Our first set of games are two weeks away. JV has their first game of the regular season while Varsity is kicking things off with a tournament. Knowing this, we spent the week working on timing cuts and generating flow. This made for some entertaining and curious moments.
On the plus side, many of our players have a pretty good idea of when to make cuts. The kids are also running through their catches instead of waiting for the disc to come to them (probably the second cardinal sin of ultimate after wearing grey). We set goals of ten consecutive completions before changing drills. Sometimes this was easy, other times (like anything requiring accurate flicks) getting ten in a row took a lot of effort. But we held the kids to the standard, and they hung tough and got through each time. There were notable heroics by The Cog, The Ninja, and Mia Hamm to keep things going, but those only served to crank up the energy.
However, while the effort is there, the execution still needs some work. It’s very easy to see which kids are new to sports (especially ones that involving cutting), because they just don’t know how to move. I’ve watched kids turn over the wrong shoulder while cutting, slowly shuffle forward while ‘pivoting’, and try to change direction using a single foot to bounce to a stop like Wile E. Coyote. In short, some of them look about as uncomfortable as baby giraffes learning to walk. I have confidence that everyone will figure it out, but I’m tempted sign them all up for dance lessons so they can learn some body control. I had one of the girls (we’ll call her Pisces) led some team yoga last fall – some more of that may be in order.
Marking looked better than cutting did, but there is still a lot of room for improvement. To be fair, marking doesn’t have many analogs in other sports. The closest would be basketball, but the hand positions and foot movement are often very different. Here are some of the things I saw:
- Smaller players sacrificing agility to try to cover more area. This means taking an overly wide, unbalanced stance just to appear bigger. Sort of like trying to scare off a bear.
- People with arms raised above their shoulders, a la the Y of YMCA.
- Overcommitting to a throw (fake or not) and losing balance.
To help solve the agility and balance issues, we asked players to mark without using their hands. (I specifically said to put their hands behind their back, similar to the ‘ fig leaf’ position. If you’re curious about the name, think about what fig leaves are used to cover on sculptures. The explanation of the name was met with many giggles.) Marking in this manner forces players to keep up with their feet and not over-rely on their arms. Especially if there’s a permanent ban on the false idol that is the footblock.
A school play and flu bug combined to drop attendance a bit this week, but the players that came stepped up big time.
The Octopus – He has the fantastic tendency to move his arms back and forth while marking. I can’t stop smiling thinking about it. The effectiveness is questionable, but I guess it’s distracting in its own way. He’s one of those guys that looks like he woke up with the arms of Mr. Fantastic and has no idea what to do with them yet.
But that’s only on defense. On O, The Octopus has buttery smooth throws and always fits in perfectly. His play is similar to The Cog, but with less of a desire to annihilate people. He’s a great complementary player but showed star potential when he was forced to take the lead in an undermanned practice.
Master Chief – The kid is relentless, both in his play and desire to get better. Myself and a few of the new coaches I brought on this year all play pick up together (where I met The Tornado), and Master Chief has been coming for the last couple months. Everyone at that game sees his potential, and many of the club-level players in attendance are often giving him advice and helping him improve.
Last week he was having a rough game when someone put a line-drive huck to him. He turned on the motors, sprinted downfield and made an incredible layout catch in the endzone. His expression getting up was a great mix of frustration and relief, and he was definitely in F*** You mode after that play.
The Cog – Hasn’t missed a step despite being out a month with a shoulder injury. Wasn’t doing anything too flashy this week, but then someone made a bad throw during one of our continuation drills. It sailed over his head and you could almost hear the sadness as the rest of team got ready to start over. Not noticing any of this, The Cog quickly snapped around and chased down the disc, tumbling head over heels but holding on the whole time. He bounced back up and placed the next throw perfectly before dusting himself off. Another player with great priorities.
Quotes of the Week
“You’re 25? But you have a real job and a life. I thought you were, like, at least 29.” – Master Chief, upon learning how old I am.
Plays of the Week
Near the end of our turf scrimmage, The Ninja and Master Chief hit each other on consecutive, lightning-quick upline cuts that led to a score. It’s the kind of movement I’ve been waiting a year and a half for.
The Sniper faked a lefty backhand before throwing a soft righty flick during the marking drill. The mark bit on the fake so badly I thought he was going to choke. I really hope he pulls that in game.