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Drills

I always have to wonder when I see most drills that people want to do for ultimate. They seem modeled after other sports without any thought to the needs and circumstances of ultimate. Seeing people standing in line with a pile of idle discs next to them trying to understand the path of a drill I wonder if this is the best use of time and effort.

In addition, one of the features of ultimate is ts unpredictability. Unlike football, where the routes are etched in stone, no one is going to run such a predictable route in a game. Certainly running general patterns is OK, but don't be over rigid. If there is a drop or a throwaway do not stop and restart the drill, continue by adjusting the cuts to be ready when the thrower can be ready. This visualization practice is a tremendous help in actual game situations, which are not as predictable as drills.

The best drill is throw and catch, with either 2 or 3 people. These do not need to be run at high speed, but they should be jogged through at least. Imagine a game situation: where is your defender, where is the sideline, how can the flow best be continued. In general, 2 people can be thinking of give and go, 3 of a weave or a flow offense.

In addition, people should concentrate on a particular point. This could be:

For the thrower:

  • Make the throw with the proper spin (for a righthander, forehand to the right, backhand to the left)
  • Make a fake and pivot before throwing
  • Pay attention to the cuts your teammates like to make

For the receiver:

  • Make cuts that continue the flow of the disc.
  • Time cuts so they come when the thrower is prepared to throw. In particular, if there is a drop alter your cut to have a new one ready when the disc is
  • Make the catch with the proper hand
  • Attack the throw: approach it hard. Absolutely *never* back away from it.
  • Practice sideline catches
  • Imagine where your defender is and what he is doing
  • *Never* give up on a disc until it hits the ground. That quarter second of hesitation will hurt you in games.
  • on occasion fake short and go long to break up the routine

Both people should imagine the game situation. In general, most players should be a lot closer than they usually are. Most passes in a game will be within 10 or 15 meters. Try to stay mostly within that range, stretching it only on occasion.

Marker drill:
This is very popular, especially for beginning players. It serves a purpose if not overdone. For one thing, groups should be no larger than 4. If there are 4 people the thrower should have a choice of receivers. If 3 it is a tougher throw.

The main problem with this is I do not think it should be useful for anyone with much experience. Throwing around a mark should be automatic to anyone with a year or so experience.

Comeback drill
Most teams have a version of this. Minnesota had a particularly bad one in which it was played as an elimination game, you sat out when you dropped it. The problem with this is how that cut is made in a game. People should focus on running through the disc. They should not be encouraged to stop and back away to catch a guts throw.

This is not to say that variation is not fun, and anything that gets people throwing and catching and is fun can be useful. But it is important that people remember on a comeback cut the defender may be right on the receiver's shoulder, and any hesitation or wincing from the disc leaves an opening for the defender to extend and knock it away.

I also like to continue the play - rather than have the receiver jog into the next line carrying the disc, as soon as the thrower releases he sprints to one side or the other of the receiver, to a point about 2 meters away, where he receives a short flip pass from the cutter. The idea is, in a game this comeback cut is very good at getting the disc, but once receiving it the player has little idea of what is going on behind his back, upfield. He must stop turn, and regain orientation before being able to continue.

The thrower, on the other hand, has been scanning up field looking for opportunities. By tossing a pass to an incoming receiver and then giving him an immediate short dump, he gets the disc back free from his marker and with a good look at where the other cutters are.

Circle drill
My favorite drill, if done properly. Some number of people get in a circle (6-12), with 2 or 3 defenders in the middle. The disc must be thrown relatively quickly, cannot go higher than the defenders' reach, and cannot go to an adjacent player.

I dislike the version where the defenders play a cup zone. If they hang back looser, in an arc across the middle, this is fun and very useful in developing a view of lanes for both offence and defence.

500 drill (cherry picking)
Very useful drill: throw long to a group of people and have them read the disc and try to catch it. Like marker drill, mainly for beginner to early intermediate players.

Killer:
The absolute best drill for high level players. 2 people get 15 or 20 meters apart. One throws to the other. That one sprints in and catches it like the comeback drill. He then throws to the other and backpedals as fast as he can until the other guy catches and prepares to throw, when he again switches directions and sprints in to receive the disc. Repeat.

The best thing about this drill is that it is very tiring. Throwing and catching work differently at the end of a tournament when you are tired. This is the only drill that, after 5 minutes or less, gets you in the same state you would be in at the end of the 5th game

As far as I am concerned, this is it for the use of drills. There are a good many other skills that need to be practiced, but they can all be embedded in throw-catch groups of 2 or 3, rather than requiring lines.

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