Fighting the Elements

by | March 13, 2014, 3:59am 0

The weather has not been kind to us.  I recognize that it’s still technically winter, but we had a really warm week recently and I thought spring was around the corner.  I was wrong.  A small snowstorm forced us to cancel one practice, and the weather was rough in the other two.

The first practice was stupidly windy. That might make a good practice environment for the experienced players, but is nothing but frustrating for people still learning how to throw.  To help keep practice running smoothly, we ran drills limited to close range action (such as a Cut-To drill) or oriented things downwind.

At the end, we ran Five Pull to work on setting up the stack.  To clarify (because people may know it by a different name, or someone is reading this and actually wants to start coaching and doesn’t know), one team starts on offense (the White team in this case).  If White scores, the teams reset and White receives again.  If Dark forces a TO, then they get a single chance to score.  If Dark turns it over, then teams reset and White receives again.  White receives five pulls (hence the name), and then Dark gets their turn.

I find Five Pull often a better option than scrimmaging because it allows us to repeatedly focus on setting up on offensive and defensive. Plus, on such a windy day, we can have the receiving team continually going downwind to make things a little easier.  Of course, in the future we can, and will, do the opposite.

Outside of explicit drills, I’ve learned that kids really like to see how far they can throw the disc. During warm ups, water breaks, or really any nominal pauses in action.  If they have 10 seconds and a disc, they’re submitting their best Brodie Smith impression.  (The girls are the exception.  I’ve never seen any of my girls try to throw more than 15 yards.)

On one hand, it’s great that they’re challenging themselves.  On the other, high schoolers forcing 40 yard upwind throws doesn’t make for a good warm up, despite all the running they do chasing wayward discs.  This was very evident at practices this week, and I’ll be making sure throwing warm ups are constrained to 10-20 yards for the foreseeable future.

Our turf practice had more tolerable wind, but it was compounded by 30 degree weather, and while the coaches have experience playing in these conditions, most of the team has not. The mood was pretty grim at first, but a couple great layouts from The Ninja during a warmup drill boosted the energy levels.

Playing in this weather can be discouraging. It’s cold, tough to throw, hurts to catch, and that all results in an unfortunate number of turnovers. Further, two of my best handlers, The Wrecking Ball and The Cog, are both out with injuries. While our numbers are solid enough to field a 7 on 7 scrimmage with a few subs, we don’t have enough players that are comfortable handling without those two. Let’s just say the disc movement wasn’t good and there were a lot of forced throws.

Things improved towards the end of the game as kids and hands started warming up.  Until that point though, it was rough.  Maintaining energy is key to getting through practices like this. Part of it is on the coaches to keep players focused and involved, even on the sideline, but words only go so far. I’m lucky to have a few players who are always in hustle mode. On a night when easy plays aren’t easy, it’s vital to have kids who will still go for the layout or sky because they only know how to play hard. Successful or not, the energy from those plays rubs off on everyone.

Notable Players

The Sniper – A freshman handler and the younger brother of The Tornado. He’s a small dude and still working on his cutting, but is an absolute surgeon with the disc. He whips throws with laser-like precision, and they’re all so low that he can get them off against any mark.  The Sniper had the best throwing night on the field, and completely broke open the defense a couple times with well-placed hucks.

The Ninja – If it wasn’t obvious from the name, this kid is quick. A senior this year, he’s been one of the best cutters since the program started. He’s an absolute boss at getting open for short to medium distance gains, but is so fast everyone backs him defensively out of fear. On top of the aforementioned hustle plays, his throwing has significantly improved.  His flicks seemed completely ignorant of the weather.

The Spanish Inquisition – An exchange student from Spain who, despite never playing ultimate before, has been a consistently solid presence on the field and during indoor. Much like the actual Spanish Inquisition, she kept surprising people this week. It’s exciting to watch the rapid improvement her throws and cuts are showing.

Black Odysseus (B.O.) – One of the few nicknames here that I’ve actually heard used at practice. I don’t know where it comes from, but it’s too good to not use. Another senior, his performance on Thursday night was stellar. There were some confidence issues in the past, but that looks to be completely behind him. He started and ended the play of the week,  and outraced everyone during 70s after. B.O. is also our team’s go to guy for amp up speeches. It’s exciting to watch his skill grow to match his spirit.

Quotes of the Week

“No, he doesn’t wear thongs.  He wears g-strings. But only on his head” – Overheard when walking by a group of freshmen boys. I couldn’t make this stuff up.

Plays of the Week

It started with Black Odysseus making a great one handed catch, scooping the disc up an inch off the ground near his endzone. He quickly found an upfield handler and raced upfield. The handler put it big, floaty throw to Master Chief who bobbled it once or twice before bringing it down. Master Chief took one look upfield, saw B.O. beating everyone into the endzone and let it fly.

B.O., not content to simply catch it, decided to further the drama by bobbling it himself before hanging on for the score.  The whole thing made up for the cold, no question.

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