This morning's practice frustrations


I went to the Cows practice today. I felt a little bad about leaving Kris and his parents for three hours on a Sunday morning, when they were going to be here only a few days. Soon into the morning, however, when I realized that Kris and his parents were going to watch the Pittsburgh football game on television, I decided that being outside and moving around would squash any feelings of guilt, and left.

Unlinke most weeks, we actually warmed up as a team, instead of having individuals dribble in, hang out, socialize, maybe throw a little bit, jog a few steps, then jump into whatever game was happening. I feel warming up as a team is important, so I was happy we did.

After playing a game to three, Adrian suggested we run a couple drills. The first one was a timing drill, where a cutter runs out about 15 yards, turns and cuts back for the disc. At the same moment the cutter begins his cut, a second cutter runs deep. The first cutter catches the disc, turns and fires the disc out to the second cutter running deep. We were practicing sharp cuts in, cutting out and back across the field preventing same-lane hucks (though Adrian didn't make that statement as succinctly as Kris does), and the timing of both.

There were details that we needed to work out in this drill: was the first cut out and straight back along the path, or flared out to the side? The answer was the former, but even when I cut that way, the thrower who initiated the drill threw far outside me and I missed my catch. Eh, it happens, I picked up the disc, threw a good huck, and without checking if it was caught, ran to the second line.

On my second cut, my insides disagreed with everything I was doing, and I cramped spectacularly badly. Walking off the field was an effort of heroic proportions, and figuring out what to do more than that was impossible. Eventually, the pain subsided and I was able to make it to the restroom and, eventually, back to the field as the second drill started.

The second drill was a defensive drill of sorts, run in a line. The thrower stood in one spot, the receiver started in front of the receiver facing her, the defense stood 8 yards or so back, facing the thrower also. The drill was for the receiver to run backwards, facing the thrower the whole time, and catch the disc. The thrower couldn't throw the disc until the receiver had passed the mid-point between the thrower and where the defense started. The defense ran forward to block the disc.

When I arrived, the two groups had just split into boys and girls, I assumed because the girls were worried about being clobbered by the boys. I was an itty bitty small bit annoyed at the separation, because, well, we play a mixed game, boys are part of that game, and in game situations, boys are going to poach off onto the girls. Separating the two in practice creates an artificial situation that doesn't accurately reflect real games.

Okay, fine. Whatever. I went to play with the girls.


After half-heartedly running the drill two times, while the boys were kicking ass, laying out to get that defensive block, aggressively reaching around to deflect the disc before the receiver catches it, the girls degenerated into a talk / complain fest on how stupid the drill was, and how did we make this drill meaningful. I don't know what happened at that moment, but, wow, did I immediately switch to coach mode.

Yes, Santa Clara women, I want to thank you once again for teaching me how to take control of a group of unfocussed women and focus them again. I should probably thank Kris, too, for teaching me that every drill is a chance to practice an aspect of the game, but that works only if you know what to apply the drill to.

In my coach mode, I immediately suggested everyone look at this as a zone defense. You have the thrower, you have the receiver, and you're over on the side as wing. You see the thrower looking at the receiver, so you pull away from your area and go hard hard hard to the receiver. You want to see how the thrower is standing, is she going to throw forehand or backhand, which side of the receiver is she going to aim for? As the receiver, you want to be aware of where a defender might be so that you can block her out with your body. As both receiver and defense, you want to be aggressive to the disc. Both of you want want want that disc.

I totally became animated in the way that I do. As Paul calls it, the full body talking. I don't know where that habit came from, but it's there, and that's how I talk when excited, and I look like a dork and I don't care. I really shoudl, however, get a picture of myself doing it.

After my rearrangement of everyone's thinking of the drill and gift of purpose, we ran the drill a few more times, with my standing on the side, giving encouragement and cheers. We went from a gap of maybe four feet between the defense and the receiver when the disc was caught to maybe 2 or 3 inches. I encouraged everyone to be aggressive to the disc, go go go go go! We started getting blocks. And the receivers adjusted so that we had close calls, but good body box outs. It was great to see the adjustment.


As much as it was great to see the adjustment, I was frustrated by everyone's (well, all the women's) lack of ability to see how a drill could be applied to the game. Instead of trying to understand why this drill may be helpful, they just wanted to modify the drill into something known, something comfortable, something where the defense is at a strong disadvantage and there's no motivation to be aggressive on the disc. Turns out, though I was wrong as to when I thought the situation of the drill applied (not zone, but in a poaching defense), I was right in how most of the drill, as well as the aspect of aggressiveness to the disc the drill was trying to improve.

The drill was also supposed to show us how to look past the receiver to the motions of the thrower to help anticipate where the disc would go, in order to improve the defense's line of attack, according to Adrian's after-drill summary, so even I learned something new. Unfortunately, Adrian didn't explain this before the drill, but after, in a Socratic method of learning. I felt I had been the only one to have even TRY to learn the lesson, though.

Mischief has this problem, too, where, instead of respecting the drill and running it, trying to figure out what to get out of it, everyone wants to change the drill or improve it (or maybe "improve" it). While I recognize that some drills are poorly designed and may result in enforcing bad habits, most well-run drills enforce good habits even when they're new to the player. That those players want to alter the drill before trying, before fully committing to running the drill with fire and intensity, frustrates me.

I don't know if the fundamental issue I had was lack of personal responsibility to take the task at hand and find the good in it, or an issue with lack of respect for the person who cares about the team and has has taken the time to set up and explain the drill, or some other issue entirely. I see this is the team I'm on and I want the team to play well. Even if they lose, if they played smart, we can leave the field heads up.

I must be channelling Kris McQueen again.

On a completely separate note, I really wish I had been fearless as a tiny person. Adrian's kids just climb up to high places and climb back down, not seeming to worry about, oh, I don't know, FALLING or such?

Crazy kids. Heck, I wish I were that fearless even now.


Still playing!


All righty then, let's check out how things stand here.

Left foot: strained muscle.
Right foot: bruised small toe from being stepped on.
Both calves: tight and not working very well.
Left knee: sore from the 3 points I played without a knee brace
Right knee: bruised and tender to the touch where I knocked knees with another player.
Hamstrings: too tight to function well.
Abs: too exhausted and sore to laugh.
Right elbow: sore from being jammed
Right forearm: contusion, tender to even the softest touch
Right hand: outer bones bruised from being stepped on
Upper back: bad sunburn that may take 2-3 days to heal
Lips: also tragically sunburned

Attitude: unbelievably happy for having played in a two day tournament with Kris.

We played three games today, keeping pace with the number one seed in the chump division for the first half of the game. We seem to be able to do that pretty well: hang until sixes, scaring the other team sufficiently before they realize, holy crap, we better start playing for real. That, and the wind is the game's great equalizer. I had a good time putting on a hard mark in the cup, managing to chest thump a number of guys before they realized, hey, this chick is fouling me! I commented to Kris that I was probably being overaggressive on the mark, to which he replied, nah, I was putting on a Nationals Mark™: go over the line to find it, then come back to be in front of it. If you don't know how aggressive the other player is going to be, be overly aggressive, then rein it back in.

We lost the first game, 8-12, to the eventual winner of the chump division, so dropped into the 5-8 bracket. Our next game was against a team that I'd seen practice in the East Bay when the Women's Master's team I was on was practicing before Nationals. I recognized a couple women on the team who had tried out for Mischief, too, so my intimidation factor was low. Our two teams traded points until 3s, when Kris said stop playing zone defense, since it's clearly not working. Switching to man defense enabled us to spread out their players better, forcing longer throws, which resulted in more turnovers. We took half 8-3 and pretty much shutdown.

Yeah, we let our guard down and could not seem to reengage it. The cap went on at 13-10, with their scoring 4 points in a row to bring the score even close. We did win 15-11, but only because our top line went in to finish the game. That type of sloppy play, while understandable, is completely frustrating.

Because we won our second game, we were in the 5-6 position (yay, breaking seed by 6-7 places!), but were going to have to play against a team that we'd already played yesterday. I wasn't interested in that, and was actually interested in just forfeiting the next game and going home. Everyone else SEEMED interested in playing another game, so I found the other team to play. Except that we didn't really want to play that game. It was torturous. We threw away more discs and dropped enough more that the final score of 6-13 doesn't begin to describe just how poorly we played.

Still, I had a great time playing with Kris. Oh, my seeing him out there again was AWESOME.

Hopes and expectations


Kris bounded out of bed this morning after sleeping through a good three minutes of the alarm and enduring an insistent nudge from me to start his day. The sky was still dark, the dogs still snoring away in their beds. On his way to the bathroom, Kris called out "Ul-ti-mate!" in the jingle we use to sing the word, and might have done a small jig.

For the first time in just under two years, Kris was going to an ultimate tournament, and we were going together. Sure, he's been at practice for the last comple months, and talking about various ways to improve the team, but this is the first tournament he's signed up for, and the first one with the Cows.

Seems so weird to be playing with the Cows, almost as if I've come full circle. On one of my first visits to the Bay Area to spend time with Guy, I wandered into the Cows practice at Stanford. When I asked if the game was a pickup game, I was swift rebuked: no, it was a closed practice with the implication of don't bother us. And the rest was history. Without that rebuke, I would most likely never have met Kris in circumstances that allowed us to become close. And how much sadder would my life have been?

"Why do I get up a hour earlier for ultimate than I do for work?" Kris asked me as he pawed through his clothes to find his ultimate clothes. Though I really have no idea why ultimate players do it, we do. And we do it for free. Must be about the love of the game.

As we were piling our bags into the car, I commented to Kris about just how excited I was to be playing in this tournament. Heading off to the tournament was invigorating: I was going off to Do Something with Kris, we were playing ultimate together, we were on a team seeded 12 out of 13 having only up to go, we were going to hang out with a cool group of people all day, we were playing ultimate together, the team had no expectations of winning even half its games, much less the whole tournament.

That last one was key. We had no expectations.

Ultimate was fun again. It wasn't a win or die of shame situation. It wasn't a high pressure situation. I wasn't going to have people on the sidelines asking, "Why is she on this team again?" I could play, run hard, or not, and that was OKAY. Fun! Fun! No pressure! No expectations.

Only hope.

We left 20 minutes late, with Kris driving, so really we would be 20 + driving-like-an-old-man-delay late, which was before Chookie left his house. He passed us around SFO, to my incredible delight, as Kris had commented a half hour before "We should have carpooled with Chookie." and I had asked him, "You want to call him at 7:00am?" "No."

Look at Kris' warm up stretch

Our first game at 8:00am was against Classy, the first seed in our pool. First point of the game, as we were in our endzone and I turned to cut, the woman defending me elbowed me in the boob, grabbed my shirt, then tripped me. When I called foul, she contested the foul. So when the thrower asked what happened that stopped play, I announced very loudly, "She punched me in the boob, then contested the foul."

We scored that point.

With no expectations and more experience than Classy had any reason to expect, we went up 4-2 before they woke up. Of course, "waking up" meant playing an open game on a mixed field, and their course of action was to put in four male handlers, none under 6' tall, and skip throwing to their women. I am way past the point where this bothers me any more. If the women want to both hamper their own skills development and fail to be an integral part of their team's offense, then they can just suck it on a team that will rarely rise above Sectionals.

We kept the game close at 5s and 6s, then lost momentum, losing the first half 6-8. The second half we kept the score fairly close, but still lost 11-13. We hadn't really expected to win the game, but really, if one or two key drops in the endzone hadn't been dropped, the game could have easily gone the other way. I threw a couple scores, one of which several Mischief folk saw and totally cheered me on. It felt so good to know they still have my back!

Kris in a pow-wow, everyone listening carefully

Our second game was against That's What She Said, another perennial suck team that rarely makes it beyond Sectionals. The extent of my awareness of this team is a vague recollection of their winning Spring Fling 3 or 4 years ago against one of the two split Mischief rosters full of tryouts, then using that result 5+ months later to argue their way to a higher seeding at Sectionals that year, only to be beat down by the teams that rightly deserved the higher seedings. I can't honestly say my opinion of the team as a whole has changed, but, hoo-boy, has my position on the team ladder changed.


We lost that game 15-8. We lost the first half 2-8, but kept the second half reasonable, losing 6-7, matching point for point and losing only on the end of the game, not the strength of our fight. Funny how when you give up a 6 point lead at the beginning of the game how much harder it is to overcome.

Happily, not all was doom and gloom with the game. I played strong defense, laying out for a defensive bid on an overthrown disc. I came down hard on my right arm, not realizing the injury I incurred there until the end of the day when I noticed my wrist was incredibly sore. In a defensive zone point when we were on office, Jason Gische threw a no-look throw, breaking the cup, to me. I hadn't anticipated the throw, also having been thrown off by the no-look, and laid out to catch it THUNK in my left hand as I slid in what felt like good form. Hey! I caught it! was my happy thought! Even the other team was giving me high-fives when I commented it's one of the few layouts I've ever had, and one of the first I've caught.

In another point in the game, Kris received a throw out to a swing to the open side. I knew where he was going, and cut to the giant open side, where he put the disc to space. I was cutting hard, and caught the claw catch to the sound of my defender grunting. "I was so close!" I heard her cry on the sideline after the point was over, to which both Kris and I rolled our eyes at. Not only was she boxed out by my body placement, and Kris' fabulous disc placement, the only way she could have gotten the disc was to grow 2' and run through me. Riiiiiiiiiight. So "close."

Our third game was against the Cal Berkeley team, which I think might have been the B team, not sure. We played okay against them, figuring how to arrange our zone to allow a weaker player receive the disc so that we could aggressively mark against her (and it was always a "her"). The score was something like 15-8.

Well, that was funny!

I was expecting to play three games today, so when someone mentioned there was a crossover, I internally groaned a bit. My feet hurt. I was tired. I was sleepy. I was sore (already). I was cold. I didn't really want to play another game. I did, however, want to win the next game.

We started the game down the first point, as we pretty much had the whole day (the first point of the second game to a Callahan, no less), then went on a scoring streak. I was able to name who scored the goals in the downwind endzone, and so tallied the score at 6-1, but someone on the opposing team insisted it was 4-1, and we relented. We shouldn't have, though, as we let our guard down around 11-5, and they started scoring like mad. At 11-9 the cap went on, with the final score close to 13-11.

I wanted to stay after our last game to see how Mischief was doing, but the fog had rolled in the rain was starting. Cold, tired, hungry and THEN wet, and I just wanted to leave.


Okay, so, I handled all day. Only on a handful of points, did I pop, and I was never called deep. A couple of times I was called cutter in the flemish offense, which I thought was entertaining, as I had neither played the offense before, nor heard of it. The mismatches with Linda and I against our opponents were too big to ignore, so we were iso with a big amount of space to cut into. Fortunately for my clueless self, strings that set up the offense worked well enough that I didn't need to worry too much about my flemish cutting.

Or pretty much anything during the day. During the day, I threw away two discs and missed receiving one, managing a couple blocks. Nothing too spectacular, except that I WAS HANDLING. More surprisingly, someone commented that I was good at it. I couldn't help but laugh hysterically inside, because I feel such the opposite. I don't know where to cut in the handler position. I don't know where to clear effectively from the handler positions. I don't always continue the disc effectively, stalling it. I don't always throw upfield, even on throws that I could make, but hestitate to try.

I had some beautiful throws, like a bending forehand to Holly that curved away from her defender as she cut upline for me, and right into her hands. Or another up the line throw to Alex who hucked to Chookie for a score. Or the score I threw with my Mischief cheering squad watching. But I also had a turf when the wind dropped a longer forehand than I should have thrown. And I was handblocked in the last game. Shudder.

But, still.

I played well, but don't know if it was the release of internal pressure on myself that allowed me to play well, or if it was the lack of pressure from my teammates to be perfect. With Mischief, there are so few drops that every one STANDS OUT. On the Cows, hell, there are so many, how do you remember them all? Not that turnovers are acceptable, they're just not mentally punishing as they are on a higher level team.

I mentioned this to Kris on the drive home, about how excited I was that the pressure was gone. The expectations of a perfect game were gone. The team had hopes, and those hopes translated into my playing better, I wanted to be better for these people.

I didn't care that we "should" beat this team, or that we "should" play better. Playing was no longer about shoulds, or even the score. Instead, it was about how well I was playing at THAT EXACT MOMENT in this point. Could I run harder? Could I be in a better place? Could I throw a better throw? Was I playing as well as I could RIGHT NOW? If the answer was "yes," I was happy. If the answer was "no," I changed what I was doing so that the answer was yes.

So, for the first time, I think ever, I was happy with the record of 2-2.

It's all about hopes and expectations and not letting either overwhelm you.

One of these hands is not like the others, one of these just isn't the same!