19 July 2009

The fourth quadrant

As a player on the field, you have two modes you can be in: playing defence or playing offence.

And you can be involved with the throwing of the disc or the catching of the disc.

So put simply, there are four quadrants for the on-field roles: thrower and cutter (on offence), and their defensive counterparts, marker and guarder.

It can be worthwhile to evaluate which of these are your strengths, and which you have to work on.

Obviously the thrower role is critical for every player - a team with mostly poor throwers is not a strong team.

I think that the skills of a guarder are under-evaluated. Many folks I know have a very simple approach to guarding: "stay open-side, chase my cutter, get a block if can". There isn't much adapting to circumstance, and while you won't go too wrong, that isn't enough at the elite level. The corresponding skills for throwing, cutting and marking are far longer lists in the conscious and subconscious minds of many players.

There are many small goals and skills for a guarder:
  • Unnerve the cutter with my positioning
  • Talk to teammates
  • Steer the cutter back to the other defenders in the stack
  • Choose when to look over at the thrower and their stance
  • Bait the huck
  • Take a charge
  • Look to switch with a mismatched teammate
Mackey covers some more of this.

2 July 2009

Principles of athletic conditioning

In the last 12 months, I've rethought a few things in ultimate, both from a player's and coach's perspective.

Identifying what works is key to any decisions a coach makes about his or her team.

And this particularly applies to athletic conditioning, which for a small, amateur sport like ultimate is key.

Concepts of periodisation, measurement, goal-setting and individualisation are important.

But getting players to train can be the first goal. This requires setting fitness training in accessible places, setting out clearly what is required, establishing clear reporting guidelines  And managing and preventing injuries during a season of training.

When it comes to ways to make players accountable for the work they do, making fitness competitive can be a big step. Give those who make the biggest gains or attend the most, the bragging rights. Give 'em rewards. Put races and challenges into the activities.

The goal of winning your big comp in 3 months time won't drive most players on most nights to bust a gut.  But knowing that coming second in the next sprint would mean giving piggybacks and losing the food reward does motivate.

And this can all be simple and fun.