4 December 2006

Photos of grips

Here are some photos of forehand grips.

I am only looking at forehands here because they are harder to learn, less intuitive (ask any non-ultimate player to throw a disc, and they will generally throw a backhand, not a forehand), and there is more variation in them, among Ultimate players.

Most players should use a power grip. (Scroll down to 3.2). I am certain about this.

Power grips

Jeff Cruikshank, Furious George, thrower extraordinaire. I recommend having your your ring finger and pinky fingers straight, and supporting the outside of the disc, like Jeff does.

Miranda has the pinky and ring fingers bent.

Tom Rogacki, Chilly, who has huge hands

A Kiwi


Mad Dog

Hybrid grips

Meg Campbell, Ishtar


Split finger/Beginner's grip

Still looking for good examples...

The first step of helping a beginner...

...is of course, make Ultimate fun so they come back for more.

But the next "first step" is GSWAP.

I took the time to throw with a beginner on my Hat team on Sunday morning. After two throws, it was time to help him with the most fundamental thing - throwing.

And the most fundamental step is grip.

The guideline for teaching throws is the acronym GSWAP.


Grip comes first in this list. Because it is the first step in the throwing action, and the most important.

Advise beginners to use the power grips for forehand and backhand. See here.

Folks with small hands are allowed to use beginner's grips. But tell them to try the power grips on 20 throws first.

So back to our beginner. With a proper forehand power grip, his wobbling 6 metre throws became stable 15 metre throws. Improvement -> confidence -> enjoyment.

And of course, don't forget that with beginners less is more. After you offer advice, let them practice and play with their new grip/cut/stance/endzone play. Ask them how it is going.

You need to offer more compliments than criticisms or suggestions. Every time.

Portable whiteboard fun

At World Clubs, all the captains received a free whiteboard/clipboard.

I found it really useful at the Melbourne Hat this weekend.
  • I could write our teamname on it (being in Spanish, we really needed to write it down - especially me, Mr visual learner).
  • We played Hangman on it.
  • We played Mr Squiggle on it.
  • We kept the score on it when one of our games didn't have a scoreboard.
And of course, I could use it for the obvious use - drawing up a set play for the team to learn/discuss.

18 October 2006

Introduction to Risk/Reward

Jim Parinella talks about risk/reward for offence and defence.

I thought I would do a little intro to risk and reward.

And you get to participate!

Scenario 1
Team A can reach the endzone in 10 short passes, each with a 90% probability of completion.

What is their probability of scoring? (hint: 0.90 x 0.90 x 0.90 x ...)

The same team can also reach the endzone in 2 long passes, but each of these has a 70% probability of completion.

What is their probability of scoring in this case?

So should Team A use short passes or long passes?

Scenario 2
Team B can reach the endzone in 10 short passes, each with a 95% probability of completion.

Or Team B can alternatively reach the endzone in 2 long passes, each with a 60% chance of completion.

Should Team B use short passes or long passes?

These two scenarios illustrate risk and reward. Every pass has a risk, but some passes have a greater reward relative to their risk. Basically, break throws and long throws will have a greater risk than a simple 5 metre open pass, but sometimes the reward more than justifies that risk.

When I am playing defense, I think mostly about how to make the opposition (who are on offence) choose the wrong option, ie I first try to cover the potential passes that give them the best reward for risk.

The 7 Postulates of Pulling

We undervalue good pulls. A quality pull will put the receiving team on the back foot, in their endzone, with time to get maybe one uncontested pass off.

A bad pull from your team says "We don't really care about defence, and we are happy to let our opponents start 44 metres from this endzone, instead of 60 or 70 metres downfield."

So pulling needs to receive more attention, more allocated time in training and more recognition by the pullers and the rest of the team. Not just occasional hollow support such as only saying "yeah, let's try and do better pulls".

The following 7 Postulates of Pulling are up for debate - but the need for more respect for pulling is not.

1. Only a designated puller may pull. (A designated puller is one chosen before training or the game, and has had pull training)

2. If there are too few designated pullers, the pulling captain chooses the substitute(s).

3. The puller must pull from the left or the right of the field, not from the middle where they would have teammates on either side.

4. The six teammates must stay on-side, so as not to get in the way or distract the puller's pull.

5. A puller shall throw a backhand.

6. A puller must have a pulling routine.

7. Pullers must be one of the four deepest defensive players (ie they are not asked to run down and contest the first couple of passes, by being in a cup, or marking a handler).

17 October 2006

Photos of forehand stances

Here are some photos of players' stances, just after or as they have thrown.

I have chosen forehand stances, as the forehand is a more unnatural action for many.
* Update - I removed some shots since they were still holding the disc or the camera angle was different (I want to compare apples with apples). But here are more from Mixed Nats 07:
Here are more again:
What works? What about their stances can they improve on? What do their stances say about their throwing action?

Do you have any photos to add?

27 September 2006

Sandwiches before the point

Ever have teammates ask the linecaller "So what's the play again?"?

My solution for the linecaller is to remember a sandwich:

Bread, meat, bread.

Or in this case:

Say the play, say who is doing what, then state the play again.

Example: "We are playing backhand clam for 4, transition into backhand man."

Then "George, break, Tim, mark, Ted, you are in the lane. Pete, middle middle, Greg, left wing, Albert right wing, John deep deep."

"So that's backhand clam for 4, people, backhand clam for 4 into backhand"

This way players can first visualise the play, then hear their position and know where they fit into it. Then hear the play again, because half of them will forget the count or the force, or weren't listening to your first four words.

The sandwich should mean fewer instances of people asking "so what's the force?", while taking minimal time to call the line.

The sandwich applies to offence as well. And don't forget to use a person's name - its the thing they listen to the most.

20 September 2006

Naming a licence

So I like to name things (eiffel cut, gender bender, Lois Lane, turbo D, tiger, T-bone, alpha and beta pulls, etc).

But I need a new term for an aspect of Ultimate.

We talk about someone having a licence to pull, e.g. "Barry, that was a terrible pull, your licence to pull is revoked".

Now on a team with 14 average players, and one superstar thrower, a team may decide they want the superstar to get more touches, and take more risks with their throws, because the rewards are worth it.

And if the rest of the team is told they should engage their dump on a 5 count, but the superstar doesn't have to, because their throws upfield on an 8 count are better than the average player on a 0 count, what is the name of that licence?

On the beauty of blades

Some good points about blades are covered here in Idris' blog.

But here are more reasons why the blade is a good throw:
- many defenders don't expect it
- with practice it is quite accurate
- very quick release
- like the regular forehand, no pivot necessary when facing upfield
- takes advantage of the 3-dimensional nature of ultimate (throws can go over defenders, not just left or right of them)
- against stationary defences (eg zones), it is easy to pass to stationary receivers

Photo by  Snake3yes

Blades, of varying steepness, are also quite successful as breaks near endzones. As an offense approaches the endzone it is attacking, and it is being forced backhand, the breakside of the stack in the endzone is very open for a step-back forehand blade. I know at least 2 gun handlers who throw the break blade more often than a simple backhand to the open side when near the front left cone of the endzone.

So I am encouraging the handlers on my team to use blades more, especially against zones.

Stall counts

After chatting with Goldy, I have some thoughts on stall counts.

Stall counts seem to be contested more often than any other call (that's my rough impression).

It is hard to make a judgment on the timing of a spoken word relative to an action, particularly if your focus is on other things. So mortal humans disagree on whether the disc was released or not. (It is easier to judge whether a foot moved, or landed on a line, or whether you felt contact).

Now this process is only aggravated if you say "...8...9...10 stall!". The thrower has to judge the timing of the release relative to the word "10". But you have uttered a word straight after that. An excited word at that!

One way to help this is to not say "stall" straight away. Leave the "10" hanging in the air for all to judge.

And then say "I'm calling stall" a couple of seconds later. This also gives you more time to judge whether it is a stall or not, without the accusatory blurting of "Stall!" mixed into the timing.

13 August 2006

Would you use this?

Here is a blueprint of something I might make. Or someone else could make, but then I wouldn't get the profits, assuming there were any :)

An assemble-your-own-field kit. Includes 8 cones, 1 set of instructions, and an all orginal sideline measurer. The sideline measurer consists of a peg with cord attached, and the cord has handy, easy-to-see markers at 18m, 20m, 37m and 64m for all the key dimensions of a field. Just follow the instructions to use the sideline measurer and you can set up a field accurate to within 30cm with the least walking/running necessary.

No more adjusting cones 4 times each. No more short endzones. No more forgetting the field dimensions. The TD can trust anyone to set up a field with this kit.

Great for tournies and training weekends.

Asking price, only $30, or choose the budget version, with no cones, for $8.

Would you use this?

10 August 2006

World Clubs and its prestige

How will these World Clubs be judged? With the number of teams from Europe and North America significantly down on previous years, will it be seen as a weak tournament?

Will there be an asterisk next to the winners of each division?

In the US and Europe, how does winning World Clubs compare with winning UPA Nats or Euro Clubs?

The balance of teams was inevitably skewed by deciding to host Clubs so far from Europe and North America. But what will history's answers to these questions be?

Applying this to that

I have started my new job. I am redesigning a first year electronics subject, specifically looking at how the subject is taught, and ways to improve the teaching and learning.

When I read a theory or case study on physics education, or talk to a colleague, I can often see how it relates to coaching ultimate.

If you have different topics or environments, but similar techniques, you really start thinking about those techniques. So I am getting new perspectives on teaching each day, thanks to my two backgrounds: science and ultimate.

Perhaps I should add a third... or fourth...

I want to test my new science education methods in the ultimate world.

30 May 2006

Disrespecting the D

I played winter league last night.

There was one play where I was cutting in towards the disc, my defender busy being somewhere else. The cutting lane wasn't huge, but adequate. A good throw was required (in this case, good = partly throwing around the disc-marker, and leading me a little) but didn't come. My teammate hit his dump instead.

I suggested to my teammate later that he ignore the marker and throw whatever he wanted to, as long it was a good option, ie the marker could not stop him. It appeared he took this to heart, throwing at least three strong break throws later on, independent of his marker's effort (however, coincidence is more likely).

I think I learnt this mindset after several years play. I see elite level teammates who have also learnt to throw whatever they want, irrespective of what the marker is doing.

And I see some elite level teammates, and a lot of the up and comers, who are the opposite - when they hold the disc, they believe the marker is stopping them throwing certain throws. Yet they have the throws when unmarked.

Take the Pete Gardner challenge - count how often he holds the disc for more than two seconds in a game. His marker is better off moving upfield and double-teaming someone else. And look at his win percentage. Correlation is likely.

More disrespect of the D = more offensive options, and more bam-bam-bam-goal flow.

But like most things in ultimate, the skill or knowledge is worthless unless taught effectively.

So what are the best ways to introduce this mindset to people? Just telling them to throw more breaks? Certain game variations? Positive reinforcement of breaks?

1 May 2006

More throws for your money

I competed in the disc golf at the Australian Flying Disc Championships on the weekend. While I missed the DDC, MTA, discathon, etc on Thursday and Friday, the golf was great fun. No wind, a serious yet jovial atmosphere, the different perspectives of the golfers, and a chance to improve my throws.

While Matt and I were the only two playing with ultrastars, we held our own. I posted rounds of 70 and 63, good enough to finish in the middle of the pack. Getting a birdie is quite challenging when the par 3s are around 100m long, and the trusty ultrastar only goes 60m. Must try golf discs sometime...

Luke, in my foursome, matched the course record of 47 with some very consistent play.

Lee mentioned a regular habit of his - playing a round of ultrastar golf with two discs simultaneously, one that he will only throw backhand and one he will only throw forehand. Sounds to me like a good way to improve your throws.

26 April 2006

Is this Ultimate or a rodeo?

A thought on my mind: how do you know if you regularly do or do not straddle the thrower, unless you look? Particularly if you like to mark close? Which leads to the question, do you look where your feet are when marking the disc?

Nationals 2006 wrapped up yesterday and it was fun squared.

Interestingly enough, at halftime in one of Fakulti Q's games, the opposition captain asked me to discuss with my team the fouls on the mark and straddles we were calling. Have to say that I don't come across this situation too often. And this may come as little surprise - I asked him to have a word to his team about their fouls and straddles :)

I reckon that in 70-80% of instances where the thrower looks under pressure from the mark, stranded for a throw, and doesn't pivot, they are being straddled.

I guess I am a member of the "Call More Straddles" Party. No, correction - the "Let's Have Fewer Straddles" Party. Apart from abiding by the rules being something we all want (yes?), fewer infringements by the defence would improve the the flow and aesthetics of current Australian ultimate.

24 March 2006

Familiarity with a frisbee

I have read a story (urban myth?) about basketballer Magic Johnson. See the start of this bio of Magic. He would dribble the basketball incessantly as kid, with his right hand as he went to the store, and with his left on the way home. He would later grow up to be a master of moving the basketball around the court.

It's not very scientific, but I reckon it is helpful to take a disc with you whenever you can. Pick it up, flip it in the air, pass it back and forth while sitting on the couch, bediddle it. Gain a subconscious feel for the disc's weight, position and behaviour. And try to forgive those who call you obsessed :)

It can only help with when you are next juggling a bad throw in the endzone, trying to catch it.

Harnessing individual style

I recently read Idris' post on So, how do you teach field sense?

His take includes not being too strict on technique, eg how to cut: "Yes you cut from A to B, but how you get there is up to you."

This is part of letting players play to their strengths. I've noticed some captains and coaches are happy to put stronger throwers in handling roles, and better runners and jumpers in receiving roles, but can get stubborn about the details. Have you ever noticed senior players harp on teammates about the correct way to dump?

Sometimes this is justified - the teammate is just not getting open, or catching the disc in a poor position.

In other cases, they are doing some ugly jinking-back-and-forth cut, but still getting open every time, and getting the disc to the swing.

It can come down to personality and individual style. As long as it gels with the team's structure, players should be encouraged to find their own way to cut for dump, break a force, cut long, throw through the cup, etc. The sneaky teammate who runs straight in to get the disc when his defender looks away should be applauded for his success, even if he isn't applying the long vertical cutting drill that his captain repeats every week at practice.

The bottom line in an Ultimate game is your team playing to its potential, and that means embracing what works, not necessarily what the almighty Ultimate textbook of oral history says should work. The key is having the ability to judge what is truly working or not.

My analogy is a artist's apprentice. Show them how to daub, watercolour, splash, screenprint, sculpt and carve. Then let them create. You want a masterpiece, even if it was made by fingerpainting, and the brushes are still in their wrapping.