This will probably cause some people to question my sanity but I want the teams mentioned below to know that I mean this in the nicest possible way and the only reason I’m saying it because I want you to be better. It’s also a general comment on Ultimate in Canada.
For Ontario Mixed teams CUC 2009 was a disaster. Going into CUC 2009 Ontario had six bids (Liquid, MONSTER, Mayhem, Tundra, BFC, and DiscGraceful) and was expected to retain those six going into 2010. Unfortunately for Ontario the powerhouse known as Quebec ruined any chance of that and Ontario is now likely reduced to four Mixed bids in 2010: a disaster.
Each Ontario team should be evaluating their chances and odds for success in the upcoming year and from conversations with most all indications are that they are. Changes in rosters, tactics, training methods, and even longer touring seasons are being considered. Of all of the mentioned changes I believe the longer touring seasons will be the most beneficial.
Given how compressed the season is does this mean starting play earlier? I suspect not, as there’s little outside of the current season that is geared towards touring teams. In many ways the tournament schedule in our part of the world is set for touring teams and having a longer touring season means instead to play more often in our existing time frame. It would not be unheard of for teams to play almost every weekend in preparation for Nationals and I believe it should be expected of most.
People will complain about how Ultimate doesn’t fit into their schedule and that touring almost every weekend is far too expensive. True on both accounts but as competitive players we have little choice if we want to win. Touring helps keep players in shape, touring improves tactics and exposes one to new ones, touring also develops the one component that all teams seem to be missing: Chemistry.
It’s that last point that I want to talk about now…in relation to the Ontario teams. All season most teams have been struggling with the relatively complex issue of chemistry. I’ve run two Ontario Regionals now and have watched as teams have struggled to come together game after game. A few captains have even told me that they have “moments of brilliance” which degenerates into chaos quickly. From the sidelines I can feel the frustration as almost every team in Ontario struggles with their lack of cohesion.
Of course this doesn’t apply to every team in Ontario. Liquid seemed to keep things together while playing a bit sloppy (their ability to recover is evident given their play against MONSTER in the opening game at Nationals) at just the wrong time while Mayhem is a group of friends with a few rookies that are still developing.
Let’s talk about the other teams then. Most would expect me to keep MONSTER off of this list but they’re right at the top. It’s evident that MONSTER is a tier 1 team but time and time again I’ve watched them struggle when they shuffle their lines. They have great chemistry and they need to keep it going as long as they can. I think MONSTER’s problem isn’t that they can’t develop chemistry but that they’re too nice and there’re some people that don’t fit into the MONSTER mindset and flow.
Tundra has developed quite a bit as the season progressed and what they lack in chemistry will be developed through the winter. A team is a family and one that sticks together plays well together. Zen too has the same issue in that they develop good players but they move on when if they stuck around it’s almost a certainty they would make Nationals; it’s more about chemistry than simply how physically able one is.
Physical ability does go quite a way but it’s a detriment if cutters can’t work together and keep getting in each others way. A prime example is BFC.
BFC is a powerhouse Ultimate team from Ottawa that, weaker than in 2007 (perhaps arguably), should continue to do well at Nationals. Unfortunately they’ve struggled all year with frustrations and an inability to click. Fortunately it looks like the team will work through the winter and return to championship form.
Which brings me to DiscGraceful, a team with chemistry but a lack of players. North Bay has one of the best “programs” (if it can be called that) in Ontario and I’m surprised by how few people know about DG. On day one of CUC 2009 they lost three games with the following opponents and scores: ONYX (15-13), Psychoplastique (12-8), and Mayhem (15-13). All of those scores with a roster reduced to 10 during the first game due to injuries.
This lack of chemistry isn’t exclusive to Ontario teams. TFP failed miserably (a fifth place finish for them is nothing less than a failure) and it’s not from a lack of physical ability but rather the topic that I’ve mentioned repeatedly in this post. Time after time hucks that were mistimed, lack of handler movement, and multiple mindsets on a field they’ve owned for the last four years is evidence that touring teams in Canada need to stick together through the winter through training and play more tournaments once it’s warm outside.