getting low and getting up. I was incredibly impressed by the level of responsibility my players took for themselves and their bodies. They were constantly doing the things they knew they needed to do to warm up/cool down/recover, and they sought me out when they had questions or problems. I saw tons of other teams and players doing the same amount of self-care, and what can I say? It made me happy.

Because of that dedication, there were more incredible plays than I could ever share here. Luckily, many of them are of course captured on film (I was especially impressed by Fulcrum’s coverage of Riot). I just wanted you to know that from where I’m standing, the level of athleticism, grit, and will was enough to take my breath away.

The other thing I’ll really remember and internalize, both personally and professionally, is the community connections and team-building opportunities afforded by this tournament. There’s a lot to be said for shared circumstances — “Hey, we’re all here for a week, we’re all dealing with rain and schedules, we’re all playing ultimate!” There was a lot of hanging out going on at the field site (the main tent was always buzzing, with people playing foosball and crashing on the couches) and a lot of team intermingling. For a lot of people I met, this was their first time at an international tournament, getting to play and watch teams they would never have the chance to interact with otherwise. Team-wise, it was an amazing bonding opportunity. There was time and space to work out the kinks in offensive/defensive strategies, and for personnel to learn to integrate more effectively. Dealing with logistical challenges, taking turns in ice baths, playing cards at 10pm, and even a birthday party for my youngest child Serah (thanks, Riot!!) — how many times in our lives do we get the chance for something like that? I loved having the chance to meet people from other countries, some who sought me out to propose travel/teaching opportunities (Singapore? Hi Hui! Clinics at Paganello? Yes please!!) and some who just wanted to say that they knew me from my YouTube videos and like what I’m doing. I was so inspired by the athletes surrounding me, both on the teams I was supporting and the others I encountered, and I came back excited to continue working with ultimate players in every capacity I can manage.

All in all, an amazing experience. Can’t wait for the next one. :)


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