Quick analysis: Inward pivoting, & stack’s influence on technique

Talking about inward pivoting, the influence that playing stack offences has had on our techniques and habits, plus some info about live streamed analysis which is coming soon!

Analysis: Japan’s bizzare short-field defence pull play against USA & Colony

Brief analysis on Japan’s bizzare tactic of not chasing down the pull on defence.

Flow point at Uni Nationals 2018 + brief analysis

Berlin/Potsdam: Hex clinic with Goldfingers

I travelled to Germany recently to run a Hex clinic with the Potsdam team, and to have a meeting with the US Embassy in Berlin about potential 10 Million Discs projects in Berlin and nationally.

The 10MD meeting on Friday morning went well, with the embassy being very receptive to the core principles which are naturally taught by ultimate; gender equality, peaceful conflict resolution, personal accountability under pressure, and mutual respect. We (Markus Kunert, Christoph Dehnhardt and myself) are looking at proposing a project which will engage a number of schools with high immigrant populations in areas with new citizens to help integrate them into the community, and work with groups with disabilities.

On Friday afternoon through to Sunday I was at a sports complex in a small place called Lindow, north of Berlin, training the team from Potsdam who are called Goldfingers – and a number of other representatives from other clubs nearby. Kim from Goldfingers arranged the trip – he had seen Hex online in 2016 and introduced it to Goldfingers, who had been playing it for the last two years, unbeknownst to me! It was really interesting to talk to them, see them play, and run a couple of seminars and a few practical sessions with them. They hadn’t implemented Flex defence yet, so it was fun to introduce to a team who understand the ‘hex philosophy’. It was exciting to explain to them the train of thought that led to coming up with Hex, knowing that it was what they had been playing it for the last couple of years.

Watching the Goldfingers play ultimate, I noticed they played in a fluid style and were good at sustaining flow, although it may appear chaotic to the untrained eye – to me this immediately looked like an experienced hex team. Chatting to them in the classroom session, I said that they already ‘got’ how to play basic hex, and if they just carried on what they were doing and staying open minded to learn from the offence, they would continue developing organically. They could relate to a lot of the ‘hex philosophy’ I often have to explain from scratch to other teams, and they appreciated how I presented the ideas clearly, and the perspective I offered helped everything in their understanding to fall into place.

Training Flex went well, through the classroom and practical session, everyone was very attentive and implemented the concepts very well, with some new additions to the drills I’ve designed to train Flex coming from the players.

Playing Hex all weekend, Goldfingers came 2nd at German Masters Nationals!

The Goldfingers Masters team had a practice match at the end of Saturday & asked me to be their coach on the sideline (I’m injured at the moment). A couple of times their Flex sandwiches got torn apart (as expected for a new defence), but when they started playing it more zoney-style it was more familiar to them as it is like a junk defence they play, and they shut down the opposing team convincingly.

Two weekends after my visit, the Goldfingers Masters team played German Masters Nationals and finished 2nd! Seeded 4th, this was a very good result for them, and convincing too – 15:4, 15:6, 15:14, 15:6. José, who hosted me in Potsdam, confirmed they played hex for the entire weekend and “were congratulated openly by at least one team, and in private by a few others for our use of the hex.”

I finished off my trip cycling around Potsdam seeing some fine palaces and different areas of the city. It’s a really picturesque place with many fine views and impressive places to see, so I had an amazing day. Check out all the photos I took from the clinic and from Potsdam in my Potsdam April 2018 Google photos album.

Full photos in the Potsdam April 2018 Google photos album.

Felix is going to Germany!

This weekend I’m heading to Germany to run a Hex Clinic with Goldfingers from Potsdam. At the clinic there will also be several coaches and experienced players from the teams in & around Berlin, which fits with my aim of spreading the Hex strategies as far and wide as possible.

The venue which Kim from Goldfingers has booked up looks amazing – each participant has a room booked to stay overnight on Friday & Saturday, there are grass and artificial pitches, plus there’s a sauna!

I’m looking forward to delivering the classroom and practical sessions on Flex Defence and Hex Offence. This clinic is happening as Kim had seen a few of my reddit posts and had tried to begin to implement some of my ideas but couldn’t answer all the questions the other players/coaches had, so they all figured it’d be a good idea to get in touch with me and invite me to be the guest coach at a training weekend!

Props to Kim and his fellow coaches for seeing the value in the strategies and making decisive steps to improve the level of their team – I really hope the clinic strikes a chord with everyone attending, and most importantly, fun is had by all!

Update: 10 Million Discs meetings & Live Streaming Analysis

Check out 10 Million Discs at www.10milliondiscs.org and our promo video
Full report from Belgium trips with photos: 10 Million Discs in Brussels, and Hex clinic with Helgtre

10 Million Discs in Brussels

I was in Brussels recently at a 10 Million Discs focus weekend. 10MD are a non-profit NGO who use ultimate as a tool to break down barriers within and between communities – whether it be integrating minority groups, refugees, disadvantaged youth, or promoting gender equity. The self-refereed / spirit of the game aspect of ultimate encourages peaceful conflict resolution, and with the incredibly low cost entry barrier (just a disc and a flat space needed), I stand alongside 10MD in believing that ultimate can and should be used to bring about real social change across the globe…

… read more & photos …

As well as brainstorming sessions and presentations from the 10MD members, we had meetings with the US Embassy, the Quaker Council for European Affairs, the European Commission for East Africa Development, and the Belgian Ultimate board of directors.

Previously I’ve worked with 10MD in Albania, where we introduced the sport to around 500 schools through teacher-training sessions with PE teachers in all the major cities across the developing country. They’ve also run projects in Macedonia, Montenegro, Bulgaria, and worked with Syrian refugees in the Middle East.

This weekend we put our heads together to determine 10MD’s focus over the next few months, and also preliminarily landed a grant to carry out work all across Belgium, including the municipality of Molenbeek. The recent terrorist attacks in Paris, as well have some others, have been linked to Molenbeek, leading to a prejudice about the local population, which is in reality multicultural and contains many different communities, the largest being Moroccan and Turkish in origin. 10MD representative Tof Bihin will also be coordinating 10 hat tournaments happening in each of the 10 provinces in Belgium (with the aim of introducing new players to the game), and will be getting Ultimate Frisbee included in the Special Olympics in May.

One crucial tool we’re going to use here is distributing discs which have common phrases printed on them in all the languages used in Belgium (French, Flemish, and German!). We’re also going to work together with Belgian Ultimate (we met members of the board at a women’s tournament in Leuven) to activate potential coaches across the country to introduce the sport to schools in their local areas.

The meeting which impacted me the most was with the Danish Refugee Council. Thousands upon thousands of refugees have flooded across the Middle East and Europe since the war in Syria began in 2011, and securing enough funding to keep them alive and safe requires constant work from hundreds of people in dozens of NGOs. As a side note, what a quirk of conventional society that corporate/business workers enjoy such healthy paychecks in comparison to NGO workers – I can’t see any organic solution to this, but it’s an interesting reflection.
The basic health and safety of the refugees is the number 1 priority; beyond that is “psychosocial support” – the basic aspects of life which exist just beyond basic food, shelter, medicare and security. Refugee camps are places where young people spend many, if not all, of their formative years, living off hand-outs… think about that for a second. What is there for a refugee to do for all those years, how do they develop? Ultimate does not suddenly fix everything and make life rosy, but at a very low cost it offers an outlet accessible to everybody which keeps them active and social, and it goes beyond other sports thanks to the spirit of the game – instilling a culture of trust, honesty, collaboration, developing negotiation skills, and building a true sense of community.

It was great to meet with so many like-minded people who believe ultimate can bring about real social change in the world, and put together some plans to do exactly that. I look forward to the 10MD projects coming up in the future!

 

 

Hex clinic with Helgtre in Belgium

A few months ago I was contacted by Stefan Surowiec, one of my team mates from the mostly Belgian/French Moonwalkers team (we won bronze at the European Masters Championships last year) – learning Hex with the Moonwalkers had left a good impression on him and he wanted me to come over to Belgium to introduce and train Hex with his local team, Helgtre!

… read more & photos …

Beer in the pub after Monday night training

The team is a group of friends who have been playing together for a number of years. The vibe in the team is great; they go for a beer after each training and there’s a lot of positive social energy – something I believe is very important for a successful team, but an element which seems to have been on the decline in recent years, in the UK scene at least.

Not only are they a great bunch, they’ve been getting better and better at ultimate over the years – last year they were the 5th highest finishing club at Belgian Nationals, and are keen this year to break into the top 4!

Belgian Nationals is run over 3 weekends – the first weekend determines the top 8, the second weekend determines the top 4, and the final weekend is invite-only, with only the top-4 teams attending to battle it out for the podium positions.

 

Street art in Hasselt

Helgtre have never made it into the top 4, so this year they can feel things are coming together and that finals weekend is closer than ever!

I arrived on Friday and joined in one of their practices, initially as a player, before setting up a simple drill later in the training, getting a feel for the level of the team and their understanding of the game from a strategic and technical point of view.

Saturday started with a 2 hour interactive seminar / classroom session on Flexagon Defence, followed by a three hour outdoor training with drills to reinforce the principles, and game-time to practice them.

On Saturday evening we headed out to a Greek restaurant for food, before going to a brewery/pub for some drinks, where I sampled many of the famous & tasty Belgian beers.

Greek restaurant on Saturday night

Sunday had a similar structure to Saturday, this time focusing on Hex Offence. It makes a lot of sense to me now to train Flex defence before Hex offence – the current state of the game means there is no immediate need to make a fundamental change to how we approach offence in high level games, however from the perspective of Flex, current offence is flawed and can be punished for those flaws. It’s only after these flaws and the vulnerabilities they expose are realised, the need for truly balanced offence becomes clear, and so offence on Sunday following defence on Saturday works really well to offer a complete view of the current and potential future state of strategy in ultimate.

Helgtre were a pleasure to coach, I thank them sincerely for their hospitality over the entire weekend, and they all seemed keen and enthusiastic about the new strategies and new approach to the game I showed them. I look forward to hearing how they do at Nationals and beyond!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Visited the home of Soorske beer – the producer is a friend of the team – and was given a quick tour

 

Soorske in its finished form

Brussels Airport has grand pianos dotted around, which were great to pass the time. In the UK we have pianos in train stations, but this is the next level!

Review: The Aria Uno disc

felixultimate reviews the new Aria Uno disc to hit the scene.
Aria website: https://ariaultimate.com/
Discraft/Wham-O vote article: http://skydmagazine.com/2014/04/vote-wham-o-discraft/

… read transcript …

Transcript:

Hey everybody, in this video I’m going to be looking at the Aria disc which has recently hit the scene, and comparing it against the classic Discraft Ultrastar, with the brand new felixultimate design. The Eurodisc which has been around for a few years also makes an appearance. Let’s start by having a look at what people thought about the Aria.

Joe Butler: Feels a bit firmer around the rim
James Wortherspoon: A little tougher, actually
Anastastia Riordan-Eva: The rim feels slightly thicker
Joe: Very slight, but definitely not a negative difference
Starzy: Almost like there’s a dip here and then a dip here
Dan Cozens: I can safely say that after 20 years of playing, it feels no different whatsoever
Spoon: Pretty similar. The Aria flew nicer – might’ve been the wind because it’s quite gusty
Starzy: Feels good, feels like something you could use
Joe: Feels nice
Dan: Feels fine, I quite like this, it’s nice

People tended to like the feel of the Aria – there’s a slight difference in the rim. If I put them up like this you can see there’s slightly more angle on the Aria. You can barely tell when you’re holding it. You can see that the Aria is more see-through than the Ultrastar, which means that maybe the plastic in the middle is a bit thinner, but you can’t really feel that.
After throwing around a lot with the Aria, the Ultrastar feels a tiny bit more like a plate… it’s hard to explain… the weight is distributed more towards the edge in the Aria.
The Aria has some bend to it, it’s smooth, has a deep sound – the Ultrastar has a similar bend and deep sound. The Eurodisc has less bend, the plastic isn’t as shiny – it’s a bit matted, and the sound is a little bit higher pitch. The plastic is noticably different in the Eurodisc compared to the Aria & Ultrastar. I haven’t tried the Aria in extreme weather conditions so it’s hard to say how it behaves in those conditions – maybe that’s for a future video.
In the wind it was behaving very similar – maybe slightly more stable.

Let’s have a look at some throws.
The first throw I try out is an outside-in sidearm, mid-range, quite high and loopy so it drifts down. The flight paths are very similar but the Aria flattens out a bit more – which could just be the throw.
Next I try some hammers – quite often upsidedown throws can reveal the dynamics of a disc very well, in this instance all the throws look very similar, especially the shortest two, so no distinguishable difference whatsoever.
Next onto a flick which S-curves, to see how stable the disc is. If a disc is overstable, it’ll turn to the right here a lot quicker and dramatically than the Ultrastar, but the flight patterns are pretty much identical between all three discs.
Short/mid-range flat backhands going into a goal: the Aria, Eurodisc and Ultrastar were all very similar in this test.
Then long backhands – these are the throws where the Eurodisc would go slightly more inside-out towards the end. I thought the Aria might be overstable, and it may be by a fraction, but I wouldn’t say for certain – high level throwers would not notice that in a game.
Try some hammers… You can see the Aria has a bit more swing to it, but that could just be the throw.
Then long backhands downwind, as far as possible – I throw the Aria a bit higher and it ends up going further. Over all my testing, my throws were around 5% longer with the Aria, if I had to put a number on it – they definitely weren’t shorter.

So in summary: there’s a barely noticable difference in the shape – it’s not like when you catch a disc in a game and go to fake and realise what you’re holding is not an Ultrastar – with the Aria you can’t tell. I’ve introduced it in throwarounds where people haven’t noticed we’re not throwing with an Ultrastar. The flight path is practically identical to the Ultrastar, possibly slightly more overstable.
An Ultrastar can feel different when old & muddy & scratched up, although I’ve used the Aria a lot I haven’t got it to that point yet so it’s hard to say how it’d behave in those conditions.

Naturally I’m a bit hesitant about new discs because there’s nothing “wrong” with the Discraft Ultrastar – a new disc might mean I just need to relearn my throws a little bit, but there weren’t any problems with the Aria because the disc flies very similarly to the Ultrastar.
A little history lesson: Wham-O used to be the #1 disc supplier and the only official disc, right up until 1991 when there was a vote in America and it swayed to Discraft to be the official manufacturer, 7-6 in the vote. The deciding factor in that was: in 1988 there was a tournament where WhamO shipped a load of discs which were domed – they had been warped by the temperatures in their new manufacturing plant in Mexico, so they were unplayable and the tournament took a big loss because they couldn’t sell any discs, and people had to play games with the discs they had in their bags. After that, the TD was on the voting board when they voted between Discraft / Wham-O, and he told everybody what had happened at that tournament and swayed a couple of the voters – it’s only been since 1991 that Discraft has been the official disc for Ultimate.

I know that story because I have the book – “Ultimate: The First Four Decades” by Tony Leonardo (and Adam Zagoria) – really cool and full of interesting stories about Ultimate which are worth checking out if you love this game as I do!

Nowadays there are a few discs which are officially recognised by WFDF and the Aria is one of them, so you might be seeing it in competition soon.

This disc is called the Aria Uno. Aria is a company which is made by one of the Five Ultimate siblings (each of them have their own company in Ultimate now I think). Aria think that Ultimate is good for the world. They have a bunch of social partners, so every time you buy a disc they donate a disc to one of their social partners. You can read more about them on their website.

I hope you liked this review – if you want to buy one of the Aria discs you can head over to their website, or if you prefer the classic Ultrastar and you like the new felixultimate design (which is designed to look cool when it’s spinning) then head over to felixultimate.com where they’re on sale now!

I know it’s long & discordant as I recorded different bits at different times. I hope you enjoyed the different ways I looked at the different discs, if you did like this video then please give it a little like on YouTube, and subscribe if you want to see more!

Quick analysis: Japan’s defensive flash-poach

Japan with some brief poaching against USA in the final of the World Championships in 2016.

… read transcript …

Transcript:

In this video I’m going to look at the Japan-USA World Championships final from 2016 – specifically the Japanese defence for one particular point. They do some interesting stuff – it’s not the very advanced switching defence they do that I’ve looked at in other videos and articles, but they do do some interesting things nonetheless. I noticed it whilst watching and thought I would make a quick video to look a bit closer. Enjoy!

First look at #22’s movement after his mark releases the disc.

He has moved downfield and created separation, narrowing the crossfield throwing channel.

Now watch #97’s movement after the disc is released.

Significant separation is created. Again, watch the next defender’s movement after Beau releases the disc.

He moves downfield quickly and tries to cause some trouble for the offence, distancing himself from Beau in the backfield. But wait, it looks like Beau is marked by somebody else now? How did that happen? Keep your eye on these two.

You can see it was not an actual switch – it was just an illusion caused by the movement of the Japanese defenders. At this point the flow stops and there’s an immediate pick, so let’s rewind a little.

Here is the defender that ends up appearing to mark Beau. You can see he leaves his mark – Cassidy Rasmussen – whilst staying super-aware of everything that’s going on around him, covering Beau to help his team mate. He keeps an eye on Rasmussen so he’s able to close him down quickly when he becomes a threat again.

This movement by the Japan defenders is so repetitive that I believe it’s a specific tactic they are employing. In the conventional style of ultimate, the first few seconds of the stall count are almost always spent looking for a positive-yards throw. By overloading this area early in the stall count, Japan are attempting to counter this offensive trend, knowing it’s unlikely USA will throw backwards immediately.

In this point, Cassidy Rasmussen finishes the offence off with some clever footwork – but later in the game the tactic did cause a turnover – one of only three of USA’s turns in the game. If you want to see more analysis on that turnover and the other 8 turns in the game, take a look at the video linked below.

I hope you enjoyed the analysis – I know it wasn’t anything particularly ground-breaking. I think you could describe it as a flash-poach, if you were to use conventional ultimate wisdom & lexicon to describe it. I hope you got something from it, and enjoyed watching a point from that game, which is a brilliant game which I recommend you check out in full – I’ll be looking at other points of this game in the future. Subscribe and like if you want to see more!