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Observations on Colombian Ultimate Part 1: Nationals

Oct 23, 2012

Last weekend I had the pleasure of watching Colombian Nationals.   Like you, I have not had much exposure to Colombian ultimate.  I'd seen one of the PanAm Games vs Sockeye online and I'd played with the women's team AeroSoul at the US Open.   I was excited to see Mamoots make the trip to the Chesapeake Open.  Still,  I was not entirely sure what to expect from a Colombian Championship tournament.

I arrived in Colombia Oct 10th.  In time for a conference on the 12th and Nationals Oct 13th-15th.  Below are some sweeping generalizations and impressions of what I saw.

The Players

Players here play with passion and speed.  Colombia is filled with very athletic, very fast players who are not afraid to throw their bodies around.  This applies 100% equally to the women's and open divisions.

The Tactics

As you might expect, the level of organization in offenses and defenses is a lot lower.  I did see both vertical and horizontal stacks being used.   Evolution, the women's division champion, also uses a split stack with some iso plays off a stopped disc.

Teams with international competition experience, like Oso, Euforia, Mamoots, Evolution, and AeroSoul were far better at swinging the disc and using all of the field.  But even these teams did not always have reliable dump sets.  They may have dumped or wanted to dump, but did not necessarily have an agreed upon plan of how it was supposed to happen.  In general, the dump seems to be used as more of a reset pass rather than as a way of changing the angle of attack and comes later in the count than for elite US teams.  Of all the teams, Euforia looked the most comfortable with moving the disc where they wanted it to go.

The cutting was less disciplines as well.  Because of this, players who can break the mark are a huge asset to the team.  Stacks tend to creep to the open side so when a break does go off, there is usually a huge gainer available break side.

The deep throw decisions were much different than what you'd see in elite level US play.  The rule of thirds seems an unknown entity here as blading forehands over the shoulder of the receiver were extraordinarily common.  Some of this I'm sure is due to the altitude in Bogota.  Discs more naturally blade than flatten.  They also don't hang in the air way they do at lower elevation.

Regardless of the type of cut, throws were more often than not directly to the player rather than to the space there they were going.

The Future

I am not really criticizing Colombian ultimate.   Of course it looks different than elite US play.  But it may not stay that way for long.  The organization of the Colombian ultimate scene is very strong.  Their youth programs are already showing the fruits of their labors.

The organizers of ultimate in Colombia are in a regular habit of bringing experts (several Sockeye and Riot players) over to teach then new things.  They're increasingly traveling to US and international tournaments.  And based on my blog traffic, are among the most eager in the world to search for any information they can use to improve.

My Job Here

I've been brought here to train coaches across the country about athletic development.  The raw material to work with is excellent.  Lean, mean, fast flying machines in fact.

1.  Agility:  Most of the Colombian cutters can change direction pretty quickly if they know where they are going.  But often once they get up to high speed they have a lot of difficulty re-adjusting their path of direction or slowing down.  Discs a bit outside or inside do not get caught.  I noticed this especially in the women's games.

2.  Strength:  This will help with number 1.  Also it will help with endurance and durability.  In Colombia most tournaments last multiple days with only about 2 games per day.  Rarely do they play games back to back.  I have heard from several sources that this is one of the most difficult part of attending US tournaments.  The sheer number of games in a day is not something they are physically prepared to handle.

Most of the members of Oso were also representing Colombia at Worlds in 2012.  I sponsored the team and put them in The Ultimate Athlete Project.  Those who followed the programs were very excited about the progress they made.  One had recovered from an injury 6 months prior to Japan and said for the first time he felt like he could play forever.  I'm sure that the largest contribution to feeling this way is the strength training.

Players all over the world underestimate the effects of strength training on both endurance and performance.  The same is true here as well.

I'm looking forward to working with coaches and athletes here to help them make the most of their natural abilities.  You can look forward to seeing more high flying action from Colombian ultimate athletes.  Hopefully coming soon to a tournament near you.  Until then, check you UltiWorld's top ten highlights from the weekend:

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