Sunday, November 20, 2011

2011 World Cup Practice, part 3

It's back! (World Cup practice posts, d'oh.) Despite a lack of popular demand. (This one's for you, Devon.) (Okay, not really just for you but it does prove I almost keep up to date with VFTD's Facebook page.)

To quickly recap parts 1 & 2 practice is for developing players and the skills required to be successful in actual tournaments. Versatility is a key training goal. Not only does the proper sort of training make players stronger where they were weak but it instills confidence in the individual and in the group as a unit. It is self-reinforcing and allows the coach or captain to go from strength to strength. I have watched all the PSP uploaded videos of our matches a number of times. My objective is to look for things I didn't see during the actual match--because during the match I'm watching our opponents, not my guys--so that I can perhaps pick up on things we need to work on. And trust me, I always find fault somewhere. (And sometimes it's even me.)
No player will do anything in a match that he hasn't done or won't do in practice. Read that over again and let it sink in. (Now read it again.) Whatever limitations your players show in practice you can safely expect 10-20% less from them in a real match. (One where the score goes up on the big board.) (And, yes, there are of course exceptions but as a general rule players tend to back off a little, or a lot, from practice to the real deal.) As a consequence the only place players really learn to expand their game is in practice. (To know something intellectually doesn't automatically translate into action.) And once a player has a couple of years of competition under their belt it often requires that you intentionally push them places they otherwise wouldn't go. (Players tend to settle, get comfortable in specific roles, want to do the things they already do well, etc.)
One caveat. Last time (practice part 2) I mentioned moving players around and the fact we made that call while also prepping the event layout the weekend before Cup. I want to caution lower division teams with less experienced players about doing the same. Developing versatility is a process and should be worked on primarily in practices that aren't layout prep. The reason for this is confidence and team cohesion. With a young, building team and/or inexperienced players last minute changes of that nature can (and usually do) play havoc with player and team self-confidence. (There's lots of stress, mixed in with the excitement, for developing young teams contemplating a big event. Following routines and focusing on the positive as your lead-in is normally the best approach.)
Back the Cup layout.
Part 2 left off with a description of the back and forth process involved in determining how we would play with respect to a single prop; the D-side MT. Part 3 will dissect playing the D-wire and the various control options. Beginning with the Home shooter the diagram illustrates 4 lanes. Lane 1 is an occasional lane best used after edging the MT consistently and changing the opponent's path. Lanes 2 & 3 are the primary OTB lanes. Lane 4 may or may not be available depending on the actual physical field set-up but it's a tight lane and less effective than 3. The first half of Saturday we shot Lane 2. I wanted to be able to get paint on any D-side runner, including dropping short into the MR, but we could not put a consistent lane up in that close to the breakout. So we moved to Lane 3--and began putting paint on their runners consistently. (Once the opponent is forced to take the MR on the breakout more often than not playing the dead zones--blue dots--becomes an effective option to either lane the MR and/or attack the Home shooter before they can get out.) (Home shooter can also be the dead zone shooter.) The only effective D-wire control bunkers are in Orange and Purple. (The Violet option of playing the MT D-side offered only marginal utility and even less than it appears on the diagram due to the narrow laning window.) (Green can only cover very limited lanes and cannot be relied on to control movement.) The cross field Orange is one of those situations that require a constant paint stream, more or less, and actually only pins the opponent in D1. As a consequence we used this option randomly--unless we were under heavy D-side pressure (which as a practical matter didn't happen)--to slow upfield D-wire progress and force the opposition to always be aware of the possibility. In concert with Orange we used Purple (MR) for layers of contain. Given that the the MR has a positional disadvantage versus the D1, corner TCK and wire-side MT the object is not to gunfight edges, it's to inhibit (deny) movement.
Okay, given that post breakout movement on the D-wire has the potential to overwhelm efforts to deny movement control guns aren't enough. (And are, of course, also fundamentally defense-oriented requiring a transition from defense to offense.) The other factor at play is what I call proximity tension. Proximity tension is what happens when opposing players get close to each other. Too close and you risk getting bunkered. Too far and you may give up additional spots but in any case proximity tension means that the first team to get upfield position tends, simply by already being in a spot, to inhibit their opponents up wire movement.
Early on Saturday Dynasty took aggressive advantage of pushing the D-wire when we couldn't contain the wire lead with our lanes OTB. Once we began shooting an effective lane, Lane 3, it forced Dynasty to mix up their D-side breakouts. (Dynasty hadn't done much better with their contain and the result was a lot of back and forth bunkering action.) Overall the edge went to Dynasty as their support/insert players were more aggressive. (Remember they were also doing a very effective job early of getting into the snake adding heavy snake cross field pressure at the same time.)
Another important element is running lanes and the critical distinction is spacing at the intersection of the shooting and running lanes. The MR placement tends to force a flat run early regardless of primary bunker. Since the primary lanes OTB are on both sides of the MR the goal is to get as much separation between the two running lanes as possible in order to force your opponent to have to pick which lane they will shoot OTB. On this layout then a tight run around the MR into the wire side MT (diving it even!) is a necessary option along with a baseline run to the corner. (A lot of teams simply ran deep all the time and that is not going to work consistently against a good laning team.) 
Given that consistent and effective contain was really mostly a delaying tactic our goal became to get on the wire quickly and up the wire even faster. Once the objective is clear the issue then becomes execution. Can the players consistently do what is required to achieve your goal(s)? If yes, you're good to go. If no, then you need to reconsider your options because it does no good to ask players to do something they simply can't so in that sense we return to training for versatility in order to open up the available options for competing on any type of layout.

Next time--putting it altogether. 


Anonymous said...

Thank you for this detailed analysis, helps a lot.
Especially interesting to read what some opponent has done and how your team reacted.


Mike said...

Thought you had forgotten about this series of posts haha. Good read, I enjoy these posts.

Question for you - do you know to what extent other teams/coaches analyze the fields and breakouts like this? In the pro division, are all teams considering the same factors you are, or are some more "scrambled eggs" and just go at it and learn by errors (at the tournament itself)? I know you'd expect all pro teams to prepare and analyze the field to this degree but I'm curious as to if you find this to be true.

Baca Loco said...

Hey Mike
A pretty good question. What I do here, the analytical approach, is because it's the way I think about this stuff and it seems like a decent way to try and communicate the nuts & bolts of the game.
I never have these sorts of conversations with my players. While I'm thinking about all the various game factors in play I talk to the guys about practical ways to address issues. For example I always want to know where they got shot on our breakouts so I know what lanes the opposition is shooting. Or after I've identified a problem--like playing the cross field MT on the Cup field--we talk about the counters and what certain things mean; if the MT is laning the inside of the Temple to avoid your counter then you've got a clean bump into the snake.
So in a lot of respects what we do as a practical matter is probably similar to what most everyone else does. Do other teams approach this sorta stuff as analytically as I do? In general probably not but when you have years of high level experience under your belt a lot of the nuts & bolts of playing is the storehouse of information you draw on when making game play decisions.