A guide to running good Ultimate practices

Aim:

running trainings that maximise the learning of new skills and/other productive repetitions of existing skills

Implications:

  • minimise downtime (planned rest time is good, faffing is not as it
    kills intensity and learning)
  • have a clear focus
  • keep each drill short

Before:

  • a training should ideally fit into a long term plan (when in the season
    is the training?  What is the best sequence for learning different
    skills?)
  • make a plan (with timings) taking into account your likely audience and
    the likely weather (key point: if it’s windy, plan drills with
    multiple discs and don’t require multiple completed throws)
  • communicate that training is happening and the focus, maybe send some
    pre-reading/viewing

Just before:

  • arrive early to set up a pitch and cones for the first drill
  • get others to arrive early to get faffing, socialising, throwing and
    individual specific warm up stuff done before the start time.  We play a
    team sport so we need to act together, late arrivers are bad for
    teamwork – be clear with communication to them that what they are
    doing is unhelpful.
  • as the weather forecast becomes the weather, and you get a better idea
    of your audience (how experienced are they?), work out whether your plan
    is still suitable or whether you need to adjust it (I often do this
    during the warm up)

Start:

  • on time!  Set the tone for a purposeful training by starting on time – don’t alienate your most dedicated players and pander to your most
    selfish ones by waiting for them to arrive.
  • if you have a lot of talking to do it may be best to do some before the
    warm up (especially if it is cold)
  • it can be good to get someone else to run the warm up so that you can
    run through the plan in your head.  Ask them individually before the
    start time so they can say no.  The purpose of the warm up is not only
    to get the body ready for the immediate work it is going to do but it is
    also an opportunity to develop muscle memory for things like jumping and
    changing direction.

Warm up offensive drill (also good for pre-game):

  • after the warm up it may be good to spend a few minutes on a general
    offensive drill to get people running, throwing and catching
  • try to maximise touches and minimise standing round (two good reasons
    to avoid the endzone drill – another reason is that it encourages
    people to throw longish discs across the field into the endzone –
    great for turnovers, terrible for offense)
  • aim for a high number of discs to people and keep it short and snappy
    (10ish minutes).  If you are going to do the 70 pass drill much more
    learning happens if you cycle through the throws one at a time rather
    than doing 10 and then switching to the next 10 (and it’s much easier
    to be flexible with the end point).
  • I like the Skogs drill (one quick upline cut), 1-2ing up the sidline,
    kill drill (one player runs short shallow V cuts and it thrown to by
    another at the end of their Vs – do about 6 and then switch), 4 O vs 3
    D in a ~15m channel (good for warming up decision making and sideline)
    and a simple hucking drill.

Setting up a drill:

  • try to set up cones whilst the previous drill is still happening in
    order to minimise downtime
  • explaining a drill or a structure (e.g. a new zone) can happen in
    multiple ways, plan how you are going to do it beforehand.  Some
    examples: on a whiteboard/cones on the floor, with some unsuspecting
    volunteers or you can collect together a few people before the end of
    the last drill and teach them first to demo it to everyone else.
  • if appropriate, be clear where the pitch is (on your diagram/demo
    drill) first and don’t proceed before everyone is happy about this
  • explain why we are doing the drill as well as how – it’s often
    better to just do this briefly at the start with a new, complex drill.
    Then, once the drill is running smoothly and people understand the
    rotation, you can pause and get more focus on the aim.  Talking for too
    long at the beginning leads to people switching off.
  • with a complex drill it’s good to build it up gradually (just one
    cut, then two, then with D)
  • explain things confidently; the vast majority of people want you to do
    well and appreciate you running things for them.  If you are under
    confident (perhaps you are leading a practice where there are more
    experienced players and it feels intimidating to tell them how to play)
    it can be easier to say “I find it really helpful to throw the IO
    early” or “a useful thing I was told/read is to …” rather than
    present something as gospel.

During a drill:

  • initially, focus on getting the drill running smoothly.  Are the cones
    the right distance apart?  Is the timing of cuts right?  Does the
    rotation work?  Is the work:rest ratio correct or do you need another
    drill?
  • sometimes it’s best to not join in with the drill so you can think
    these things through and start giving feedback, sometimes it’s best to
    join in so you can get a better feel for how things are going.
  • give feedback that is related to the focus of the drill (commenting on
    other stuff distracts from the focus).  Be specific (“good work
    running through that disc” or “keep that cut slightly wider”) and
    use both praise and corrective advice – as the drill progresses you
    should have more of the former and less of the latter.
  • if there are some good learning points that need a bit longer to
    explain, better to pause the drill and share rather than saving for the
    end so people can implement the advice
  • go set up the cones for the next drill!

Finishing a drill:

  • the learning vs time graph generally starts high, goes up slightly as
    people really understand what the drill is about then decreases.  You
    can get an extra small peak towards the end by saying e.g “last one
    each” or “last 5”.  Be wary of saying e.g “5 completions in a
    row” since it is not always appropriate – if a drill has defence or
    you are doing something outside your comfort zone completions are not
    the focus.
  • as with the warm up offensive drill, keep drills short and punchy,
    10-15 minutes.  You can make them longer if you tweak them in a
    substantive way (adding an extra cut, adding D).  Changing from forehand
    to backhand should happen after 5 minutes not 10 (generally…).

Games:

  • games of 7 on 7 aren’t the best for developing players – most
    players don’t get many reps with the disc in hand.  For skill
    development, it is better to have a few smaller games.
  • you can give games a focus by having special rules e.g. double score
    and get more reps in by eliminating pulls/only allowing a certain number
    of possessions per team.

Reflection:

  • more learning happens if you reflect after the event so try to
    encourage players to think about what they’ve been working on and try
    to incorporate it into their game and you should be reflecting on the
    practice you’ve just led.  What went well?  What could be better?  Get
    some feedback from people about what they thought and be open to
    criticism, even if you disagree with it.

Nick Wong

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