7 “new to me” players I loved learning about in 2017

I try to follow as much ultimate as I can and with so many filmed games these days it is easier than ever! Even though I watch as many games as I can, it seems like every time I watch a game I learn about an amazing player that I’d not known about previously. Sometimes – if not most of the time – I’m sure that I would have known about her sooner if I was better at paying attention, but the thrill of learning about someone “new to me” never goes away.

Here are 7 players that caught my eye in 2017:

(1) Kerilee Coote -> Australia’s GWS Blaze

I learned about Coote watching the Australia club bronze medal game back in June – she had an amazing game for Blaze. Here’s just one example:

(2) Adelaide Dennis -> Australian national team + Factory

Dennis’s play in the two exhibition games that the Australian national team had with Japan just blew me away. She also had a incredible showing for Factory in the Australian club bronze medal game. Here’s one example with the national team:

Adelaide Dennis’s bio on the Aussie Crocs website

(3) Laura Ospina -> Colombia national team + Revolution

The Colombian women earned a ton of praise for their performance with the national team and at the US Open. Laura Ospina’s play jumped off of the page. I didn’t remember seeing her play before, but I did see this exchange on Twitter:

World Games

I didn’t write about the US Open final so I don’t have any video clips of Ospina handy, but she has a nice goal around 3:12 in this highlight film that the Colombian team published:

(4) Maddie Gilbert -> Seattle Riot

The Riot vs Ozone game at the Pro-Elite challenge introduced me to two players. The first is Riot’s Maddie Gilbert who had this incredible block:

Gilbert also had a fantastic game in the finals of the Pro Flight Finale. I love how far she’s come as a player this year. Can’t wait to see her at nationals.

(5) Shanye Crawford -> Atlanta Ozone

The second player that just jumped off the screen watching the Riot vs Ozone game was Ozone’s Shayne Crawford. Ultiworld filmed that game and I don’t have any video clips. It is pretty easy to sum up Crawford’s play in that game, though -> She did whatever she wanted whenever she wanted. Blocks, goals, assists . . . anything. Riot had no answer for her.

Here’s a screen grab of one of the goals.

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(6) Claire McKeever -> Molly Brown

My summary of seeing Claire McKeever play at the US Open is here:

My biggest wow of the US Open was Molly Brow’s Claire McKeever

It seemed like every time I looked at the screen in a Molly Brown game she was guarding the most dangerous player on the other team. I was super impressed with her D and also impressed that Molly Brown was giving her this responsibility. Here’s a clip of her guarding Opi Payne and also poaching in the lane when Alex Snyder has the disc.

(7) Anouchka Beaudry -> 6ixers

If you watch the finals of the Canadian national championships you’ll see an outrageous game from Anouchka Beaudry from the 6ixers.

Take some time to learn from Anouchka Beaudry

Below is just one of many fantastic examples from her from that game – I can’t wait to see more of her play in the next couple of years!

Sorry if this post seems a little early – after all it is still just September! I’m planning on heading down to Sarasota to watch US Nationals in person and thus probably not watching those games on film (at least not immediately). So, now seemed like the right time to celebrate learning about these players in 2017.

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Take some time to learn from Anouchka Beaudry

The game film for the Canadian finals between Traffic and 6ixers is here:

The Canadaian national championship finals between Traffic and 6ixers

Watching the game the play of Anouchka Beaudry from the 6ixers absolutely blew me away. Below are 6 clips from the game highlighting her play and a few comments about things you can learn from her. You will definitely learn a ton about how to play the game watching her play. She is incredible.

(1) Let’s start with a terrific D followed by a gorgeous huck:

The D is a great play – not sure how much there is to learn, but it definitely shows off Beaudry’s athleticism.

On the huck watch her release, and especially watch where her arm stops. Lots of players learning to throw forehands have a pretty big follow through when they try to throw long throws. The problem with having that long follow through is that you will struggle to throw with a mark. Beaudry’s throwing form is fantastic and worth studying carefully (and copying!).

(2) A second absolutely beautiful huck to study:

Again take a close look at her form for long throws – it is perfect.

(3) A couple of really heads up plays

I love how Beaudry attacks the disc. In this sequence you her catch two passes (one off of a deflection) that aren’t perfect. After these two unexpectedly difficult catches she’s instantly in position to throw the next pass. When I saw this sequence the first time I knew that Beaudry’s mental game is really strong.

(4) Fundamental skills . . . for days.

Every young handler should watch this sequence. Look how Beaudry turns with the disc after every catch and how quickly she gets her throws off as a result. The defender has no chance.

The effect of these quick turns and releases is that the defender has to over play the pass to the side of the field Beaudry is turning to. With her defender overplaying that side, Beaudry gets easy opportunities for breaks.

This specific fundamental skill is so important for handlers. Until a few days ago I would have said that Claire Chastain demonstrates this skill better than anyone. Now I’d say it it is a tie.

(5) Playing down the field

With top throwers like Beaudry, teams will eventually adjust their defense to deny her the disc. So one important test for Beaudry is can she play down the field?

The answer is yes!

(6) One last question – who do you want with the disc on game point of the national championship game?

 
I really love learning about new (to me!) players. There’s so many great game films these days and 2017 has been filled with learning about players I’ve never seen before – I can’t wait to see more of Beaudry in the coming years!

21 people in and around women’s ultimate you should meet

[August 2017 note – not a new blog post. Just moving an old one over from my math blog to the ultimate blog]

Sorry, another one not about math with my kids – maybe I should start an ultimate blog. Oh well not today . . .

In response to Skyd’s article –
http://skydmagazine.com/2014/05/21-influential-people-ultimate-today/

and in an effort to elaborate a little on some thoughts I had in a FB conversation, here’s my list of 21 people in and around women’s ultimate that i think you should meet. I gave myself an hour to write this so that it wouldn’t be too long and rambling. Also just wanted to try to come up with some ideas off the top of my head. Oh, and since Gwen, Matty, and Michelle are in the Skyd article, I’ll leave them off this list on purpose. To the other 4000 people I leave off accidentally, sorry 🙂

I have not yet met all of these people, but I hope to.

(1) Robin Knowler – 10 years coaching one of the top programs in the country, so she’s got plenty to teach you Go meet her and ask her how to be a better teammate / leader / coach / person / or whatever. I’d pick “coach” from that list and then just listen.

(2) Lou Burruss – I first met him in 1997 when he would fly back from Seattle to coach the Carleton women. Amazing dedication to the sport and hence one of the most successful coaches of all time. Ask him about moving to set up the next pass or how to play a 2 handler zone O. Also read “The Inner Game of Tennis” in advance of meeting him.

(3) Suzanne Fields – part of the first class inducted into the Ultimate Hall of Fame, and one of the speakers at this year’s induction. I’m always a little nervous around legends, but if I would have had the courage to talk to her at this year’s induction I probably would have asked something silly like if she could believe she was standing there watching Chris O’Cleary and Nancy Glass being inducted into the hall of fame.

With the passage of time I’d probably ask her if she, Kelly Waugh, Katherine Greenwald, and Katie Shields played Heather, Shannon, Mia, and Emily in a game of goaltimate, who would win?

(4) Chris O’Clearly – see above. One of this year’s inductions into the Hall of Fame and another legend in the game. Seemed like everyone who ever played for Ozone was there to cheer her on at the induction. An amazing leader and player. Ask her how to build a team.

(5) Nancy Glass. Also one of this year’s inductees. Another absolute legend and practically royalty in Chicago ultimate. Ask her about the tension between getting the sport to the “next level” like the Olympics or something and building the sport through grass roots growth.
(6) Jenny Fey. One of the best players of the last decade who just came off of a national championship with Scandal. Ask her how she sees the field and if she likes handling or cutting better. Also, do me a favor and figure out how to guard her because I’ve not been able to do that.

(7) Cara Crouch. Two time World Games team member, 2005 Callahan winner, and endless giver back to the game:

Ask her about the difference between the 2009 and 2013 World Game teams. Seems like the two teams had totally different vibes – what worked well and what would she have changed looking back?

(8) Dominique Fontenette – Stanford, Fury, Godiva, Brute Squad, World Games, Riot. As respected a player as there ever has been. Ask her about the influence that Molly Goodwin had on her. Sprout, too. Also, ask her to teach you to pull:

(9) Rohre Titcomb – One of the greatest minds in the game. I’ll never forget seeing her play for the first time – it left me speechless. Ask her to come to Atlanta and play a round of disc golf with Chris O’Cleary, ’cause that would be amazing.

(10) Alex Snyder – Multiple time national and world champion. One of the things I will always remember is how different the 2013 US World Games team played during the one game she missed. Ask her what she learned about the game coaching Wisconsin.

(11) Robyn Wiseman – A great young leader. Ask her what she learned taking over coaching Wisconsin from Alex.

(12) Enessa Janes – I was so happy to get the chance to meet her in person at the 2013 US Open. Played the single greatest half of ultimate that I have ever seen. Ask her about the 2008 finals.

(13) Katy Craley – National champion at Oregon and now a key player for Riot. Ask her about the transition from college to club. Ask her about giving back to the ultimate community in South America.

(14) Ren Caldwell – The trainer for everyone within 300 miles of Seattle, I assume. Ask her about the difference between training college athletes and club athletes.

(15) Claire Chastain – 2013 Callahan winner / U23 world champion and one of the best players I’ve ever seen coming out of college. Ask her how her mentors impacted her ultimate career.

(16) Peri Kurshan – leader on the field with Brute Squad and Godiva. Off the field with USA ultimate. Current Nightlock coach. As her about the transition from playing club to coaching club, and about the similarities between what Brute Squad looked like originally and what Nightlock looks like now.

(17) Erika Swanson – amazing player on both coasts and on the US Beach worlds team. Ask her about how she balanced playing top level club ultimate with MIT and Caltech educations. Ask her about how to defend the top cutters.

(18) Samantha Salvia – I’ve never met her, but her story is incredible. Ask her about transitioning from other sports to ultimate, and ask her to write some more!

http://skydmagazine.com/2013/04/an-open-letter-to-mark-evangelisto-general-manager-philadelphia-spinners/

(19) Blake Spitz – helped build Brute Squad up from scratch and eventually past Godiva. Ask her how to develop young players on a club team. Ask her how to compete and eventually win out against one of the biggest dynasties ultimate has ever seen.

(20) Lucy Barnes – Captained Harvard, Brute Squad and now lives in England. Ask her how far European ultimate has come in the last 10 years. Has the US come as far?

(21) Kyle Weisbrod – coaches UW Element and the US under 19 team. Ask him about the difference between the high school scenes in Atlanta and Seattle. How could another city copy what either of these cities has done.

My biggest “wow” of the US Open was Molly Brown’s Claire McKeever

Whem I’m watching games I don’t always follow the disc around. Sometimes I’m trying to figure out where the holes in a D are, or where the deep cuts are coming from. Sometimes I’m lazy and just follow the players I know!

Watching the semis and finals of the US Open, I was following players like Fury’s Anna Nazarov, Opi Payne, and Carolyn Finney, and Revolution’s Yina Cartagena, Manuela Cardenas, and Laura Ospina. It seemed like every time I looked at any of these players I was seeing #17 on Molly Brown. The problem was that I didn’t know who #17 on Molly Brown was.

That’s how I learned about Molly Brown’s **rookie** Claire McKeever who was casually guarding all of the best players on the other team. Damn!

Here she is going step for step with Finney:

and step for step with Nazarov:

And clogging up Alex Snyder’s throwing lane while guarding Opi:

And guarding Cartagena:

And finally Ospina, who maybe isn’t as well known, so let’s check in and see what Kyle Weisbrod and Jesse Shofner has to say about her during the World Games:

World Games

A big part of why I needed to write this blog post is because I’m so amazed with McKeever that I don’t know what to say! It is so impressive that Molly Brown trusts her to guard the top players on the other team (who were also all World Games players). Not throw away pool play games either – these clips are the semis and finals of the US Open.

So, I’ve gone from not knowing who Claire McKeever is to having all kinds of respect for her in just a weekend of games. The only other thing I can say about her now is that I’ve got a nice short essay for anyone applying to the 2021 World Games team:

Q: Why do you think you can contribute to the World Games team?

A: ‘Cause when we play Molly Brown, they put Claire McKeever on me.

Paige Applegate’s game is for real

I’ve been really excited about the journey’s that ultimate players have been taking lately. After the World Games I wrote about Anna Nazarov:

Why Anna Nazarov matters to me

Another player whose on-field journey I’ve been following for the last couple of years is Molly Brown’s Paige Applegate. Before writing this post I went back and watched the All-Stars vs. Molly Brown game from 2015 just to remind myself where she was as a player two years ago.

Nothing makes me happier than seeing players work hard and improve. It is hard to think of a player who has come farther that Applegate has in the last two years. If you run into her at a tournament you should ask her about what she’s been doing and listen carefully because you want to follow her formula (bad news, though, it is probably involves lots of hard work and dedication rather than magic beans).

What really impresses me about her play and her journey over the last few years is that it is really, truly hard to find the right balance between (what I think is) her natural “let’s take some risk” style of play and the duties of an elite O-line handler. It takes years of work and the list of players who tried and failed to find that balance is incredibly long. But players who make it out the other side of that journey like Applegate and Jenny Fey are so incredibly fun to watch, and also, for the purposes of this blog, so great to learn from.

So, below are 5 clips of Applegate’s play that caught my eye watching the Molly Brown vs Fury US Open semifinal:

(1) The mix of soft touch passes, great fundamentals, and attacking on Molly Brown’s second goal:

What I love from Applegate here is . . . well, everything.

(i) That soft little pass to Chastain. Handler to handler passes (swings or resets or otherwise) should be easy to catch. Turns on this passes are awful and Applegate (and really all of Molly Brown) did a great job with this skill all game.

(ii) The communication with her hands – we’ll see more examples of this later, too.

(iii) The little forehand fake to move Nazarov to the flick side! The 2nd replay really shows how effective that fake was.

(iv) Then that i/o backhand. That’s a risky pass and needs a lot of work to be game ready. Nazarov also uses it extremely well for Fury.

So many lessons from Applegate in this short clip!

(2) Similar to the clip in (1) but with a harder pass to the break side

Passes like the i/o backhand here are why I said above that it takes years to develop into the kind of player Applegate has become. It takes a lot of experience to learn when this pass is ok and when it just pushing the needle a bit too far.

The same nice soft touch passes and the forehand fake that were on display in the first clip are part of this clip, too:

(3) Fun physical play and great on field leadership

I’m sure that both Payne and Applegate walked off the field after this point thinking “that was fun.” I love the physical play from Applegate to get open and then to stand up after the grab and fire that pass down field to Megan Cousins (who, for the 1000th time just magically appears on the screen down the field standing around wide open . . . )

But watch Applegate raise her hands to slow everything down when Pitcaithly has the disc unmarked. It takes a very special player to throw the switch from “physical battle with Opi” to “time to watch the grass grow” in the space of 5 seconds. Smart play and super on field leadership from Applegate here.

(4) A small thing that I think she could do a little better.

The goal here is nice, but I was wondering why the first cut from Megan Cousins didn’t work out. Because of the way Applegate caught the swing pass, it took one extra beat to transfer the disc to her throwing hand. If she catches this with a (two handed!) claw catch instead, she’ll save a beat and be able to throw the forehand just a little faster.

Also, when the D knows that the quick forehand might be coming, you’ll suddenly have much more room on the backhand side, too, as the defender now has to take one extra step to close down the flick side.

(5) Finishing with a really nice and crafty goal.

I love how Applegate stays engaged with Chastain the whole way through on the cut that eventually scores. They way she uses her body to shield her defender from the disc is also great.

You’ll hear the announcers praising Applegate’s play in nearly all of the clips above. I’m glad that she’s getting recognized – that recognition is 100% deserved.

Also, I am totally serious about pulling her aside to talk to her if you are looking for someone to help improve your own game. After the journey she’s been on the last couple of years, if you are a young handler looking to improve there might not be a better person in the game to learn from.

Lisa Pitcaithley is a total badass

I’m really enjoying watching the 2017 Molly Brown team. This past weekend I was lucky to be able to watch three of their games and felt as though I could write 20 blog posts about them.

One of the players that I was super impressed by was Lisa Pitcaithley. She’s been a force in the club division for at least 4 or 5 years – I’ve lost count, but it feels like she’s climbed to yet another level this year so blog post #1 is about her.

I’m sure that everyone has seen the highlight plays over the years. Here’s just one – from the 2015 All-Star tour:

As I get into some of the clips below, note that not all of the passes are complete. The execution details are secondary for this point. I want you to study how Pitcaithley sets up her cuts, sets up her defenders, positions her throws. With two more months of practice the execution errors will melt away and the fundamental skills on display in the clips below will be what comes shining through.

(1) Downfield Cutting

If you are a downfield cutter, study these cuts. Watch how she sets up the defender initially, and watch how she uses her body to keep the defender away from the disc. I’d also point out that the two defenders here – Kaela Jorgenson from Fury and Elizabeth Mosquera from Revolution – are two of the best defenders (as well as two of the best athletes) in ultimate

(ii) Handling and touch throws

Pitcaithley’s game is more more than speed and downfield cutting, though, here are three clips show of her handling skills and some really nice touch on throws around the endzone.

One minute Pitcaithley is taking your best defenders deep, the next the announcers are taking about how great she is as a handler. Pretty amazing.

(iii) The long throws

Oh wow are these beautiful throws. Again, if you are a downfield cutter, what you see in this video is a large part of why I think Pitcaithley is such an incredible role model. If can get your long throws to look like Pitcaithley’s throws out to space, you immediately become a gigantic pain in the ass for the other team!

Note especially the sneaky fakes to the forehand side that set up the long backhands.

One last important thing to note – look at the small difference in the shape of the first and second throws. The second throw is what you want your throws to look like.

(iv) Field awareness

I loved this play during the game and I loved it even more when I was studying the film.

Look how far away Pitcaithley is from the intended receiver when the pass goes up, and look how quickly she reacts when she realized the pass is going to float.

Being a great player isn’t just about Sportscenter type highlights. The clip below shows why you want her on the field with you!

(v) Beating opponents with her brain

This clip was probably my favorite Pitcaithley clip of the weekend. Not a big run or a big throw, but simply standing around in an open spot in Revolution’s zone.

Great players like Pitcaithley aren’t just amazing athletes – they are really smart and great students of the game. The clips above from Lisa Pitcaithley show elite level cutting, handling, and hucking. They also show what an incredible and smart competitor she is.

If you are looking to improve your game, she’s one of the best players to study and learn from that you’ll ever find.

Learning from the Riot vs Eurostars game

I really enjoyed watching the Riot vs Eurostars game. The feed was a little fuzzy, but I’m still so amazed at being able to watch live games that the fuzziness didn’t bother me at all.

A couple of things caught my eye during the game and then this morning I had an unexpected free hour block, so I thought I’d turn those thoughts into a blog post. Normally with a “what to learn from” post I’ll watch the game 3 or 4 times before writing, Definitely not the case here – these are all “on the fly” thoughts from watching the game last night.

Still, though, I think there were some good lessons.

(1) Riot’s Alex Ode with some great handler D

I got to know Alex Ode during the 2016 All-Star tour and I’m a huge fan of her play. You’ll see some super handler D on display from Ode in this clip:

(2) Riot’s Lucy Williams in the front of Riot’s stack

Riot has been incorporating some vertical O into their game fro the last couple of years. It has been fun to watch since that’s the O I first learned back in the, um . . . ., 1980’s.

You’ll see a great example of play in vertical O from Lucy Williams in this clip. Look how she turns her head to check the space behind her. When you are in the front of the stack it is very easy (and can be very tempting) to cut and accidentally take away space from teammates cutting from the back.

The skill on display from Williams here is something that you want everyone learning about vertical O to see. Fantastic teamwork from her.

I’ve had a chance to see Maddie Gilbert play twice now – against Ozone in a game that Ultiworld filmed and last night in the Eurostars game. My status after those two game: super duper gigantic hugenormous fan.

I love the cutting skill on display here. The way she gets the defender to move and then the subsequent change in direction is something that I’d compare very favorable to the similar cutting skill I highlighted in the post about Surge earlier in the week.

I love this scoring play from the Eurostars. The pass goes from Laura Farolfi to Betty Schnedl. The throw is a great throw out to space and I love how Schnedl initiates this cut from the far side of the field and then attacks the disc. The Riot defenders have no chance.

Great fundamentals on display from the Eurostars here. If your team is struggling to create space for your cutters, the work form the Eurostars here is an important example to study and learn from.

Even thought the video quality in the first part of the game was a little low, there was a play that made me really happy.

In the Riot vs Ozone game, Riot’s Calise Cardenas was catching the disc down field, turning and throwing some fantastic hucks. That’s how the Riot got going in the Eurostars game, too.

Cardenas has been one of the top players in the US for the last several years and was part of the US national team last year. Watching the results of all of the work that she’s put in over the last few years is a real joy for me.

Between work and travel I haven’t been able (and won’t be able) to catch much of the Eurostar Tour. I’m happy I caught this game – it was a really nice way to end a great week of watching ultimate.