Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Austrian nationals

Alright, first things first, I finally have my new computer! I’m currently bashing away at my keyboard on a high-speed german train enroot to my girlfriends place which is near Duesseldorf. My old lappy could no longer handle such difficult circumstances, the battery’s ability to hold charge long ago faded.

Anyway, back on topic. It’s been a helluva week ulti-fans. Back home in Oz they just held mixed-nats, and just before my customary sprint to the train station I had an email in my inbox from Al telling telling my that Bootius Maximus got 3rd place and the Lovers had pulled 7th! I was so stoked to hear this!!!! I guess all that training for worlds next year is beginning to pay dividends.

Well, while my mates back home were running around fields in Adelaide, I was running around fields in a town called Ried, which is a bit more than a drivers huck from the city of Linz in Austria. I was playing at the Austrian nationals with my city’s team, The Flying Circus. The Circus had managed to rustle up an open and a womens team for the tourney. I met a bunch of nice people at the tournament. I met Heidi-Marie, who was an American playing for the “Spin” women’s team. She was a lot of fun and tried to keep my spirits up a bit when my team was busy getting pasted (I especially liked the “Go on. Show me something special”. Then she missed a great layout-d of mine at a pivotal point of one match!). I also got to catch up with the team from Graz, “Catchup”. Those guys are always fun to hang out with and I absolutely love watching them play. They remind me a lot of the teams back home.

I also had a great time with many players on my team. They really are a friendly bunch of people. The party was super. It took a while to get going, but once a sufficient amount of booze was downed the dancefloor was packed with hot’n’sexy ultimate folk looking to boogie. Arno, our captain was kicking it till the wee hours showing all us young-uns how it’s done. Oh yea, me and Kris (a new Canuck in our team) had a great drunken layout session using some gymnastic mats and a trampoline (actually, that’s how we met Heidi-Marie, she thought it looked like fun. She was right!).

Well, I’d love to say that during the tournament we totally kicked ass, but we didn’t. The open team won 3 out of 7 games and placed 11th of 15. Though the women managed to pull 4th place, I was really happy about that.

I had a good time, don’t get me wrong. I like my team, they are a great bunch of people. They are fun to party with (especially the lasses), and they all really care about each other. The problem is, that we don’t have anything like the depth of the teams back in Oz, or for that matter the teams from the other cities in Austria. At a really good training session we’ll pull 20 or so people, that’s guys and girls. The skill level ranges from absolute beginner, to the ridiculously experienced. It is so hard to run a training session, talk tactics and even practice skills in such a way that can keep everyone happy. Normally, the sessions are pitched low, with the hope that the more experienced types won’t get too frustrated by this. Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to work. Well, at least it isn’t working for me anymore.

At the moment I feel like my skills are beginning to stagnate. I’m not feeling pushed at all. When I’m playing in Innsbruck, I find that if I want to throw a break, I throw a break. If I want to make a cut, I get the disc. If I want to huck it, I can huck it. There aren’t a whole lot of experienced, or even intermediate players playing against me and pressuring me to play harder and better.

This was killing me on the weekend. Our level of tactical play was barely above the beginner level. Our intensity was a smidgen above that of a funday arvo pick-up. In the easy games, this wasn’t a problem.

Our team’s skill level is pretty high, there are a lot of good throwers and the fitness isn’t too bad. In the hard games, things turned haywire. Suddenly, the intermediate/experienced were being pushed (and, in reality, rarely by players that were any better than they were) and they began to panic. We started to throw the disc away a lot. We would try to switch-up the tactics only to find that we either all weren’t on the same page or the level of ulti-knowledge in the team was too low to implement the required changes to our game.

For me, things hit there worst when we were playing against Spin (one of the teams from Vienna). They weren’t too bad, they are also a really nice team (both the girls and the guys). We were getting pasted pretty much because our team didn’t know how to play zone offence. For those of you who played with me in Bris-Vegas, you would know that this would kill me. I used to live for zone. I don’t know why, it probably has something to do with my past life as a Rugby player. Anyway, I was totally pissed at my team. I was pissed with the experienced players because we were all disagreeing on what to do. I was pissed with the beginners because they had no idea what they were doing. I was pissed at myself because I was spitting the dummy.

Our team has been on the slide for a while. The beginners and intermediate players have never played in a good ultimate team. They have good players around them. Some of the experienced people here are as good as or better than anyone I ever played with in Brisbane. The problem is, that the experienced players are aging and can’t commit as much to the team as they used to. When you combine this with our small-player base it is no wonder that we are struggling.

This has been getting me down for ages. I have felt completely powerless to do anything at all about this. Part of the problem is that I don’t speak the language, and for this reason I feel like a lot of what I say is completely lost on people. For a long time I’ve just been resigned to play in a team that isn’t so great and to deal with getting pounded at tournaments – maybe I could just focus on winning the party? On the weekend though, something changed. At some point during that game against Spin I made up my mind. Either get better, and drag this team with me. Or get out.

For the time being I’m going with the first. I’m going to try to get better at my ulti, and I’m going to try to improve the level of play in the players around me. The only way I can think to do this is to start small. Many of the players will be a bit frightened of big changes. But they might barely even notice the small ones.

I already do a lot of fitness training on my own. Maybe I should start emailing the team list to tell them when I’m going for a run and invite others to join me? Maybe I could do the same with the gym or maybe initiate some small-group sprint workouts? I think maybe just organizing to go and have a throw (even in winter!) in the park regularly might change people’s mindset a little. Maybe I can talk to the more senior people in the team about contributing more to the training sessions?

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I think the only way our team is going to get better is if a few of us take the initiative to get it better. Personally, I know I can do more and that maybe I have to if I want to continue to develop as a player.