In return


When Kate approached me to coach a local college team, and I agreed to help her, I was expecting very little. I figured I'd be able to help them with at least a little bit of the tricks, tips and tactics I've learned over the last thirteen years of playing ultimate.

What I wasn't expecting to do, however, is learn from them. Least of all in the way that I am.

Here are fifteen women who are looking to me to provide them knowledge and leadership. If I fail, they fail.

Sure, they're willing to learn, they're eager to learn. They absorb everything I teach them, and apply it very well. They learn quickly, and remember, too. I'm really impressed with them. However, it's strange to be in a teaching position; not really of authority, but of experience and leadership.

I'm used to being the number two in a group, able to do the work, but not really at the top.

Kate's been in a position of leadership in many different parts of her life. I haven't, not really. When I'm at practice, however, and Kate's not, the team looks to me to provide guidance and direction. I've started doing exactly that. I've started to lead.

I teach them ultimate. They teach me how to be a leader.

A big fish in a small pond, but a leader none-the-less.

It's a lesson I'm glad they're willing to teach.

Back in college


The tournament the college team I'm coaching was heading to this weekend moved from Stanford to Modesto, pretty much at the last minute. I had arranged to drive some of the team to Stanford on Saturday morning, but had my Friday night planned for cleaning the house before George and his family arrived tomorrow.

So much for that plan. They'll arrive to see my house is its usual disarray. Darn it.

I drove to Santa Clara and was slightly late, arriving at 8:55 instead of 8:45. I should have realized this wasn't a problem: the team was on ultimate time. We left the Frisbee house, where many of the men's team players live, around 9:20, arriving at the hotel around 10:50 at night. Now, normally arriving so late isn't an issue, afterall, we practice until 11 at night. Today, though, I was tired from the 6:00 am wakeup and 7:00 am workout.

My car, with Sarah, Julie, Mackenzie and Kaitlin, arrived to find we were in the remote room, a double smoking-permitted room. I had asked at hte front desk when we arrived if any rooms were availalbe, and was told the only room they had was a single bed smoking. Since I was going to be in a smoking room anyway, with the stench of previous smoking tennants, I figured my own bed would be preferable to the floor.

Maybe I should have just kicked one of the players out of bed.

When I went to see about that previoiusly available smoking room, I mentioned I'd prefer a non-smoking room if anyone had cancelled. Somehow, I managed to arrive five minutes after someone had cancelled. $52 dollars later, and I had a room with three extra bed spaces. I went to where I thought the men's team was staying and knocked on the door.

The door flew open, and a waggling tongue, "ahhhhHhhh!" greeted me. When the eyes on the face owning the tongue opened, the player immediately stood up, looking a little embarrassed, "Oh, sorry."

"No problem. Anyone in here want a bedspace? I'm two doors down. The only requirement is that you need to let me sleep."

Fifteen minutes later, the room was asleep.

UCPC, my thoughts


So, other than being a bit nervous for my to-be-given-twice talk, I found today to be absolutely fantastic. In terms of a conference I wanted to attend, this one fit the bill, as it had more sessions that I wanted to attend than timeslots that allowed me to attend. Fortunately, several sessions were taped, and material is available for download, so I can still feel like I heard Jim Parinella talk (I didn't, darnit, nor did I introduce myself to him, as I wanted to), and learn more about mental toughness from Tiina (I hadn't, but only because the thought of learning marking techniques from Ben Wiggins overwhelmed all thoughts of mental toughnesses).

I started out the conference (not the day, as that started with a valiant but ultimately futile attempt to wake up early, shower, dress and dash out of the room without waking up Gwen and Miranda) wondering if the Keynote by Dr. Allan Goldberg was going to be as good as his book, Sports Slumpbusting.

It was better.

The keynote was, of course, a short distillation of his book: you can't put days, weeks, months of training into an hour talk to a general audience. However, with the foundation of the book, or any other type of mental toughness book, the talk was enjoyable, entertaining and informative. I took away both the opening anecdote's quote ("Training is 95% physical and 5% mental. Competing it's the opposite: 95% mental and 5% training."), as well as the thought, "Losing focus won't hurt you in competition. Not refocusing will."

Dr. Goldberg is a very dynamic speaker, able to capture and hold the audience's attention well, which made the talk fun. He had several demonstrations on focus, about how it can be difficult and how focusing on the wrong thing can have disastrous effects on one's performance quality. He hinted at mental chatter, but not extensively, and talked about how the thinking part of the brain (the fore-brain) is good for analyzing during practice, but needs to stfu and let the unconscious part of the brain (the hind-brain) just do its job during competition.

After Dr. Goldberg was done, I moved to the front of the auditorium for Ben Wiggin's talk on Marking Strategies. Ben arrived, as near as I could tell, moments before his talk was scheduled to begin, but started in as if nothing was amiss and he hadn't just spent the last 18 hours trying to make a simple cross country trip that should have taken all of 5 hours tops.

Ben had many good points, and encouraged everyone to ask questions during his talk, so that, in his words, he could feel comfortable like he's talking to his team and not uncomfortable like he's lecturing to us. Sound advice. His slides were full of pictures his mother had taken, which humoured me, as my presentation also had slides by his mother, but his were "used with permission." Detail there.

Ben talked about "back blocking" initially. I took this to be stepping, or moving the outstretched hand on the thrower's release side backwards (6"? 12"? he didn't say), instead of straight out. Doing so gives you more reaction time and reduces the chance of a foul.

Another interesting point Ben made is a staggered stance, not straddling over the marker's position, but with the marker's non-force side foot slightly back, and the force side foot slightly forward. This allows the marker to both move more quickly (presumably because of balance, though I'll have to follow up on that), and avoid thrower-drawn fouls. Ben aslo talkd about the transistion from defensive pursuit to marking, which, admittedly, is one of my least thought about transitions (and one ripe for improvement).

The second part of his talk was about different team defensive strategies, most of which were brilliant for the personnel on the respective teams who played them, but weren't necessarily applicable for any team I'm (currently) on.

The next session time slot was my first talk, so I, well, talked. This presentation went not so well, as my voice cracked, and I missed a lot of my examples. I blame my lack of presentation notes because of system issues (where system issues = bad user input = bah!). After this session, I wandered over for lunch, which I found tasty, and the Ultimate Expo. CMU had a table, so I purchased a Mr. Yuk disc for Kris so that he'll have one to throw, instead of hoarding his last one from college.

I had one more talk to go to, one in the third session. My personal choices were between Jim Parinella's decision making in ultimate talk and Dan Cogandrew and Bryan Doo's Ultimate fitness talk. Peter, whom I met last night at the train station, as George took Emily and me from the airport to the hotel via the train station to pick up Peter, suggested the training session, as he heard the handouts from Parinella's talk would cover much of the presentation topic. Since I'm always a big fan of training, that was all the nudge I needed.

I chose well with that nudge.

Bryan went over, with demonstrations, some stance adjustments in a marking stance that help with both power and quickness (hint: put weight on the balls of your feet), as well as some remarkably timely hamstring exercises (yes, the swiss ball curls I do are the best).

Bryan also had some incredibly impressive foot work drills that he demonstrated on stage. He placed two flat circles on the stage, spaced a handwidth apart. He then moved, balanced, sideways, putting his leading foot into the far hoop, his trailing foot into the close hoop, then his leading foot past the two hoops, his trailing foot following. Bryan then reversed the direction and went back in the same pattern. After amazing us with his ability to move sideways at lightning speeds, he then described how to perform this move correctly (as in balanced).

After watching his demonstration, I realized how much I miss Gino as a trainer. Gino didn't play ultimate, but he understood better than any of my current trainers about balance and quickness and agility. Well, perhaps he doesn't understand it better, more so he emphasized it more, and taught it specifically, which helped me become a better athlete. I miss that. So, I did the next best thing.

I risked being late to the next session, you know, the one where I gave my second talk, and went to the UCPC expo to purchase Dan and Bryan's DVD. If only for the scene of Bryan traversing those hoops, the DVD will be worth it. I can't wait to show it to Kris.

The Future of Ultimate panel was next, lead by Kyle Weisbrod. I'm always happy to see Kyle, but our schedules didn't match up, so I wasn't able to say much more than, "Hi!" I'm glad he's on the board of the UPA. The board really, really, really needed a staff member's (or in Kyle's case, ex-staff member's) perspective to understand where to move, and I'm glad that such a move worked out well for Kyle.

Many of the presenters went out to Ted Munter's place for dinner. Ted was the Team USA coach two years ago. Based on some of the stories I heard about his behaviour as coach of Team USA, I couldn't in clear conscious partake of his hospitality, and so declined an invitation to join the group of speakers. Many of the group knew each other very well, had a good history together, which also contributed a bit to my decision not to go, as I'm not part of that history, and feel awkward standing outside that group looking in.

The decision turned out great, because it meant that Peter and I were able to head out to dinner and talk about the conference, about ultimate, about how strangely rude people in Boston were, and his research. All very interesting topics. As Gwen and Miranda didn't stumble into the room until 4:30 am, a migraine-inducing time for me, I was quite happy again with my choice to have dinner locally.

A grand day. Well planned. Well executed. And well worth the stress of putting together my presentation. I'm honored that I was selected to present, that 45 people came to listen to me, and that I was able to, in some small way perhaps, help their games.

Coach K


Kate sent me a note a couple weeks ago, a forward from an RSD post from a local student seeking a coach for a local university's women's ultimate team. She asked if I was interested in joint coaching the team.

After several fits, starts and miscommunications, we finally connected with the team, and signed up. We were to be Coach Kitt and Coach Kate. Exciting! I think it'll work out well, since one or the other of us can cover practice, what with Kate travelling for work and my heading out for my UCPC talk, or ultimate tournaments, or just plain exhaustion from too much overplanning.

Practice is from 9-11 PM, which is just painfully late for an athletic endeavour to me. I can't figure out how the university managed to secure the late night lights schedule with the surrounding town. But they did, and that's when the fields are open, and last Thursday is when I went to my first practice with the team.

There were eleven players at practice. When I showed up, the team was doing a square drill. They were running it slowly, but started running harder as, one by one, they realized "Coach" was there.

I think I did okay, for my first run at coaching. They played better than I was led to believe they could play. All of them could catch, and all of them had the basic fundamentals of throwing. If the players stick with the sport, they can become very good.

I often feel uncomfortable with telling people what to do. There's a certain state of mind I can get into where I don't mind it, and can be very good at the leader role, but it's not a typical state for me and I have to work at it.

In this case, I did okay. I tried to encourage with everything I did, learn as many names as I could and be as positive as possible. In the end, however, I was still essentially bossing them around.

The next practice is tomorrow. Kate should be there, which should be very good: having a coach who can play will be very advantageous.

Kris has started calling me "Coach Kitt." Cracks me up.

The last Beware-o


Kris and I went up to San Carlos today to play in the tenth annual Beware-o the Sombrero tournament. We've been playing in the tournament since 1998, missing maybe two since then. The tournament was originally a high school only tournament, run by the group of high school kids on Christmas vacation, and morphed into a "you're home over Christmas break from college and have nothing better to do so comem play" one day tournament in subsequent years as the high schoolers moved on to college. They've since graduated and moved on to work or post graduate school or, as I found out today, the Peace Corps and missions and such. As a result of the inevitable march of time, this is the final year it'll be held, at least by under this name, with the ex-high school kids as organizers.

Good ideas last, so I expect another group to continue the tradition of the one day tournament the last week of December next year.

My team was led by Eric the Red. Eric managed all of three words before the experienced players (read: over 30) started talking over him. It was a little frustrating to see the toe stepping and hear the cacophony of the elders all wanting to be heard.

We played well as a team, familiarity and skill helping us along. I knew four people on the team (Dave, Sarah, Venga, Phelps), having played with them at various times before. We didn't have any beginners per se on the team, so people who had problems throwing in the wind were our weakest links; which is to say, we didn't really have any weak links.

We won our first three games handily, though not necessarily easily. The third game was against another 2-0 team in our pool. Oddly enough, we went up 9-0 on them before they scored their first point. They had four or five players on their team who played together at a local college, according to Emily who was on the team. Their coach was playing on my team. I suspect they intimidated themselves into playing poorly. The experience is going into my UCPC talk at the end of the month: "don't lose before you start playing."

Lunch of delicious peanut butter and jelly sandwiches was after our first three games. We started late, and came out flat. One of our players, Phelps from San Diego, left after lunch, and his loss was quickly felt. The game capped when we were on our comeback, but not back, so we lost 6-7.

I played well. I had two throwaways, but neither mattered, as they were in games we won. My ankle held up very well, for which I am quite pleased. At one point, Dave McClure (who is no longer at SimplyHired, and is currently waiting the birth of his second child) commented to me, "There's no shame in wearing ankle braces for the rest of your life, if it means you can play."

I thought about it, and, have to agree. I can play with the brace on, and that's what counts.

I can play ultimate.

Season over


Well, this ultimate season is finally over.

The season is over, and I find myself struggling with how I feel about it. It's been a great season for the team, losing only six games the entire season, and winning Nationals: a season doesn't get much better than that.

But, it's been a not-so-great season for me. I'm struggling with injuries, my ankle at Labor Day, my back at Grub. I'm struggling with teammates, some I don't like, others whose style of play is the antithesis of our proposed team personality. I'm struggling with a marked lack of confidence caused by the injuries preventing me from maintaining the fitness and skill levels needed to participate fully in our games.

That one is the worst: the lack of confidence. It adversely affects every aspect of my game, from cutting to throwing to defense.

Part of me wants to be done with the sport, find another sport and move on. That part of me is tired of certain personalities on the team, and wonders if my thoughts of quitting ultimate entirely come from not having fun playing with ththose personalities.

Part of me wants to go out on top. I didn't fully participate at Nationals, but I'm on the team that did, and I contributed to that team's success at practice, and early tournaments before the injuries, and organizationally after the injuries.

The bigger part, however, wants to keep playing. That's the part that wants to see if I can double my current vertical jump, if I can learn to throw a baseball sidearm to help my forehand throw, if I can run consistently during the off-season, if I can throw enough to be confident, if I can learn to pivot with Kris-like effectiveness on my fakes.

That's the part that doesn't want to give up on the easy fitness that comes with ultimate, the part that screams, I'm not done yet!

I've talked to Kris about finding a mid-level team where I can be a big fish in a small pond, where I do need to be the go-to person, see if that will help my confidence, as the increased fitness and consistent throwing will.

Yet, I'm not sure. I do know this: I don't want another half-assed year. And there are personalities on the team that I don't want to play with next season. Negatives shouldn't necessarily be a guiding force in decision making, but they can give nudges, I guess.

We'll see. This season just ended. I have lots of time to figure this out.

Fifth day at Worlds


Fifth day at Worlds, and, well, we're out of the running.

Part of me is disappointed, but another part of me is relieved. We as a team originally said we came here to have fun, but, in reality, we were playing to win: subbing in our top roster, getting snippy when we didn't play well, the usual.

We lost in the round of 16 to the Bombing Mad Fatties who, as a team, has pretty bad spirit (independently confirmed by teams that play the team on a regular basis). We didn't figure out how to defend against their big players until late in the game (the top receiver is one of their worst throwers, and their women were universally non-stellar), so forcing to the women and their top guy under (instead of allowing him to score in the endzone) worked effectively. Tragically, we didn't figure this out until the gusty game was too close to overcome, losing 16-17.

The worst moment of the game was 14-14, when Mark went out of the game with a level 3 separated shoulder, requiring x-rays, an MRI and most certainly surgery.

Then losing to another team nearly immediately after that, a team that was clearly inferior, but we lacked heart.

We're on our way to 13th at the rate we're going. We'll meet Joyride again tomorrow morning at 8:30, and play our final game at 12:30. I'm uncertain to play, having rolled my ankle (the "healthy" one) in the second game of the day.

Can't say this has been one of my best tournaments.

Or vacations.

Fourth day at Worlds


Fourth day at Worlds and I'm remarkably stressed, but not from playing. We won our first game, against the Chad Larson Experience fairly handily, though I don't recall the score at the moment.

Our second game was against Whorshack, from Portland, and was interestingly less closer than the final score of 17-16 would suggest. We were up 15-11, when Foss and Adam adamantly suggested we throw the game to end up on the opposite side of the 16 teams bracket from Brass Monkey. I think it was less the Brass Monkey and more the playing three US teams that we've played before on the way to the finals.

Assuming we make the finals.

Part of me is hoping we don't make it, as that would mean the disasterous room situation would be more dire. But that part is the hestiant, fearful part. The other part of me is gearin' to go.

I'm playing okay at this tournament, but not great. I'm not playing much, trying to get back into playing in the first place. This season has been pretty awful in terms of fitness, skills and confidence. I think I'm ready for the season to be over, actually.

Two, maybe three days left.

Can't wait to be home again.

Second day at Worlds


Second day at Worlds, and Mark is angry at me. What a sucky suck day, when Mark is mad at me.

We beat the China/South Korea team, 17-5, in an incredibly blustery, windy day. We're undefeated in pool play, and will play Joyride, a Vancouver, Canada, team, and I think Osaka Natto from Japan tomorrow, with the retarted 8:30 AM / 4:30 PM schedule.

First day at Worlds


First day at Worlds here in Perth, Western Australia, and they keep booting me off the wireless internet.

Turns out that, in Australia, it's not uncommon to nickel and dime everyone to poverty. Oh, you want ketchup (sorry, tomato sauce) with that? That'll be another 20cents. Oh, you want a second room key? That'll be an extra five dollars a day.

Because of the nickel and dime culture, complimentary wireless internet at the hotel costs $30AUD a day (or about $24/day on current exchange rates).

It's kinda annoying.

The only free wireless is at the fields, and they keep bumping me off the connection. Must be the massive uploads I've been trying to do to Flickr. Sigh.

We won our first game 17-11, against Dis'chords, a Montreal based team. The next game is against Endzonis, a German team, so we expect the style to be considerably different. Should be fun.