Saturday, September 18, 2010

Southern California Open Sectionals Recap

Saturday was the typical tournament day for Long Beach weather. Extremely overcast with very damp fields upon arrival. Clear skies, beaming sun, and some strong wind gusts by early afternoon. Nothing crazy, though, so overall game conditions were exquisite.

The Santa Barbara Condors had a schedule that included 4 games in a row, allowing us to end our day early. Our first matchup was against Santa Bong Beach, a team comprised of college players from Santa Barbara Black Tide and Long Beach State Stalkers. Condors won 11-0. I played 3 points and had 2 assists, while the whole team looked energized (which isn't common for our us during our first action of the day) and we played relatively well. Considering it was our first game (and this our first tournament) together as a full team against other competition, it was a good start.

Our second game was against Recess, a team of mostly college guys from UCLA. We came out of that with an 11-2 victory. I had fun going up against a couple of friends and former Monster teammates(Penguin and OJ). The game ended relatively quick, and we were able to get an hour rest before our game against the 405.

When we played the 405 at the Santa Barbara Scramble (it wasn't too organized, so don't worry about it), neither team was at full strength. On this day, the 405 was still missing a couple key players (Smeltzer and KG). This game was way tougher for both sides than it should've been. One horrific marathon point saw both teams make at least 6 turnovers in addition to calling a timeout each. Terrible decision-making, horrible goalline offense, and some pretty spectacular defense (Bacon's layout D near the endzone, Jacuzzi's layout point-block that was ruled a foul to name a couple) accounted for a point that lasted close to 10 minutes. Alas, we prevailed 11-8.

Our last game on Saturday was against a team of USC players. Final score 11-2 or so... I don't really remember much about that game. Let's move on.

Sunday was identical to Saturday in terms of the weather, but playing conditions were a little worse due to the fact that school likes to have the sprinklers go in the middle of the night, so there were puddles and mud pools in various spots. (Note to CSULB Facilities staff: Watering/soaking the fields while a tournament is going on is NOT a good idea. That's how the fields get so messed up. C'mon!)

Our last 2 pool play games were against what Dan Bellinger referred to as "jokes." Starting with the La Jolla BAGS, made up of college guys from San Diego. While we went in anticipating another shutout, our lack of discipline and crappy decision-making led to allowing 4 points. Which then led to a very unhappy postgame huddle in which we were mildly berated (that sounds oxymoronic) for our lackluster play.

Game two was against the Nice Guys, a group of older guys who had some skill but seemed to not all be on the same page and communicated poorly with each other. We ran around them pretty easily and won 11-1.

Undefeated in pool play put us into the Finals against also-undefeated San Diego Streetgang, the matchup we had been anticipating going into the tournament. I was expecting us to get 8 or 9 points against them. You should never go into a game expecting to lose (believe me, I've watched enough ridiculous upsets through a variety of sports to know better), but based on the season up to this point (Streetgang competing against Nationals-caliber teams regularly, and winning very often; this being our first real competition) and how we had played so far on Sunday, that was my prediction.

The game started pretty even, with both teams holding on offense, though in completely different ways. Streetgang has some unbelievable throwers and managed to score their points within 2 or 3 throws. Contrarily, they threw a good zone against us, and it took us some time to work it up the field, which we managed to do relatively well. And then it stopped. We started making some bad decisions, forcing some questionable throws, and accumulating turnovers. Streetgang capitalized on the opportunities we gave them (key word: GAVE) and extended a lead. We had some spectacular moments, with insane layout D's by Jason Craig, Ryan Boutcher, Dan Bellinger and myself, but couldn't convert most of the time. The final score was 13-6 with the game-winning grab being made by Forge as he burned me deep.

After the finals game we had to play the Beyondors for seeding. We again played horrendous at the start (I had a drop in the endzone that might be one of my lowest moments in Ultimate) but after a strong disagreement with them at around 5-4, we turned on the jets and cruised to a 13-7 victory to finish 7-1 overall and claim 2nd place and a presumed 3rd seed at Regionals.

We know we have a lot of work to do if we're going to make it to the level we need to be at for Regionals if we're going to actually compete with Streetgang and Johnny Bravo for the coveted spots to Nationals. Hopefully we get those things ironed out at our practice the weekend before.

An unfortunate storyline of the finals game was two seemingly major injuries on Streetgang's side. Keenan and Bevers had their shoulders dislocated as a result of Jacuzzi and myself laying out. Hopefully their injuries aren't too severe and they can return for Regionals. Get better guys!

See you all in Oxnard/Santa Barbara in a few weeks.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Southern California Club Sectionals

SoCal Sectionals are this weekend in Long Beach! The only teams I know of amongst the 13 (yeah, 13. What a stupid number for a tournament. Hopefully that changes.) that are participating are us (Condors), 405, Streetgang and Seduction. I guess Recess, too. I'm relatively worried about how we're going to perform for a couple reasons. 1) We haven't really played anyone up to this point. There was a one day, round robin tournament with two other Santa Barbara teams (the Beyondors and a Black Tide team) and 405, but the Black Tide team consisted mostly of our guys, so we weren't even playing with our full team. 2) We have a couple injured guys who won't be playing this weekend. We still have some pretty good talent, so I'm thinking we're still going to finish no worse than 2nd overall, behind Streetgang. Who knows, maybe we can pull off an upset? I'm not banking on it, since they have been playing (and regularly beating) Nationals teams all summer, while we've been playing ourselves. I'm actually just hoping that we play well enough to not have 405 or Seduction surprise us. Jeff and Dan would NOT be happy...

Thursday, February 18, 2010

(What is actually happening) Re-dedication

You may have read the title and, if you know me, thought, "What? The only way he could be more dedicated to Ultimate is if he were a disc!" And while I am re-dedicating myself to Ultimate, I'm also re-dedicating myself to life. 

The Situation:
I wasn't going to play Ultimate this semester. I couldn't afford to go to school, thus I wouldn't have been eligible to play this semester. The decision had been made. I was still going to be around, at practices, at tournaments, etc. But I wasn't going to be playing.

Funny thing is, I have really good friends. Friends who believed I meant enough to the team (certainly more than I thought I meant to the team) to come forward and offer a solution. I really try not to accept favors like that. (This is mildly hypocritical because: a) I tend to always be in a position where I almost have to accept them and b) When the tables are turned I am adamant that friends accept favors from me.) They clearly wanted to make this happen, and I couldn't disappoint them by saying no. So I accepted.

The Result:
Biking home that night, I decided something. If I'm going to allow them to make this huge sacrifice for me, then I'm going to do the same for them. I can't allow myself to just go through the motions this year when they are clearly depending on me to be something I didn't think I was. So I've decided to become that.

This starts by giving up television, in all its capacity. No TV shows, no sports, no movies, no anything. You might be inclined to say, "That's not that big of a deal." I assure you, it is. I spend hours of time each day watching television. This is not to say that I'm some couch potato who doesn't get out and do anything, which I'm not. However, there are large chunks of time spent watching ESPN, Fox, NBC, dvd rentals, etc. By giving that up, at least until the end of the semester (with the only exception being the NCAA basketball tournament aka March Madness), I can fill my time with much more productive activities, including:

-Training. I plan on running more, throwing more, and working out in some capacity. I'm going to restart the Air Alert jumping program, in addition to running multiple miles around the track multiple times a week. I also plan on getting into the gym at least once a week.

-Reading scripture. Thanks to another good friend on a completely unrelated situation, I have finally gotten into a pretty good routine of reading my Bible daily. This will continue, in a greater capacity.

-Other reading. In the last couple of weeks I have completed "What's So Amazing About Faith?" and "The Lightning Thief." I am currently reading "The Catcher in the Rye" and plan on reading quite a bit more, including finishing the Eragon series, reading the rest of The Chronicles of Narnia, and searching for more religious material including other works by C.S. Lewis and Philip Yancey.

-Building relationships. Relationships can always be improved, and I plan on doing so with my teammates, co-workers, the high school students and anyone else I come across.

-Sleeping. I don't even like sleeping, but I know that only getting 5-6 hours of sleep on a nightly basis isn't as good as 7-8. So we'll see how that goes.

Lastly, I am also greatly indebted to the aforementioned friends. Therefore, I'm going to be much more tentative about my monetary habits. WAY less eating out, with a lot more peanut butter, pasta, fruits and vegetables (that's all healthier anyway, right?). Absolutely no unnecessary purchases (movies, music, clothes, etc.). All the money I now have technically isn't mine, so where do I come off spending it on things that aren't helping me achieve my goal? I've had a loan before. I didn't handle that situation well, and it's not going to happen again.

It's highly unlikely that this all comes together the way I planned. Which is fine, because I'd rather it come together the way God planned. But I am going to put everything I've got into this. If my friends feel I'm worth that much to them, then I'm going to make sure that they have a reason to believe so.

PS: I can't do this alone. Any help and encouragement any of you can give along the way would mean the world to me.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

(What was going to happen) Until Next Year...

This might be the toughest decision I've ever had to make. Not that I have difficult decisions ever. The hardest choice I ever have to make is deciding which football(s) game to tivo. But this was actually a life decision, one that I didn't want to make, but felt I had no choice.

I will not be competing in the UPA Series this semester.

In the grand scheme of things, this isn't really that big a deal. But I love this sport and the people who are in it so much that to have to say I won't be able to compete until next year hurts me a great deal, especially with all of the work that has already gone into this year.

The main reason is that it's not fiscally possible. In order to compete, I have to be enrolled in class. I'm already done with the coursework I need for my degree. The only reason I was enrolling in school this semester was to play Ultimate. I figured I could scrape by for one more semester and go from there. While there's a slight chance I would be able to pull it off, it creates a lot more problems in the future than it is worth for now. 

By not playing (and not having to pay for school), I can begin saving money for the future. I plan on going back to school next spring and pursuing a graduate degree, which needs to be paid for. I can live somewhat comfortably now with the little money I earn, while still being able to travel with the team and have fun enjoying places like Stanford, North Carolina, and Colorado instead of being holed up with nothing to do because I have no money to do anything with. 

If I were to play, I would be reaching far and wide to make ends meet in order to come up with the money to pay for school, travel, food, etc. 

Hopefully my teammates understand this position and don't get upset with the position I have put them in. However, I don't feel like my absence hinders their ability to play well. As a matter of fact, hopefully it makes them even better. I'm not a great defender in general, and the way I'm built to play offense is the exact opposite of what our offense is designed to do. I have seen us run a very smooth, efficient offense quite often without my presence. As a matter of fact, it runs well when I'm on the field just standing still. 

In moving forward, I am in no way distancing myself from the team. I will still be at every practice, pickup, scrimmage and tournament, doing everything I can to help out the team. Also, I will be using this time to focus, train, and prepare for the club season. I'm excited for the possibilities for the next year and year after that. 

Besides, with all the time I've already spent watching from the sideline this season due to some incredible misfortune for our team, what's another few months?

See you on the field. Kind of.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Rest and Refocusing

So I just realized something today. Sometimes, it's good to not play your sport for a while. This is going to be based on my experience with Ultimate in the last week, so bear with me.

Last Thursday was the single worst pickup experience of my life. People were disorganized, making cuts they shouldn't have been making, moving at the wrong times, making bad throwing decisions (me included), etc. I was getting incredibly frustrated. Offensively, anyway. Don't get me wrong, this was pickup. That's kind of what happens at pickup. But this was to a degree that I just couldn't handle. So, I decided to change my approach. I wasn't going to do anything on offense for the rest of the night. And I didn't. I literally walked up the middle of the field, either being in front and setting the stack, or just sitting in the middle. But I wasn't making any productive movements. No cuts of any kind. I just focused all of my energy on playing defense. And you know what happened? My line was successful. At one point, we scored 8 points in a row. I only touched the disc once, and that's because Uni threw some obnoxious break throw to me while I was standing still. I quickly moved the disc to someone else, and went on with my non-productivity.

Now, you might be thinking, "That's childish/immature." And you'd probably be right. On the other hand, my team ended up playing some pretty good offense without any of my help. And I ended up playing some pretty good defense. (I did get scored on twice, though. One was a break throw I couldn't do anything about, and the other was because I slipped and got beat open side. Stupid mud.) Along the way, I kept my mouth shut (literally, talking only when talked to, and even then giving just one-word answers) and did my best not to get upset directly with any one person.

After playing this way for a little over an hour, I decided I'd had enough. I left about 45 minutes before pickup usually ends, got home, showered, and went to bed.

Friday morning was spent getting ready for my weekend in Palm Springs with my fellow staff members for the high school group at my church. The weekend was an awesome getaway. Going in, I turned off my Twitter updates so I wouldn't be bothered incessantly. I barely ever checked my phone, and that turned out to be a pretty good feeling. Contrary to usually receiving texts every 15 minutes or so, the only texts I received all weekend were about the Rams game. I was truly able to relax (even though that's something I don't generally like doing). But, that's enough sidebar about the weekend.

We have practice every Monday morning, but I decided not to go. First off, I had to take my mom to work so that I could use the car later that day. I ended up getting home with enough time to make it to practice, but decided I still didn't have the right mindset to go and I just would have been a detriment to myself and those around me if I did. Plus I didn't want to worry about rushing to the meeting I had to go later in the day. Going into Tuesday, I still hadn't as much as thrown a disc with someone since pickup. For me, going 2 full days without throwing is very rare. Well, I just went straight to class and then straight home that day. So, That made 5 full days without any ultimate/disc activity. Wednesday practice got rained out, so we did a track workout (not including me, I have no running shoes) and threw a little. I didn't go to pickup on Thursday night because I went to a Los Al JV football game featuring one of my friends, and ended up hanging out at his place the rest of the evening. Pickup got canceled anyways. 

So, Friday comes around and I have officially had 7 full days of not playing Ultimate. I proceed to have one of the best practices I can remember. My body feels really good and my throws weren't adversely affected by the time off. Unfortunately, we're missing a few guys due to other engagements, and some people have to leave early. Meaning the rest of us had a lot more playing time, which can be difficult when you haven't run in a week. At any rate, Friday felt really good. 

The point I was trying to make (and ended up straying from a little bit) is that going that whole week without playing was incredibly beneficial for me. I wasn't sore, was in no pain, wasn't experiencing any type of discomfort anywhere on my body. I was able to run hard consistently and it made a huge difference. The same thing happened at beach pickup on Saturday. I still felt really good, and played really well. I felt like I was getting higher than usual when I jumped and I was way more aggressive because I didn't have to worry about my body holding me back. It is incredibly rare that I go even a couple days without some strenuous activity, just because I love playing everything so much. However, my eyes have been opened to the benefit of taking some time off every now and then to let my body recover. I definitely plan on doing that more as the season progresses.

On another note:
Throughout this process, Ultimate has become a little frustrating. Whether it's just me overreacting to little things that happen, or whether these are actually real problems that need to be resolved, I am not sure. All I know is, everything else I've done in the last two weeks has been fun and enlightening and I've been enjoying all of my time away from the field. I haven't been looking forward to Ultimate. It has more or less become something I need to be present for because I have a responsibility to the team. The importance of the game in my life has been relegated a bit as a result. Which I view as a good thing. My relationship with God has strengthened, and my relationships with non-Ultimate friends have also grown. I plan on that continuing to be the case. Not that I want to stop playing Ultimate, or that my friendships through Ultimate will be less important. That's not the case at all. I love the sport and those people too much. I just need to remove Ultimate from the lofty pedestal I had it on.

We'll see what happens.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Club 2009 - Monster

This year marked the first time I played in the Open division of the Club series. I had some exposure to Open Club last summer when I attended a couple of Monster's early practices, but that ended once they had their team together and I ended up playing Mixed, where we got our butts handed to us. (I had fun, but that story will come at another time.)

At any rate, this being the summer between my second and third year of Ultimate, I wanted to get involved with a good team and really get some good work in to get prepared for the upcoming college season. The season started with a hat tournament that was used as a tryout for the LA team that was being put together (named Strike Slip). The tournament was a lot of fun, as I was put on a team with a lot of people that I'd never played with before. Unfortunately, in our first game Scott Roeder put a disc that I had to awkwardly bid for, and it flared up a weird knee injury that I had incurred previously. I didn't play very well the rest of the tournament, having to sit out multiple games. If I remember correctly, our team won the tournament, or at least made it to the championship. Either way, we played really well and meeting all these new guys was one of the best things to come out of the weekend. (Half the fun I have at tournaments, in general, is hanging out with people and making new friends.)

Due to the fact I never officially signed up for the tournament, the people in charge of the team (from this point forward, the team will be referred to as SS) didn't have my contact information. No matter, I tagged along with a couple other Long Beach guys to a pickup game that SS was hosting. It was at this particular pickup that I really found out what playing Club was all about. Man, could these guys throw, and boy do they play hard. I'm thinking, Yes, this is exactly what I was hoping would happen. I held my own pretty well, though I got beat deep a couple of times because of my ignorance at the throwing ability of the other guys, and I had a couple uncharacteristic drops, but that's how things go.

The next two days were the official team tryouts, held at Cal State Long Beach. Mostly, the captains, Geoff and Bofa, talked about the offense they were planning on running, and we did a couple drills that helped us get a better understanding of it. We would drill, scrimmage a little, drill again, and scrimmage again. This is how a majority of the weekend went. On Sunday, I played possibly one of the best games of my life, just dominating all over the field. I felt really good. Really, really good. I was pretty sure I was gonna make the team, and was excited about the possibilities for the season.

The first tournament SS went to was Cal States, held in Santa Cruz, California. SS used this as a tryout tournament, as a last evaluation to see where we all stood as players and how we played in a tournament setting. Let's just say it didn't go well for me. I played pretty good defense, but I was terrible on offense. Things were way more chaotic than during the tryout scrimmage. I never had a cutting lane, hardly ever got open, it was HARD. I had a couple guys come over and tell me to just be more aggressive with my cutting and I'd get the disc more. That was encouraging and all, but I'm used to making a deep cut and the disc just being there. That's kind of how our college team works, because our guys aren't afraid of putting it deep and letting me do my thing. (It appears that that's going to change this year, much to my dismay, but that's also another story.) At any rate, I wasn't the only one not playing well, and we were playing some really good teams, so we ended up 0-5 in pool play, 1-6 (?) for the tournament.

We were told we'd be contacted during the week about our status on the team. On that Wednesday I received a phone call from Geoff. Immediately there was an awkward feeling, so I wasn't anticipating good news. The most important statement that was made was that the decision to not have me on the team was because I "wouldn't be able to contribute in the last games to go to Nationals." While I disagreed (as have a number of close friends in the Ultimate community), I could understand where they were coming from. I wasn't going to have any hard feelings about it. Plus, I just used it as motivation to work hard and get better moving forward. All the guys on the team are cool guys, and I made it a point to go out of my way to greet and chat with them whenever I saw them at other tournaments. SS eventually lost to Streetgang in the game to go to Nationals. Whether me being on the team would have made a difference or not, who knows? Maybe they don't even make it that far if I'm on the team, or maybe we go to Nationals. At any rate, I wasn't on the team and I had to figure out something else to do for the Club season. To this day I appreciate SS giving me the opportunity to play with them for the short time I did, and for taking me to the first Open Division club tournament I'd ever been to. I look forward to playing with/against all of those guys in the future.

At this point, there were a few Long Beach guys who were still in the area and wanted to keep getting some work in. In addition, there were some Irvine and UCLA guys who were interested in doing some practices. So, Keegan decided he'd try to make this a team all on its own. We wouldn't be great, but we'd be pretty good while developing a little more team chemistry for the college team, and building camaraderie with the guys in the surrounding areas. We were having very productive practices every Tuesday, working through a couple drills before having some competitive scrimmages. We were getting pretty excited about playing together, looking forward to going to Chico and playing at Discos Calientes.

THEN there was a new development: Ed 'Biclops' Melo decided to resurrect LA Monster. He proceeded to recruit a lot of UCLA players, in addition to the Irvine guys who were coming to our practice. And a couple of us Long Beach guys. This team was obviously going to be much more organized, with a bit more talent and WAY more people to work with. So, we jumped ship. We still held our weekly practices, but the team we were putting together was no more. My focus had now shifted to playing hard for Monster and doing the best I could to improve and be ready for the college season.

It would take entirely too much time to list every person on the team and explain how awesome they all are individually. Instead, I will say that this team was truly fun to be on, with some of the most amazing personalities and attitudes I have ever had the pleasure of playing with. Guys would play their butts off on a regular basis, whether it be in important games or remedial drills. When we went to Arizona, I was more than willing to invite them to my aunt and uncle's house in Scottsdale. Knowing the character of the team I was supremely confident that they would represent our sport, ourt team, and myself well. And they didn't disappoint.

While we would run a vertical stack occasionally, particularly when things were going crazy or when we got close to the goal line, our offense was mostly through the horizontal stack. I hate this offense. Too many things can go wrong, in my opinion. Clearing out is difficult, cutting lanes are crazy, I just don't like it. Luckily, I was placed as one of the outside cutters most of the time, so I would end up just biding my time until I could make a deep cut. I wasn't hucked to as much as I would've liked, but that's obviously going to happen. Hucks are low percentage, for the most part, and our team was designed more for quick movement and moving the disc up the field on short in cuts. Thanks to our amazing handlers, this worked pretty well. We faltered a bit here and there (multiple turfs on our own goal line in the same game multiple times hurt us in a couple big games), but were pretty effective overall. And our defense was awesome. Everybody was running hard all the time, and our tight coverage caused more than a fair share of drops and bad throws by the other teams. Very similar to how important our defense is with the Stalkers.

A few specific highlights from the season:

-Our game against Strike Slip at Chico. Multiple players on Monster had been cut from SS, and we went into that game really fired up. They had no answer for our deep game as Stig and I spent the whole game dominating in the air. I have complete confidence that we would have won that game if we had scored our last goal BEFORE hard cap went off instead of AFTER. We lost 10-9, and that was the only time we got to play them all season.

-Ed eating fruit snacks WHILE he was playing a point. In the middle of a mark, even. AND commenting on it out loud. Hilarious.

-Matt Hennessey absolutely owning players on Seduction and Johnny Bravo. 

-Free breakfast sandwiches at the fields before gametime both days at Chico.

-Previously mentioned BBQ at my aunt and uncle's house
   -Domination by Penguin and Hennessey at Cornhole at said barbecue. ~30 wins in a row.

-Bishop hucking to Tommy 3 times in a row just to score 1 goal against Streetgang because there kept being calls during the same mark.

There's probably more that will come to me later, but that'll do for now.

All in all, the best teams we played didn't impress me that much. I'd always held club teams to a pretty high standard, but Johnny Bravo didn't blow me away (sidebar: I'm no longer a fan of Jolian Dahl, as good a player as he might be. But, Hylke Sneider impressed me a great deal), and I feel we were competitive (though the score won't show it) with Streetgang. These were some of the most competitive games of Ultimate I've ever played, and they were played at a higher level than I had ever experienced. I'm excited to see how my learning and experience will carry over into the college season, along with all my Stalkers teammates who were also playing this club season. 

Special thanks go out specifically to Ed for including me on this team

Looking ahead to next year, I will be attempting to start my own team. A blog explaining what I want that team to look like and how it will operate will be up in the near future. For now, I will leave you with this: