Practice, not so bad


I wasn't sure I was going to go to practice today. I was worrying about my knees from yesterday, as they were both hurting so badly in the last round that I could barely walk on the field. I wasn't sure if less than 24 hours would be enough for them to recover, or if practice would make them worse.

I went, though I showed up a ittle late (boo).

The first part of practice was very rough for me. I felt I was always a half step behind my woman on defense, and clueless on where to go on offense. I know that I haven't really played seriously for a long time, and that all of the training at velocity sports is supposed to help me, but my mental game is shot, and I wasn't having any fun.

About an hour into practice, after a particularly frustrating point, I walked to the sideline, allowing another player to sub in on my team. As I walked off, Doyle commented, "That was good defense on Steffi over there." I was surprised, as I was thinking I had done nothing but completely screw-up. His words were just enough to check my downward spiral.

The next set of drills concentrated on the horizontal stack. I lined up against a teammate who would be playing pretty much the same position as I do, so that I could listen to how the offense moves. The first time the ho-stack was run, I was a half step behind my player and she scored easily. Just after she scored, she called out, "Wow, I love ultimate!" She commented to her teammates about how easy the ho-stack was, which annoyed me.

Never one to miss a chance to learn, I adjust my defense and, on the next run, the offense attempted the same play. I stopped my opponent's out cut, forcing her back under to the disc, and marked very hard. She was unable to throw downfield, and eventually turned the disc over on a dump pass. Her teammates started talking to her about how she had to make that throw, she had to throw downfield in this offense.

No comment was made on how perhaps, just perhaps, my defense had been strong enough to stop that throw.

So, offense starts up again. I shut down her downfield cut. She received the disc back under and tried to throw downfield again. Once again, I marked hard, moving back and forth to prevent her throwing, trying to stay lightly on my toes. Her throw is downfield, but short and out of bounds.

Once again, her teammates (my teammates, too, but not at this practice) again start telling her what she needs to do. Once again, no comment is made about my defense.

Just as I thought it was going unnoticed, however, Paul walked by with a huge grin on his face and a little fist pumping. Okay, someone had noticed.

The next point, the woman I'm defending (same player) runs to the endzone. As the huck goes up, I key in on it, successfully position myself well, and knocked it away.

On the next point, the same flow happens, and the disc goes up long for my opponent. I run just as hard to that disc as I had previously, and successfully defended the next huck, receiving a clobber on my right arm which bruised spectacularly later.

At this point, practice doesn't seem so bad. Sure, I'm tired and sore, but I can still play this game. I need to work harder than some people, but, hey, that's the fun part.

I wonder if I can get Doyle to join Kris as the small voice in my head.

Second day of Poultry Days


I slept much better last night than I had the previous night. I'm not sure if the fundamental reason was physical exhaustion, or dehyrdation from the sun and the wind, or increased comfort levels of sleeping relatively exposed in the back of a mini-van, or just finally adjusting to the timezone changes, but I was able to sleep.

Since we didn't make the A bracket, we had to drive to the next fields to play up through the B bracket. The games were supposed to start at 9. We left the main fields at 8:55 am, never mind about actually getting there on time. I warned the team that I may not be able to play today, depending on how I reacted to the aspartame I accidently drank the night before, but I'd play until I couldn't. Which, fortunately, meant all day.

We won our first game, capped at 11, against Huevos J-Bird, which was a team based mostly out the Bay Area. I was surprised we won the game, until someone pointed out our opponents were playing with just 9 people. Yeah, that would definitely have an effect on the game. During one point, Alex was working over Shasta (local Bay Area Open player, played for Vahalla years back, possibly Kaos, dating J-Bird now). We were able to tease Shasta during a point that Alex was only 12, which made everyone, including Shasta laugh, then get worked over a bit more.

The next game we also won, something closer like 11-9, having gone up big at the beginning, and letting the other team come back to make the game close. Now, how familiar does that sound?

The next game was against a Michigan team, on which were several players who knew many players on my team, Breast and Thighs. I think they're all in the Central Region, so play local(ish?) tournaments against each other a lot, so knew each other. There was some good comraderie amongst the players, which made the game both interesting and frustrating. After half time, which we took, it was clear that the team was getting tired. A couple players commented that, although they didn't really want to play another game after this game, they didn't really want to lose to this team, either. Losing would give the other team bragging rights for the whole next year, something that no one who knew the other players could bear.

So we won.

And won the right to play in the B bracket finals.


When we moved back to the original fields to play the finals, with everyone going over (a surprise for me, as the only injury was Dylan's chronic calf pull, an unmitigated success in my book considering how uneven some of the fields we played on were), most everyone was delayed by a parade of vintage and retro collector cars whose path just happened to cross ours on our way back to the fields. I guess it was part of the Poultry Days celebration, this car parade.

When we arrived at the finals fields, everyone's asses were dragging. I talked our opponents down from a game to 13 to a game to 9. We also found out that not only was one of the A bracket finals teams the only team to beat us this weekend, the other team in the A bracket finals was the only team to beat our B bracket finals opponents.


From the start of the game, it was very clear the other team REALLY wanted to win. Since we REALLY wanted to be done, the score reflected our mutual desires, and we lost 4-9, having been down 2-8 a few minutes before. Our loss in the B bracket finals did, however, secure the team a top spot in schedule for next year, and an easier road to the A bracket. I was told that, in the end, if we couldn't win it all, that was still a good achievement. Yay, John, Noz, Patrick, Dana, Karen, Alex, Truesdale (who is 25, not 29 like I thought), Amy, Dylan and everyone else. Yay, us!

The drive home to Valparaiso was quite pleasant. I'm actually surprised at how fast four hours of farm land can fly-by. I was definitely happy to be back home at the end of the day at Dad's place, and just as happy to head out with him for ice cream. Small moments like ice cream with Dad are parts of the big reason I came on the trip in the first place: to spend time with Dad. I'm glad we had many on this trip.

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.

Totally crushing on Andy


We won DUI today. I didn't play very much, opting to watch instead of fighting for line space with nine other women. I'm frustrated that I was one of five players to play with Mischief the whole weekend, while the women who went to tryout with a women's team show up for the semis and finals after they were knocked out of the women's tournament, and expect full playing time with Mischief. They didn't ask if we needed women, they just assumed they could play. I'm frustrated, because I had psyched myself up to play, I had mentally prepared to play well, and then felt beat down when they showed up and rushed the lines.

On the other hand, I'm totally crushing on Andy.

Now, this would normally be a problem, but for two reasons: 1. Kris knows about it, and 2. the entire team has a crush on him, too. The women are all swooning and the men, well, the men all have man crushes on Andy.

I'm clearly one of two dozen people in this crush.

It's one thing to know of someone, to watch a video of someone playing, to see the highlight reels of some spectacular plays. It's another thing to see him in person, talk with him on the sidelines, realize that, even if for only this tournament, this legend is on my team, playing on the same line as I am, calling out to me from the sidelines, encouraging me. I played few enough points that I remember most of them, which is probably bad, but I lost count of the number of spectacular plays he had.

During the weekend, as during most ultimate weekends, each of us told stories about various highlight moments of our careers. The stories from Kris and me weren't older than about five years, which is about when we started playing for higher level teams, with our eyes looking at playing at Nationals. Andy's stories all started over ten years ago, and nearly always ended in victory. He's used to being on top, having been part of the King of the Mountain for a while, but also knows the effort involved to be there. Kris and I just arrived, and we will have very little time there. We learned only recently the effort involved in being there, and the sacrifices and commitment that comes with that effort. A very different perspective.

Admittedly, I googled for more info on Andy after I found a wireless connection. Well, I googled for information on his ultimate career, figuring the number of different Andys in google would make any non-ultimate information both difficult to find and suspect at the same time. I'm not crushing that much. It's his ultimate prowess I find so compelling.

I am, however, sorta torn. Andy has known of me longer than any of my ultimate friends, has known of me since college. I can't say I'm particularly proud of those years. I often wonder what he thinks of me, how much of that past affects his current opinion. I'm not that person, but it's often hard to know how much someone has changed when you've seen them only really twice in the intervening decade.

Ultimately (heh), I do hope he decides to play with us, in some capacity. I know he's worried about some things, but it's always exciting to see an accomplished athlete perform. And if it's with my team, even better.

Especially if I'm crushing on him.

You know, I'm really glad Kris can laugh at me about this, because it is funny.

As funny as his man crush.

Apparently, Mischief sucks


During our third game, as a long point had the disc moving back and forth down the field, turnover following turnover, I sat on the away sideline, next to the Brass Boar, ne Brass Monkey, sideline. Clearly the players didn't recognize me, as they were talking quite freely, as if no Mischief players where nearby.

One player watched the game briefly, then turned to his teammate and declared, "Mischief sucks."

Now, as an up-peninsula rival, an exclamation of the opponent sucking isn't really that unreasonable. Kris in a drunken fit declared "Brass Monkey sucks!" last year at Nationals, when they failed to win their semi-finals. They thwarted us in our chance to prove that yes, we are the best Mixed team in the country. Oh, wait, we did that anyway.

Today, however, the declaration from the Monkey wasn't one of general frustration with our team, as perhaps one might think. As I sat and listened to his talking, I realized that, no, he was saying that Mischief is actually not a good team. He continued, "They have four male players that can play. When they're not on the field, the team just sucks. They can't play."

I sat there quite still, and thought about his assessment. The four men of the Mischief Apocalypse? Tyler, Mark, Kevin are clearly three of them. Who is the fourth? Kyle? Wade? Pickett?

Of course, if his assessment was true, then I'm not quite sure how Lori managed to score one third of our goals in the finals at Nationals. I'm also not quite sure how our women touched the disc in approximately 37% of the throws at Nationals. Clearly they were actually the phantom disembodiments of the Four Horsemen of the Mischief Apocalypse. How else could all but those four players suck, but still contribute to our National Championship?

Unless, of course, said Monkey player doesn't know what he's talking about, and makes himself look better by declaring other people are worse.

Good thing his voicing is clearly mistaken opinion doesn't make his observations fact.

We have the trophy to prove it.

First post-clinic practice


Today was my first practice with the local college women's team. Kate is out and about and unable to come to practice, so I was on my own. I used the rules and suggestions from the UPA coaching clinic and, for the first time, actually wrote a schedule of what I wanted to cover in practice. I had high hopes going to practice.

They were dashed pretty much as soon as I arrived at practice.

We had low numbers to start with. Can't really scrimmage when there are only 8 players out.

Most of the players showed up late. I started the practice off with what we were going to do at practice, as per John's practice format, but didn't wait past 9:15 before starting. That meant two or three players missed out because they were late, and weren't as clued into practice as the others. They also missed out on the throwing warmup and practice. I scheduled 9:00 to 9:15 as throwing practice, figuring some players would be late. Those who were missed out on the throwing warmup, which is unfortunate, but I really don't want to encourage ultimate-time any more than it already exists in our culture.

We had distractions. Usually when I start talking, I can keep the team's attention through the first sentence, then start losing them after the second or third. I often try the call and response, or question a player about what I'm explaining. I tried both, but wasn't very successful with some players.

Rather than try to talk over the distracted players, I just kept talking at the same volume, at the same speed, looking up at the distracted players, but not addressing them directly. The second time I did this, and part of the team couldn't hear what I was saying, several players, the ones who are quickly improving players who clearly wanted to know what I was saying, told the talking women to shut up, shush, sssshhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhHHHHHHHHHH! I had very few interruptions after that, for which I was thankful.

And then there was the bathroom issue. Mid-practice, during a water break, half the team left to use the bathroom. Now, I of the world's smallest bladder have exactly zero reasons to begrudge them heading off to the bathroom, it's the fifteen minutes of socializing that frustrate me.

I know the are conflicts. I know there's schoolwork. I understand the balance of life and how too much of anything can be detrimental to one's mental and physical health.

I just wish some players were passionate about ultimate and wanted to play with the intensity and obsession of the recently converted. I don't really know how to inspire that love.

Not yet, anyway.

Fitness by fire


Today was the second day of Fools Fest West, at Santa Cruz. I missed day one yesterday at the UPA coaching clinic, but the clinic, and meeting John made missing day one worth the loss.

I asked Kris if I could be on his team when the tryout committee was creating teams for the tournament, so I was on Mischief X, which had won all of its games yesterday, and remained seated first in its pool. Mischief Y, however, lost to Pleasuretown, so was seated second in its pool, and was our first competitor of the day.

I struggled in this game. I wasn't completely ready for the game mentally, and physically my hamstring was aching from the stretching. I've been psyching myself up for playing ultimate, going out with a bang, so I tried to play well, Mark's words of encouragement and praise of my play against Team USA a year and a half ago playing in my head.

I had one particular play in the game where a disc was thrown behind me. I had only a step on my defender, so any bad placement was going to make the catch difficult. When I saw the disc go up, I immediately adjusted my path and went hard to the disc. I wish I knew how to layout. I missed the disc by barely a centimeter, my defender having longer arms than I do. My aggressiveness to the disc, however, really impressed and pleased Kris. He complimented me on it several times later in the day.

We lost the game, giving Mischief Y a rematch against Pleasuretown in the finals. Mischief X and Pleasuretown wanted to switch the pools around, meet new teams, but Mischief Y wanted a rematch, so the scheduled stayed unaltered. Mischief Y won their game.

Our second game was against Batwing, which Kevin told me was really Schmatwing. I finally warmed up, and thankfully both started cutting hard and in the correct places. In one point, a breakmark throw went up to my woman who was way too far in front of me to the break side. I managed to run a full sprint to catch up, going 100%. I'm happy to say my hamstring bothered me only a little bit after that run, so it is healing and becoming stronger.

My defense is starting to clean up, also. I was punched in the face by their woman hucker who put up a lot of crap, more so after punching me in the face, but I can live with a punch and crap because our downfield defenders are so strong. I had some down moments in the game, (when I missed a high throw from Kris, and missed another couple throws: one from Lori, one from Roshan who was fouled, one from DanO), but I did have at least one brilliant dump defense where my woman went the wrong way and I sprinted to the endzone alone for a good ten seconds. No love, though, as a teammate overthrew a covered teammate on the opposite side of the endzone. I tell you, no love.

The end of the day, I was tired. Nothing like playing ultimate to get into ultimate shape. Fitness by fire.

John Sandahl


It's been a while since I've met an instant friend. Today, fortunately, ended that while, and I met John Sandahl, Instant Friend™

John was the instructor of the UPA Coaching Clinic (Level 1) that I attended today. As a motivational speaker by day, he's a Sub-Zero player by night, or at least in the evening and on weekends, which is the same schedule as most modern superheroes. After our mock practice, not enough clinic participants wanted to play a game of ultimate, so dinner was the next offer.

I thought about the suggestion for a moment: sit at home, maybe work on projects, maybe waste time (shudder) mindlessly watching television, or head out to dinner with Kate and John. That moment was about 2 microseconds long.

I arrived late to the brewery to find Eduardo (a clinic participant), Jess, Brian, Kate and John downing beers, waiting for table. I started talking, and said something about my phone, which John laughed at and played with a bit. ALL the fourteen year old girls have them, you know. Eduardo said I was off by a year, the phone was too big. Now the fifteen year old girls, they have Sidekicks.

I started hearing the various stories when we all sat down at dinner. John currently plays for SubZero, in Minneapolis. He's up for the captaining position, as all four captains from last year quit or moved away or lost heart (my words, of course, should any of John's teammates be reading (hi!)). John went to Worlds, playing (expectedly) with SubZero (shock, eh?). He stopped by to visit with Mischief on the sideline, but I don't remember him at all, if he said hello to me. He then tooled around with his college roommate afterward, driving across both islands before flying home.

He works as a motivational speaker at Youth Frontiers, which works with youth "teaching values," helping them become more respectful, "better people" through workshops and various programs. Listening to John, I can't help but believe he's really good at his job: the teaching he did at the clinic definitely had everyone drawn in and actively participating, which is hard with a group of adults, early in the morning. Many times during the clinic, he would

John played trombone in high school, and sang choir until some trip to NYC where the choir director (the husband of the band director) forgot to set ground rules, so John broke one (he broke curfew and needed to be in his room before 11, but wasn't explicitly told curfew was room, so he was in the hotel, in another choir member's room, at 11), and was nearly sent home. This was John's example of both "be explicit in the ground rules, set expectations," as well as "praise in public, criticize in private."

He also mentioned that valve trombone players are clearly inferior to slide trombonists. When I mentioned I played baritone in high school, he asked if that meant I was better than he was. I said no, but I could play his music for him.

John likes mango sorbet, having been introduced to it, and subsequently hooked on it, by a girlfriend (ex? not sure) years ago.

As a speaker (they speak four days a week, having Monday off),

John plays at Poultry Days each year, with his team Breasts and Thighs. I somehow managed to secure a tentative (heh) invite to play on his team this year. I was convinced that I should go when John mentioned one of my ultimate idols, Paul Greff, only I didn't recall his name when John mentioned it. Paul looks like Eric (Mom's husband), so when I watch Paul on the various ultimate videos, watching always with admiration, I think "Eric." John said I'm sure to confuse the heck out of Paul when I call him Eric. But seriously, how can I not weasel my way onto a team with John and Paul-Eric? Seriously.

We went to Brian Greenough's family's house after dinner, with Brian and Jessica. They told us about the international teachers interview processes, which did not sound like fun, and we ate the super duper ultra premium chocolate ice cream that came in a metal tin and tasted MUCH better when slightly melted. I kept the tin.

Eventually, John's flight neared (flying out tonight because he couldn't find a good ticket, a team to play on for Fools, or an uncle who had an open evening), and off to the airport we went. Brian lives in a great place, with the directions "go down the hill, turn left at the big street, right at Peninsula" to escape the area. John made his red-eye flight, and my new Instant Friend™ was on his way home.

Mischief tryouts


Well, the first of two Mischief 2007 tryouts happened today. I have to admit I'm a bit disappointed in the turnout. You'd think the National Champions would have tons of people trying out for the team. We had maybe 20 tryouts today. Sure, we're in the South Bay, but come on, Brass Monkey had 50 tryouts last year and had to close tryouts after one, given the number of interested people they had on the first one.

How is it that Mischief goes all the way to the top and still doesn't receive any respect? Sometimes I really hate this sport.

I played okay when I played. I didn't participate in all of the skills and drills sections. In particular, I skipped the huck drill, as it seemed too much long distance sprinting for my hamstring to take. I have an appointment on Monday to see what's up with my hamstring, why hasn't it been healing very well over the last two months. I really don't want last year to be my career ending year: I'd like to actually play in my last year.

On the sideline, I talked to Kyle, who also was sitting out some drills. I commented that I hadn't played a full Sectionals since 2001, since playing with Rippit.

In 2002, I pulled a hamstring on the first step of the first game of the second day and was out the rest of the tournament.

In 2003, I rolled ankle in our Donner Party game, which I think was on our first day of play.

In 2004, I was out for four broken ribs from my Ben squishing.

In 2005, I played some, but not fully, as a hamstring injury impaired my playing significantly. Playing on Vicodin is worse that not playing, in retrospect.

Last year, I rolled ankle at Labor Day.

I'd like to play at Sectionals this year. We'll see how this season goes.

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.