I’m a huge fan of Cat Phillips

The two exhibition games between Australia and Japan this weekend were a treat to watch. I’m a little busy at work right now (and may even have a trip to Australia coming up . . . ) but I hope to be able to write a little bit about these two games.

You can find the two game films on the Ultimate Frisbee Australia youtube channel here:

Ultimate Frisbee Australia’s Youtube channel

But busy work schedules and other excuses aren’t going to stop me from giving a little shout out to Cat Phillips who is playing incredible ultimate right now.

Phillips has has a busy year already playing Australian Rules Football in between ultimate games. This highlight reel will give you a sense of her speed and athleticism:

In addition to that, her club ultimate team in Melbourne – Ellipsis – just won the Australian national championships a few weeks ago.

I was really excited to see more of her play with Australia’s national team and she didn’t disappoint. She was absolutely stellar in this series against Japan. In fact, she made her presence known right from the first point:

She’s such strong player that it is actually pretty hard to describe her game. She’s catching the pulls, staying back handling, making ferocious deep cuts, and playing monsterous D. You can slot her in any position and not have to worry about a thing (unless you are on the other team!).

A play in the 2nd Japan game really caught my eye because it shows her total control on the field. Watch a few times – especially to see how she handles the poacher.

But I didn’t really appreciate this play myself until the replay:

Love that casual walk down the field while the disc is in the air. She’s playing with so much confidence – the game must feel effortless for her right now.

So, I’m totally in the Cat Phillips fan club. Can’t wait to see more of her at the World Games.

The Australia women’s bronze medal game is amazing!

I was lucky to be able to watch the Australia women’s bronze medal game a few days ago. The game was incredible in just about every way! It was made even more fun because I wasn’t familiar with a single player on either team.

I’ll be posting a few thoughts about the game in our Facebook film study group page. So far we’ve looked at the Riot / Fury 2016 game from the USA Ultimate championships and the All-Stars vs. Ozone game from last summer.

The group is here if you want to join and flip through the old comments and analysis:

Our Facebook Film Study Group

The film for the Australia bronze medal game is here:

Honestly, I can’t say enough good things about this game. Even if you don’t want to study it, it is a fantastic game to watch if you love ultimate.

The first two study clips I’ve pulled out of the game (which are discussed a tiny bit in the FB group) are below. Sorry that I lost the sound somehow – the films are silent (which is really too bad because the commentary is absolutely terrific).

So, please feel free to join the FB group for a bit of discussion on this game. I’m excited to see what other people see in the game.

Film Study for Wellesley Whiptails

The Film study group proved to be really nice resource to use for preparing for a talk with the Wellesley Whiptails tonight.

Unfortunately the prep work was shortened considerably by a trip to the emergency room when the dog likely tore her ACL. So, some more work will have to be done on the fly, but here’s a short list of film that I threw together before the dog injury:

(1) Riot vs Fury 2016 point #6

Riot vs Fury 2016 point #6. Zone O and D

(2) All Stars vs Ozone point 2

All Stars vs Ozone point 2 – analysis by Anna Nazarov

(3) All Stars vs Ozone point 21

All Stars vs Ozone point 21 – analysis by Molly McKeon

(4) Zone lessons from the All-Stars vs. Brute Squad game

Some Zone lessons from the All-Stars vs Brute Squad game

(5) The Team USA vs. Canada Exhibition game – look at:

Two blog posts in particular:

4 plays that didn’t quite work out for the US that I still like

Play like Opi and Surge using these 7 simple tricks

(6) Drone view of point 29 of the All-Stars vs Ozone game – watch the scoring cut and throw

(7) Riot vs Ozone at 2012 ECC. Two Riot starts off of a turn that are subtly different but have hugely different outcomes

(8) All Stars vs Ozone point 4 – one of the greatest study points ever 🙂

(9) Gwen Ambler as Deep Deep vs Brute Squad at the 2010 World Championships

(10) Studying deep throws and spacing from the 2012 Riot vs Ozone game at ECC. You get to see roughly 20 seconds of action leading up to a huck (10 seconds from each side of the field) and you have to decide if the huck was a good choice without seeing the outcome.

(11) Just for fun – lego analysis on Claire Desmond’s amazing goal in the Riot vs Fury game at the 2013 Pro Flight Finale

Announcing the 2017 True Veteran, Michelle Ng Inspiration, and Robin Davis Coaching awards

For the last two years I’ve been giving out awards to players who I think are doing incredible work in ultimate. This year I’m adding a 3rd award for coaching. All of the award winners receive $1,000 to use to support their work on and off the field.

Introducing the Robin Davis Coaching Award

Several years ago I wrote a response to a Skyd magazine article about influential people in ultimate:

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

The first person on my list of influential people in ultimate was the coach of Stanford Superfly – Robin Davis.

Although I’ve still not met her, I remain an enormous fan of her work and remain in awe of her as she added another national championship for Stanford last year.

When I was kicking around the idea of starting a coaching award this year, thinking about how to name that award after was a no brainer. Robin sets the bar as high as it can be set and I hope this award brings some recognition not just to the award winners, but also reminds everyone of Robin’s work.

The inaugural winner of the Robin Davis coaching award is Robyn Wiseman.

My introduction to Robyn came from covering 2011 club nationals for Skyd and watching her team, RevoLOUtion get a big upset over Ozone. Since them I’ve followed her rise through the ultimate community – not just as a player, but as a writer and coach. One or her early articles on Skyd was a memorable read for me:

New Year’s Resolutions

Oh, and if you aren’t familiar with Robyn’s work on the field – here’s what it looks like when she *doesn’t* get the block!!

A knee injury early in 2016 meant that Robyn’s contributions for 2016 were going to come from the sideline. But that didn’t mean those contributions were going to diminish at all. She coached Heist and Wisconsin, who both had terrific years. Having grown up in Omaha and spent time playing in Minneapolis I’m extra grateful for Robyn’s work to improve the game in the middle of the country. Madison might not get the same number of ultimate players moving to it as other ultimate hotbeds do, but those other cities don’t have Robyn!

The 2017 “True Veteran” award

The winner of the 2017 “True Veteran” award is Opi Payne.

I first met Opi in 2010 at the first Without Limits tournament in Lancaster PA. She was absolute fearless force of nature at the time – oh how I wish I’d hung on to the footage from the finals of that tournament 😦 I remember talking to here at 2010 club nationals and telling her that she was going to change the game.

And after a couple of national championships, a World Games title, and a world championship with Team USA last summer, I’d say she has 🙂

There’s no shortage of highlights of her play:

Maybe some lesser known ones are in this clip at 0:23 and 1:15 and

But the True Veteran award isn’t about play as much as it is about leadership in the sport. In the last few years I’ve watch Opi expand her role as hugely valuable leader of her teams to hugely valuable leader in the sport.

From her work with the CUT camps:

Announcing Cut Camp Coach Opi Payne

To her advocacy for gender equity:

Going Deep with Aaron’s interview with Opi Payne, Leila Tunnell, and Qxhna Titcomb

For me Opi represents everything that is great about ultimate. Her work on and off the field is a constant reminder to me to work hard to advocate for the things I believe in. What she’s done for the sport since I was introduced to her is basically the definition of a “true veteran.”

The winner of the Michelle Ng Inspiration Award for 2017 is Anraya Palmer of Ozone.

Prior to the 2016 season I was not aware of Anraya Palmer either as a player or as a leader in the ultimate community. That all changed when the All-Star Tour stopped in Atlanta this summer. Here are two plays from that game that stopped me in my tracks:

The D and sneaky cut deep to take half for Ozone:

And the monster cut and huck combination to put Ozone up 15-14:

Following that game I learned of her coaching work in Atanta in conversations with Hannah Leathers and Miranda Roth Knowles. Here’s what Hannah had to say:

“Anyraya Palmer is one of the most humble and underrated players and leaders that I know. We started playing together on for UGA in 2010 (both of our first years) and since that first year there are few people I’ve respected more in the ultimate community. Within three months of playing, she tore her ACL. Regardless, she put her own mental stresses aside and come out to every single practice that year. Such an act of selflessness and perseverance, which accurately describes her growth as a player since then. She played for UGA through 2013, then for Atlanta Outbreak 13-14, and began playing for Ozone in 2015. Her first year on Ozone last year, she contributed like any veteran would. She pushed the pace of our offense with her relentless up-the-line motions, hucks, breaks, and speed, and contributed equally on defense with run through blocks and shut down defense. Something I admire most about Anraya as a player is her swagger—I really look up to the way that she analyzes, plays, and critiques herself and others with swag and intention. Her leadership, cheers, play, and commentary are always through a genuine and powerful place, which I really respect.”

I’ve been very lucky to have had ultimate introduce me to leader after leader after leader. It is always inspiring to me to learn about a new generation of players making both huge contributions on the field one day and then working with younger players to grow and improve the sport the next day. Seeing Anraya’s play on the field and then learning about her coaching work was incredibly inspirational to me last year. I love that ultimate attracts people like her to the sport – her work last year was not just inspirational to me but also a great reminder to me to keep pushing and working for the things I believe in.

My ultimate blog’s year in review

I took the day off from work today because I have a bad cold I just can’t shake.   Writing up my year in review for the math and ultimate blogs has been on my mind for a while and today turned into the right day to think through those reviews. I’m sorry if this one doesn’t read that well, but at least for this one time I have an excuse 🙂

2016 was really great year in ultimate for me. I got to watch tons of great games, watch players I know have tons of success on and off the field, and get introduced to some amazing players who I hardly knew anything about previously. Thinking back through this year has been a lot of fun.

Here are some of the highlights:

(1) The most read post (on both blogs)

Funny enough it was my very first post for the year. Just like today I was home for work while my wife and kids were in Omaha with my family. Also just like today there were tons of year-end men’s ultimate highlights going around on social media. This year is different, thankfully, because of Fulcrum Media’s equity through visibility project. Their post from today was about Jesse Shofner!

Last year I was annoyed though and threw together a bunch of great highlights. Ashley Young’s block in the 2013 college finals is one that I’ll never get tired of:

The whole blog post is here:

Women’s Highlights

(2) Watching Western Washington vs. Pittsburgh

Getting to see this game was a minor miracle. Gwen Ambler retweeted the link for the game from this tweet:

I watched it at 3:00 am hanging out with my younger son who was up sick with a 103 degree fever.

It really was an extra special miracle because I’ve got a huge soft spot for Western Washington because their coach, Alyssa Weatherford, is amazing. I was also excited to watch Pittsburgh because I knew Carolyn Normile from the 2015 All-Star tour. She is absolutely incredible.

The game is fantastic, so don’t read the post if you don’t want spoilers.

Western Washington vs. Pittsburgh

It really is stunning to me that filming of ultimate is so prevalent now that you can find new game film tweeted out randomly at 3:00 am 🙂

(3) Team USA vs Team Canada

I was already super excited about Team USA:

10 Things I’m excited to see with the US Women’s National Team

Then came this tweet from a Seattle-area ultimate coach:

I’ve you’ve not seen this game stop reading right now and watch it.

(4) 1 billion blog posts about the game . . . .

There are so many things to like about this game that I can’t even begin to list them. One thing, though, was the way it was shot – a wide angle from high up in the back of the endzone. You could see the whole field for the whole game AND YOU HAD THE BEST PLAYERS IN THE WORLD PLAYING!!!!!!

Here are some of the posts:

Quick Reactions to the US / Canada Exhibition game

4 really nice possessions from Canada

4 really examples of fundamentals from the US

4 plays that didn’t quite work for the US that I still like

Some Excellent Examples from Cahada’s Kate Werry and the US’s Sarah Anciaux

Molly, Calise, Anna, and Rohre

Chastain and Desmond

Play like Opi and Surge using these 7 simple tricks

Learning from Alex Snyder

A few instructive examples from Team USA’s Jenny Fey

Team Canada’s Catherine Hui is absolutely amazing

It was so fun to learn about players I didn’t know at all like Canada’s Kate Werry and Team USA’s Sarah Anciaux. I was so proud to see players I’d seen put in years of work – like Anna Nazarov, Rohre Titcomb, Jenny Fey, and Calise Cardenas – representing the US, and, honestly, the game kept getting better and better every time I watch it. You’d have to look pretty hard to find a better game to showcase the sport to people who don’t know too much about ultimate.

(5) Japan vs Australia in the Dream Cup finals

This was another game I saw thanks to Gwen:

This game was my introduction to Michelle Phillips from Australia who has one of the most dominant games I’ve ever seen.

Australia’s Michelle Phillips and Moe Sameshima – I’m speechless

The lessons from the game go far beyond the great play of Michelle Phillips, though – it really is a great game to study:

The Wonderful Zone O play of Australia’s Jodie Palmer

Japan’s super efficient endzone O

Japan creating space deep and space for their handlers

(6) Worlds

I didn’t write that much about Worlds, I actually don’t remember why, but it really meant a lot to me to be able to see some of the games.  To see Rohre, Anna, and Jenny Fey taking the field together to start the game was an “I can’t believe I’m finally seeing this” moment for me:


The block from Carolyn Matthews at the end of the Masters final was also very special to me:

Carolyn won the “True Veteran” award this year:

Announcing the 2016 True Veteran Award and the Michelle Ng Inspiration award

(7) The US Open

It was such a luck break to have the US Open be so close. Being able to spend a day watching Riot play was amazing, and it was also nice to be able to catch up with so many other players. Another great thing was seeing this Megan Cousins grab in person:

Ultiworld is having a “catch of the year” contest now and Cousin’s catch wasn’t captured on video.  Oh well – in 30 years of watching ultimate that is one of the top 5 catches I’ve ever seen!  I get to see it every day now, at least 🙂

Screen Shot 2016-07-08 at 8.07.50 PM

(8) The 2016 All-Star Tour

There were lots of reasons to be excited about this year’s All-Star tour:

10 Reasons I”m excited about the 2016 All-Star Tour

I’m really proud of Qxhna for putting the tour together two years in a row. She received the Michelle Ng Inspiration award:


I’m proud of the ultimate community, too, for sponsoring such an incredibly important project. Just like getting to see the Team USA players shine on the world stage, it is amazing to see the All-Star players shine on the national stage. Take Claire Revere as just one example – she should be a household name in the ulitmate community!

I feel really lucky to have had the chance to be involved with this project for the last two years. When it was all over there were some great memories:

10 Memories from the All-Star Tour

(9) Learning from the All-Star games

It isn’t just great memories, though, the games provide example after example to learn from. The games are filmed extremely well. The commentating is amazing, and the play is incredible. You’ll learn a ton from watching them. Here’s one little teaser from the various blog posts:

Learning from the All-Stars vs. Riot game

Watch the athleticism and skill vs. Riot:

Learning from the All-Stars vs. Traffic game

Look at this O from the All-Stars against Traffic:

Learning from the All-Stars vs. Fury game

More beautiful O against Fury:

Learning from the All-Stars vs. Molly Brown game

A great highlight throw from Sarah Edwards against Molly Brown to tie the game at 14-14

Learning from the All-Stars vs. Ozone game

This cut and throw from Ozone’s Anraya Palmer is one of the best plays I saw all year:

Learning from the All-Stars vs. Scandal game

Watch this transition O from the All-Stars against Scandal after a terrific block by Alex Ode:

Jenny Fey goes bananas vs. the All-Stars

Watch Jenny Fey show how to beat a zone O by finding a dangerous spot and staying there:

(10) The new FB study group

I was inspired by the college game film study group that Gwen started last year and decided to try out a Facebook Study group for the Riot / Fury semifinals game.

The game was full of great lessons and great plays. Here are three:

(i) An amazing layout block from Anna Nazarov in slo-mo

(ii) A nasty grab by Charlie Eide:

(ii) An insane grab by Shira Stern. This catch is in the Ultiworld catch of the year contest, so go vote for it!

The group has nearly 700 members and we had a great discussion about the game. So great, actually, that we are moving on to study the Ozone vs. All-Stars game starting in January. Claire Revere from the All-Stars is going to lead the discussion on the first point!

The group is here – feel free to join:


All in all a really nice year – makes me happy thinking about it. Can’t wait to see what 2017 brings 🙂

Riot vs Fury Study group + some fun game film

I’ve started a Facebook group to study Ultiworld’s game film from the Riot vs Fury semifinals game at 2016 USAU Nationals. The FB page for the group is here:

Riot vs Fury 2016 Semifinal film study group

About 350 people have joined so far, which is really exciting, but I’m happy to have many more people join, too. We’ll get started looking at the game on Sunday night.

Yesterday I got a nice present from Luke Johnson who sent me the footage he had from 4 cameras that were filming the game from the corners of the field. All 4 shots are combined into one film which is really cool. A question from Meeri Chang last night got we wondering about the different ways this film might be useful.

This morning I found two useful ideas in Luke’s film from the first point of the game and wanted to write about them. I doubt many people are ever going to have this type of footage available to them (and certainly not for games they are filming themselves!) but it is still fun to try to figure out how to use it.

Here are the two clips that I have of the first point – they are both just over 30 seconds long. The first is from Ultiworld’s broadcast, and the second is from Luke’s 4 camera film:

I had to watch the 4 camera film several times just to get used to it, but after a while really useful details started to emerge.

First, you get an incredible view of Fury’s Marika Austin marking Riot’s Bailey Zahniser. Here that 10 seconds – I’ve never seen what a mark looks like from so many angles before. This is a great clip to study if you want to learn more about marking technique:

The second thing that the 4-camera shot helped me understanding the work that Riot’s Shira Stern and Cassie Swafford did to score. Unluckily a lot of that work was just off camera in Ultiworld’s broadcast. You can see it in the footage that Luke sent, though:

A few things to point out:

(1) Look at Swafford’s (#16) positioning in the upper right hand box just as the disc is swinging from Zahniser to Soper.


(2) Just a split second later, also in the upper right hand box, check out how Stern checks behind her to see if someone else has a better cut – and, indeed, Swafford does!


(3) Next, look at the shape and timing of Stern’s cut (now in the upper left hand corner) which is starting before Swafford even catches the disc, and initially aiming downfield to create more space.


(4) Also in the upper right hand corner, you can see start to cut underneath just as Swafford catches the disc.  The last two pictures show the sensational work that Stern did on her cut to score.  Without the film Luke sent we would have never been able to study the initial part of her cut.

(5) The last thing to point out in this sequence is that the 4 cameras really highlight how Swafford moved the mark over to give herself  more room to throw her backhand:



I don’t know how often I’ll incorporate these extra shots into the study group.  It certainly won’t be for every play, but I’ll bet that this extra footage will help us understand 4 or 5 plays from the game.

Can’t wait to get going on Sunday!

Women’s videos part 2

Yesterday I wrote about the first set of videos of women’s ultimate that I’ve really enjoyed in the last year. That post is here:

Women’s videos part 1

I don’t know how I’m going to keep today’s blog to just 5, but here we go:

(1) The Japan vs. Australia Dream Cup final

I saw this game because of a Gwen Ambler tweet. The first couple of points aren’t so great (especially for Australia!) but the game turns into one of the top 5 games of the year for me.

I wrote 4 blog posts about it because there was absolutely outstanding play from both teams.

Japan Creating space deep and space for their handlers

Japan’s super efficient endzone O

The wonderful zone O play of Australia’s Jodie Palmer

Australia’s Michelle Phillips and Moe Sameshima – I’m speechless

Here is one great example:


It was such a thrill for me to get to see this game and learn more about players from outside of North America. I can’t wait to see more international games next year.

Here’s the game film:


(2) The various finals at Worlds:

The great memory for me from the women’s finals at Worlds wasn’t the game itself, but instead came right as the team’s took the field:

Screen Shot 2016-09-24 at 6.49.12 PM.png

I’ve spent so much time watching Rohre, Anna, and Jenny Fey play / lead / grow as players over the years.  It was just incredible to see them take the field and compete for a world championship together.   Here’s that game film:


The master’s final was also amazing. I’m a huge fan of Carolyn Matthews and to see her get this block on the last point of the game was a thrill:


The game film from that final is here:


The U20 final was a great game and a total nail biter. Even though the US lost the game, this block from Jaclyn Verzuh on the final point was as incredible and as clutch of a block as there was this year:

Screen Shot 2016-09-24 at 7.25.37 PM.png

That full game film is here:


(3) Luke Johnson’s game / tournament summaries for Riot

Just incredible. Here’s just one random example – the catch by Kirstin Gruver at 2:18 is got to be one of the best grabs of the year:

(4) Ultiworld’s coverage

Ultiworld’s coverage has been fantastic for years. The dedication that they put into their coverage is amazing. I love this summary of the Pro Flight Finale. The whole video is great, but it’ll hopefully start at an incredible huck from Claire Revere


I also love how Ultiworld incorporates video clips into their analysis articles. This Robert Gough article about Jesse Shofner is incredible – oh what I’d give to be able to write something like this:

Jesse Shofner’s calculated risk taking

and this article on Jenny Fey might be my favorite sports article ever written:

Give her the rock: Jenny Fey sets the standard for offensive dominance

(5) The All-Star tour

The All-Star tour videos were valuable to me as a fan of ultimate for several reasons:

(a) They allowed me to see and get to know players on other club teams that I really don’t know and might not otherwise have seen this year.

Naomi Morcilla from Traffic jumped off the screen in the Traffic game:

5 Nice Examples from the All-Stars vs Traffic game

Here’s what I wrote about her:

She was basically unguardable all night and capped off her incredible game with a filthy little forehand flick for a goal. I love the way she plays and am super excited to see more of her during the club season:


The Ozone game was one of the best games of the tour and Ozone’s Anraya Palmer was just ridiculous. Her up line cut an throw at 14-14 was a huge statement and one of my favorite memories from the tour.


I wrote about the Ozone game here:

Ozone vs the All-Stars – what a game!

(b) The games give me one extra bonus chance to see some of my favorite players like Megan Cousins and Jenny Fey.


Look at this around backhand from Megan Cousins to Alicia White from the Molly Brown Game (at around 0:40 in the film)!

5 Things to Appreciate from the All-Stars vs. Molly Brown game


Or how about Jenny Fey catching a goal over 3 defenders! Actually Fey had such a great game that I had to write 2 posts about the game 🙂

All-Stars vs. Scandal – everything that is great about ultimate in one game!

The Unreasonable effectiveness of Jenny Fey


(c) Finally – since there’s no way to pick just two examples of great plays by All-Star players, I love the how the films can help you learn about team work.

Look at the work by the All-Stars in this point against Fury – as I say in the blog post, Elite club teams dream about playing this well:

5 great takeaways from the All-Stars vs Fury game


From the Schwa game there’s this critical point – again, Elite club teams dream about playing like this:

Learning from the All-Stars vs. Schwa game


So, this set of 2 posts came after listening to the Russell Wallack interview on Ultiworld. I’m so happy and excited about the film that is out there – it is so great to be able to see all of the incredible athletes in ultimate from the comfort of home! What a great time to be a young player, too – these films are such an incredible tool for learning about the game.