Quick analysis: EMO switch v Clapham, Tour 2 2017

Transcript:

  • 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)

Japan v USA – every end-zone throw to Taiyo Arakawa, plus brief analysis

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.

Flags

Flags
2-7 players

flags-3pFlags is a simple game which adds training elements to a throw around. It will expose your weaknesses and challenge your strengths. Set out two markers (water bottles are good) a few yards apart, one directly downwind of the other – these mark the goal line – the windier it is, the longer the goal line should be. The higher the skill of the players (and/or the lesser the wind), the narrower the goal line.

2 players: Throw from where you catch, don’t cut for throws but do move to catch them. (1) Throw over the goal line at any height, (2) Throw around the far side of the goal [OI], (3) Throw around the inside of the goal [IO]

3 players: 2v1 – Rolling defender, cutting now encouraged. All players can move freely and pass on either side of the flags, but only passes across the goal line (at any height) count as goals. Goals reset a shot clock to prevent stalling, and the shot clock can be counted by the defender from anywhere on the field.

Felix, Will and Edgars play 3-player Flags.
3v2 / 4v3: More players can be brought in both on offence and defence, and the goal widened.

Experiment with different goal sizes, goal orientation to the wind, restricting the surrounding space with back lines, and so on. I recommend stalling from 4-10, as this is most game-like – mimicking the common situation where a thrower looks for a secondary option at stall 3. Let me know if you come up with some interesting rules or modifications yourself! As it was written on the back of the first frisbee – Play catch. Invent games. Have fun.

EUMCC 2017 with Moonwalkers

This weekend I won a bronze medal at the Euro Masters Club Championships in Frankfurt, playing hex with a mostly Belgian team – Moonwalkers!

Tof, who captains the Belgian team Mooncatchers and with whom I played Shocker @ Paganello a few years ago, got in touch to invite me to play with what I assumed was a Belgium-based / Mooncatchers masters club team. Turned out the only thing we all had in common was that we knew Tof! We had three players from Brighton (Roach, Edgars and myself), three Mooncatchers, six from other teams in Belgium, and three players from France – so most of the team were familiar with seeing each other on the field as opponents and competitors rather than team mates.

Captain Christophe “Tof” Bihin

On the first day Tof told the team that I was strategist along with Olivier (Mooncatcher founder who has been playing since the 80s). For our first warmup we played Keepdisc – Ultimate without endzones – as this got us passing the disc around in very Ultimate-like situations, getting to know how each other cut / pivot / throw / fake in fluid situations, so we learn a lot more about each other than if it was a rigid drill. We played Keepdisc to warm up before every game for the rest of the tournament.

First game we played against D.O.M from Germany, and ran Mooncatchers-style D – work as pairs downfield switching and sandwiching, whilst handler marks play tight one-to-one defence. This progressed into a heavy focus on stopping the under passes as we realised D.O.M were very reluctant to throw deep – strange for a masters team! We took the game 15-11, a great victory as D.O.M went on to beat one of the finalists later in the group stage.

Flex – basic triple sandwich

Before the next match I explained some of the principles of Flex defence – communicate, switch/sandwich where appropriate, and maintain coverage of every offence player. We went into the next game with a more formulated approach to switching and sandwiching, so it was less chaotic than the defence of the first game, and worked well as we beat Wolpertinger (DE) 15-11. Last game of the day was against 7 Schwaben, I was unable to play due to heel pain so contributed from the sideline with strategic manipulations – forcing middle worked well, we switched it up to a zone until they called timeout, at which point we switched back to forcing middle so that they never got to adapt – a 15-8 win.

The next day was tough – we played Deduska (RU) and Wizards (SUI), both were very strong on both offence and defence, and although we got turnovers we weren’t able to convert enough of them and made too many mistakes on offence, so lost both games and lost out on a place in the final due to a three-way tie.

Wizards Grand Cru – EUMCC Champions 2017

On the final day, we first played Raging Bananas as our last group game, before meeting Wolpertinger again in the Bronze 3v4 match.

Before the Raging Bananas game I took some time with the team to explain Hex offence, as we had only been playing horizontal and some vertical up until then. The players were quite comfortable playing a fairly organic style (this is normal in Belgium, to fall into organic style after an initial setup), so I emphasised that there was total freedom in Hex outside the basic principles: Take the open pass, create/use space as you see it developing, and maintain the shape. Other than that, just do what comes naturally. The first two principles were easy to explain / natural to perform, so we quickly went over what the hex shape looks like on the field, emphasised that you shouldn’t surround the disc, played some Keepdisc and then got straight into the game.

Raging Bananas – spirit winners

Hex offence against Raging Bananas looked amazing – the scores looked to be easy, there was always an open pass free, and the flow looked unstoppable. Of course it is impossible to say whether this would have been the same if we played another offence, but at the very least it was a great way for the team to learn how to setup and the flow from the Hex structure, and gain confidence playing it. We took the match 15-6.

Then onto our final game, against Wolpertinger, for the bronze medals. For plenty of our team this was the highest level game they had ever played, so before the match I told everybody that we did not need them to do something extra special, they just had to give their 100%… to resist the urge to try to give 110% and be extra amazing, but just to be the same players as they have been all weekend, putting in the maximum effort and doing what they know will work. For example, rather than trying for a pass that will only work if it is a great throw, just make the pass which will work for a normal throw, as this is all the team needs to do to win each point. It’s interesting to note that, in my experience, players will often change how they are playing in a meaningful final match – either by saying more stuff to the team in between points / in huddles, or playing in a different style.

The bronze match was an amazing match by all accounts. We played Hex offence the entire way through, and it was 5-5 before the first turnover of the game. We got the first break, they broke back a few points later, and the points became longer – Wolpertinger tried a few times to play zone defence against the hex but we were very patient and used lots of accurate hammers to swing and score. We took the third break of the game in the second half to go up 13-11 in a game to 15, they stayed with us so we were on offence 14-13 up, they come down with tight one-to-one defence but we flowed downfield using the hex shape until we were near to the end zone. Olivier had the disc and couldn’t throw back to me or up the line, so I found myself near the end zone not really able to help when the stall was on 8… Olivier sees Tof coming under on the break side under a lot of pressure, makes the throw, Tof goes up high and fast with a bidding defender next to him, takes the catch down… I make three hard steps to the flick side and then plant and turn to look over my left shoulder, Tof sees me and puts up the hammer, I have time to get body position and go up with two hands, and secure the catch! I hold the disc up high and hug team mates as tears come to my eyes… what a game, what a tournament, what a team and what a medal!

Strategically I learnt that it is quite easy to implement Hex Offence with experienced players even if there is a variety of ability and they have not played much with each other before – helped by the tendency to be comfortable playing a more organic style in Belgium. It is harder to implement Flex defence for a couple of reasons:- it tends to break down if one player begins to poach – which is very tempting – and the positioning and movement in Flex is very unlike one-to-one or zone defences, so players are not used to it and have to learn it afresh. The positioning and movement in Hex offence is very similar to ‘organic’ or ‘fluid’ offence – which is something that happens in practically every point of Ultimate when the stack formations break down after a few passes, therefore players are used to it and so Hex doesn’t ask them to do very much different to how they normally play – just to ‘maintain the shape’ (which entails knowing what the shape looks like). Hex is essentially a set of guidelines which facilitate and support organic flowing offence, whereas Flex is an alternative approach to defence which introduces a number of new concepts and asks far more of players.

Had a great weekend with the Moonwalkers, winning a European medal (and the first medal earned by Hex offence that I know of – though Cape Town Uni may have won SA Nationals with it last year), meeting lots of fun players from Belgium & France, and I hope plans come together for us playing more in the future!

Captain celebrated hard, team mates help out

Felix’s updated medal table (as a player):

Gold Silver Bronze
UK Nats 2011 – Clapham (Open)
UK Nats 2010 – Brighton (Mixed)
EUCC 2009 – Brighton (Mixed)
UK Indoor Nats 2005 – Brighton (Open)
EUC 2011 – GB (Open)
EUCC 2011 – Clapham (Open)
UK Nats 2009 (+MVP) – Brighton (Mixed)
EUMCC 2017 – Moonwalkers
Paganello 2014 – Shocker
UK Nats 2009, 2013, 2015 – Brighton (Open)
UK Nats 2006, 2008 – Brighton (Mixed)

Clapham v Chevron – Analysis of dominant defence leading to a footblock

Transcript:

In this video I’ll look at Clapham’s intense defence which results in a turnover against Chevron at a critical point in the Tour 3 2017 Final.

First look at Justin Foord on the mark, forcing away from the camera. As Ben Burak catches the disc, Foord is moving quickly to cover the break side. As soon as Burak plants his left foot and shifts his balance to his right, Foord mirrors. Burak then throws a shoulder fake, which Foord moves slightly to the right to cover, staying balanced enough to be able to get a foot ready to cover the inside-out flick threat. He keeps his balance and positioning, so Burak doesn’t even pivot for the around backhand as he knows Foord is still covering it.

Burak then threatens the inside-out flick again, and note how it’s Justin’s right foot that moves first. This puts him in a much better position to be able to stop the throw, and means that his resulting balance is automatically aimed towards recovering his position to stop the around backhand break. Watch again how closely his footwork matches that of Burak’s.

From this angle, notice how Foord doesn’t kick his foot out for the first flick fake – Burak has wound up for the throw but does not pump the fake realistically, so Foord essentially winds up for the footblock, does not commit to it. This is a masterclass in appropriate reactions to a thrower’s movements – he respects and matches each move, without overcommitting at any point.

Now let’s have a quick look at Ashley Yeo, #20 for Clapham. He makes a decision to dial back his coverage of James Mead’s break side cut when he sees Burak is not going to attempt the throw, meaning the short break area of the pitch is no longer an urgent threat. By dialling back at this exact moment, Yeo makes the window behind him smaller, whilst also using his energy efficiently. Note the quick chain of events – Burak pulls out of the throw early, Yeo changes his coverage, and Parsons, #25 for Chevron, pulls out of his cut.

The two Clapham defenders on the far side maintain close coverage, forcing their marks towards the clustered area, denying any easy reset into the space behind them, and also contributing to Parsons’ decision to pull out of his cut. Ben Funk catching the D greatly increased Clapham’s chances of converting the turn, they instantly split the deepest defender and punch it in.

But what could Chevron have done differently?

After working the disc over to the break side, #50 Sam Turner gets open, albeit for a break throw. Burak should put more energy into trying to get the disc to Turner – even if this pass doesn’t happen, the effort would move the force further around to open up the inside-out channel, it would communicate to Turner that the pass wasn’t coming and encourage him to clear the space faster, and it would get his defender committing to stopping the pass, which would potentially open up a deep option to Turner.

This is a very fine point and only a narrow opportunity – at this late stage in the game, the big differences are to do with how the offensive and defensive strategies have adjusted to counter each other, and although Clapham are playing excellently individually, it’s likely a team-wide approach which has exploited the weaknesses in Chevron’s offence.

I hope you enjoyed this video, go to felixultimate.com for more analysis and strategy articles.

WUGC2016: Japan v USA – Every turnover of the match analysed

Audio/video analysis of each of the nine turnovers in the Worlds Final from last year.

Transcript:

In this video I’m going to look individually at each of the nine turnovers in the 2016 World Championship Men’s Final between USA and Japan.

#1: Freechild layout

Keep your eye on Freechild, who will get the first D of the game. Notice how he takes the initiative to reposition as the disc moves. He’s keeping half an eye on the disc, meaning that when it is thrown for a swing, he is able to react a fraction of a second before Japan’s captain Kichikawa, and has position to get a fantastic layout D.

But wait a minute, where did Rehder come from?

Three passes before the turn, Gibson appears to be initiating a sandwich or bracketing setup with Rehder, using gesticulation to communicate this. This means Rehder is better placed to cover the break side. Like Freechild, Rehder keeps an eye on the disc and reacts very early to Japan’s attack, putting himself in a great position to clean up with a completely necessary D.

#2: Kolick poach

Kolick uses his position to keep half an eye on his mark, and half an eye on the field. It takes him one fifth of a second to react to Arakawa’s in-cut – he puts three hard steps in before getting a visual with the thrower Matsuno, who goes ahead with the throw because his view of Kolick was obscured by the force.

Point of note – Kickikawa and Tanaka’s close positioning here means Kolick and #24 Sefton have the opportunity to gain advantage through sandwiching and switching. Sefton should have covered Kolick’s mark as he drifted deep, as this would have allowed Kolick to make his poaching bid without exposing any significant vulnerability if the bid was not successful.

#3: Gibson layout

This is an incredible athletic block from Kurt Gibson. It’s possible he was able to be particularly tight due to anticipating Kichikawa was going to change direction when his first move was aimed towards a teammate. Just before the disc is released, Gibson is accelerating towards the exact point an accurate throw would be aimed at. His tightness keeps open the options of going either side of Kichikawa in the case of an inaccurate throw.

From the other angle, it looks as if Gibson is about to commit assault, with one hand either side of Kichikawa. Critically, he has already committed his body mass to passing on the right hand side, and his athleticism truly comes into play as he pulls his left arm well back and twists his body to keep contact to an absolute minimum. To continue to bid with his left hand here would be a clumsy, dangerous play. coughcanada

#4: Katsuta poach

#88 Katsuta sets up a sandwich (or bracket) with Arakawa when he sees their marks are close together. Playing heads-up, he sees Rehder’s under cut, checks if the disc will be thrown, and actively repositions. Making full use of the freedom given to him by the deep coverage of sandwiching setup, he’s sees Gibson’s up-line move, and simply needs to build on the momentum given from his active repositioning in the sandwiching setup to go and get the interception.

#5: Matsuno overthrow

As Matsuno catches, Arakawa sets off deep for their classic crossfield break flick huck connection. Russell Wynne puts a bid in on the force, as Matsuno releases the huck less than one second after catching the under pass. Slightly less angle or slightly less power and this would be a goal, but as it stands, it’s an execution error on Matsuno’s part.

#6: Kurono high D

Japan’s defence is looking very zonal after several turnovers in this point. #6 Kurono doesn’t fully commit to cover Nathan White’s deep cut as he can see Matsuno is helping out, and the window which White could receive an uncontested pass in is actually very small. This has to go down as a decision error by Trent Dillon, who had a wide open under pass available. White retracts his foul call after discussion, in a great display of normal spirit.

#7: Kurono overthrow

Arakawa cuts diagonally deep to the break side again, but slows up early because the thrower – Kurono – hesitates on the throw. When Matsuno throws to Arakawa from similar positions, his catch-pivot-release is always smooth, so when the thrower hesitates, Arakawa mistakenly believes the throw won’t come. If you watch Arakawa’s steps after the hesitation, you can see he slows and then speeds up. Tom Doi was close enough to have a bid on any throw, so the turn goes down to a combination of miscommunication, execution, and decision making.

#8: Komori poach phantom D

Japanese defender Komori chases the disc as soon as it is released in order to cause trouble downfield, getting a phantom D on Beau Kittredge’s infield pass to Cassidy Rasmusen. Phantom blocks, where a defender does not touch the disc with their bid but is rightly responsible for the turnover, break the catcher’s concentration as they start thinking about the potential interception, as well as often giving a visual distraction by changing the background to the catchers view of the disc. Point of note: If Beau had inverted his pivot – gone to the disc and turned to his right instead of his left – he would have seen the poach arriving.

#9: Japan miscommunication

Sad turnover to end on, but some interesting stuff nonetheless. When this stall-9 disc is released, neither Jimmy Mickle nor Josh Markette have the thrower in their field of view, which means #3 Takahashi just needs to put the disc out to space. Kurono had the easier catch, but Koike wasn’t leaving anything up to chance and committed to the layout. His first fake is excellent, and when Mickle bites he should ‘cash in’ on the fake by passing to Kurono, who has an easier shot at the Japanese player downfield on the far sideline. Instead he breaks the flow somewhat by faking the inside-out backhand, putting energy into a full fake which doesn’t accomplish much, and which didn’t seem like a realistic throwing option. He turns to Takahashi and – oopsie – puts the disc out, as he moves… classic miscommunication error.

There were only 9 turnovers in this match –

  • Five of them were caused by a defender switching, sandwiching, or poaching;
  • Two and a half turnovers were primarily decision or execution errors;
  • Two were mostly due to incredible athleticism – Freechild’s also counts as a sandwiching D due to Rehder’s necessary follow-up;
  • And one and a half turnovers were due to miscommunication.

I hope you enjoyed this video, obviously it’s been quite critical as the subject is turnovers, I recommend you check out the full game on YouTube and go to felixultimate.com to have a look at my other analysis pieces on this match, including a breakdown of Japan’s unique team defence, and a comparison between how each team approaches fielding the pull.

Japan v USA – Analysis of USA defensive confusion allowing Matsuno score

Trying out a new style of analysis which I hope to use more in the future. Japan move the disc away from the end zone they are attacking; defensive confusion ensues.

WCBU 2017: Playing for GB Men’s Masters

Catching in traffic for a score vs USA

I returned from the World Championships of Beach Ultimate 2017 a couple of weeks ago. The journey started back in September last year when trials were announced. I originally signed up for the Mixed Masters as well as Men’s Masters teams, and the first trial was actually playing with Men’s Masters at UK Beach Nationals. We came 3rd, beating the Grand Masters in the 3v4, and Hex came 1st in the Mixed division. Feeling out the vibe for the Men’s and the Mixed teams I made my decision to stick with Men’s, passed the further trials, and then trainings began! We had several months to prepare for heading off to Royan in France for WCBU 2017 in June.

We’d meet up every month or so on Bournemouth beach to play vs the Grand Masters. We had intended to go to a warm-up tournament but couldn’t get into Copa Tenga (which I really want to play in next year), so it turned out that our only training was playing against the Grand Masters – they were great. That team is made up of absolute legends of UK Ultimate, and every single person was a challenge to mark. They beat us overall – probably winning about 75% of the games we played over the various weekends. At the end of it all we were very aware that our training had been limited to playing against one team of players who are all older than us, so things might be very different at Worlds.

 

GB Men’s Masters average face

The vibe on the Men’s Masters team was great throughout the whole week in Royan. We didn’t get all the results we wanted – losing in sudden death three times where we felt we should’ve taken the wins (once vs Netherlands, once vs Australia, and finally in our quarter final against Spain after having the disc to win 3 separate times!) – so that was fairly gutting, but at the end of it we all had each others backs and it was a very enjoyable team to be a part of. By the end of the week we were down to 10 players for various reasons, which made the final few games tough, and we finished 8th. After the last game we all voted on MVP – overall, offence, and defence. I was very happy to win the overall MVP (and a prize of #10 Japan jersey!), Dave “Thrash/Stobbo” Stobbs won offence MVP, and Ewen Buckling won defence MVP.

I did pretty well in the stats – coming 3rd in the Men’s Masters division. I feel like I’m a better player now than I was before – playing regularly against the Grand Masters has helped a lot, but also the fitness work… finally I have been motivated to get out running in the hills regularly, and not letting myself slack off for a week at any point.

I got to play against the USA in the power pools, and it was clear they were operating at a different level to the other teams – one that I recognised and felt familiar to me, but not one which I’ve been having to play against for what felt like quite a long time. Instead of just doing the hard yards, you had to be very smart about where and when you are moving, as you can be sure they are thinking about it just as much. It was a good experience, despite the USA being quite ‘hands-on’ with their defence – I had to tell them a few times not to touch. At one point Voodoo hucked it to me and this guy (Barrs Lang) caught up and got a sick layout D over my shoulder – I thought he wouldn’t reach and that I had enough time for a safe clap catch, but that was a foolish thought! Someone captured a good photo of it:

Won’t make that mistake again! When playing the USA, catch the frisbee as early as possible, because the chances are that defender will catch you and their bid will make contact with the disc.

Overall it was a great time in Royan – would have liked to come away with a medal from Worlds, but fun times were had, and it’s inspired me to try out again for GB Masters teams in the future.

I got to meet ‘little Felix’ – Bex Forth’s second child

Behind the Stream: Fanseat at Windmill 2017

IMG_20170608_091003

Last weekend I was at Windmill for the first time ever! Instead of playing, I was part of the production crew putting together the live stream which went out on fanseat.com (and is currently available to view in their archives).

Who are Fanseat?

On the ground at Windmill, the production team was: Mike Palmer, Will Foster, Felix Shardlow, Anthony Wilson, Ari Ojanperä, Edgars Dimpers, and Callum Ayre. This team changes from event to event, but are currently always led by Mike Palmer or Will Foster. Nobody physically at these events is ‘from’ Fanseat – we communicate with them via messaging apps during the events to ensure everything is coming through to their end correctly.

IMG_20170609_231138Other than Ant’s friend Callum, we are all avid Ultimate players who have also been involved in Ultimate media production – all except Edgars were active members of the WFDF Media Team providing coverage of WUGC 2016, all except Ari and Mike have worked for Push Pass previously, all except Edgars and Ari are involved with providing coverage of UK events for UK Ultimate, and Mike has been the primary provider of coverage in the southern hemisphere for many years through his company Ulti.TV and UltiSports (and was leading our team at Windmill).

Commentary workshop held recently by Tom Styles, with Evan Leplar via Skype

We worked together with the awesome commentary team to provide Fanseat with a high quality, fully-packaged live stream, which they then distribute to their subscribers. The commentary team included Benjamin Rees, Lorcan Murray, Georgina Morrison, Liam Grant, David Pryce, Ravi Vasudevan, and many others who all did a fantastic job in contributing to the coverage, adding knowledge, character, and emotion to make the matches really enjoyable to watch.

What does setting up for a 3-camera live stream entail?

We arrived at the venue a couple of days before the event to begin work. The place was already swarming with volunteers and Windmill crew, who were all great fun, and really friendly and helpful whenever we needed anything. Readying the cameras alone took hours – each camera requires the setup of all kinds of equipment and the use of much technical wizardry, all of which Mike Palmer has great experience with, in order to get the rig working together smoothly and allow the camera operators to do the best job possible. Once the setup is all tested in close quarters, the power/signal/data cables must be laid out stretching to either end zone, using cable covers at any points where players may be crossing. During the women’s final, apparently the Poland Mixed coach tried to move one of our power cables to make room for his team’s warmup, causing it to unplug, resulting in a complete power outage – nightmare! To get a solid internet connection to the switching desk when it was placed in the centre of the field, we used some beaming technology I didn’t even know existed to get the signal over from the clubhouse.

At the desk we have the main switching computer with control pad, plus a replay machine with a second monitor. If possible, we also set up a screen for the commentators so they can see the replays as they are broadcast, and have a better perspective on the play that just occurred – also helping them to stay connected with the viewers. As with everything technical, things rarely work immediately after first setup, so many hours was spent troubleshooting and even going into town to buy extra equipment – thankfully the experience Mike Palmer and the rest of the crew have meant that there were usually two potential solutions to any problem, which were weighed up and decided between, and we got everything working the night before the first games began.

What roles need to be filled during a stream?

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Mike Palmer, Will & myself

Aside from the excellent job the commentators do, there are three basic roles for the production team during a live stream:
1) Switcher / Director / Visual Mixer – they sit at a computer which displays all the live shots from the three cameras, plus the current live output. Their job is to switch between the camera angles and coordinate the coverage – staying in constant communication with the camera operators to let them know who is currently live (everyone is hooked up with voice comms), what shots they want lined up, which camera will be live next, if there’s anything interesting worth replaying which may have been missed (for example, if the commentators are talking about a particular play), and to give the word to roll the replays when they are ready. They are also responsible for ensuring the commentators & game audio levels are well balanced.
2) Replay mixer – their role is to queue up replays of appropriate action from the best angles and let the director know they are ready to roll, as quickly as possible. It’s the directors call as to whether there is enough time during a stoppage to run the replay – always a tough decision during a stoppage or turnover – and the director should keep an eye on the game so the replay mixer can adjust the speed of the replay accordingly (they have a machine which has a slider controlling the speed). The replay mixer also exports the clips between points for later use, and chooses ones to consider for post-game highlight reels.

3) Camera operators – at Windmill we had camera 1 (middle-sideline) capturing an overview of the game whilst camera 2 and 3 (back of endzones) stayed tight to the action around the disc for replays. Attention must always be paid to the tracking the disc, removing ‘dead space’ from the frame, staying in focus, listening to the director’s instructions, and communicating back with any relevant information (such as a particularly good shot the director may not be seeing, or heads-up of a missed shot for the replay mixer). During stoppages, camera operators zoom in on the players who are discussing the call, to give viewers the best idea of what is going on. After scores, they capture the celebrations with the best framing and tracking possible – get those faces! We also coined the phrase “ShameCam” – when an operator would track a player who e.g. mac’d their D instead of catching it, resulting in a score – cue comms of “cam2 find the defender for ShameCam please… switching to cam2… cam2 you’re live – shame! shame! ok, switching to cam3…” over our comms – keeps us amused. Between points, there is an opportunity to get ‘colour’ shots – of the crowd, of flags in the venue, an overview of the fields outside the stadium, birds perching on aerials – to add context, variety, and atmosphere to the coverage, without missing the pull!

During the course of the tournament we changed up who was filling each of the roles, so we were able to understand what each role required, and thus work together better as a team. As we found our routine during a game, the camera operators would naturally line up the shots the director wanted, and we could relax into the ‘flow’ – chatting about the current action over the voice comms and having some banter (working through every game, every day, gets tiresome without some chat!). Releasing the production crew’s comms as an alternative commentary track would be the source of much hilarity.

IMG-20170612-WA0003When a mistake is made on the stream, and you know that double-tapping a button, queuing up the wrong replay, or accidentally knocking the camera has just made thousands of people go “huh?” – breaking their concentration on the game – it can get stressful, so it’s important to stay positive and supportive over the voice comms. In a live streaming environment, nobody has the luxury of being able to take a break mid-game. When things go right, and you feel like an excellent game of Ultimate has been done justice by the stream you’ve provided, a strong post-game euphoria kicks in!

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Edgars and myself reverse-photobombing Clapham

On a few occasions I actually got up and danced after finishing the stream as director. The work isn’t over after the last game though – cameras need to be brought in, the clips on the computer need to be exported and then edited into daily highlight videos, and everything packed away ready to be unpacked, set up and tested before the first game of the next day starts – some days are very long for the production crew (0730 – 0030 when making daily highlights), and the concentration needed is full-on and relentless. We do all love watching Ultimate though, so we’re motivated by trying to do the games in front of us justice – capturing memorable moments on camera, and conveying the atmosphere within the stands to all the viewers at home.

Will there be more events streamed?

I’m hoping to stay involved in future crews which are brought together to cover European Ultimate events – when I’m not playing. Fanseat are covering a ton of tournaments over the next few months – next up is WCBU, where they’ll be streaming from two pitches each day! Beyond that there’s EYUC, EMUC, EUCF, UKU Tours 2 & 3, and UKU Nationals, just for a start.

The first month’s subscription is free and gets you access to their archive, which includes many tournaments including Tom’s Tourney 2017, and EUCF 2016 – after that it’s £8 per month, which I think is reasonable. I didn’t intend this article to be an advert for Fanseat; hopefully now you understand more about who the Fanseat crew are on the ground, and that by supporting them you are supporting coverage of Ultimate by the players, for the players – so you can make a more informed decision at least.

Was a pleasure to be directing the stream whilst these players I coached during their time at Sussex / Brighton Universities won the final with Clapham

If you watched the streams and have any feedback – positive or otherwise – we’re always keen to hear it, so drop me a message. I know if I was a viewer, I would want a live online chat room alongside the livestream – this isn’t a feature on the Fanseat page, but perhaps the Ultimate Discord #livestream channel could be used and promoted by the commentators in future. Hope you enjoy/d the coverage and I hope to be a part of bringing more to you in the future!

Russia: Strict stacks and hard cuts

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mapI travelled to Russia from 15-26 May, with the primary aim of running a Hex Workshop and playing lots of Ultimate! I contacted many players and teams in advance, working social media (including installing VK – the Russian equivalent of Facebook), got back in touch with a few Russian contacts I’d made over the years, and stayed at a friend’s place. It was my second time in Russia – last time I visited over new year where the temperature dropped to -27 degrees celsius – a coldness I could not even imagine before – but this time, in May, it was really quite warm! This article is broken into a few different sections:

Check out the full collection of photos & videos in the Google Photo album

Environment / culture

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Very weird but quite cool building in north-east Moscow

The first thing I did after settling in was go for a run in a forest near where I was staying. The ground was very swampy at times, and I found a creepy burnt out building to explore (pics & videos in the google photo album). On the streets of suburban Moscow you see the occasional cat, but they generally stay well away from humans and look after themselves. The buildings in the suburbs are huge – blocks of flats that are 6-12 stories high, and often 100m+ long. They were mostly built in the soviet-era and have an air of conformity and ruthless efficiency about them. Regular houses are nowhere to be seen – everyone lives in these blocks of flats – however most residents have a family dacha (a country house) outside of Moscow which they visit for the holidays. During my stay I visited a few parks, saw a second Kremlin, went to a show at the State Kremlin Palace Concert Hall, got the opportunity to drink vodka with some Muscovites (with bites of gherkin, as is traditional), and went to an Enter Shikari gig – where I immersed myself in a hardcore but very friendly most pit. Russians have a more direct attitude compared to British, and I’m a fan of it – if they’re angry or happy you’ll know about it; they say what is on their mind, they’re not afraid of how it might be taken; their emotions are closer to their skin. This is something I like.

Metro system
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IMG_20170518_222952The metro system, like everything else in Russia, is huge. A ticket costs 75 pence/cents and takes you anywhere you want. Plenty of the stations have interesting statues or decorations, and the metro lines are arranged so they all essentially cross over in the middle, with two circular lines connecting them – one in the centre and one around the outskirts. It’s a scaleable system which allows for unlimited future growth! I spent hours and hours on the metro, as practices in Moscow tend to be in the north east or south east – over an hour away from where I was staying – and, did I mention, the city is huge? Everything is huge in Moscow.

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Ultimate

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A few of the Moscow State University team, with the MSU building in the background

There are 4 Open teams, 3 women’s teams, and 1 mixed team in Moscow. Moscow State University has one of the best reputations in the world, and their team – MSU – are the current student champions. I was invited to run a training with them soon after arriving, and was impressed at the high level – especially the discipline not to turn the disc over on more speculative throws. Venues in Moscow can be expensive, but MSU have a good field in a small stadium in the south-east of the city, and it’s the same field where Ultimate in the city was originally born. The session focused on catching & throwing skills, with an introduction of Hex Offence at the end. Everyone seemed to pick it up quickly, and implemented the principles as I had explained them – so there wasn’t much to say inbetween points! Their ability to conservatively pass the disc around and gain yards ultimately highlighted how it can be tricky sometimes to score from Hex when flow has stopped outside the end zone, so I talked about a couple of options they could implement to generate space in such a situation. MSU train right near the main building of Moscow State University – the tallest educational building in the world.
Towards the north-east of the city are the training grounds for Dolgorukiye, Luckygrass, Lemongrass, and Brilliance. All but Brilliance share the same 3G floodlit field – Dolgorukiye’s trainings actually overlapped with Lemongrass and Luckygrass trainings, as it saves all the clubs money and the 3G field is large enough to accommodate two teams at the same time.

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Dolgorukiye

Dolgorukiye are on a recruitment drive, so had a few beginners at their sessions training alongside their strong core of dedicated players. As with most players who learn to play outside of university, the learning curve is very steep, but they showed a lot of promise. I attended three of their trainings in total – at the first I introduced a basic drill which Clapham ran at pretty much every training of theirs I attended in 2011, at the second training I helped the coach (Danil Kutov) with a few exercises and drills he had designed around the skills I taught at the Hex Workshop at the weekend, and at the last training we went over cutting techniques before playing a match against Luckygrass. Their warm up at the first training was basically a 30-minute fitness session, but at the third training they got warm by passing a disc in pairs whilst moving around the field – practicing decelerating into catches and accelerating out of throws.

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Luckygrass

The match against Luckygrass was interesting – Luckygrass went up several points at the start in a battle of vert stacks vs person-D, but then Danil changed our strategy by telling me to go deep. I took this to mean cut deep on offence (I was aware I’d thrown away a couple times), so I began doing that with some success… After their O line put in a couple of uncontested deep scores however I realised Danil was talking about defence! Talk about lost in translation… So then I played D at the back of their stack, switching onto whoever would cut deep, passing them off when they went under, and communicating to the rest of my team constantly as to where they should be going and who they should be marking if I switch onto their guy. It incorporated lots of the principles of Flex, with the added stipulation that I was heavily weighted towards covering the deep options whilst others took the unders.

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Brilliance – women’s champions

Luckygrass struggled to improvise against it, hucked it a few times without seeing me switch onto the deep cutters, and we pretty much stopped them from scoring from that point on. I continued to go deep on O for Danil’s hucks and hammers (a throw which is not very common or looked kindly upon in Russia!) and we clawed back point after point until the game had to end due to the field being booked for American Football. I think we left Luckygrass scratching their heads, and their coach seemed keen to attend the next Hex workshop I run in the region.

I also got an opportunity to coach at a Brilliance training session – there were just a few players there, but the high quality of the Russian women champions was very apparent. We worked on catching & throwing, with a focus on long throws, and effective throw+go techniques.

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Players from Saturday’s Flex workshop

Hex workshops
Saturday’s focus at the workshop was “Throwing + Catching skills & Flexagon Defence”. We had 15 players turn up and had a good session – I talked about the neutral stance / power stance for throwing, went into detail about hucking technique, talked about and practiced the finer qualities of clap catching, broke down Flex D into its principles of communication, switching/sandwiching where appropriate, and covering all offensive players as a team, and drilled them each individually and combined. We played a few games at the end where everyone was communicating loads, looking out for switches, setting up sandwiches, and I was able to illustrate specific scenarios like where somebody would poach deep (without marking someone, switching, or sandwiching) and it would cause the defence to break down – so lots was learned by all.
On Sunday the focus was Hex Offence, so we ran through a number of drills which put into practice the skills which are particularly useful for Hex play and principles – throw-and-go moves, recognising space developing on the field and moving into it, taking the open pass or faking if it’s not on, and maintaining the hex shape – which entailed illustrating what the shape looks like when the disc is at any point on the field, and guidelines on how to maintain the shape dynamically during play.

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Players from Sunday’s Hex O workshop who also played against Me & My Monkey

At the end of the Sunday session we played a match against “Me & My Monkey” – a fairly new Moscow team. M&MM came out with a vertical stack and we immediately surrounded it whilst pointing and shouting “five!” to indicate there should be five of us sandwiching around five of them. M&MM’s cutting was chaotic in reaction and we shut down most of their short options and stuffed their flow, however they had a couple of throwers who were able to sit the disc out amazingly far and flat for their receivers to run down, which they did very well and very often until we adapted. On offence, Hex worked well but was rather crowded – the pitch was slightly narrow, but we also had the common tendency of over-rotating downfield, meaning the downfield space was crowded and the backfield space was underused when on the sideline. We had some nice sequences of play however, some good deep shots, some quick passes off the line from static towards the end, and scored enough points to win the game. M&MM’s offence switched up to horizontal for a while – we tried Japan’s Hasami defence against it but figured there was too much space between the downfield cutters for it to work effectively, so went back to Flex and continued to get good results. From vert, M&MM tried a play we used to call ‘rubber’ in the UK – the front cutters split and the back cutter comes under – which is a great idea against Flex which doesn’t have a fully switched-on back defender, however we recognised this and prepared the deep defender to tighten up quickly if he saw this happening, so we continued to cause them problems. Towards the end of the game we decided to switch it up as we were getting physically and mentally drained – at one point we came out with a vert stack on the open side (to free up loads of break space), but M&MM quickly transitioned into a zonal-type defence as a counter – something they potentially had learned from us during the game, or that their coach had prepared them for (he had also attended the Hex workshop).

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Players note down drills during a break at the Hex workshop

Futures
During the trainings I got to know lots of Russian players by playing with & against them, and I believe that if I ran another workshop immediately then the turnout would be quite high. The Luckygrass coach told me he & his team didn’t attend the workshop as their strategic focus for the year was vert stack & man-to-man defence and they didn’t want to add confusion, which got me thinking about how the workshop could be tailored to account for this type of player/team. The throwing & catching part of the workshop is useful for any level of player, and teams are usually more willing to experiment with new defences over new offences, so potentially the “Flexagon Defence” part of the workshop could be marketed as “How to beat Vertical Stack using teamwork” or something similarly relatable.

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After the Luckygrass v Dolgorukiye match

The range of strategies played in Russia seem to indicate they’re a few years behind the UK. Vertical stack is very dominant, and though established teams know to play horizontal, they don’t seem too familiar or comfortable with it. The focus for both performance and for ‘keeping it simple for beginners’ is strongly on stacking tight and cutting hard. Deep throws are very common. On defence, we went through an entire game just forcing flick – despite the opposition having quite good flick throws. This is what teams used to do 20 years ago when not every player had a reliable flick throw. There was barely any zone played, however players were able to adapt to new defences when we introduced them, so the responsibility for progressing the strategic development on the field lies with the coaches at this point, who must be willing to experiment and take risks on defence in order to progress. It will be interesting to see over the next year or two whether Dolgorukiye and the other teams who had players present at the workshops adopt some principles from Flex defence, and begin to force their opposition’s vert-stack offence to evolve into a horizontal stack, or even Hex. Without defence evolving first, there is no need for the offence to evolve beyond the well-established vertical stack with hard cuts.

I hope to return to Russia in a year or two, and after playing in all the post-workshop games and trainings this time and seeing the strategies begin to have an impact, I’m sure that there will be plenty of players who will be keen to attend a future workshop in Moscow. I love the people and the country so I look forward to returning!

They do put potato on their pizza though – I’m not too sure about that.

Check out the full collection of photos & videos in the Google Photo album

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Addendum: Dolgorukiye were kind enough to put together this video for felixultimate.com!