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!
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 …
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.
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.
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!
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 …
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!
Japan with some brief poaching against USA in the final of the World Championships in 2016.
… read 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!
Quick analysis of a failed switch by San Francisco vs Seattle in this AUDL match from week 16, 2017.
After some heated discussions on reddit, this video compares the contrasting throwing styles between Jimmy Mickle and Frank Hugenard.
In this video from the 2017 World Games we’re going to look at how Colombia adapt their offence to effectively counter the one-to-one defence Poland play against them.
Interview with Colombian coach Mauricio Moore: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yN65_cIBYy8
Transcript: During the game it became apparent that the Colombian women were winning their matchups with greater ease than the Colombian men. To play to this advantage, Colombia manipulate the space on the field to reduce the risk of clogging and poaching from the male defenders, and maximise the space available to the women – in this case on the far sideline & deep – whilst the men are concentrated in the near-side and backfield areas.
… read more & photos …
There is some initial poaching from the male defenders, but the Colombian men stay involved and calmly take the open pass. The women on the far side have now formed a triangle, they are no longer being inhibited by the poaches, and they have a clear channel to the end zone. Note how the male players resist the urge to reposition downfield when the disc is near the sideline, instead trying to draw their defenders away from poaching positions.
Once the Colombian women are in flow the offence looks fairly unstoppable, with the defenders not able to apply any real pressure, however in the end the turnover is caused by an unforced execution error.
Colombia get the disc back later in the point, but the women are disconnected at the start of the offence, and there is some sagging and poaching from the defenders. When one of Poland’s male defenders gets sucked in on a poaching opportunity, their mark rightly takes off deep, but the disc doesn’t come and when he comes back we see Colombia fall into a similar setup to the one we saw earlier.
The women retain their shape deep on the far sideline whilst the men take a few easy open passes to keep the tempo of the offence. The triangle shape makes it very difficult for the Polish female defenders to poach or switch effectively.
When Lauras Ospina gets the disc, Colombia have a favourable one-to-one matchup completely isolated in the attacking half of the field, where Yina Cartagena scores without the defence having a bid.
By utilising the space on the field, manipulating the defence, and taking the open pass, Colombia were able to play to their advantage – their female one-to-one matchups – whilst minimising the poaching opportunities for the male defenders.
Utilising space and manipulating defence happens with all offenses, but which offensive structure would be most suited to this gender-weighted tactic?
Vertical stack creates space down the sides of the field but is very susceptible to poaching, as one or two male defenders start in the centre of the downfield space. 4-women in the stack with the three men in the backfield is possible, but is open to counter-tactics such as defenders sagging off the handlers, or downfield defenders surrounding the vertical stack to make it overconcentrated and difficult to initate flow from.
Splitting the vertical stack takes things to the extreme – it maximisises the space available, but it asks cutters to make big initial movements to get free. This is well suited to the hard cutting, yards-focused style which is prevalent in the game at the moment, particularly in North America.
How about horizontal stack? This is more dynamic and can work in a few different ways… when there are two male defenders downfield poaching could become a problem, so having three downfield female players can work nicely, offering loads of space… My favourite setup – which will come as no surprise to anyone familiar with my work – is called Hexagon Offence. This setup naturally supports the triangle shape Colombia’s women were forming, whilst keeping every other player connected, meaning any poaching can be quickly and easily punished.
Space in the Hex setup is created dynamically – when one player makes a cut they create a space where they came from, which is not how it works in vertical or split stack. This new space can be used by any adjacent team mates, and unlike horizontal stack, these second cuts can be made directly from the setup positions within the Hex shape. This dynamic creation and use of space has a cascading effect which maximises options for the offence and denies the defence any leverage.
Hex has taught me a lot about Ultimate, and there’s a bunch of other reasons why I prefer it to traditional offences, but I digress! I can talk about that more in another video.
If four women are on the field winning their matchups – perhaps related to a lack of female subs from the opposition – then a number of other interesting setups are possible to make use of this advantage.
I didn’t get a chance to speak to Mauricio Moore, the Colombian coach, about this video at all, so it’s just things that I’ve kind of seen, and my interpretation of them. He did an interview recently which is really really worth checking out – it’s a subtitled one, it’s in Spanish, but the subtitles are great, he’s clearly got a way with words, I’ll put the link down in the description below. Definitely check it out, I think everyone can learn from his experiences and what he has to say.
He says they focus very little on on-field tactics, so probably they just identified that the women were mismatched and just encouraged their men to just stay back and out of the way whilst the women had their own space to work with, rather than it being something they had drilled or it being a formal structure or arrangement they had. In this way I think they’re similar to Japan in terms of national teams, in that they’re more dynamic and organic with how they play, rather than sticking to set rules and cutting patterns and reset patterns, they kind of make it up as they go along to a certain extent, which is an approach that I really like.
- Good switch initiated with gesticulation
- Switched-with player showed no urgency to close down new mark. Perfect opportunity for second switch missed – two Clapham players are currently being sandwiched
- False positive (successful interception)
Transcript: Most notable in this video is the angle Arakawa takes when cutting deep. Conventional deep-cutting wisdom states that deep cuts should be made in a straight line aimed at the back of the end zone, in order to give the thrower the largest space to aim at, and the easiest read for the receiver.
Arakawa’s diagonal deep cut, although a harder throw and read, is difficult to defend against if done well, as the deep-break space is usually a defender’s lowest priority. If the defender takes a straighter line deep, it immediately gives Arakawa lateral separation which he can use to cut under. He times his deep break-side cuts perfectly for the throwers to be able to catch, turn, pivot, and release smoothly, putting the disc out to space.
- Update: 10 Million Discs meetings & Live Streaming Analysis March 2, 2018
- 10 Million Discs in Brussels February 27, 2018
- Hex clinic with Helgtre in Belgium January 23, 2018
- Review: The Aria Uno disc December 12, 2017
- Quick analysis: Japan’s defensive flash-poach November 21, 2017