Practice continues

Second practice of the year tonight. Still cold. I arrived late, to see the team running the four lines drill. Oh, my, I was so happy to see that! They weren't sure about what they were going to do at practice, but they started out very well!

We had a new girl come out to practice tonight. I don't think she even had cleats. She played pretty well, for a complete beginner. I hope she had enough fun to continue to come out. Her reactions to my directions reminded me of how much of the sport's terminology I take for granted. Just because I yell at someone to clear, doesn't mean she's going to know what the heck I'm telling her to do. Or to cut deep. Or to clear wide. Or to stop clogging. Or to force home. Or to start the stall count. Or to mark. Or pivot. Or throw to space.

Lots of words, and phrases and meanings that are so ingrained I'm unable to immediately recall not knowing what they mean.

Kate showed me a Macbook Air after practice. I both wish I could buy one and am glad i can't afford it at this point. I haven't worn out my current computer, which works very, very, very well for me (knock on wood, or aluminum as the case may be), so I won't be upgrading, or laterally-ing to a MB Air (it won't drive my birthday present). Which is fine, I'm still happy with what i have.

Wait, did I really just say that?

 Practice starts up

Went to practice tonight, for the first time since mid last month. It's been cold at nights, all the way down to 46°. Forty-six degrees. Forty six.

My dad is laughing at me right now.

At least my mom is thinking, "Brrrrrrrr!"

Given the team hasn't really been out and running around together for a month, just playing sounded like a great idea to me. We did a lot of throwing (about 200 throws per person of various grips and lengths), and played games. I'm not sure they liked the way I divided the teams up: number of letters in their last name, odd on one team, even on the other. I followed that one up with something like the number of letters in their first names. The teams seemed pretty even.

Although playing ultimate and teaching people (and combining the two!) is a lot of fun, I have to admit that hanging out with Kate, even in the cold, cold, cold, stop laughing Dad, cold weather is the best part for me. I like chatting on the sidelines with her, talking about life and plotting women's ultimate domination in two years with her. It's a lot of fun.

If only I could feel my toes.

 SCRUW's Sean Ryan


This morning, I drove to Santa Clara, picked up three of the women I'm coaching on the women's ultimate team, and drove to Santa Cruz with them for the 2007 Sean Ryan Memorial Tournament. Kate and I seem to be consistent in our time availability with the team: every day I'm not available, she is, and any day she's not available, I am. As a result, I was coaching this one on my own.

And Kate's the one with the calm demeanor and beaucoup experience, not me.

The team had 13 women today. That's a lot for the team, even if it was about half of what the other teams brought to the tournament. What they lacked in numbers, they made up for in heart.

The first game was against Berkeley X. Berkeley had a large number of players tryout this year, so they split the team into two teams: X and Y. We played X, which had 3-4 players who could catch, throw and defend well, and another 20 who couldn't. So, the game was really, really close as both Berkeley and SCRUW, the Santa Clara women's team name, worked the disc down the field and scored sometimes, turned it over sometimes. The score went something like 1-1, 2-2, 3-3, 5-3, 5-5, 6-6, 8-7 (yay, we took half!), 9-7, 10-8, 10-10, 12-10, 12-11. Here's where the heart breaker is. If, on the score where they scored that 11th point had happened 20 seconds later, as in, a second after the hard cap went on instead of 19 seconds after they scored, the game would have been over, and Santa Clara would have won the game. As it was, the hard cap went on as the team was walking down the field to start the next point. Berkeley scored the next point, tying the game, and the following point to win the game. The game finished 15 minutes after the next game was supposed to start, so the team immediately ran over to the next field over to start the next game.

I forgot to suggest they eat something between the rushed games.

The second game was against UCLA BLU X. This team was in much the same boat as the Berkeley team: a few good players (as in, really good players), and a whole bunch of not so good players. The problem was, however, that they had three or four of these good players, compared to Berkeley's two or three. BLU was able to play three of these women pretty much in all the points and move the disc very effectively.

After a number of points of SCRUW moving the disc down the field, only to turn it over within yards of the endzone, and watching the three BLU moving score on three throws, I suggested a change in defense. We'd still force the team one direction in general, but the three women on the line who could play we'd play straight up. With a quick tutorial on how to force straight-up, and the calls incoming defense should make (left and right, brilliant, eh?), the team received the next pull, turned it over, forced straight-up on the good players, caused a turn over close to the endzone, and scored. Molly came up to me after a few points of playing straight up on BLU's top player and excitedly said, "Wow, that's totally working. She's throwing it away, and struggling!" I was so excited to hear my advice was so well received.

The final score of the second game was 4-12, so we missed our goal of 5 points by one. If we could count the "within 10 yards of the endzone" as a half point, though, the score would have been more like 10-12.

The last game was against UC Santa Cruz. Having watched the team earlier, I really thought SCRUW had a chance to win this game. I told them as much before the start of the game. However, they played more of their top line, and, well, pretty much crushed SCRUW. The team had run out of steam, run out of legs, and, well, it showed. I think they were done when the score was 1-6.

All in all, it was a great day. We need to work on initiating a stall count (rather than letting the opponent stand over the disc directing traffic, actually get that stall count going!), keeping on our opponent (no turnstile defense), and throw, throw, throwing!

 When one point rocks!

Today was day one of college sectionals. I arrived late (dammit!) to pick up half the team to drive them to Santa Cruz for the tournament. I've been trying to be on time, instead of my usual 15 minutes late, but every time I worry about being on time, I stress at every stop light and worry about every lane change and ick, it sucks. If I had a good list of five minute tasks, I'd be less stressed at the arriving early and waiting. Maybe.

The team's first game was against Stanford A, who was seated second at the tournament. There was exactly, uh, zero chance of winning this game, but the girls were very realistic: they wanted one point.

After struggling to complete more than two passes, then getting into a groove, the team started to work the disc upfield. They had run through blocks (Sarah J) and fantastic skies (Annie), and enough backhand breaks that the Stanford coaches were complimenting them. When the score was 0-5, I suggested a pull play, which worked far better than anyone could imagine: catch, first throw to Amelia, Kelsey out of the stack, crazy high, long throw to Annie who dished the disc to Amelia for the score.

Yay, hotbox practices!

Suddenly, Stanford took them seriously. The second half of the game was a lot harder, but finished quickly, with a final score 1-15.

At the end of the game, most everyone on the team asked me if Kate was coming to the tournament. I explained she was at Liza's soccer game, and would be by soon. After she arrived and took over for the game coaching, I understood why they kept asking for her. Where I was encouraging but hesitant to overload the team with specifics, Kate was encouraging, direct and willing to throw as much knowledge as could apply at the moment.

I left after the second game, a 0-15 loss with a large number of run-through defenses as well as great oh-so-close-to-scoring disc movement (2 feet outside of the endzone - 2 feet!). When I arrived home, I talked to Kris about the games and the team.

I told Kris about the disc movement, the large number of forced turnovers by the team, the great work the team was doing. I commented that fairly much everyone asked if Kate was coming to the tournament, and then about her coaching style.

He turned to me and asked, "Is Kate a good coach?"

I didn't hesitate, "Absolutely."

She told me experience helps, she's been coaching for ten years. Sure, that helps, but she also talks and moves and coaches with confidence. If I had to choose who I'd want coaching me, yeah, I'd pick Kate in a heartbeat, too.

 Stupid soccer players

Practice tonight was an unmitigated disaster.

When I arrived, I noticed a larger number of people at the fields than normal. Sure, there are usually the softball players, or the rugby players, or even the lacrosse players. Each of them, however, finishes up around 9:00 PM, which is when we start. That all of these new people were arriving just as I was meant they would be sharing the fields with us.

We usually practice near the soccer field. This works out well because it's near the student housing, which means it's also close to the washrooms. The lights at the end we play on are more consistent, too. The field itself is worn, so we don't play on the most lush part of the fields, but the other conveniences outweigh the need for grass.

When I realized all of the people arriving were there to play soccer for an intramural, maybe interhouse, game, I asked what field they would be playing on, and how much space they would need. I then set up our field away from their field, but bordering, so that both groups would get maximum field space with minimum interference.

If only the soccer players were intelligent enough to realize the BRIGHT ORANGE cones marked the edge of a playing field. Instead of respecting another sport was occupying the field space next to them, several soccer players thought the wide open space was the perfect place to practice footwork and kicking the ball.

And, instead of demanding their space, the space their team as a club team had the right to occupy, the team avoided the soccer players, playing on a smaller and smaller field. Since the drill we were running was a huck drill, throwing to closer and closer players defeated the purpose of the drill. I went to the players, and asked them nicely to respect our field and practice on the other side of the sideline. They would move over for about a minute, then move back when I turned my back and went back to the stack for the drill. After two times asking and two times complying then returning, I was fed up. I started cutting into the middle of the soccer players, and stopping the ball when it interfered with my catching the disc in the drill.

Apparently this pissed off the soccer players. One thought it was perfectly reasonable to wind up a full field kick ten yards from me and kick. It hit me square in the groin and hurt. A LOT.

I looked at the kid, and said, "The sideline is there. Practice over there. Respect our field space, as we respect yours." At that point, I decided to steal the soccer balls of anyone who continued to play on our field. I also moved all the bags the players left in our endzone off the field, casually mixing wallets with shoes, and bags with IDs. I'd be surprised if anyone figured out where all of his stuff was.

At another point, I had to steal the soccer ball of another group on the field. It wasn't as if they were playing on the side of our field and accidently kicked the ball onto our field. They were smack dab in the middle of our field. Terribly, frustratingly annoying.

Eventually, the girls gave up and asked if we could play hotbox. It was our last practice for two weeks, so I was reluctant. However, having fun is definitely the most important aspect of keeping a team together, so we went to play hotbox instead.

Note to self: Annie tall plus Mackenzie fast equals hotbox domination.

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