Ultimate Frisbee Is In The Dark Ages Of Analytics — And It

Ultimate should be fertile ground for analytics. The mostly amateur sport first blossomed at universities and remains popular with engineers, computer scientists, mathematicians and teachers — curious, creative nerds eager to break down the sport and share what they learn. Its profile is growing, too. This summer, the International Olympic Committee made the sport eligible to be included in a future Summer Olympics.When I attended the under-23 world tournament in England this summer, I saw hundreds of the sport’s future stars coached by some of its brightest minds, but I also saw a sport missing something vital: detailed data.It’s easy to take sports data for granted in an age when cameras track and quantify the movement of players and balls in baseball, basketball, tennis and soccer. The biggest challenges for analysts in those sports is how to wrangle and make sense of all that data and to get fans to look past traditional box-score numbers.But in ultimate, there are hardly any traditional box-score numbers. Other sports have digitized stat-keeping even at the college or high-school level. But for ultimate, even at a relatively organized and well-run event like the under-23 worlds, the sport’s best young players checked opponents’ scores on schedules filled in by hand. Coaches — including my FiveThirtyEight colleague Jody Avirgan, an assistant coach for the U.S. men’s team — carried clipboards to log who played each point, with paper flapping in the wind and ink blurring in the rain. Players got a glimpse of what wealth can bring to a sport every time they walked past one of Watford FC’s brand-new 500,000 pound ($750,000) fields, but rope fences made clear that the Premier League team’s training ground was off-limits — as were stats as advanced and sophisticated as the EPL’s.At best, ultimate box scores — such as those posted on the under-23 worlds website — contain just goals, assists and Ds (discs knocked down or intercepted). “That is Stone Age material to work with,” said Sean Childers, an ultimate player and co-author of a study on ultimate presented last year at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, in an email. “Imagine a baseball or basketball box score from 50 years ago, but worse.”Ultimate coaches dream of stats corresponding to some of their favorites from other sports. Several wished hockey assists — the pass that leads to the pass for the score — were tracked. Bob Krier, head coach of the U.S. men’s under-23 team, wants to see a shooting percentage for the most difficult passes into the end zone. Others want stats on “pulls,” ultimate’s version of kickoffs: Coaches suspect pulls matter a lot in helping a team set up its defense, both for how long they hang in the air and for where they land.A catch-all metric for player value such as wins above replacement would be nice, too. But Martin Aguilera, who coached the U.S. mixed team at the under-23 championships this year, said, “We’re so far away from that.”Many coaches said they look to basketball for stats they want to see for ultimate. On the surface, ultimate has more in common with football (passing toward a score in an end zone), soccer (a field sport with fluid positions and no play clock) and tennis (starting a point on offense is like serving, and scoring on a defensive point is called breaking). But ultimate has similar defensive principles to basketball, with players switching suddenly from offense to defense and both teams resetting after each score.Plus, basketball has lots of cool data. Ultimate nerds speak with envy and awe about SportVU, the system of cameras that ring NBA arenas and produce data about where the players and ball are at every moment of each game. And they cite the shooting charts of FiveThirtyEight’s Kirk Goldsberry as models for charts they’d love to see, ones that would map success rates for players’ shots at the end zone by field position.Other sports are also seeking better data than their traditional, limited box scores provide. In volleyball, “the official stat sheet is basically useless,” said Todd Dagenais, coach of the University of Central Florida women’s team. He’s seeking better stats to help his team but says there’s a dividend for spectators, too: A smarter sport is more fun to watch. “When an offense is run well, fans love that, which causes the defense to have to make more spectacular moves and more spectacular plays, which is also very entertaining,” he said.Ultimate’s stats are stuck in the Stone Age in part because it takes a lot of work to get not a lot of insight. To improve on the kind of time-consuming, manual stat-keeping process that some coaches at the world championships were using, ultimate players developed an app to track players moving around the field. The Ultiapps Stat Tracker can generate heat maps showing the best scoring spots. Childers and a fellow researcher used data from the app to figure out where those spots are and which players were best at getting the disc there. What they found mostly reinforced basic tenets of the sport, like the importance of keeping the disc in the middle of the field. The heat map above, which is from the paper by Childers and Jeremy Weiss, shows a team’s likelihood of scoring from different points on the field. As a team moves closer and closer to the end zone (at the top of the chart), its chances of scoring increase (the higher the number, the better). The large dip in the 40-percent zone — shown as 0.4 — suggests that a team is just as likely to score from about 50 yards outside the end zone (marked as 20 on the heat map) in the middle of the field as they are from 35 but stuck on the sideline.But data collected at one level of the sport with, say, little wind may not translate into a different level in windy conditions. Partly because of limitations like that one, teams mostly have stopped using the app to collect data.“Teams liked our analysis but found collecting and inputting the data was too onerous to justify the time investment,” Childers said.Part of would-be ultimate analysts’ challenge is that top ultimate players don’t play that many meaningful points1Each game of ultimate is played to a certain number of points, and each team must keep the same group of players on the field until the next point is scored. in a season. Players might play during only eight or 10 points of a game because top teams are deep, usually with more than twice the number of players on the sideline as are on the field at any time. And the roster is rarely the same from tournament to tournament.2Even in an age when ESPN is airing ultimate, no one makes a living playing the sport. Top players often skip tournaments because of personal or job conflicts.Even if everyone could agree on which new stats are needed in a sport like ultimate, a tough question remains: Whose job should it be to collect the stats? Tournaments are mostly run by volunteers focused on tasks such as ensuring players find the right field, have enough water and uphold the sport’s unique spirit of the game during play. That leaves coaches to keep any extra stats they’d want for analysis. But they’re also busy doing lots of other things during tournaments. It’s often easier to collect advanced stats during tryouts or practices instead.For the under-23 tournament, U.K. mixed coaches had to choose 26 players from 93 who showed up at trials. They divided them into six groups and filmed them, rating them in 24 categories. None was scores, assists or Ds. The categories were more subtle: essential but hard-to-measure ultimate and interpersonal skills. One, for example, was “nicehead,” which gauged how well someone played with others. “What we didn’t want to do is pick very skilled players who couldn’t interact with other human beings,” coach Megan Hurst said. She and her fellow coach Felix Shardlow entered all the stats into a big spreadsheet and looked for players whose low ratings came in categories they could easily improve, like catching. Aguilera thinks that more ultimate should be filmed and that more film should be watched. He filmed games at the under-23 worlds from atop a ladder he’d bought for 30 pounds ($45) just before the tournament. Many top college basketball players have seen hundreds of games by the time they get to campus. Incoming college ultimate players might have watched fewer than 20 ultimate games, Aguilera said.Absent data, coaches have to rely on scouting to get ahead. Film analysis has become a hallmark of the best college and club programs in the country. And it was on display at the tournament in England, too.Take, for example, the women’s final between the U.S. and Japan. Mike Whitaker, the head coach of the U.S. team who’d been scouting that Canada-Colombia game with his assistants near the start of the tournament, said that Japan used “advanced scouting more than any other team at the worlds.” The Japanese team brought personnel dedicated to the practice, which played a big role in the final’s outcome. He noticed Japan made adjustments to its defense after its group-stage game against the Americans (the U.S. won 17-13) and scouting other U.S. games.Eri Hirai, Japan’s head coach, said the team tracked which players on other tournament teams threw the most long passes and which ones ran the most. Harai said this kind of scouting is standard practice in Japan. “It’s very important because we knew nothing about other teams before the tournament,” she said in an email interview conducted through a translator. By the end of the tournament, the Japanese team knew enough about the Americans to win the final in a big upset, 17-15. It was the only game any U.S. team lost in the tournament. ST ALBANS, England — On a field 20 miles north of London, three people were camped on the edge of a field wearing USA Ultimate hoodies, notebooks open in front of them. They were the coaches of the U.S.’s under-23 women’s team, and they were scouting two of their biggest Ultimate Frisbee rivals, Canada and Colombia, who were about to play in a group-stage match of the 2015 world championships. The coaches barely even had any data on their own team — but there they were, scrounging for some on their future opponents. Read more: A Plea For More Frisbee Data From A U.S. Ultimate Coach Riley Erickson records video of future opponents for the U.S. mixed team. Carl Bialik Head coach Mike Whitaker and assistant coaches Carolyn Matthews and Lauren Boyle of the U.S. women’s team. Carl Bialik read more

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No excuse for Buckeyes defensive line

The Ohio State defensive line boasts a preseason All-American, a projected first-round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft and multiple players that were five-star prospects coming out of high school. The unit many claim to be one of the best in the country at its craft hasn’t lived up to expectations thus far this season, though. Through two games against Miami (Ohio) and Central Florida, the stat line for the Buckeyes’ front four reads: three sacks and five tackles for loss. In other words, not the production first-year coach Urban Meyer expected out of his pass rushers. Not even close, really, Meyer said. “The negative I see right now is I don’t see the quarterback getting hit. And that’s something that has to be addressed,” Meyer said after Saturday’s 31-16 win against UCF. The talent on the defensive line is evident in practice, but those skills have not been translating into performance on gameday. “I feel like when we get to the game, we forget about all our moves and everything. I don’t know, we’re just not living up to our potential,” said freshman defensive end Noah Spence, a top-10 player from the 2012 recruiting class. After a lackluster outing in the Sept. 1 season opener against Miami (Ohio) in which the Buckeyes’ front four recorded only two sacks, Hankins and Simon vowed that they, along with their teammates, would be better. That wasn’t the case, though. OSU’s defensive front was worse against the Knights than it was against the RedHawks, at least statistically. On Saturday, sophomore defensive end Steve Miller was the lone Buckeye to record a sack after two players got to the quarterback Sept. 1. The absence of hits on opposing team’s quarterbacks has not just disappointed Meyer; it’s been somewhat of a shock to the players. “I’m a little surprised. We just have to keep working hard and keep getting better every week and start trying to put a little more pressure on the quarterback,” Spence said. Rushing the passer has been something OSU has been stressing in practice, and Tommy Schutt, a freshman defensive tackle out of Illinois, said the Buckeyes might have to be more creative with their schemes. “I think just different ways to get to the quarterback. Different rushes, different blitzes, different techniques and some moves,” Schutt said. The quarterback can’t be hit if the pass rushers don’t have enough time to get him, though, and that’s been the case for OSU’s defensive line in the majority of their games so far. Miami used a three-step drop most of the time in their game against the Buckeyes, and UCF, for the most part, followed suit, irritating OSU players. “It’s very frustrating because you prepare to get off the ball and get to the quarterback, and all of a sudden you get there and the ball is already gone,” said freshman Adolphus Washington, a highly recruited defensive end from Cincinnati. Spence echoed his teammate. “It’s real frustrating. You work so hard on the line and everything like that, and for him to drop back three steps or whatever and just throw it immediately … but it’s no excuse for what we’re doing right now. We need to get better,” Spence said. While the quick passes annoyed OSU defensive linemen, the Buckeyes’ front four also recognized the respect Miami and UCF showed them. Many players also said it’s something they expect to continue for the rest of the year, too. “So far, that’s what it’s really looking like. The good thing for us is it shows the respect they have for our defensive line,” Schutt said. Washington agreed with Schutt, but said that eventually, OSU’s talent on the defensive line is going to shine. When that does happen, Washington said Meyer and the rest of Buckeye Nation will see opposing team’s quarterbacks on the ground, a lot. “If they hold that ball too long, then we’re there, without a doubt, we’re there,” Washington said. read more

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LaQuinton Ross looks to lead score for Buckeyes in 201314

Junior forward LaQuinton Ross (10) takes a free throw during an exhibition game against Walsh Nov. 3 at the Schottenstein Center. OSU won, 93-63.Credit: Kelly Roderick / For The LanternDeshaun Thomas. Jared Sullinger. Evan Turner. Three names that live in Ohio State basketball lore — Buckeye stars that took a boatload of points with them when each left college ball.Since 2009, those three players each led OSU in scoring over the course of a season. Thomas averaged 19.8 points per game last season, Sullinger scored 17.5 per contest in 2011-12 and Turner tallied 20.4 in 2009-10. All three players are now in the professional ranks, and OSU is looking for someone to fill their shoes.Many OSU faithful are looking for one junior forward from Jackson, Miss., to be that player for the Buckeyes this season: LaQuinton Ross.Ross was fourth on the team in 2012-13 with 8.3 points per game, a total he managed while only averaging 16.9 of the 40 minutes during a game.Although the season has yet to officially get under way, Ross is already off to a good start after tying the team lead with 15 points in an exhibition match against Walsh Sunday.Ross said during OSU Media Day Oct. 10 even if he isn’t the team’s leading scorer this year, he feels like he has grown into a leader for the Buckeyes.“That’s one thing I worked on too, also — communicating with my teammates more. Because I think down the line, they’re going to need me a little bit more than they needed me last year,” Ross said. “Knowing that if I’m not talking to them, they’re not going to look at me in the game.”Ross added in his expanded role this season, he has had to bulk up to be able to defend bigger players.“I don’t think it was as much getting points, I think it was more just being able to take that contact in the Big Ten,” Ross said about adding weight. “With the Big Ten being physical, and this year, seeing how small we play, (I’ll) definitely (be) having to guard (bigger players) this year … It might have some plays where I switch off and we’re playing Purdue and I have to guard (a big guy) and I can’t be under 200 pounds doing that.”Because he might have to defend those larger players, Ross said he now weighs 225 pounds, up from the 215 he played at last season.Senior guard Aaron Craft said Ross has grown into more of a team player instead of a just a player who looks to shoot first.“He’s done a phenomenal job coming in right now and not taking everything on himself. Is he playing perfect? No. But he’s doing a great job of playing with other people right now,” Craft said at Media Day. “He’s communicating. He’s talking on defense and offense and that makes us a better team. He’s feeling that role pretty well.”But Craft made clear Ross wasn’t expected to step in and be exactly what Thomas was last season.“Is he going to be Deshaun? Absolutely not. But he’s bringing his own twist that Deshaun can’t do either,” Craft said.Craft added that although Ross is talented, replacing the scoring Thomas brought to the table is going to be a team effort this season.“You can’t replace Deshaun with just one person,” Craft said. “Even with him, we shot one of the worst percentages in coach (Thad Matta’s) career here at Ohio State (45.1 percent). Our biggest focus is being able to knock down open shots, elevating our shooting percentage and that opens up countless other things on the offensive end.”Ross was vital to OSU’s run to the Elite Eight last season, as he averaged 15 points per game during the NCAA Tournament, including scoring 17 against both Iowa State and Arizona.Against Arizona, Ross made an impression, hitting a game winning 3-pointer with two seconds left on the clock.Matta said Ross finished last year well, and that since the season ended, he has grown into a more aware player.“LaQuinton finished the season on a high note, I think that he had hit his stride in terms of having a better understanding of what we need him to do and how we need him to do it,” Matta said during Media Day. “One of the biggest things I’ve noticed thus far is he’s got a much broader vision offensively than what he had in the past.”Consistency should be a big focus for Ross this season, Matta added.“From the standpoint of LaQuinton, his entire playing career a lot has been based on potential and he and I have had that discussion,” Matta said. “It’s time to be productive, but probably more important it’s time to be consistent and that to me would supersede any expectations that anybody outside of the program can possibly put on him.”OSU is scheduled to begin regular season play Saturday at noon against Morgan State at the Schottenstein Center. read more

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State to introduce Medhabi Bhata in Gandhijis honour

first_imgKolkata: The Mamata Banerjee government has decided to introduce Medhabi Bhata in honour of Gandhiji. The Chief Minister has announced a series of programmes to celebrate the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.While addressing a gathering in a programme at Beliaghata Gandhi Bhavan, the Chief Minister said: “The Higher Education department will be introducing Medhabi Bhata in honour of Gandhiji.”Banerjee has also announced that a procession will be organised next year on October 2 in the city. She said: “The route of the venue will be announced later. I will urge people from all sections to attend the rally.” Also Read – Rain batters Kolkata, cripples normal lifeShe further said that the state government has taken over Gandhi Bhavan at Beliaghata to restore it. The step has been taken as it is a heritage building and needs to be preserved properly for the next generation.”The state government has taken steps for restoration of Gandhi Bhavan at Beliaghata and Rs 3.5 crore will be spent for the same. There will be a museum as well,” she said, adding that the Gandhi Bhavan here is of great historical value, as Gandhiji was present here on the day India became independent, on August 15 in 1947. Also Read – Speeding Jaguar crashes into Mercedes car in Kolkata, 2 pedestrians killedShe further said that the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi will be observed across the country in 2019. “But we have started from 2018 onwards and there will be a series of programmes that will continue for the next two years,” she said, adding that steps will be taken to spread the message of Mahatma Gandhi across the state.She further said that the university named after Gandhiji is coming up at Tamluk in East Midnapore. Tamluk has been selected to set up the university as it is one of the three places in the country that first got independent.There will be a chair in the name of Gandhiji in Calcutta University. She mentioned that the life and works of Gandhiji is already in the school curriculum in Bengal.last_img read more

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Dear Reader You can earn a higher salary than t

center_img The coming “all in” minimum wage of $12.17/hr equates to about $30,000 per year. Which prompts the question: What’s going to happen to the roughly 70 million jobs in America that cost employers less than $30,000 per year? The answer: they’ll disappear. As I mentioned last week, French McDonald’s workers know this all too well. To combat rising labor costs, McDonald’s has been installing kiosks to replace some of its French employees. France’s minimum wage is about $12.12/hour. This trend—the automation of low-skill human labor—is just getting started in America, but it will soon kick into overdrive. As the cost of low-skill human labor becomes prohibitive, businesses will search for mechanized substitutes. And the first call they’ll make is to the automation company we recommend in the newest edition of The Casey Report. If you’ve eaten at TGI Friday’s, used the self-checkout machines at Walmart, or printed a boarding pass at the airport in the last 10 years, you’ve used this company’s labor-saving products. Click here to subscribe to The Casey Report to ride this secular trend with us. Labor-saving automation is the trend of the future, and now’s the time to get positioned. I’ll now pass the baton to Doug French to continue the minimum-wage discussion. Then you’ll find a fun story from subscriber N P Chaudhri about a lucrative scam created by a communist cab driver.last_img read more

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