10 number 10’s

[not a math post – this one is about ultimate]

Yesterday I had a 6 hour drive and for part of it was sort of day dreaming about how great it would be if women’s ultimate could get as much great publicity as the US women’s soccer team did. After seeing post after post about Carli Lloyd I thought about all of the great #10’s in women’s ultimate. Saw lots of them play this past weekend. In no particular order:

(1) Fury’s Gen Laroche

7 club championships + 3 world championships. Oh, and did you know she’s been on Sportcenter’s top 10?


(2) Riot’s Shira Stern:

She’ll be representing the US on the U23 team in London next week, and this is her 2nd time on the U23 team! You can follow the U23 teams at the World Championships here:

Skyd Magazine’s U23 coverage

And then 30 minutes after publishing this post, Shira’s grab in the US Open finals gets a Sportscenter top 10 nomination:


(3) Brute Squad’s Amber Sinicrope

So happy to see her returning to Brute this season. Even with the year off, I think she’s the active “most seasons with Brute” player. I have her Amherst high school jersey hanging on the wall of my study – from her pre- #10 days 🙂


(4) Scandal’s Jenny Fey

Guess who led the US Open in combined goals (13) and assists (23). Come on, take a wild guess . . . .

US Open stats on the right hand side

(5) Phoenix’s Michelle Ng

Before Qxhna’s All Star Ultimate Tour the biggest fundraiser I can remember in ultimate was this:


I saw Liên Hoffmann wearing her Without Limits jersey at the Harvard stadium on Monday! There are not enough ways to thank Michelle for all she’s done for ultimate.

(6) Speaking of Qxhna – she wore #10 in college, for the Beach World’s team, and on Brute Squad last year:

Please support her All Star Tour if you haven’t yet:

The All Star Ultimate Tour

and watch her incredible Callahan video, too:


(7) Another #10 super star from college who is crushing it in club right now is Ozone’s Sophie Darch. Here’s her awesome Callahan video from last year:


(8) One #10 we’ve not been able to see yet this year is former Molly Brown captain Lindsey Cross.

She had a nice interview a few years back on Ultimate Interviews:

Lauren Boyle and Lindsey Cross Interview

and also kicked off Molly Brown’s awesome twitter roster announcement this year:

(9) One other #10 (who may not be wearing #10 this year, I’m not sure) that we’ve not seen yet is former #10 for the Capitals and current Traffic player Kathryn Pohran. I’m very happy to see her back after an awful knee injury at ECC last year.


(10) Who’s the 10th #10? Who did I forget on my drive last night? You tell me!

A fun geometry problem with frisbees – or technically two Discraft discs for the purists :)

Nearly three years ago I ran across this problem:

Two circles of the same size are tangent to each other in a plane. One of the circles stays fixed and the other circle rolls around the first circle one time. How many times does the rolling circle turn around its center?

A super fun, and easy to state problem. Here’s our first run through it (FamilyMath 23 – sheesh – we are over 250 now!!):


Well . . . today I ran across the same problem in our Introduction to Geometry book. Fun to see the ideas the the boys have 3 years later:


Big day for ultimate (and even math related!)

Got a nice surprise this morning when two nice pieces about ultimate frisbee showed up in the national media.

First, Fury’s Genevieve Laroche’s diving catch in the semi finals of the US Open became the first club women’s ultimate highlight to make the Sportscenter top 10:


Hopefully more of that to come this season!

Next, the WSJ ran a fascinating article about “advanced analytics” coming to ultimate:


Sorry of this article is behind a pay wall. The article gives an interesting take on stats and ultimate which is probably best summed up with this quote:

“Teams that use these stats want to know how to adjust their offense or defense to help win more games,” said Charlie Eisenhood, the editor and founder of Ultiworld . . . .”

I agree with his assessment – carefully studying game statistics and making appropriate adjustments should improve your chances of winning. I’m biased, of course, since I do a lot of data analysis for a living. With data analysis becoming increasingly important in sports, I sometimes wonder what my life would be like had I known that you could actually make a living applying data analysis to sports back when I was graduating from college. Oh well, it’ll just have to be finance for now . . . .

Tracking stats isn’t really new in ultimate, of course – the most successful teams have been doing it for years. I learned to focus on turnover location from Steve Mooney in the early ’90s. This stat had a big impact on Brute Squad’s run to the club finals in 2009, too (more on that below).

DoG’s Jim Parinella focused on efficiency. He preached that you could make as many (if not more) gains from studying games than from going to the gym. Don’t know if it came directly from tracking stats or not, but the incredibly efficient zone O that Jim helped create and that DoG, Condors, Fury, and perplexingly almost no one else uses (or even seems to know about!) is one of the great innovations in ultimate ever.

Back to turnover location – in Brute’s early season matches in 2009 against the Capitals, we lost pretty badly (13 – 10, 13 – 8, scores like that). To the Capitals credit every single time we gave them a short field after a turnover they converted it into a goal. In fact, in all but one instance they converted that turnover into a goal in one pass. After taking through this problem, we did change how we were playing and ended up beating the Capitals to advance to the championship game. I give Peri Kurshan a lot of credit for understanding the problem and designing a fix.

Stats have also played an important part in the way Riot plays, and I’m glad that the WSJ included Riot’s captain and stat junkie Gwen Ambler in today’s article. When I first because working with Riot Gwen sent me her stats database that tracked every pass from the previous season. Goodness!! What an amazing treasure trove of data.

When Riot used Ultiworld’s stats app last year, it was fun to see the results. It was also nice to see Ultiworld use the information they were collecting to give credit to some of the players too. See the discussion of Sarah Griffith here, for instance:


Anyway, even if not all of this is new, I’m glad to see some folks doing work on stats in ultimate getting recognition. Hopefully their work will lead to more people recognizing the value of these stats. That would really help the game move forward fast!

21 people in and around women’s ultimate you should meet

Sorry, another one not about math with my kids – maybe I should start an ultimate blog.  Oh well not today . . .

In response to Skyd’s article –

and in an effort to elaborate a little on some thoughts I had in a FB conversation, here’s my list of 21 people in and around women’s ultimate that i think you should meet.  I gave myself an hour to write this so that it wouldn’t be too long and rambling.  Also just wanted to try to come up with some ideas off the top of my head.  Oh, and since Gwen, Matty, and Michelle are in the Skyd article, I’ll leave them off this list on purpose.  To the other 4000 people I leave off accidentally, sorry 🙂

I have not yet met all of these people, but I hope to.

(1) Robin Knowler – 10 years coaching one of the top programs in the country, so she’s got plenty to teach you  Go meet her and ask her how to be a better teammate / leader / coach / person / or whatever.  I’d pick “coach” from that list and then just listen.


(2) Lou Burruss – I first met him in 1997 when he would fly back from Seattle to coach the Carleton women.  Amazing dedication to the sport and hence one of the most successful coaches of all time.  Ask him about moving to set up the next pass or how to play a 2 handler zone O.  Also read “The Inner Game of Tennis” in advance of meeting him.


(3) Suzanne Fields – part of the first class inducted into the Ultimate Hall of Fame, and one of the speakers at this year’s induction.  I’m always a little nervous around legends, but if I would have had the courage to talk to her at this year’s induction I probably would have asked something silly like  if she could believe she was standing there watching Chris O’Cleary and Nancy Glass being inducted into the hall of fame.

With the passage of time I’d probably ask her if she, Kelly Waugh, Katherine Greenwald, and Katie Shields played Heather, Shannon, Mia, and Emily in a game of goaltimate, who would win?

(4) Chris O’Clearly – see above.  One of this year’s inductions into the Hall of Fame and another legend in the game.  Seemed like everyone who ever played for Ozone was there to cheer her on at the induction.  An amazing leader and player.  Ask her how to build a team.

(5) Nancy Glass.  Also one of this year’s inductees.  Another absolute legend and practically royalty in Chicago ultimate.   Ask her about the tension between getting the sport to the “next level” like the Olympics or something and building the sport through grass roots growth.
(6) Jenny Fey.  One of the best players of the last decade who just came off of a national championship with Scandal.  Ask her how she sees the field and if she likes handling or cutting better.  Also, do me a favor and figure out how to guard her because I’ve not been able to do that.

(7) Cara Crouch.  Two time World Games team member, 2005 Callahan winner, and endless giver back to the game:

Ask her about the difference between the 2009 and 2013 World Game teams.  Seems like the two teams had totally different vibes – what worked well and what would she have changed looking back?

(8) Dominique Fontenette – Stanford, Fury, Godiva, Brute Squad, World Games, Riot.  As respected a player as there ever has been. Ask her about the influence that Molly Goodwin had on her.  Sprout, too.  Also, ask her to teach you to pull:

(9) Rohre Titcomb – One of the greatest minds in the game.  I’ll never forget seeing her play for the first time – it left me speechless.  Ask her to come to Atlanta and play a round of disc golf with Chris O’Cleary, ’cause that would be amazing.

(10)  Alex Snyder –  Multiple time national and world champion.  One of the things I will always remember is how different the  2013 US World Games team played during the one game she missed.  Ask her what she learned about the game coaching Wisconsin.

(11) Robyn Wiseman – A great young leader.  Ask her what she learned taking over coaching Wisconsin from Alex.

(12) Enessa Janes – I was so happy to get the chance to meet her in person at the 2013 US Open.  Played the single greatest half of ultimate that I have ever seen.  Ask her about the 2008 finals.

(13) Katy Craley – National champion at Oregon and now a key player for Riot.  Ask her about the transition from college to club.  Ask her about giving back to the ultimate community in South America.

(14) Ren Caldwell – The trainer for everyone within 300 miles of Seattle, I assume.  Ask her about the difference between training college athletes and club athletes.

(15) Claire Chastain – 2013 Callahan winner / U23 world champion and one of the best players I’ve ever seen coming out of college.  Ask her how her mentors impacted her ultimate career.

(16) Peri Kurshan – leader on the field with Brute Squad and Godiva.  Off the field with USA ultimate.  Current Nightlock coach.  As her about the transition from playing club to coaching club, and about the similarities between what Brute Squad looked like originally and what Nightlock looks like now.

(17) Erika Swanson – amazing player on both coasts and on the US Beach worlds team.  Ask her about how she balanced playing top level club ultimate with MIT and Caltech educations.    Ask her about how to defend the top cutters.

(18) Samantha Salvia – I’ve never met her, but her story is incredible.  Ask her about transitioning from other sports to ultimate, and ask her to write some more!



(19) Blake Spitz – helped build Brute Squad up from scratch and eventually past Godiva.  Ask her how to develop young players on a club team.  Ask her how to compete and eventually win out against one of the biggest dynasties ultimate has ever seen.

(20) Lucy Barnes – Captained Harvard, Brute Squad and now lives in England.  Ask her how far European ultimate has come in the last 10 years.  Has the US come as far?

(21) Kyle Weisbrod – coaches UW Element and the US under 19 team.  Ask him about the difference between the high school scenes in Atlanta and Seattle.  How could another city copy what either of these cities has done.

Women’s ultimate highlights

This isn’t about math with my kids, but I didn’t really have any other easy source for sharing these links.

Several people sent me the request for women’s highlights from this blog:


I’m not sure if these will all meet the definition of high film quality (especially if Luke Johnson sends any clips in . . . ), but I like all of them and think they would be great additions to any “best of” film.  The clips are mostly from Riot 2012 and 2013 and Brute Squad 2009 and 2010.   All but one of these clips were shot by me, and I have no issue sharing them.  I do not know how to get permission from all of the players in all of these clips – particularly when there are full teams in several of the clips, but I’ll list the players making the plays and hopefully people can spread the word.

One of the best plays I’ve ever captured on film:  Katy Craley (“Butters”) of Riot gets a great block playing deep in the zone against Fury, but Fury’s Claire Desmond finds the disc anyway.  This clip is from the Pro Flight Finale in Davis in 2013:

and don’t miss the Lego recreation requested by Riot’s Drew Johnson:

Here’s an amazing grab by Riot’s Sarah “Surge” Griffith in the finals of the 2012 US Open in Boulder against Scandal:

and a super grab by Gwen Ambler on a pass from Shira Stern in the 2013 US Open against Scandal:

and a sensational catch by Rohre Titcomb at the 2012 Labor Day tournament (not sure who we were playing here, Traffic, maybe):

Here’s a super sweet grab by UW National champion player Jillian Goodreau who was trying out for Riot at the time  (spoiler – she made the team) playing against Team Canada at 2012 Flower Bowl:

Here’s a strange play involving Dominique Fontenette eventually throwing a hammer goal to Rachel Bradshaw at the 2013 Pro Flight Finale in Davis:

From 2012 Solstice in Eugene, here’s a nice clip of Fury’s Nancy Sun throwing a goal to Georgia Bosscher:

This is Riot’s goal to win 2012 Regionals against Traffic, showing Calise Cardenas’s love of scoring while running backwards:

From 2013 ECC, here’s a beautiful throw from Nora Carr way, way, waaaaay out to space:

Here’s Brute Squad’s winning goal to advance to the Semis of the 2010 World Championships Maureen McCamley

Some highlights leading up to Brute Squad’s win in the 2009 national semis against Capitals in Sarasota.  The catch by Kathy Dobson around 24s in (which is not captured too well on camera, sadly) is one of the best catches I’ve ever seen.  Ever.  Watch it frame by frame to see her go from a step behind to a step in front in about half a second.  Also, the throw from Vivian Zayas to Hana Kawai to win the game is pretty good! (oh, and this footage isn’t mine, it belongs to Peri Kurshan who was the Brute Squad captain at the time)

Finally, an super amazing block and goal by Brute Squad’s Christie Kim against Zeitgeist at 2010 Worlds.


Hope this is a good start.




The Berkshire Meeting

I joined Berkshire’s reinsurance division in 2001.  This weekend was the 14th annual meeting since I joined – I’ve been to 12 of them.  It is always a keeps me grounded and serves as a great reminder of all of the amazing things that the company does.  This famous clip from 1991 which is part of larger presentation at the start of the meeting is a particularly powerful message:

After a fun, but long, day at the meeting and then dinner with some of the people in town for the meeting, I got back to my parent’s house and saw this post on twitter which was also was quite a powerful message.  It really tied together a lot of thoughts that I had from the day:

I’ve been unbelievably lucky to be surrounded for much of my life by people who are incredibly passionate about the things they do.  Mr. Waterman was as passionate about both math and teaching math as anyone I’ve ever encountered.  I’m quite sure that the senior executives at Berkshire are as passionate about business as anyone anywhere.   The people who I’ve been around in ultimate – from Steve Mooney, to Blake to Gwen – have been as passionate about the game as anyone involved.    In some ways it is amazing to me how similar all of these people are, but maybe it shouldn’t be that surprising.  They all were / are all doing things that they loved, and doing them at an extremely high level.  I’ve learned a tremendous amount from all of them.

One little difference for me at this year’s meeting was that I felt pretty comfortable to talking with people about topics that were beyond work.  I talked about traveling around the country to coach ultimate with a bunch of Fortune 500 executive types.  I  talked about why I love math and teaching my kids with some prominent financial types and even got invited to give a talk at one of their companies.   Some of the people seemed a little perplexed at first by the non-work topics,  but they all ended up being quite interested and these were great conversations.
So after what has been a pretty busy year of work, it was nice to recharge the batteries a little and get ready for the next year.   It was also really nice to see that tweet from Gwen at the end of the day.  It tied together a lot of thoughts / conversations / ideas from the day, and reminded me one more time about the importance of being passionate about the things I do.



Earlier today I attended the memorial service for Michael Goodgame, one of three students at Carleton College who were killed in a car accident last week.  Michael was traveling with his teammates on the Carleton men’s ultimate team to a tournament in Stanford, CA when the accident happened.   I did not know him, but having attended the funeral last year of a player I used to coach – Brute Squad’s Stephanie Barker – I felt that I needed to be there to today to help support the Carleton team.


Dealing with Stephanie’s death was one of the most difficult things that I’ve been through.  Though I was not coaching Brute Squad last year, the love you have for the players you work with does not fade, and it was terrible to feel powerless to help them through this horrible time.

One of the things that helped me, though, were the words of Jason Adams, Stephanie’s friend and college coach at Northeastern.  He talked about how different people have different ways of dealing with tragedy and that no one way was wrong.   Outside of the memorial service, a short conversation with Brute Squad’s Sara Jacobi made me want to write about some of the players I’ve coached, why they’ve inspired me, and why I loved them so much.  I wrote about Molly McKeon and Gwen Ambler of Riot, and Blake Spitz and Peri Kurshan of Brute Squad.  Writing about these players helped me deal with Stephanie’s death.  I think that’s why I’m writing now.

I arrived at today’s memorial service about an hour early so I could have time to sit and reflect.  For a while I was the only one sitting in the pews, and the pastor came over to talk to me.  We chatted for a bit about how to help people deal with these tragedies.  I told her about Jason’s words and how they helped me last year.   She liked what he had to say.

I don’t know how Michael’s father had the strength to speak at this memorial, but he spoke beautifully and his words have struck me much like Jason’s words did.

He spoke about the words that Achilles’s mother said to him in the Iliad.  After a little searching when I got home, I think he was paraphrasing this passage (section 9.410):

For my mother Thetis  the goddess of the silver feet tells me

I carry two sorts of destiny toward the day of my death.  Either,

if I stay here and fight beside the city of the Trojans,

my return home is gone, but my glory shall be everlasting;

but if I return home to the beloved land of my fathers,

the excellence of my glory is gone, but there will be a long life

left for me, and my end in death will not come to me quickly.

He didn’t quote this passage directly  though, but rather focused on the choice Achilles had of a short life with glory or a long but uneventful life that would be “forgotten in two generations.”  Those last words really struck me for some reason.  I did not understand where he was going, but what he said next was powerful.

For him the implication of Thetis’s message to her son was that the small acts of kindness done over many years do not have lasting meaning or glory.   She was wrong, he said, and his son Michael was proof.  He thanked all of Michael’s teachers, mentors, and friends for all of their kindness and love towards his son over the years, and said that he had become the incredible kid that everyone was there to celebrate because of them.    It was a beautiful message of love.

After the service I spent some time talking with Carleton’s coach who was doing his best to help his players cope.  They are all getting on a plane at 6:00 am tomorrow to attend two more memorial services in Minnesota.    I mentioned Jason’s words from last year to him, and how those words had inspired me to write about some of the players I’ve coached.  We talked about how we love these kids.

As I was driving home my thoughts drifted away from the Iliad to Wordsworth’s “Tintern Abbey.”  His words reminded me of the love I have for the players I’ve worked with and how just thinking about them is uplifting to me:

                                                           if this

Be but a vain belief, yet, oh! how oft –

In darkness and amid the many shapes

Of joyless daylight; when the fretful stir

Unprofitable, and the fever of the world,

Have hung upon the beatings of my heart –

How oft, in spirit, have I turned to thee.

How often indeed, and today especially.  And the end of the poem captures how, just because of them, the last 6 years have been so special to me:

. . . . these steep woods and lofty cliffs,

And this green pastoral landscape, were to me

More dear, both for themselves and for thy sake.

Hug your teammates.