Tips on Making A Cup Run
9 Tips on Making A Cup Run 🏎🏆🏎
Get Your Butts to the Cups!
Heading into year 3 of the Cup structure there are still lots of questions about the scalability or long term viability of the regional format which replaced Division 2 Playoffs. To date, it has not scaled, and member leagues across Latin America, Europe and Australia/Pacific have been vocal that rather than play each other again, they’d like to break out of their ranking bubbles. Grumblings over the growing gap of resources and promotion between WFTDA run Playoffs and host league run Cups has also grown with the structure. Whatever the future holds for the Cups though, it is clear is that it is a post season path that is accessible to a lot more leagues than Division 1 AND a Cup run can be the funnest fucking year of derby your team ever experiences.
While Division 1 only saw 1 new face at Playoffs last year (Lomme), the Cups saw a massive turnover with 6 new faces at NA West, 8 at NA East (Des Moines, then Team United, and North Star moved from NA East to West) and 3 out of the 8 at the European Continental Cup. On top of those teams who made the Cups, there were also a long list of teams behind them all vying for and motivated by getting a spot. A positive of this structure is that with three unique cut offs, instead of just one, the pool of motivated teams grows even if the cut off still largely rests around that top 60 mark pre-declines.
As many teams prepare for their Cup run this year I wanted to share some of my experiences in coming short in 2018 and then finally getting Tri-City back to the postseason in 2019 at the NA East Cup in Lancaster.
You Can Never Have Enough Depth
With limited depth one injury or availability can derail your run. NA East averages more games than NA West and Europe and the fewer the games the larger the impact of ejections, foul outs, injuries and availability. It can be done with a limited number of people, but the climb becomes a lot more difficult. We did not foresee the amount of declines that came in 2018, but in hindsight Thunder would have had the 12th seed going into Sunday at ECDX. 1 key availability and 3 uncharacteristic foul outs meant a loss to Brandywine in our last game of the season, which saw Grand Raggidy to climb ahead of us. In two years with my team we’ve been able to play our top 15 roster, at any given time, three times in 21 games. Good roster continuity and greater depth in 2019 made it easier to handle roster instability, including 4 in season retirements, a late season injury and a passport issue.
Each Cup this last year had its own unique outlier (Sun State, Sailor City, Antwerp) who medalled without 15, but those were programs that have had to do that out of necessity and who had that built into their planning. For every outlier, there more programs building success off of their depth (Calgary, Dock City, Kallio, Detroit, Boston, E-Ville). 20+ A rosters and 30 A/B’s are the trend for a reason.
Simplify and Focus on Defense First
The road to the Cups is full of bubble teams trying execute strategies that are too complex for their skill sets or strengths. Spread starts, fluid and dynamic “positionless” walls, and way too much offense are a trend that can be easily exploited by teams which just simplify and prioritize defense.
The WFTDA ranking algorithm also rewards defensive margins — it is better to beat a team 100–50 than 150–100 — so focusing on being the better defensive team should be the goal anyways. Understand how the algo works and understand how to adjust gameplay to time and score.
What are your programs strengths? Assess them and build you defense around them in a way that is accessible to the bottom of your roster. Train your baseline instead of your ceiling and watch footage of successful teams closer to your rank for ideas. Keep it simple. You are not Rose, VRDL or the Skids.
Forget instagram videos for a bit, make sure your team actually understands pack definition!
Scout Your Opponents
Hell, scout your ref crews too! That D2/D3 bubble is full of teams with a big skill disparity on their roster (see above) and if you scout and game plan you can effectively limit or shut down primary scorers/dominant blockers. Emailing Nate at email@example.com will get you any sanctioned stat book you want. Always try and be the team who comes into the game knowing more than your opponent knows about you and try and spend as much time as possible playing against the lower end of your opponents rotation.
Make a Multi-Year Plan
One of the toughest things about a Cup run is that getting in is just half the battle. If you do manage sneak in, it is still rare to get in a win.
NA East last year the furthest back in Jan 2019 to make it was was my team (69th), NA West was Rage City (93rd), who declined, and Europe was Antwerp (98). Europe and NA West are still the most volatile because it is fewer games and fewer teams to leap frog, while NA East is a much more difficult climb with more games played and more teams. NA West presents a lot of problems as many of those teams are isolated and struggle to raise the resources to accept, while Europe is a scheduling war.
It’s better to have a two year plan than try and pour everything into one season. With so many teams unable to return, a lot of that is retention issues that come out of hitting a goal (making the Cups), but also under performing (not getting a win or just playing poorly) or expending all of your resources to get there. If you don’t want to be a one and done it’s gonna take a bit more time and work.
Build Your Bench
Apply the same logic you have towards depth to your bench! Use all 5 positions and then some. We had a goal last year of 4 on bench for every game + half track to go along with a penalty spotter and stats off bench. This was a huge benefit to our bench. Many hands make lighter work and putting people in positions where they can play to their strength can really help push your teams ceiling in game. Get rid of the old 2 system, and start moving beyond the “we can just put whoever is injured or isn’t rostered there” mindset.
Play Higher Weights
This ILC tip comes a bit too late for most teams, but if you want to make a run and move up you need to play higher weight teams. Building a run off of beating up on lower weights might feel good, but you need weight availability and you are one jammer penalty heavy game/smart team who knows how to run long game away from a high 200 WFTDA score result. The worst part of building a run off of low weights or inflated strength factors? If you did manage to pull it off, you will get exposed on the stage you worked so hard to reach.
Don’t Forget Rest
In 2019 I really wanted to be the hardest working team in every single game we played. A 13 month 180+ practice hour season later and I am fine with being just a hard working team that takes rest more seriously. My team has done significant pre hab, S/O Jen, and has been lucky with injuries, but the fact that three of our four jammers in Lancaster were nursing nagging injuries didn’t help us. We had the chance for an extended break before coming back to train for the post season and in hindsight not taking that time is one of my biggest regrets.
Have a Fundraising Plan (Beyond GoFundMe)
Online fundraising was great for Thunder last year, but we know that’s not something we can bank on every year. We pulled ideas from other recent successful derby post season GoFundMe’s and also built up some smaller fundraiser ideas to help shore things up. Coin and bottle drives are great and we have our annual Mac n Cheese fundraiser as well.
We were also very blessed to have Retro Rollers come on last season as jersey sponsors and their support helped us tremendously. TCRD is able to raise the funds to cover these costs, but for those leagues that have skaters paying out of pocket for travel and hotels, how many of those skaters can do that year after year? Fundraising plans are part of your retention/sustainability.
Cups Will Show Your Culture
The pressure and stage of a post season will amplify culture problems and they can and will bleed through at the Cups. Recent years have seen major roster turnover pre tournament and lots of in tournament issues as well. If you think your league can patch over substantive issues and make it through, you are probably wrong. Expect to deal with all before you go or you can expect to under perform.
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