Tiina’s Take: The 2015 College Regular Season

I have just completed my first full cycle as a men’s college coach. I started a year ago with UMass men in March but this year I got on board earlier. I was with them this past fall and traveled with them to Queen City, Centex, and, most recently, Easterns. As expected, I learned some new lessons and relearned some old ones.

In no particular order, I share with you some observations and lessons from these past two months.

1. I was incorrect when I said “traveled with them.” For QCTU and Easterns, I flew while they made the hellish trek to and from New England in vans. We all flew to Centex, but I took some extra time on both ends of the trip and avoided the 6 AM flight out of Boston. It’s in my contract.

2. I also don’t stay with the team. They need separation and I need to not be held responsible for any hotel shenanigans. Again, a contract stipulation.

3. I was spoiled by the parental support during my years as a high school coach and I was surprised to see that parents are still very much involved with the college scene. We were particularly pampered in Austin, with UMass parents providing meals, snacks, and a sideline presence. College players need outside support more than high school players, even if they won’t admit it.

4. Another thing I learned in Austin was that the students at Kealing Middle School are very lucky to have some ultimate-playing teachers on staff: Colleen Conrad, Cara Crouch, Jenna Martin, and Mike Natenberg. Jenna started the ultimate program there and they currently have 90+ kids playing. Quite amazing and certainly not that common in most places, other than Seattle.

Pothole5. I flew into Dallas and drove to Austin for Centex. South by Southwest was taking place that week and the roads and restaurants were crowded. I noticed a public works guy pulled over to the side of Rte 35. He was fixing a pot hole on the shoulder that was the size of a footprint. It didn’t take more than a shovelful of asphalt to fill it up. At left is a picture of the pothole situation on a road leading into my neighborhood. Not everything is bigger in the state of Texas.

6. I always enjoy meeting members of ultimate communities when I travel, which is one of the main reasons that I continue to do coaches’ clinics for USAU. One morning in Charlotte I met an African-American high school player at breakfast. He introduced himself to me and said nice things about my columns. He was particularly interested in the Gender Equity Ombudsgroup Proposal. I told him some additional details and, as I write this, I remember hearing that a decision would be coming sometime in March. Looking forward to it.

7. Another benefit of coaching at the fancy level of college ultimate is that I no longer have to be on the front line of dealing with ultimate haters, as many high school coaches and players still do. When I was teaching and coaching at ARHS, I experienced this phenomenon often. I do not miss the constant drumbeat of “Ultimate is not a sport” or “Ultimate is for (homophobic slur)”. Now I have engineered my life to only be around people who understand and love, or at least understand and respect my passion for, this sport. It is a relief.

8. In terms of the actual competition, it has taken me awhile to figure out how to approach these “tournaments.” I am in the middle of a coaching lesson on this. I got really good at figuring out how to coach a nine-week high school spring season; I had 20 years of experience. Now the season feels really long and I am a bit at sea about it all. I say, “I just don’t know,” at least once a day. I have to get comfortable being uncomfortable about not knowing the competitive landscape that well at this point.

9. The season is also really expensive. As a program with almost no school backing, Zoodisc has to raise money for travel, entry fees, and coaches’ salaries. I greatly appreciate all of the work that the team, as well as our generous alums and families, has done. And I was also amazed to discover that some of the coaches I talked to receive no money from their team. I am not that coach.

10. How do you know when you are attending a well-run tournament? When the TD hands out the schedule and it is in a legible font and it is laminated. Easterns was a class act from the beginning to end, although it took us too long to find the water source. The site was beautiful and I look forward to returning. (How do you know you are at a crummy tournament? When the schedule is written in pencil on a piece of cardboard torn from a box that is taped to the hood of a car.)

11. Instead of yelling “Fire!” when your team switches from zone to man, how about yelling, “Switch to man!” See what I did there? I talked about strategy.

12. As many of you know, weather is one of the main uncontrollables that every team should ignore by preparing for it. The weather at the three tournaments was fine but I have been unable to temper my frustration with our weather in Amherst. We have had one outdoor practice since November. The 21 games this spring have turned into de facto practices in some ways. We most likely will not be on our fields until after Sectionals. While these are all reasons to be frustrated, they are not excuses for how we played. Sometimes it is difficult to tell the difference.

13. Queen City and Easterns both had observers. I really like observers. I would encourage my team to only go to tournaments with observers in Spring 2016. We need them for us as well as for the teams we play.

14. Since we are talking about observers, what is the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. How many times will WFDF hold an event that ends with some kind of controversy over bad calls? I have no opinion on what actually happened but these retreads are tiresome. (I know. This is not about the college season, but a digression. It is, however, a good segue into #15.)

15. Speaking of insanity, why are we still having these problems with how USAU awards college bids? I read almost all of the articles and comments and, believe it or not, I again have no opinion. I think Charlie should prepare a generic Ultiworld article for both #14 and #15 and then just fill in the blanks, kind of like Mad-Libs.

16. And while we are talking about Ultiworld, I want to emphasize that there is no single opinion from Ultiworld about any of these issues or others. The closest is when Charlie writes on his blog, Livewire. Charlie encourages us to write what we want and we are not expected to agree with each other or him. That’s why, more than a year later, I look forward to writing for this website, as well as reading what my fellow contributors have to say.

17. If you are one of those ultimate haters, Amherst is not the place to be on the weekend of May 2 and 3. New England College Regionals will be taking place at UMass and, two miles up the hill, the 24th Annual Amherst Invitational will also be underway. Over a thousand ultimate players, coaches, and fans will be in town. I am looking into renting a drone so I can get updates from the AI while coaching at Regionals. Or at least a golf cart. Come to think of it, why don’t I own a golf cart?

FullSizeRender (16)

Alligator18. And finally, I leave you with my favorite pictures of last weekend in South Carolina. I flew out late Monday, so I had a quick hour to spend at Huntington State Park, about 20 miles south of Myrtle Beach. I saw some really cool birds (above) as I was walking along a causeway. I also saw what I thought was a log floating by the shore. As I walked nearer, I realized that the log was actually an alligator (left). I realize that for you Southerners, this is no big deal. But the last time this Northerner saw one was one afternoon in Sarasota at Club Nationals. Remember when Nationals was in Sarasota? I actually do have an opinion about that.

  1. Tiina Booth
    Tiina Booth

    Tiina Booth is the director of the National Ultimate Training Camp and a co-coach of the University of Massachusetts men. She founded the Amherst Invitational in 1992 and co-founded Junior Nationals in 1998. In 2006, she published a book about ultimate with Michael Baccarini, entitled Essential Ultimate. She has coached teams to numerous national and international titles. Her ongoing passion is sports psychology, and she offers clinics to coaches of ultimate and other sports. Tiina will be inducted into the Ultimate Hall of Fame at USAU Club Nationals in October of 2018.

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