Friday, October 28, 2011

2011 World Cup practice, part 2

Yesterday was the set-up. Today we begin to dig into the details. But before I get into specifics I want to suggest some Big Picture ways of thinking about the practice process whether we're talking drills, intra-team scrims or full blown match sims against real competition. It is not about winning. Points, matches, the day or internet bragging claims. Nobody gets the trophy for practice. It's about becoming better players and a better, more fully prepared team. It's about taking every opportunity to improve; to learn. In this instance it's about learning the specific field inside and out, individually and corporately, and matching our talents to the demands of the field. In this process you are testing various options; everything from breakout runs--do we run & gun or just run?--breakout action combinations (paths, sequences, delays, spacing)--lanes OTB--and counters to your opponents actions--and adjustments to his counters of your efforts. There are too many important things to accomplish to worry about "winning." (There is one important caveat to the "winning" practice isn't important conversation. And that is dependent on the personalities on a given team. If a team has very limited competitive experience or tends to lack confidence as a group or perhaps wilts a little under pressure a team's leadership needs to be aware of those tendencies and act accordingly. It may be necessary in those sorts of circumstances to tread more carefully but even then the time has to come where the team either steps up to the challenge or they don't.)
Also, a quick note regarding individual players. Versatility & competence. The more options you as a player can perform at a high level the more utility you have to your team. Do you not worry too much in practice about your laning ability 'cus that's not what you do? Are you exclusively a snake player? Or a doritos player? If your skill set is limited what happens when a player comes along who does your job better than you do? Here's a football analogy for you: Think running backs in the NFL. Do you know what the number one deficiency is that keeps skilled runners off the field? It's the ability to block and pick up blitzes. But what's that got to do with running the ball like Barry Sanders? Nothing but it's still part of a running backs job description in the NFL. Running backs who want to be in the game for more plays learn to block. If you want to be more valuable to your team and get as many reps on the field as possible the more things you do well the better.
One of the things we do in practice is move players around. In practice there are no snake players or dorito players or Home shooters, wire leads or inserts. Are some guys better at some aspects of the game? Sure, but everybody is capable of playing pretty much everywhere and fulfilling all the roles required and the better they are at more parts of the game the more they are relied on and the more different situations they can be counted on to play effectively. On the Cup field we made a number of positional changes from our norm. Ramzi was returning from an injury and in practice was struggling a little bit to find his rhythm playing the snake. Instead of having no options I moved him to insert and moved Holliday over from the D-wire to snake lead. I could do that because Ramzi is a very good lane shooter and support player when called on and Holliday was (and is) a great snake player before we moved him to the D-side. And we didn't leave a deficiency on the D-wire because Jake has improved so much this year I was totally comfortable with him as a D-wire lead along with Chad. On Friday we were without Bryan Smith so Timmy & Jason did some double duty playing both sides of the field. No problem. On Saturday and Sunday with Bryan in the line-up Timmy played exclusively on the D-side even though he almost always plays the snake side (because he too is an excellent snake player.) This time we needed him on the D-side and it wasn't an issue. Plug & play. But it wasn't (isn't) enough for one or two guys to be versatile. Numerous members of the team needed to be able to fill changing or different roles effectively in order for me to be able to make those changes.
Back to the Cup field--and the forward MT most everyone was playing on the cross to try and control snake entry and movement. Given my pre-practice evaluation we began Saturday's scrimmage both playing the MT and looking for ways to deny the MT to Dynasty. I didn't like taking it off the top (as I thought it mitigated the effectiveness of our OTB lanes) so we mostly moved into it on a delayed basis. Either immediately after laning from Home OTB or later in the point depending on Dynasty's ability to get into the snake. Over the course of the two days of practice it remained an option but we used it less and less. Instead we chose to counter from the dorito wire or from within the snake itself. It was possible for D-side players to stay alive even with a snake player in the midfield snake segment so we didn't worry about it to the point of consistently committing a player to try and stop the snake.
Coming to that conclusion involved the full two days however. Early we tried pinching the MT runner OTB with a D-side Home shooter and edger--which was frequently effective but allowed a free run wide. Later, after Dynasty started using the snake corner to harass the MT we slowed our Temple insert runner in the zone between the TCK and the Temple (snake-side) where he could lane the player moving into the MT who was, initially, still focused on shooting the head of the snake. Later they countered by shooting a primary lane inside the Temple to hopefully get a runner and counter our ability to kill that guy early. At which point we ran the corner and up or straight into the snake because on the break the MT was no longer defending the snake, he was defending himself. And when we had little success early denying Dynasty the snake we started playing the dead zone behind the Can (snake-side) and doubling up our lanes OTB. Dynasty tried to counter with edgers and running & gunning wide. The edgers weren't very effective so we settled on shooting the lane inside the Temple to catch either a snake or corner runner. And we tended to stay at Home early if the opponent hadn't got into the snake because both the snake corner and insert Temple could harass the MT player's edge but couldn't shoot at a tucked in Home player. (OTB Home was susceptible on the D-side so when teams would pack Home in hopes of getting up extra lanes and then breaking to short primaries we edged them from the D-side mostly or ran & gunned both corners.)
The point is we're (so far) only talking about one key prop and the process through practice of determining the best ways to play it and counter it and if either team had been more focused on "winning" practice we would have learned less, experimented less and ultimately been less prepared for the real tournament.

More next time.

No comments: