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UltiPhotos: Furious George vs Sockeye - Quarters (WUCC2014)

The Art and Science of Forcible Introspection

Admittedly, posting updates to the site fell by the wayside late this summer. And apparently, that hiatus was noticed, as evidenced by some of the e-mails that have been coming in.* In my own defense, I have been excusably stressed and busy. I don’t know what everyone else on this team is doing, but it is surely less important, as I frequently point out. But since the time for blow-by-blow accounts of every tournament we have played has passed, we will break the silence by indulging the author in some academic content.

The Summer, in Brief:
Shortly after the U.S Open, most of our personnel represented the Vancouver Nighthawks at the MLU Championship in Philadelphia. Aside from some tune-up practices, we then mostly dissolved and trickled across the hemisphere into Italy, where we assembled our World Championship squad. After that, some of us took a well-earned vacation, and others picked up with various clubs for a kick at the Canadian Ultimate Championships. Taking stock of our assets, after a round of retirements and some major roster re-ordering, we set about training our fall season incarnation with a fresh influx of rookies. We baptized them by fire in the West Coast Round Robin, where we earned a third strength bid for the Northwest. Two weeks later came Sectionals. And then this past weekend, we weathered Regionals. It has been a turbulent summer, with hard grinds, comebacks, sweet successes, and some hard losses, and all of it accompanied by a great deal of hair-graying re-invention.

Throughout all this, the losses figure most prominently in my memory, although not — perhaps — for the most obvious reasons. Defeats make fertile grounds for the mind. In general, you learn more from a loss than you do from a win. Furious is unashamed to admit that we have so far learned a lot this year.

UltiPhotos: Furious George vs Sockeye - Quarters  WUCC 2014

In the Classroom of Competition

Vancouver has surmounted some nasty pinches this season (well, as always), and even come dizzyingly close to some wild success. And in each instance, all that separated us from that halcyon paradise was a game in which one of our weaknesses was unexpectedly revealed. In Philadelphia, we met a team totally unlike ourselves in an important game. Their combination of vague, stand-off marks and poachy defense showed us where we had undeveloped vision and field sense. In Italy, Sockeye revealed that under tight coverage, we over-rely on our throws and finesse over our leg-driven work ethic. At sectionals, we learned that we too often let our hearts and fears (instead of, say, strategy) dictate how we position ourselves on defense. At regionals, we learned that our cutters take too many cues from the defense, instead of fighting for better spaces and angles.

And in many of these cases, we have looked upon our latent flaws laid bare, and thought, in surprise and indignation, “How did we not see that before!?” Ultimately, most can even be traced back to our own practice habits — practices originally and painstakingly designed, of course, with intelligent and well-meaning intentions. Alas, every drill, every strategy, every scrimmage carries with it some unintended side-effect that insidiously takes root, often without notice, somewhere we rarely ever look. And lo, when we find ourselves in a game where the offense struggles, it is because — we see very suddenly — that our opponents are playing a defense logically opposite to one of our own favourites. And when our defense fails to produce even a wrinkle in our opponents’ flow, our opponents are attacking in ways we rarely ever try. And then we realize, a little late, our blindness to our own habits — that we have trained and conditioned ourselves into this unfortunate corner. Forsooth**, we have created our own enemy, and it is us.

Sometimes, we adapt on the fly, and we turn the game around. We did this against Sockeye in Minnesota, against EMO in Italy, and Powderhogs in Corvallis. But the more fundamental the assumption or habit — intentional or accidental — the more irreversibly and intractably it gets in the way. It chuckles ironically at our frustration. Defeats are cruel, insensitive, but masterful teachers, if you are willing to listen to them.

Blair Underhill and Rumi Tejpar at the U.S. Open

After a lackluster performance at sectionals, I suspect that a lot of teams smelled blood and opportunity in the air. I can’t blame them. But these losses saved us from what could have been Regional disaster, alerting us to our faults. And thanks to that warning flag, in Corvallis, we rebounded, and re-asserted that the strength bid we earned was ours to keep. And for that I am grateful; losing is what allows us to win.

Northwest Regionals taught us still more about ourselves. Next, we will be bringing those lessons to the USA Ultimate National Championships in Frisco, Texas.

Gagan Chatha at the U.S. Open

*Fun fact: this post was written in large part just to appease the restless mob of mothers who have been vocally upset with a lack of updates. And on a related note, why don’t any of us ever call home any more?
**This is a tragically endangered word that, with your help, we can rescue from extinction.

Alex Davis

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