Coaches Corner Fury 2018: A Veteran’s Perspective by Cree Howard

Hear from a Fury & Team USA veteran about how 2018 champion Fury plans their season, about Fury's approach to training, and tips for a rookie trying out

General season overview & Goal Setting

Fury’s season typically starts in April (March in Worlds year), with tryouts for 4 weeks, and from the beginning, the intensity is ramped up; it is important that a precedent is set early for working hard. The first tryout is very big and open.

Fury start talking about strategy right from the very beginning, and they have a Strategy Committee that meets to work on setting goals for the season. Goals aren’t focused on winning, instead they are focused on improving specific aspects of Fury’s game. By thinking about all the things that need improving on offence, it becomes a multi-season thing, not just a season-long thing. The build up to 2017’s championship was a long process, and it felt like winning in 2017 was the product of three year’s work.

The practice schedule is then set around what the team wants to accomplish and by when; effectively, setting a cadence on what to work on throughout the season. Then, it’s a question of how that fits into the number of practices available.

Fury’s culture is probably not all that different from many other elite teams. They form a community and players are quite intentional about how they try to interact with one another. Fury is not a college team, they all have full-time jobs and careers that they’re focused on, so they can’t hang out together all the time. That said, some people do go for lunch after practice, and they organise team retreats. Some people meet for brunch on off days etc too… the more you hang out, the better you know your team mates, the more you trust them, and the more value you get from those connections.

For some players, playing on Fury is the culmination of their playing career; this intrinsically creates a focus around making sure that every practice counts. All of the players are acutely aware that they are playing for a top team, that time is very valuable, and people have worked hard to make this team. The level of commitment is something that no player can get away from. The more time spent together training, and the more adversity you work through together, the more trust you’ll develop with your team mates. This is vital because it means that you’re more likely to give them the benefit of the doubt when things go wrong; you’re more likely to believe that they are well-intentioned. The more things you’ve gone through together, the more you believe that they have your best intentions at heart, and this is at the core of how Fury operates.

Over the years – depending on the exact leadership – Fury has done a lot of work on mental focus and strength. The aim is to have a very specific focus on a very specific moment, not playing loose all game then suddenly freezing up when it gets to double game point. Many teams seem to over-emphasise DGP, but players never actually know whether it will happen or not, and instead, players need to be mentally strong throughout the game; an individual player’s final point might be 10-10, and that’s just as important to the overall victory. Therefore, people need to have that individual mentality when Fury scrimmage; players may rarely shout “it’s double game point” but internally, that’s how people need to approach each game. From a mental side, it’s far more than the situation (such as double game point), instead it’s how players react to situations on and off field, things that are within and outside of your control. How they react to mistakes, questionable calls, how they create connections with team mates, how they visualise success when away from practice. People on Fury get excited about reading literature on mental toughness and share them with team mates.

Approach to Training

Fury doesn’t have many practices, just training weekends. We will train on Saturday and Sunday, 3.5hrs each day. It is difficult for the whole club to meet up on a week night in the Bay Area, but there are some unofficial mid-week pod sessions; one in the east, one in the city, one in the south bay. These are small practices run by the local leaders, and will consist of workouts, drills, maybe a workshop on specific strategic elements. Usually the pod sessions are with a disc, usually drills, usually some mini.

Players are self-organised for fitness work, but there are groups for lifting, track, conditioning etc. Fury are sponsored by Gamepoint Performance and follow that overall scheme, but individuals get to choose exactly what to do.

When implementing new strategy, usually the idea will come from the Strategy Committee and they will come up with a drill to go over the idea and how to implement it on field. Then, as a team, Fury will try to apply it within a scrimmage. After that, the leadership will make tweaks depending on how it goes, drill for another practice or two – maybe more for complex ideas – then start to apply the element into games and see how it works, and continue to tweak. Some players can immediately apply new concepts into game scenarios, others need to go away and work hard for five weeks on their footwork before it becomes second nature. Often, these tweaks aren’t effective as a team until it becomes bedded in team-wide, so the players all need to be patient. Sometimes, things don’t work immediately, therefore trust in the leadership, and buy-in to the team and coach, are important. Fury has lots of people who have bought in, and are trustworthy, like Matty Tsang. The team believes what he says and will, in some capacity, blindly trust him and our other leaders, and believe that the coaches have the best intentions for the team. Having a group of strategically-minded people help to proliferate these new ideas really helps.

When preparing for a big game or championship, if possible Fury try to get used to training – or at least working out – at the appropriate time of day if they have to cope with a time zone change. It can be very difficult to go from playing first thing in the morning to playing late at night, like in the USAU Nationals 2018 semi final which was an evening game. During tournaments, Fury leadership tries to ensure that there are team activities to keep the day moving along, rather than just allowing players to sit and brood over the upcoming game. After a game in the morning, there will be a team brunch, then a few team activities leading through the tournament to connect the dots leading in to a team meeting. However, they try not to over-schedule, and the activities aren’t prescribed, so people can take care of themselves first and foremost. People are free to watch other games, support friends and family, or to watch from a strategic perspective, and players still have the space to do whatever they need to do to best prepare themselves.

Tips for a Rookie

Firstly, the most important thing is that players have to show up in shape. Fury has workouts leading up to tryouts that are shared with everyone trying out, anyone can come and join these workouts. If you’re in shape, then you’re going to execute things a lot better under fatigue. That’s the biggest thing; show up in shape and be able to execute. Skills and fit for the team go from there. Certain skills are always useful: being able to throw really well, cut really well, and have good field sense.

Once a rookie is in, it’s about learning and adjusting within the team. It’s a huge learning curve for a rookie, there’s a tonne of stuff coming at you. You have to learn all the calls on offence and defence, as well as adapting your personality and playing style to be a fit culturally. Having a growth mindset is vital. Rookies shouldn’t beat themselves up too much about making mistakes or slow progress – they’re clearly extremely talented to make it into the team – they just need to take the feedback with a growth mindset and if they can do that, then they’ll do a good job.

Looking at film, watching specific players that you want to emulate is also really important. Watching footage of yourself can also be very useful – you can likely see things you would want to change about your own playing style that might not be obvious unless you watch yourself back. Or find someone to set as your bar, try to emulate their style and make a conscious effort to play like them. You can take different characteristics from different players too.

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