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Final Preparations

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Figuring shit out one huddle at a time
Getting It Together

Sixteen of the best teams will meet. Only eight will advance to playoffs. Only one can win. For every success, someone must suffer an equal failure.  What would you do to put yourself on the winning side of that equation?

In under two weeks, qualifying Open teams compete for the championship in Sarasota.  That makes this a frenetic time of final preparation for all of them.  At this time of year, a record volume of e-mails citing links to footage and write-ups is circulating  (supplanting the usually constant flux of trash-talk). Players are coercing innocent co-workers into throwing discs over lunch hours.  They are studying video, practicing with heightened focus, working out at peculiar hours.  They may possess a suddenly renewed interest in stretching and eating well.

Why? Why the manic dedication and superstition?

In Sarasota lies the culmination of the year’s efforts.  A performance at any other tournament — good or bad — fades in time.  But what you do in Florida closes the book; it is the last thing you remember, symbolic of the year.*   These are some of things we (and others) do to make it a good memory.

Seraglia vs Southpaw, USAUC2011

Beat the Clock

For West-Coasters, many of us begin keeping some very strange hours at this time of year. The effect of jet-lag is no joke when one Thursday morning in Florida can decide the course of your tournament.  There is much more to it than a simple state of being awake, asleep or groggily in-between. The inconvenient truth: Circadian rhythms influence and optimize different aptitudes at different times of day.

At five in the morning, the average person’s body temperature hovers near its lowest.Yet Floridian clocks tick a solid three hours ahead of British Columbia’s. And come eight o’clock on Thursday morning, we need to be warming up and ready to play.

All other things being equal, eastern teams will reach peak mental alertness three hours ahead of us! And our peak athletic performance window — well, it will naturally occur somewhere around dinner time. Yeah, that’s unacceptable.

 

Do you want to play your first game at peak-alertness or bowel-movement-likely?

 

Jeff Cruickshank used to swear by his early-morning exercise routines in the weeks leading up to Florida, and with good reason. We have to get our internal clocks on Florida time. In the pitch-black, cloud-covered Vancouver mornings, even waking up just to do some video analysis helps (the blue light from your computer screen can help trick your body into thinking it’s dawn). Flying into Florida well in advance of the tournament is another key to combatting the effects of jet-lag. It’s also key for most of us Canadians in general, for whom the days are growing short, wet and cold — entirely unlike blazing Sarasota.

That’s right: there’s also the weather to remember. Mentally preparing for the temperature means contriving to make an otherwise cold practice as sauna-like as reasonably possible. Three times a week, angry monkeys are running their offenses bundled up like rain-soaked Michelin Men, sopping wet and sweating in spite of it, misty contrails curling after them in the chill autumn air. It’s comical but necessary.

 

Aaron Loach vs Southpaw, USAUC2011

Know Thine Enemy

As Seth Wiggins sagely observed in Chasing Sarasota, one of the hardest things to do in a tournament is to beat a team twice. One cause of that difficulty is the race between learning curves. Generally, you learn very little from winning– you learn that what you did was enough to win. But will it work next time?  Will everything stay unchanged?

The loser learns from his mistakes: he knows where he went wrong, and now he also knows what his opponent likes to do. He also has good reason to predict the winner will try all the same tricks again. How did General Strike come so close to upsetting the Monkey at CUCs, when they had previously lost 8-15? In the first encounter, the winner held the benefit of surprise; in the second, the loser held the advantage of information.  Knowledge is power.

General Strike finds a pocket in the zone

But a smart team also puts knowledge to use — in practice, between tournaments.

One of the inherent problems of practice is that you generally practice against your own team. The offense is accustomed to facing their own defense. The defense is accustomed to facing their offense. Granted, they know each others’ strengths and weaknesses, and they can challenge each other in that respect.

Norris at Labor Day 2012 vs Ring

 

But the nasty little problem is that other teams have very different strengths and weaknesses. Different teams deny and allow different throws; they prioritize their options differently. You do not want to be playing your go-to zone that gives up the cross-field hammer against a team on which everyone has a deadly hammer. Likewise, you do not want to have to try your first high-release flicks at the championships.

A smart team takes their knowledge of their opponents and contrives situational drills to practice the game-changing habits ahead of time.  The goal is to walk into the first game in Florida feeling as if it is already the rematch, and your team is the informed one.

At this time of year, teams all over North America are trying to crudely simulate what other teams do. They’re remembering past encounters, and where history is lacking, they’re going to video. What happened when Team X played Team Y? What is that defense that Team Z used on us? How do they get turnovers? How do people get turnovers against them? It’s not a coincidence that after a season of losses, Furious George suddenly defeated Sockeye twice at Northwest Regionals last year.

 

Hibbert and Collins vs Ring

And though I am loath to admit it, it is the reason why the Monkey beat Ring of Fire on Thursday last year, but not Machine or Southpaw. Furious invested a lot of our last two weeks preparing for Ring in 2011, but made the mistake of thinking that the Southpaw that showed up at Labor Day would be no different from the one in Sarasota. Interesting fact: in 2010 and 2011, Southpaw performed disastrously at Labor Day, but nevertheless made quarter-finals in Sarasota.

Everyone flying into Sarasota is good at ultimate; everyone has had time to refine their systems and to prepare, and they’ve proven themselves at Regionals. So it’s an awfully big risk to hope that you and your captains will figure out the keys to victory on the fly. I’ve learned this the hard way.

 

Ready

Are You Ready?

What can we expect from Furious George in Florida this year? I don’t know. What makes this team exciting to watch and to play for is the very certain belief that nothing is outside our reach. We can win anything; we can lose anything. I never know what will happen. Some people consider that our greatest weakness. Maybe. It is also one of our greatest strengths. Come what may, we will be prepared.

Get angry.

Angry Monkey

 

 

 

 *In 2011, I wrote our story of disappointment, in part so I would never forget.

 

Alex Davis

3 Responses to “Final Preparations”

  1. Joram Says:

    Awesome story!

    Get some!

  2. Charlie cooper Says:

    I’m a native Chicagoan, and fan/friend of machine– but I’ve really enjoyed reading about your season– best of luck at nats! It should be an awesome tournament to follow!

  3. Christian Mathieu Says:

    Your text is very inspiring. This is going to be my first time in Sarasota and every article I can read about it get the excitement going up. Thank you and best of luck to you guys!