Thursday, March 6

Hawaii Eight

Hat Tournament over. Ultimate is over for the week. For both weeks. One more day in paradise.

I don't know what the plan is and I don't really care. I've loved being here like I have loved few trips in the past. Maybe a snowboarding trip. Maybe a skiing trip when I was younger. Maybe that trip to Utah with my grandparents and relatives when I was younger. That was a good time, but I'm not ever sure I enjoyed that fully.

I think I was too, well... young.

I'm not now.

Anyway, this entry is actually about ultimate.

The last two weekend have taught me a lot about how to be a thrower. The winds here are constantly variable, though not necessarily always strong. It is always there, and it lets good throwers make throws that they couldn't make otherwise. Use the wind. Rip the disc with that spin that makes it sit in a spot.

There is a difference between being pretty positive that you can make a throw and knowing that you can and will make the throw. There is no hesitation. All of us are like this for shorter passes, but to finally feel like the field is open for me as a thrower to paint as I choose is a great thing.

I'm not a perfect thrower, but man.... I'm better than I was yesterday. I'm better than I was last year. I'm better than I was 5 years ago when I started with Pike. I'll be better tomorrow.
The weekends, for me, were about playing winning ultimate. No matter the team or the environment or opposition or weather or anything, the goal was to play winning ultimate for that team. This meant filling different roles for different teams. With Philthy at Kaimana, this was all about getting a couple of our other throwers into good positions, and taking good shots (And some wild ones) when I had the chance. We had receivers who could make some plays, and all of our throwers could put the disc out to a place where the defender would need to make a spectacular play (and some did) to get to the disc.

Trusting your receiver to make the play when you make the throw is the implicit contract of playing ultimate. Afterall, you can't play the game on your own, you need to rely on your teammates. The better they are, the more you can rely on them. The more you can rely on them, the more throws (hammers, blades, lasers, etc) are open to you because they can catch/read everything. Having that trust, that connection, is the goal of a team on offense. (and even on defense, really)

It starts with strategy (we'll dump on this count and look for this throw over this throw...) but it needs to evolve past that. To the point where you each read the situation the same way and then react accordingly on trust, which is a split-second or so before you would have normally.

The difficulty comes when that trust is broken, for whatever reason. Perhaps the thrower is off. Perhaps a receiver is distracted. Perhaps someone is injured or sick or something. Perhaps a throw was just off, or a receiver completely gacked something. At that point, it is up to you as a teammate to keep the trust going. To continue to believe in your teammates and what you've worked on so hard. To continue to believe in yourself because you know that you're good enough and that you've worked hard to get to where you are. But most importantly, you can never lose faith in your teammates.

As a teammate, you must build up that trust. You must make your teammates believe in you. And Trust you. And know that they can rely on you.

That belief, that unshakable cornerstone of a great team can come from an individual or a group or the whole team, but that positive, radiant trust, based on the knowledge that everyone is working to improve, working toward the same goal, getting better every day is what you're after.

If you cannot get there, you cannot go far.

The Hilo Hat tournament was fun. We (Team Red) went 5-0 on Day One, beating many of the players from the East Coast who made it out. I was fortunate enough to have a team full of people that I didn't know, save for the TD, Dave, who I played against at Kaimana, as he was on He LoLo. He's a good thrower who loves the game and loves winning.

The theme for our team was carving the other teams up with give-go action to deep looks. Hmmm.... Just like Pike. I felt very comfortable once I realized what the team was trying to do. Once they realized that I tended (though... tended is chosen for a purpose) to have good judgment as a thrower, they were okay with my deep looks too, but at first, there was some dismay that some of those discs were turnovers.

This is the point at the hat tournament that you need to manage carefully. If you're a thrower and you know that you have throws (not just *think* that you have throws) you will have some early turnovers because your teammates didn't know that you had throws like that. You've got to not make a habit of it, and play the game that they want for a moment until you see another good deep cut. Put it up again for the encouragement, but know that you must not do this every time. Your teammates will hate you if you don't complete nearly all of them. Remember that the game is not about you, it is about your team.

I found that focusing on playing pretty strong D on good players is a way to motivate myself and keep myself up for a game. Trying to get D's on glory cuts or being that irritating guy to get open on is way to show your teammates that you're invested in the game. That you can play, and that you take it seriously. Mix in a part of joy with that, always smile, and always encourage your teammates, and you're set. You'll start laying the foundation for a winning team.

Or, more importantly, a team that loves playing together.

On Day Two, we didn't fare so well, but that's why we went 5-0 on Day 1! We lost our first game to the White team (the villains for this tournament as they had at least 5 guys from the same Kaimana team, Philthy: Doc, Eug, Trash, Jeff Ho and Kazan.) whose offense consisted of Doc throwing lefty hucks to Eug, Trash, Jeff and Kazan before the defenders knew what was coming. Their women were really good as well, though I don't know their names, and the men I haven't mentioned because I don't know them were very solid as well. And playing for keeps. Which is fun.

We lost to them to the tune of 11-3 or something (games to 11). I wasn't worried as I figured we'd see them again. And we actually didn't play as poorly as the score indicated. Just some uncharacteristic errors. And the White team never seemed to just turn it over like all of the other teams. They were too busy scoring on us.

We then played the Green team, home to some other NYU alums like Blake and Jimmy. They also had one of the 3 fastest ultimate players I've ever seen, Keoki(I may have spelled that wrong). Now, let me tell you how I meet Keoki:

We got to the campsite on Friday night pretty late because of all of the trail running and hiking and all to get to the green sand beach after we jumped off of the cliffs on the end of the island after we went to the black sand beach after waking up in Volcano National park. Yow. Anyway, we get there, and the place is winding down, with only a few stragglers (Kid amongst them, of course, as well as some Texas fellas) including Keoki. As he staggered up to me, this exchange occurred:

Keoki: What team are you on?
Me: I don't know, because I missed the registration and all.
K: I hope you're on the Green Team, because I'm on the Green Team and we're going to win.
M: Well, I hope you're on my team too, because my team is going to win.
K: I'm the fastest player here.
M: Shit! I know I'm not. I guess I won't be covering you.
K: I'm too fast to cover. That's why my team is going to win.

Then there was a boat race, North vs South... and while I'm not sayin the South will never rise again... it certainly didn't this night. It's tough to get to your award-winning anchor to close the race out if you don't get to him.

Anyway, I eventually fell asleep next to he fire that night, and then wandered over to my tent for a bit of real shut-eye before the tournament, and more importantly, before the sunrise. I love sunrises, and the one I saw that morning was no step down at all. Sun coming up over a little bay of black rocks with waves crashing over them. Some good sunrise company. Bigger and Bigger waves, escape from the damn ultimate world again before diving into it fully...

Back to the game against Green. Anyway, they have some players (Including some KILLER women who dominated as handlers) but this Keoki is a killing us. He's quite simply uncoverable. He can't really read the disc, I mean he can, but not perfectly) but that doesn't matter because he gets there before you no matter which route you take. Or which circuitous route he takes. Reminds me of one Danny Clark like that, except Keoki's shorter and able to stand up straight for more than one game without getting massively injured. Although Danny's left-handed. So... I don't know where that leaves us.

Anyway, Green wins and, as I remind my team, this is why we went 5-0 on Saturday. It lets you wake up slowly and sleep-walk your way to the semis on Sunday. Nice. We get to play against the White team in the semis. I think we'll be able to take them.

While there is some exciting play in our game, some great hucks and some sweet Ds, and all of that jazz, White pulls it out simply by outlasting us. They were deeper and their second to third tier players were playing better in this game than ours. We definitely had talent, just not as much. It was a good game though. We got to end it on the classic "Slow-non-running handler jog deep until the first throw goes to him" play. Which was sweet. We lost by 3 or 4, but yet again (for me) my team scored the last point and lost. I really think this rule ought to be changed. I mean, I was put off by it and I didn't even lose a bid to Nationals as a result.

Now worries, now I can finish the Maui Rum and heckle the finals... That's another entry though...

The last bit of the tournament (non heckling non-finals version) is that I was voted my team's spirit player. I got a SWEEEEEEEEEEEEEEET baby-blue disc and a big-ole beer cup. Maybe a yard or so of plastic beer-holding goodness. I tried to vote for everyone else on my team, because honestly, it was a great team to play with. Very positive, beautiful people who loved being out there and dealt with my ridiculous antics. And for that, I got to go home with a beautiful disc? Nice!

Anyway, that's all for this breakfast typing. My game is improving, my life is improving. I'm at a great place right now-- I just hope I can keep up with my goal of being better as a person and a player and everything every day. Make today better than yesterday. Make today's me better than yesterday's.

(hawaii seven)

(hawaii nine)


John said...

you are amassing quite the collection of spirit awards.

Jackson said...

1. Looks like Terminus had similar weather to Hawaii. How was that transition?

2. Why is there a problem with the loser scoring the final point? I can think of lots of sports where this can be the case: baseball, basketball, football, lacrosse, soccer, hockey, snowboarding (ok, maybe not snowboarding, but you get the idea).


dusty.rhodes said...

Terminus will be covered later. I have too much to say to start here.

What is the difference between ultimate and all but one of the sports that you mentioned? They are played to time, not to points.

Compare to volleyball or tennis or a *serve-based* sport. (Think "Yeah, we're on serve" from ultimate doesn't hold more meaning than "this is how we talk about ultimate?") Where each iteration of the game must end as either a score for one side or the other. After one side has won a pre-determined number of those iterations, that side wins.

Tennis matches can go on forever. So, too, can volleyball matches. And Cricket and Baseball. We should pick "time based" or "point based" instead of "a half-ass of each."

I understand that there are scheduling issues. Perhaps we should play fewer games in the same amount of time and realize that we're trying to CRAM TOO MUCH INTO A DAY.

Work on adhering to time-limits and all of that, but really, should we ever be playing more than 3 games in a day? Why not play slightly longer games with bigger rest periods? everyone always talks about how social ultimate is, but we try to pack 75 games to 7 into a tournament instead of really battling it out for, say, 17 hard-fought points. Then an hour to recuperate, eat, go over strategy for the next game, work out some kinks in your throws if you like... etc. How is that not better in every way than playing 5 games to 13 2 of which get capped and sprinting to every field because your games go over the time limit?

Perhaps just a confusion between "My team wants to play more games" and "My team wants to play more ultimate." Subtle, but different.

We're shooting ourselves in the foot with this style of tournament play. We can do better without a major change!

Quality > Quantity.

Jackson said...

First of all I completely agree with everything that you said.

I have to admit that I was baiting you a little and hoped that you would respond that ultimate is played to points and not to time. It is interesting that you mentioned that baseball (leaving out cricket cause I don't know much about its scoring structure) is half-assing each. I think ultimate is doing the same.

With the current tournament structure, I think we basically are playing game to time with a very weird mercy rule and halftime structure. I would say that at least 50% of ultimate games get capped. I wonder how the strategy would change if we started playing like the game was to time for the entire game, instead of just when the cap goes off.

I for one would like to see ultimate change to a (real) time-based format anyway. I think it would lead to more exciting and inventive defenses, and would make much, much more sense given that we play 99% of games in a tournament format, where there are intrinsic time limitations anyway.

dusty.rhodes said...

I sensed a trap somehow... I just wasn't sure if it was comparing that shitty weather at Terminus to Hawaii (!!) or something with the second thing.

I would rather stay point-based and move to a different tournament format where time is far less of an issue. Also, we really should work to adhere to time limits. I'll be doing some stopwatch work with Pike this season to make sure we're on the up and up.

I prefer long, variable-strategy battles to short stagnant or disorganized (strategically) sprints.

Anonymous said...

The problem with time in the current format is that it's so uncertain. Time between points is not enforced, neither are time-outs. Caps may go on when you expect, or may come in 3 minutes early or 5 minutes late. It's pretty hard to use that to strategize when it all comes down to guess work in the end.

I too would prefer to stay with points. Decreasing the number of games at a tournament would be a great way to do this.