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More Regionals Talk (Rambling, I Should Say)

October 1, 2009

During some down time at Sectionals, Tyler and I watched part of a pool play game between Truck Stop, the top seed who was virtually unopposed throughout the weekend, and a small college team that had little hope of advancing.

Rather than actually watching the game, we both let our eyes wander toward the true action, which was among the players on said college team’s sideline. Though they had little hope of scoring even a few points, they were lively and motivated, talking energetically amongst themselves about the best way to perform X cut or how to defend Y thrower. Their leadership was excited to share whatever knowledge they had, and the new players were eager to soak it up.

“Remember when Frisbee was that much fun?,” Tyler asked. And I do. For those dudes, the outcome seemed completely irrelevant, their focus directed toward extracting each and every morsel that their match-up with a high-level team had to offer.

At this point, I feel obligated to say this: barf. I’m twenty-two years old, haven’t really accomplished shit but shit, and just made myself sound like some old guy with a visor and a pair of Copa’s who longs for the days of his youth. That’s not what I’m getting at, though. Instead, watching those guys find enjoyment while playing against a foe with whom they did not match up favorably made me think about the progression that has led me to where I am now.

Looking back on my time playing, especially since I started playing club in 2007, I’ve always viewed the level I was playing at to be relatively high. Obviously, when compared to teams at the top of the sport, this is not the case, but what I mean is that I’ve always been challenged and have never been the best player on a team.

Winning is great. I love winning, and I hate losing. But my adoration for Ultimate is greater than both of these emotions combined, and the challenges that the game constantly throws my way are what keeps me coming back for more. For a more eloquent phrasing of this thought, check out BVH’s thoughts on Spirit at The Huddle:

The best players treat competition as an opportunity for them to measure their greatness. Imagine a set of scales: you and your team are on one end, your opponents on the other…In order to evaluate yourself and your team honestly—that is, to have self-respect—you have to treat your opponents and the rules with respect, and even gratitude. Without them, you can’t measure your greatness.”

A lot of teams will take the field this weekend expecting Regionals to be a stepping stone en route to more greatness. Others will be smart enough to avoid such a feeling of entitlement, yet know that if they do not advance, they will have fallen short. Still others, though, are not going to Regionals in hopes of making Nationals. Some barely squeaked through Sectionals, and some got a call this week saying that the last team bailed and there’s an open spot.
For those teams, I offer the following: observe everything. The elite team you’re playing may roll you, but there’s a reason they’re so good, and there’s a lot to learn when you come into contact with them. Check out how they do things. What’s the goal of their warm-up drills– getting loose? Lots of touches? Game speed? How do they conduct their timeouts– do they seem to have a purpose? Do they call them at certain times in the game? Is there just one huddle, or is there a meeting of the leadership and also of the entire team? Do they use timeouts at all? How about set plays– what do they do off of a dead disc? Take note of all this stuff, and more: what teams do in their down time, who calls the subs, etc.
There’s a whole lot to be learned form the best, and I think it’s important to keep in mind that they have earned their position by being effective at doing the little things that make a team tick. In high-level Ultimate, running, jumping, and throwing is often a wash, and winners are determined by preparation and execution of details. Good teams become great by learning how to do this, and when it comes to having it rub off on ourselves, we could all stand to keep pushing the envelope.

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