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UCPC, my thoughts


So, other than being a bit nervous for my to-be-given-twice talk, I found today to be absolutely fantastic. In terms of a conference I wanted to attend, this one fit the bill, as it had more sessions that I wanted to attend than timeslots that allowed me to attend. Fortunately, several sessions were taped, and material is available for download, so I can still feel like I heard Jim Parinella talk (I didn't, darnit, nor did I introduce myself to him, as I wanted to), and learn more about mental toughness from Tiina (I hadn't, but only because the thought of learning marking techniques from Ben Wiggins overwhelmed all thoughts of mental toughnesses).

I started out the conference (not the day, as that started with a valiant but ultimately futile attempt to wake up early, shower, dress and dash out of the room without waking up Gwen and Miranda) wondering if the Keynote by Dr. Allan Goldberg was going to be as good as his book, Sports Slumpbusting.

It was better.

The keynote was, of course, a short distillation of his book: you can't put days, weeks, months of training into an hour talk to a general audience. However, with the foundation of the book, or any other type of mental toughness book, the talk was enjoyable, entertaining and informative. I took away both the opening anecdote's quote ("Training is 95% physical and 5% mental. Competing it's the opposite: 95% mental and 5% training."), as well as the thought, "Losing focus won't hurt you in competition. Not refocusing will."

Dr. Goldberg is a very dynamic speaker, able to capture and hold the audience's attention well, which made the talk fun. He had several demonstrations on focus, about how it can be difficult and how focusing on the wrong thing can have disastrous effects on one's performance quality. He hinted at mental chatter, but not extensively, and talked about how the thinking part of the brain (the fore-brain) is good for analyzing during practice, but needs to stfu and let the unconscious part of the brain (the hind-brain) just do its job during competition.

After Dr. Goldberg was done, I moved to the front of the auditorium for Ben Wiggin's talk on Marking Strategies. Ben arrived, as near as I could tell, moments before his talk was scheduled to begin, but started in as if nothing was amiss and he hadn't just spent the last 18 hours trying to make a simple cross country trip that should have taken all of 5 hours tops.

Ben had many good points, and encouraged everyone to ask questions during his talk, so that, in his words, he could feel comfortable like he's talking to his team and not uncomfortable like he's lecturing to us. Sound advice. His slides were full of pictures his mother had taken, which humoured me, as my presentation also had slides by his mother, but his were "used with permission." Detail there.

Ben talked about "back blocking" initially. I took this to be stepping, or moving the outstretched hand on the thrower's release side backwards (6"? 12"? he didn't say), instead of straight out. Doing so gives you more reaction time and reduces the chance of a foul.

Another interesting point Ben made is a staggered stance, not straddling over the marker's position, but with the marker's non-force side foot slightly back, and the force side foot slightly forward. This allows the marker to both move more quickly (presumably because of balance, though I'll have to follow up on that), and avoid thrower-drawn fouls. Ben aslo talkd about the transistion from defensive pursuit to marking, which, admittedly, is one of my least thought about transitions (and one ripe for improvement).

The second part of his talk was about different team defensive strategies, most of which were brilliant for the personnel on the respective teams who played them, but weren't necessarily applicable for any team I'm (currently) on.

The next session time slot was my first talk, so I, well, talked. This presentation went not so well, as my voice cracked, and I missed a lot of my examples. I blame my lack of presentation notes because of system issues (where system issues = bad user input = bah!). After this session, I wandered over for lunch, which I found tasty, and the Ultimate Expo. CMU had a table, so I purchased a Mr. Yuk disc for Kris so that he'll have one to throw, instead of hoarding his last one from college.

I had one more talk to go to, one in the third session. My personal choices were between Jim Parinella's decision making in ultimate talk and Dan Cogandrew and Bryan Doo's Ultimate fitness talk. Peter, whom I met last night at the train station, as George took Emily and me from the airport to the hotel via the train station to pick up Peter, suggested the training session, as he heard the handouts from Parinella's talk would cover much of the presentation topic. Since I'm always a big fan of training, that was all the nudge I needed.

I chose well with that nudge.

Bryan went over, with demonstrations, some stance adjustments in a marking stance that help with both power and quickness (hint: put weight on the balls of your feet), as well as some remarkably timely hamstring exercises (yes, the swiss ball curls I do are the best).

Bryan also had some incredibly impressive foot work drills that he demonstrated on stage. He placed two flat circles on the stage, spaced a handwidth apart. He then moved, balanced, sideways, putting his leading foot into the far hoop, his trailing foot into the close hoop, then his leading foot past the two hoops, his trailing foot following. Bryan then reversed the direction and went back in the same pattern. After amazing us with his ability to move sideways at lightning speeds, he then described how to perform this move correctly (as in balanced).

After watching his demonstration, I realized how much I miss Gino as a trainer. Gino didn't play ultimate, but he understood better than any of my current trainers about balance and quickness and agility. Well, perhaps he doesn't understand it better, more so he emphasized it more, and taught it specifically, which helped me become a better athlete. I miss that. So, I did the next best thing.

I risked being late to the next session, you know, the one where I gave my second talk, and went to the UCPC expo to purchase Dan and Bryan's DVD. If only for the scene of Bryan traversing those hoops, the DVD will be worth it. I can't wait to show it to Kris.

The Future of Ultimate panel was next, lead by Kyle Weisbrod. I'm always happy to see Kyle, but our schedules didn't match up, so I wasn't able to say much more than, "Hi!" I'm glad he's on the board of the UPA. The board really, really, really needed a staff member's (or in Kyle's case, ex-staff member's) perspective to understand where to move, and I'm glad that such a move worked out well for Kyle.

Many of the presenters went out to Ted Munter's place for dinner. Ted was the Team USA coach two years ago. Based on some of the stories I heard about his behaviour as coach of Team USA, I couldn't in clear conscious partake of his hospitality, and so declined an invitation to join the group of speakers. Many of the group knew each other very well, had a good history together, which also contributed a bit to my decision not to go, as I'm not part of that history, and feel awkward standing outside that group looking in.

The decision turned out great, because it meant that Peter and I were able to head out to dinner and talk about the conference, about ultimate, about how strangely rude people in Boston were, and his research. All very interesting topics. As Gwen and Miranda didn't stumble into the room until 4:30 am, a migraine-inducing time for me, I was quite happy again with my choice to have dinner locally.

A grand day. Well planned. Well executed. And well worth the stress of putting together my presentation. I'm honored that I was selected to present, that 45 people came to listen to me, and that I was able to, in some small way perhaps, help their games.