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Infuriating

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UltiPhotos: Finals Preview -- CUC 2012 &emdash; untitled-1161
in·fu·ri·ate (n-fyr-t)
tr.v. in·fu·ri·at·ed, in·fu·ri·at·ing, in·fu·ri·ates
to enrage; to make Furious.

It is August, normally marking a midpoint in our season, but it feels as if we have only just begun. Trickling back from a July all over the hemisphere, we have returned to the practice fields to recombine as Furious George. Looking around, the array of new, young faces takes me by surprise even now. The Canadian Ultimate Championships begin in Vancouver next week, and a unified Angry Monkey must defend a national title on home turf. At the same time, we are in the midst of rebuilding; every practice and every tournament — even nationals — is another step in making a new Furious.

Chemistry and Culture

Every successful team possesses what we lazily call “chemistry.” It refers to an intuitive culture and some loose heuristics of how to approach and how to react to every situation. Sometimes we speak of the elements of the game as if monolithic and fact: this is when to cut; this is where to cut; this is how to cut. The nagging truth, though: every team has its own flavour, vision, and nuance. From timing to throwing choices, what to look for on the field, from whom, and when — it all varies (sometimes wildly) from club to club.

Sometimes, this team culture comes effortlessly. By that happy coincidence, everyone thinks alike, gravitates toward a role, and executes well together — we have all seen the inexplicably successful pick-up team now and then. Other times, the feel, identity, and framework for a team has to be painstakingly designed and practiced, just like everything else. Chemistry sounds so scientific, and yet it can prove so scientifically elusive.

UltiPhotos: Sunday - Open Final -- CUC 2012 &emdash; jbp_CUC2012_sunday-99

So here we are, experimenting, trying to decide which shoes we should fill. Who will be the solid and safe depth players, striving for consistent delivery? Who will be the gunslingers and risk-takers? Who will be the initiators, strikers, and break-force artists? Who will be the calm voice of reason? Who will be the fiery, hard-nosed Shanks, Grants, and Seraglias of yesteryear?

They are all keys to victory, and challenging in their own ways. The depth players need unfailing focus. The risk-taker can’t afford a losing streak. The voice of reason has to choose his words carefully. The hardass has to be unquestionably respected, or he’s really just a dick.

On paper, it is tempting to assess a team as the sum of its parts. I so often hear players of the game vaguely described as “good” or “great,” and the assumption is that their teams are thus elevated by their presence. But we also know what the paper fails to convey: the strength of the team comes from its strength as a system. That means learning to interface, to fill roles, to link the chain of jobs that connect possession with a scored goal. This is why, when hearing of a “good” player, I always ask back, “I know he’s good, but what does he do?”

Monkeys, I know you’re good. But what do you do? This week, show me.

Alex Davis

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