19 December 2007

Aussie Spirit

So the Aussie Women won Spirit at the World Beach Championships in Brazil.

This adds to a long list of Australian spirit winners at international tournaments.

Australia has won Spirit in at least one division at an amazing string of World Championships (Worlds, World Clubs and Beach Worlds):
  • King Brown - Open - WUCC1997
  • King Brown - Open - WUCC1999
  • Thorny Devils - Women - WUGC2000
  • King Brown - Open - WUCC2002
  • Thunder - Junior Mens - WUGC2004
  • Barramundis - Mixed - WUGC2004
  • Crocs - Mixed - World Games 2005
  • Thunder - Junior Mens - WJUC2006
  • Terra - Junior Womens - WJUC2006
  • Fear Discinsonia - Masters - WUCC2006
  • Phoenix - Women - WUCC2006
  • Fakulti - Open - WUCC2006
  • Blokes and Sheilas - Mixed - WUCC2006
  • Australia - Women - WBUC2007
  • Australia - Junior Women - WUGC2008
Australia hasn't missed out since 1998. Amazing. And there are at least 10 other top 6 finishes in that period too. I think the Wombats realised this pattern only requires winning Spirit at World Championships, so they gave other teams a chance at the recent Asia-Oceania Champs :) Plus they had Woodley :)

Correction: there was no Spirit award in Taiwan - I'd assumed another team won it. You're off the hook for now, Woodley.

And as for what happened before 1997... well, the records for our sport are pretty incomplete. Who wants to be a historian for our sport? I'll back you.

11 December 2007

Silver, Gold and Bronze

The Asia-Oceania Ultimate Championships and World Beach Championships just wrapped up, and Australia brought home the medals.

At the Asia-Oceania Ultimate Championships, the Wombats came 2nd.

At the World Beach Championships, Australia came 1st in Open and 3rd in Womens. The women also won Spirit!

The Wombats join an esteemed list of Australian teams to win a medal at a WFDF Championships:
  • Return of the Red-Eye (3rd) - Masters - WUCC1999
  • Dingoes (3rd) - Open - WUGC2004
  • Crocs (2nd) - Mixed - World Games 2005
  • Terra (3rd) - Junior Women - WJUC2006
  • Eastern Greys (3rd) - Masters - WUCC2006
  • Thong (2nd) - Open - WUCC2006
  • Chilly (3rd) - Open - WUCC2006
  • Wombats (2nd) - Mixed - Asia-Oceania Championships 2007
The World Beach Championships aren't WFDF endorsed and aren't regular ultimate, but, crikey, I am proud those Salty Crocs brought home a gold! They ended quite a run of silvers and bronzes.

Australia seems to be doing as well as you can do without claiming a WFDF gold. In fact Sarah Wentworth may be the only Aussie with one (she played with Jinx, a German team and winners at European Club Championships 2005).

And with six strong teams being assembled for Worlds 2008, we may not have to wait much longer to fully close that door.

3 December 2007

Melbourne Hat

Some observations from the Melbourne Hat, which I played this weekend.
  • The Hat is still a lot of fun, all these years after my first one.
  • There were four pools of teams on Saturday, and I think my team was in a strong one. The 2 teams who finished 5th (my team), and 6th (Evel Knievel), cleaned up our opponents in cross pool play on Sunday. Our pool winner lost the final by 2 points.
  • The winds came through again, making Saturday arvo and Sunday morning a zone-fest. Not the most enjoyable conditions for the numerous beginners, because the disc tends to be kept in the hands of the veteran handlers on offense.
  • A Moulin Rouge party theme is a wondrous spectacle in terms of costumes for the ladies, and is just a token top hat for the men.
  • Popping is fun, so much fun. I made a point of putting our strongest throwers as middles or poppers to a) give more touches to other players in the handler positions and b) replace the risky dump-swing, go-nowhere offence with a powerful cup-busting, quick-passing offence. I think it was productive. It was definitely fun.
  • On teams with a wide range of abilities, huck and hope is a winning tactic. It can be unsatisfying for those wanting a short passing game (who get looked off), but it seems to win games. The two teams in the final seemed to be lead by two of the best huckers in the tourney. However, the crowd (and I count myself among them) wants to see teams win using all their players. The eternal juggling act of hat tournaments.

27 November 2007

Where the toe points

Tommy likes to throw his forehand with his arm inside his non-pivot leg.

Jenny likes to throw her forehand with her arm outside.

Tommy's form is common to most North Americans, while Jenny's form is what Aussies usually use.

Advantages? Disadvantages?

Where you point your toe determines where your knee will go.
Toe pointed sideways -> arm inside.
Toe pointed forwards -> arm outside.

23 November 2007

Highlights of Monash at AUG

As a first try at embedding video, here is Monash at AUG, back in October (video by Gubz).

22 November 2007

WUGC2008 site gets going

The Worlds 2008 website is updated, and now has some worthwhile content.

There are descriptions of the accom (way cheaper than Finland 04), schedule and likely attending teams. I also expect the forums to get a workout from some Aussies - as soon as you can register for them. I got stuck at the security question: What is 1+1? The answer is 2, right? I swear it's 2. I've been to Canada. 1+1=2 over there, I'm positive. About = aboot, a buck is a loony, and 1+1=2.

There could be about 8 Junior Girls teams, which would lead to better draws than 2006 (with 4 teams). And 12 Masters teams, also an improvement on 2004.

Colombia could enter 5 divisions. They are obviously growing the sport over there: 3rd in Juniors 2006, regular blogging, Colombians regularly showing up in Australia and a bit of online presence.

And apparently Australia has expressed interest in entering the Guts division. Considering I've never seen or heard of a single guts game in Australia, this is unlikely. And any team we do send could get hurt :)

14 November 2007

Medicine disc

Many professional footballers, tennis players, baseballers incorporate a medicine ball into their plyometric strength training.

Free weights such medicine balls are more popular due to the bigger emphasis on compound exercises, core strength and training with movements that mirror the movements of thesport.

Hucking, pulling and catching are three of the actions which benefit greatly from upper body core strength. I want to train with something more specific than a medicine ball - I want a medicine disc.

Basically a disc that is about 3-5 times heavier than a 175g ultrastar. But can still be held comfortably in a backhand grip.

You can practise your pulling, pivoting and catching with it. Come game time, a 175g disc will be a piece of cake.

3 October 2007

If you can see, you are responsible

I have seen my share of collisions and excessive contact in ultimate over the years.

Most of my time out of action has been from injuries sustained in collisions.

I believe you should avoid unnecessary contact in ultimate. In many cases it is a foul. In the other cases, it still probably puts people at risk of injury.

One example is a dump cutting up the line for the disc, while a poaching defender from upfield comes in for an intercept. The dump usually cannot see the defender, while the defender usually can see the dump. I feel the defender has more responsibility to avoid contact here. Personal experience: as a dump, I have been slammed in the back by a defender who I never saw, as I was looking at the disc. They claimed they got the disc first, so all was ok. Also, I have been the poaching defender and bailed on bids because I couldn't get past the dump without a collision.

Another example is a player running past the thrower from behind. If the thrower suddenly pivots sideways, there can be a collision. All players should keep a safe margin between themselves and the thrower as they run past from behind.

Parinella, veteran of the US scene, multiple title winner, etc, reported this in a recent post:

"Oh, I also took out a pivoter. The lanky opponent had caught a disc near the line and I thought he may have been out, so was thinking about that a little as I jogged downfield with my guy. I think I followed in my guy’s steps, a foot or two outside the pivot foot (but six feet from the thrower’s body), only to be surprised by a rapid pivot back to the forehand side, and I bowled him over. Whoops. I should have been more alert and known that was a possibility. I apologized to the guy on the other team who yelled at me about it, to the thrower, and again later to the thrower, and now to the unwashed masses."

So a highly esteemed player publicly apologises for creating a collision. He felt responsible because he was sighted, and the other guys wasn't. Kudos to Parinella here.

My general principle is that if you can see the possibility of a collision, you have a responsibility to avoid it.

26 September 2007

Marking the disc

There are some key tips for marking the disc, that most experienced players know: be on your toes, arms out, watch the thrower's navel or body language, learn their fakes, etc.

But there is another I never hear mentioned: keep your arms back. By this I mean, don't wrap. Ah, those Queenslanders need to practise this.

If you do wrap your arms around the thrower, they will throw under your arms or draw a foul easily.

Let's see how these markers are doing:

20 September 2007

Frisbee DVDs

Here are the DVDs out there that introduce and explain Ultimate.

If you buy a Whammo disc at Rebel Sport, it comes with a DVD. Moses, Fortunat and others demonstrate backhands, forehands and hammers as the narrator explains them. The basic rules are explained as well, from memory.

Play Ultimate & Beyond The Stack
According to playulty.com, this DVD includes:
* History of Ultimate Frisbee
* How to play
* Basic throws
* Proper catching
* Offensive and defensive positioning
* Strategic formations
* Introduction to Spirit of the Game
* And much more...

How to throw a frisbee
The website looks a lot more amateur.

Any others out there?

5 good drills

jdr asked me what my 5 favourite drills are, since I called for a fatwa on dump-swing-score.

I haven't done an exhaustive look through the drills I know, so here are just 5 that I like. In no particular order.

Thrower marker drill aka 3 man drill
Anecdotally, I have marked the disc better in games where I do this drill before the game. I also like doing it with a one-way force and copping pushups for getting broken. Also, see an animation here.


This drill teaches a guarder to constantly get into good position relative to a cutter. It is a bit like mirror drill except the guarder aims to always be between the cutter and a thrower standing at one cone. There is a pushup for the guarder, each time the cutter gets on the wrong side of the guarder, announced with a "bzzzt". And on 10 seconds the thrower has to throw to the cutter. Extra pushups if the disc is caught - more if the disc is caught "under".

Circle drill

A good drill for introducing the idea of a cup, and for learning how to throw through a cup. Has the disadvantage of a bit too much standing around, so I prefer to run it with no more than 10 players.

One Chance
This drill has a thrower, a cutter and guarder. From a stack, the cutter moves out horizontally to a cone. They can then only cut vertically: either cut in, cut out, cut in then out, or cut out then in. They only have "one chance" to change direction. The guarder tries to get the D. This helps the cutter with sharp 180 degree cuts and communication with a thrower. It also helps the guarder judge the threat of an in cut versus an out cut, and judge who the thrower is.

3 man weave
A simple way to warm up, get some throws in and practise give-go skills. Doesn't require any cones to set up.

The first 4 drills let O and D practise their skills simultaneously. And a drill with D is more realistic.

Of course, I really like scrimmages with rule modifications, but I don't know if that is a drill. Examples are here and here. Hmmm, that looks like another post. "Drill" seems to imply rigidity, rotating strictly through the roles and a sharp focus on one skill, unlike a game/scrimmage.

Aah, I've been meaning to compile the ideas of others and my ideas into a central AFDA resource - a handbook or wiki or database or some combination. I think having it easily printable is valuable. Drawing on what is out there. Who wants to help (contribution or organisation)?

19 September 2007

Queueing in drills

Let's say the aim of a drill you're running is to improve skills (as opposed to say, getting warmed up for a game).

Ideally the players get lots of opportunities to practise the skill you want them to improve. Improvement requires practise of the skill. This is not rocket science.

To do this, you should minimise standing around and queueing.

One of my bugbears is seeing drills run for beginners that require only one disc. Not only is 18 players using 1 disc an inane idea, if there is a drop or poor throw, 17 players get to stand around even longer watching one player jog over, pick up a disc, then jog back to the drill. The drill is stopped by an error. And errors happen with beginners!

Therefore I am proposing death to dump-swing-score. There are so many better drills out there.

In general, pick a drill that requires multiple discs. The drill usually won't be held up by an error. And the number of disc touches per player per hour (TPHs) will be much higher.

20 August 2007


When playing against an inexperienced team, have you heard teammates say this:
"We should should force forehand, because their forehands are weaker"?

I have. Lots.

This makes sense if your aim is to choose a D that will make it harder for the opponents. The forehand force and backhand force will produce different results. In this situation, the two options are not equal or "symmetric".

Yet experienced teams sometimes forget this when designing or choosing other tactics.

  • which is harder to throw: a forehand dump, or a backhand dump?
  • if you put the disc into play on the left hand side line, should your horizontal stack have the receivers equally deep on the left and right hand sides?
  • if a player has better offence than defence, should they start more O or D points?
  • if an elite player can have more impact on offence than defence (since they can throw up to 50% of the passes, but can only defend ~1/7th of an opposition team), should they start more O or D points?
  • if the disc is put into play on the sideline, should your zone's wings be equally deep/in-field?
  • if a zone defender is covering two opponents, should they stand closer to the deeper player or shorter player?
  • if your team is forcing straight-up, and you are guarding a cutter out in the open, should you position yourself between the cutter and the stack, or position yourself so the cutter is between you and the stack?
  • if your team has a handler with a strong forehand, should they play more left point or right point?

To summarise: if there is a imbalance in some team strength or weakness, consider choosing an imbalanced tactic that advantages your team. Instead of just choosing the default symmetric option.

8 August 2007

You know they're good when...

You know a play is good when it is so impressive you had never even contemplated someone could do it.

Here are some of the most impressive plays I have seen or heard of:
  • layout D by the dump defender - to handblock the thrower
  • the soak: a handblock that gets caught
  • layout catch, but flying out of bounds - touching down with the hand on the way out, to prevent the turnover
  • leaping up for a catch, missing, but catching the macked pass on the way down
  • 2 handblocks in a point - on the exact same point on the field
  • no-look upside-down shovel pass into a running, yet unsuspecting, teammate's lap for a goal
  • a footblock at waist height

16 July 2007

The Fields for Worlds 2008

I have just returned from my AFDA endorsed trip to the venue for the 2008 World Ultimate & Guts Championships.

Worlds will be hosted at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. The university boasts some of the Vancouver's best attractions, including the Museum of Anthropology, the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts, and the UBC Botanical Garden and Centre for Plant Research.

I can confirm that field layout that is proposed in the bid document can be accommodated by the venue. There is adequate parking, and it is only a short walk to the accommodation.

Most important of all is the grass itself. The turf is low cut, even and lush, yet on a firm base. Prospective players at this tournament should definitely bring cleats. Coaches and support staff should wear footwear that can cope with some moisture yet has a good grip - you don't want to slip while walking to your team's timeout.
Looking through to where Disc Central will be. Players will have to navigate their way through these trees to reach food, water and marquees.
A blade of the grass, carefully removed without affecting the field's integrity

Looking from Field 6 across to Field 3. Beyond the fence is the Beer Garden.
The turf in the Beer Garden venue will provide excellent suitable foot support after a day's play.
Fields 11 through 14

1 July 2007

Guarding the dump

I like guarding the dump. I find it rewarding.

I have 4 positions I can start in: safe, face, tiger and sumo. By position, I mean where I stand on the field relative to the dump.

Let's consider these positions for the situation where the thrower is on the line, forced line. The dump is 5 metres away, level with the thrower (ie not upfield or downfield but in between).

This is where most people stand. Generally denies upfield cuts. Allows the thrower to turn and dump immediately, with little cutting required by the dump. Most dumps are used to being marked this way.

This involves facemarking the dump, and standing between them and the disc. The dump is equally open if they cut left or right. But they usually have to spend several seconds cutting to get free.

For this position, stand downfield of the dump. This takes away the easy backwards pass. The up-the-line cut is more vulnerable. But if you know where the dump will cut and have a speed advantage, this is not a big problem. Additionally, if the dump cuts up the line and doesn't get the disc, the thrower has no dump anymore. This is an aggressive tactic, so I call it tiger.

Same as safe, except closer. Real close. If a player is successfully cutting up the line, stand close, with your feet apart. The dump will have to make more of a cut around you to go up the line. In a safe stance, you are usually side-on and moving when they get close to you. Sumo changes this. I call this sumo, as you are trying to look big.

You can work out how these positions would apply in different situations, e.g. if the force was a force middle. Or the thrower was left handed. Or the disc was in the middle of the field. Or a teammate was helping you by poaching in front of the thrower.

I think I might need to change the names - safe and face sound too similar. And I don't know if tiger aptly describes that position.

Lastly, remember that everyone likes to throw backhand dumps. If you want to allow a throwing option, make it a forehand.

21 June 2007

Viewing plays online

Freisey prompted me to search for online videos/animations on ultimate tactics, plays and drills. Here is what I found.
  • The videopapers I have spoken about before
  • Java animations of 85 plays/drills, plus the ability to make your own.
  • Flash animations of a few plays, with the ability to drawn your own "coming soon"
Got any others?

Crikey, ultimate can be played by 100 000 people world wide for several decades with elite teams dedicating small fortunes to this sport... but we don't have focussed programs to share and distribute plays and tactics. The textbooks and online tools are only just emerging, taking baby steps. I guess this is usually driven by the dollar in most sports.

15 June 2007

A quote

I found a quote from the coach of the just crowned champions of the NBA, the San Antonio Spurs. In a competition with a draft and salary cap to keep parity among all 30 basketball teams, this team has won their 4th title in 10 years. During that time, they have a better winning percentage than every other pro basketball, baseball, gridiron and ice hockey team in the US.

Gregg Popovich:
"We don’t talk about how many games we’re going to win, winning a division, winning a championship, none of that stuff. No goals, none like that. Our goal is to get better every day, to practice every day, to treat the game with respect, and if we can come out every practice and every game, learning something that we did well or that we did poorly, we can go from there. But I think wins take care of themselves."

And Gregg on quotes and sayings:

"...all those trite, silly sayings always made me laugh. Like, “Winners always do this” and “Losers always do that” and whatever the hell it is…you know, “There’s no ‘I’ in team.” They’re so old and trite that it’s just silly. But this quote seemed to just make sense. It had an intellectual quality to it, where I thought if the players really looked at it, it’s not just basketball it’s life. You’ve read it so you know what it means. I think that quote is what it’s all about. That persistence in that quote says it all. If there is a system here, that’s the system."

What quote was he referring to?

"When nothing seems to help, I go look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not that blow that did it, but all that had gone before." — Jacob Riis

31 May 2007

Baseball and netball and waterpolo and soccer and...

In Australia, the ultimate community has so much room for growth in terms of coaching and tactics.

Consider that until 4 years ago, there wasn't a single accredited ultimate coach in the country.

And when did you last hear an ultimate player introducing a play or drill from another sport? How can we draw on the enormous pool of knowledge, skills, drills, plays, coaching and technology used in other sports?

Here's an example. Here are about 50 basketball plays. And those are just offense plays. Yet they have names, are diagrammed and many have counters.

Where are the standardised equivalents in ultimate (for set-up offence, for endzone plays, for defeating zones)?

I know of ultimate players who have represented Australia in fencing, water polo, ice hockey. I know players who have made state teams in AFL, baseball, basketball and netball.

Its time to learn from other sports.

28 May 2007

Goals and accessing them

So I have wandered through ideas about goals and goal setting over the years. Some is here. I haven't found recommendations on clear cut best practice - seems more like a swirling soup of different people's opinions.

But making goals measurable is a recurring point.

Part of that is making them easily recordable and accessible. If you have to log onto your computer, open a spreadsheet, and tab over to a certain column, it is easy to lose the habit of recording your progress. Likewise if you record your progress on page 23 of a folder that disappears under bills, postcards and newspapers - the habit is hard to hold.

You want the goals and your progress to be staring you in your face.

So if online seems accessible, this could be useful: Joe's goals. A website with nothing to learn - just dive in and log your goals.

And for those not regularly online, the paper equivalent is to blu-tac a large paper chart on the wall next to your bed.

I will continue my quest for accessible, practical, easy methods for goal setting and measuring...

24 May 2007

Carrots and sticks

So I was thinking about the commonly used carrots and sticks that coaches and leaders use with their teams, during scrimmages.

  • pushups, eg 10 pushups for your team if you turn the disc over
  • laps, eg run a lap of the field/endzone if you get broken
  • yelling, eg "You're slacking, run harder!"
  • playing time, eg taking a sub if you turn up to training late
  • points, eg 2 points if you score from beyond halfway (to reward hucks)
  • praise, eg "Sweet dump defense during that last point!"
And I couldn't think of many carrots.

So here are some to try:

Yardage, eg if your team throws a break throw, they move the disc 10 metres upfield, then play restarts.

Manpower, eg if they get a block, they can now have 8 players on the field.

Mark ups, eg if they complete an earlier drill better, they choose the markups for a point (who marks who).

22 May 2007

Conventions to challenge

Conventions get challenged at the cutting edge of a sport, ie the elite level.

These conventions include those relating to training methods, tactics, attitudes and organisation.

Look at what used to be convention in ultimate, 15 or so years ago:

Once in zone, stay in zone. Stacks are vertical. Be patient against zone O.

Nowadays, these are no longer hard and fast "rules", merely suggestions for beginners.

Here are a few paradigms. I bet a proportion of these will no longer be set-in-stone paradigms, before too long. Maybe teams are experimenting with them right now.
  • mark on the open side of your man
  • stack upfield
  • don't reveal your plays to the opposition
  • throw to an open player
  • look at your dump on high counts
  • defensive plays are decided before you pull
Its a lot of fun to try new ideas - and its fascinating to see a paradigm be changed.

7 May 2007

The distribution of playing time

In an elite ultimate team, how should the team's minutes be distributed among the players?

Note that I have deliberately not used the phrase "how should you distribute playing time" since that assumes the process should be determined by one person.

This article gave me insight.

There is a lot to be gained from keeping everyone focussed on the team's aims, and away from comparing their performance relative to others.

I have always tried to keep stats of individual players away from the players, whenever I have been responsible for them. Team stats I will happily share.

To get briefly political, it seems like this applies to the "how shall we pay teachers" debate in Australia.

For me, the important issue is not who gets rewarded, but where the focus of the people doing the work is - on contributing to the effort, or on how they compare to their neighbour. We know the approach of the US, in the teacher pay debate.

Parinella says (and debate follows his post):

the player has to draw one of the following conclusions, depending on how the subbing is done: either whatever I do has little effect on my playing time, in which case I don’t have to play smart, or I am going to be benched if I make a mistake, in which case I probably should play so conservatively that I’m not going to help the team.

I believe, if you can reduce the focus on "how am I doing" and bring it to bear on "how can I help the team more", better results will follow.

And calling lines most points, where you are disappointing several keen players every time you call them off, seems to push the focus in the wrong direction.

So what are the alternatives?

One is self-managed playing time. If your team plays lots, players should have time to get comfortable with their roles. The coach or leadership should make suggestions to players chiefly in non-crucial tournaments and in scrimmages ("play more zone", "make sure we have 3 handlers on", "play less this game, more next game", "play more on O, less on D"). So when you hit the big games, roles are set and players can focus on cheering and getting ready to play, rather than listening for their name, and not hearing it.

Any exceptions e.g. "our strongest lines will be called in crunch time, or to take half", should be established in preparation games too.

Bottom line is, if you use pay or playing time as the carrot, then you need to devise a better carrot - such as seeing how you contribute to success.

17 April 2007

Triggers for transitions

What are all the possible triggers for a transition from one defense to another defense?
  • Nominated on-field defender decides
  • Disc reaches a pre-determined part of the field
  • Offence makes a pre-determined number of passes
  • Stall count reaches a certain number
  • A certain offence player gets possession (eg a weak thrower)
Any others?

Which do you like? Which ones have you seen (and not seen)? I've used the first three triggers over the years.

16 April 2007

Up the line

I am a well-known advocate of the dump cutting up the line. To clarify, I mean the dump cutting forward of the thrower, when the thrower is on the line and being forced line.

The advantages seem numerous:
  • many defenders are used to dumps catching the disc behind the thrower
  • catching the disc up the line puts you in the power position (ie you have a 1 second window where you can throw anywhere upfield, including long, since your defender is behind you)
  • it is a simple way to score when you are close to the endzone
  • other defenders are often not in a position to provide help defence
  • it opens up the backwards dump, once cutting up-the-line is an established threat
This last point is one I tinkered with yesterday at the Heads of State training camp. If you cut up the line, and then come back for a backwards dump, you can leave your defender far behind.

I realised that this is generally true only if you go far enough up the line.

So clearly we need a name for this.

When the dump has cut forward far enough that the thrower can throw to them, the defender has to commit to defending up the line.

Basically, the dump needs to enter the up-the-line throwing lane. I shall call this the Wedge (coloured orange in the diagram). It looks wedge-shaped.

To summarise: to open up your dump, Enter the Wedge first. Very Zen.

1 March 2007

10 Things instead of Drills

Here is a random collection of 10 activities that are not conventional join-the-back-of-the-line drills. Try one next time you are running a training session. It may spark some new ideas for you. The activities are suitable for most abilities.

1. Modified-scoring ultimate
Scrimmage with a modified scoring system, eg 1 point for a break throw as well as 1 point for a goal. This well help you practise and focus on using break throws (and stopping them). You can assign points for anything you want to focus on: blocks, dumps, hucks, hammers, open side cuts, you name it.

2. Unlimited turnovers
Scrimmage with the offense getting the disc back after each turnover. The offense can repeatedly practise their O, and the defence their D.

3. Play schtick
Schtick uses many skills used in Ultimate. But it is a good change up from ultimate.

4. Play mini-ultimate
Play ultimate - but only one aspect. Examples are offense starts 10 metres outside the endzone, or 4 on 4 zone, or 3 on 3 where the only aim is to dump and swing the disc.

5. Team goals
Have a fishbowl, brainstorm or think-pair-share about what your team wants to improve on or achieve.

6. Play disc golf
When every throw contributes to your score, you work hard at your throws. Try a discathon for a faster activity.

7. Tag
Great as a warm-up or energiser. Helps improve defense. Variations: frisbee tag, stuck-in-the-mud, bullrush, octopus.

8. Juggling
How many passes can 2 people complete in 30 seconds? Using 2 discs? 3 discs? Consecutive passes?

9. Feedback
Organise activities for players to get feedback on their play, and perhaps off-field roles too (social co-ordinator, treasurer, leaders, etc). Feedback can have different formats: anonymous/open, from teammates/leaders/self, one-on-one/group/team, talking/doing.

10. Learn the rules
Hands up if you are confident you know what stall count a contested travel now comes in on? Some ideas for learning the answer are here.

13 February 2007


Check out these videopapers on Ultimate.

It is reassuring to see Dan recommends a power forehand, though I would debate exactly where the forefinger and index finger should be in that photo.

And good to see an Aussie in there: Clip 12

5 February 2007

Games of fun

Disc games and activities I like to play...

Any other good ones?

28 January 2007


After throwing hammers today, I reckon it is about fingers.

Throw the hammer with your fingertips, not your hand. All the force goes through your fingertips, like you are pushing it.

Yeah hammers.

That is all.

17 January 2007

Measuring a good pull

How do can you tell if you have improved?

Sometimes it seems obvious to you.

But other times you need to measure that skill or aspect of your game.

Here is how I measure the quality of a pull. It is a useful system for pullers to compete against other pullers, or to compare their own pulls over time. This follows on from my 7 Postulates of Pulling.

Alpha pull - disc lands in the endzone, more than 5 metres away from a sideline.

Beta pull - disc lands in the field, but not in the alpha zone.

Brick pull - disc lands out of bounds.

Alpha (green) is better than beta (yellow) is better than a brick (white).

Take 10 pulls, and see how many alphas, betas and bricks you get. Maybe 6-3-1. Which is better than say, 4-2-4.

"But hang on a tick!" you say. "Why is it less valuable to land the disc near the back of the endzone? Isn't a disc that lands 1 metre from the back left cone a fantastic pull?"

The problem with such a pull is that you can't do it regularly. If you aim there 10 times, a bunch of pulls are going to land out, giving your opponents bricks. (Unless you are the most accurate thrower ever, in which case you are earning money playing disc golf in the US, not reading this blog.)

Aiming well within the bounds of the endzone should mean that almost no pulls land out. And that is far more valuable than 5 pulls in the corner and 5 bricks.

This is why I don't congratulate pulls that do land 1 inch from the back left cone. The puller is lucky the risk didn't backfire that time - they're not worthy of "Wow! Great pull!"

Addendum: Tao calls alpha pulls with lots of yummy hangtime "Alpha pluses". Making it a 4-tier scoring system.

GSWAP explained

In a previous post, I glossed over GSWAP.

Here is GSWAP explained. GSWAP is a 5 point guideline that is both a useful explanation for teaching a beginner to throw, and a good list to choose from if giving feedback to a beginner.

It is in the AFDA Level 1 Ultimate Frisbee Coaching Course. You may have seen some discs with the GSWAP explanation on them.

Grip - use a power grip. See previous post for the details.

Stance - for a backhand, stand side on to your target. For a forehand, face your target.

Wrist - flick your wrist, to give the disc lots of spin

Angle - angle the outside edge of the disc down towards the ground

Point - point at your target after releasing the disc

The beginner's throw doesn't have enough power?
Check their grip.

The beginner's throws are zooming off to the right too much?
Check their stance.

The beginner's throw is wobbly?
Suggest more wrist.

The beginner's throw turns over during flight?
Suggest more angle - ie point the far edge of the disc more towards the ground.

The beginner's throw is zooming off too high?
Suggest pointing at the target after release.

Beginner has a different problem? Which point would you choose?

11 January 2007

Sometimes you just need legs

In a competitive game, you sometimes rely on skilful throwing to win. You may rely on appropriate tactics.

But dang it, sometimes you can just use your physical advantages.

One example is stamina. If you have a slow handler defending you, and you have good stamina, start doing laps. Cut upfield, then cut downfield, cut up, cut down. No stopping or joining the stack. If they aren't smart enough to switch (and I find about 50% of the time they aren't), they will get exhausted marking you.

Then time your cut for a goal, or watch them make a throwing or catching error later in the point/next point.

When only a minority of players are doing a regular fitness program, and you are one of them, this is very do-able. Just be judicious in when you use this, and how often, or else in the next match you may be a step slower, and your next opposition will have the advantage.

Its usually been quite entertaining when I have seen it.

Observations from Clubs - women's ultimate

The Japanese women set the standard here. Dominance. They took 1st, 2nd and 3rd. I saw one team warm up in pairs. They would jog along throwing flat throws to each other in pairs. Can you throw an inside forehand to someone on your right as you jog along? Every player on this team could do this - flat, sharp and accurate. Pure throwing skills might have been a major part of the Japanese women's dominance.

Aussie results across the divisions. See here. The Aussie's final placings:
Open (21 teams): 2nd, 3rd, 6th, 18th, 21st
Womens (18 teams): 9th, 10th, 12th, 16th
Mixed (40 teams): 9th, 12th, 20th, 26th, 31st, 37th
Masters (11 teams): 3rd, 9th, 11th

Aussie men vs Aussie women. Both divisions had numerous Japanese teams, some easybeats and a sprinkling of ok-to-excellent European and US teams. Yet the Aussie women could barely crack the top half. The results echo Finland 2004: strong in Open, solid in Mixed, lower in Womens.

Where can our women's teams improve the most? Fitness? Tactics? Regular competition? Talent recruited into the sport? Playing less mixed ultimate (is this dominated by men?), or something else?

How do women's teams compare to open teams in other countries?
Japan - Women are better, judging from Perth and Worlds 2004
New Zealand - Women are better, judging from Aussie Nats 2006 and Perth
UK - comparable
US - comparable, judging from UPA Champs and Worlds 2004
Canada - ditto

Any lessons to be learnt from the Kiwis and the Japanese?

Observations from Clubs - new tactics

I think the Buzz Bullets set the standard. I heard second-hand of their zone-to-man transitions on set counts, ie only transition when the count gets high. Transitioning in advantageous situations seems like a positive evolution from what I have used the last few years - transitioning after a predetermined number of passes.

Now that I think about it, some of my teams from years and years ago would transition on someone's call. I wonder why we drifted away from that? Maybe because we were trying to implement the non-audibled transition, after 4 passes, for example. And that devolved into a vocalised 4 pass transition.

The approach of the Buzz Bullets strikes me as more valuable.

The Bullets were also very threatening with their skills: sharp hucks, quick disc movement, agile pivoting, lurking poachers. They never looked like losing, despite their height mismatches against many teams.

4 January 2007

Observations from Clubs - fresh legs

Here is the first in a series of observations from Clubs in Perth...

Fresh legs are critical. Day 3 saw a three team round robin between Thong, Fakulti and Chilly.

The games that day looked like this:
  • Fakulti played Chilly (first game of the day for both): close two-point game to Fakulti
  • Thong played Fakulti (Thong's first game, Fakulti's second): Thong win by six.
  • Chilly played Thong (Chilly coming off a five hour rest, Thong coming off the middle of the day game vs Fakulti): Chilly by 14.
So the first match had a close result (both teams rested), and the other two wins went to the rested team. I'd be interested to see if this pattern was replicated elsewhere.

Also, Subzero had a relatively small rotation. They were seeded 1st and came 4th (bear in mind seedings only have limited accuracy). After losing narrowly to SubZero, a Clapham player advised us to run them around, due to their small rotation.