Rohre and Xtehn Titcomb were two of coaches that I worked with in Mexico during the first couple weeks of December. We ran clinics and seminars for Juega Ultimate Frisbee and played in Discopa. At about the midpoint of our stay, I asked each of them to write something about their experience coaching in Mexico. Anything would do, I told them; the broad goal was to give readers a glipse into the state of ultimate down there and how we, the coaches, were processing it all. Here’s what they had to say:
Depending on the time of year, I think about Club Championships between once a week and 50 times a day. Being at my best for my peak event in a given season motivates me to get better. It’s the reason I run track, work hard at practice, eat well, rest when my body needs it, take time to plan good practices…and hey, I’ll admit it, it’s often the reason I get up in the morning.
At our Wednesday night platica (lecture/talk), Justin and I were going over what kinds of fitness training people should be doing at various points of the season. We started by mapping out a season, working back from a peak event, like Club Championships, or Worlds. Rolas, a player from outside Mexico City, immediately put his hand up: “I don’t know when a peak event for me would be,” he said…
And it was then that this observation clicked for me. Without the ebb and flow of a season, without a build-up to a peak event in the year, it can be really difficult to stay motivated and driven to improve. If you don’t have a peak event, what are you working towards? There is no externally driven, time-bound aspect to a given goal you have.
This is a challenge I see for the ultimate players we’ve been working with all week. Aside from the U-23 team Alyssa and Jonathan coached on Saturday, the players we’re coaching aren’t building towards anything specific. They have a drive to get better, of course–they’re at practice, they train, they’ve come to our clinics, and they read online resources about ultimate. But they’re missing that unique motivation you get from working with your team towards a common, time-bound goal. It doesn’t matter whether it’s making Sectionals, placing at Regionals, or making quarters at Nationals–I find that having a specific time when I’m trying to peak is enormously helpful in my quest to be the best player I can be.
This will be on my mind as I talk to players, organizers, and coaches this weekend at Discopa.
In the aftermath of our Tuesday afternoon on-field clinic, a youngster ran up to me and explained that he is always catching “estar volando”, that is “in the air.” He demonstrated a jumping clap catch with his hands above his head. I chuckled. “What can I do to break this habit?” he asked. “Well,” I told him, “what you need to do is take time outside of practice to work on your catching.” I told him that he should invite different guys on different days to throw with him and to rotate through the various kinds of catches. I then asked him, “why do you think it’s good to throw with different people?” “So that I can get different kinds of throws, some here and some there,” he said. “That’s great! Also, you can share your motivation with many other players,” I added.
So, two big take-aways: first, striving to play your best at a specific time gives focus and motivation to your training, and second, practicing not only regularly but also with varied approaches can lead to a more refined game. Neither of these concepts are rocket science, but in order to understand them it helps to either have years of experience or someone to articulate them for you. I often think that good coaching is about opening doors to new ways of thinking. It might be stating the obvious to some, but to others it’s turning on light bulbs and pointing them down the well-lit hallway so that they don’t have to spend time fumbling around in the dark.