As I’ve mentioned before, one of the enormous benefits of having at least one additional coach is being able to separate practices into multiple drills. I’m not a huge advocate of pigeon-holing kids into handlers and cutters right away, but it also doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me to teach a handler weave to players still working on throwing more than ten yards.
There are two aspects of throwing that a lot of my cutters have been struggling with: consistency and throwing to space. Consistency is obvious but increasingly difficult when tired, and they all understand the basic premise of leading their receiver. What’s harder to convey is all the space a receiver can conceivably access. A lot of people don’t understand that all a throw needs to be is catchable. It doesn’t need to be a line drive straight into someone’s chest. Just throw it to the general vicinity where the receiver will be and let them chase it down.
The problem is that the common drills don’t really teach this. Simply throwing in pairs is all about accuracy, and the common Cut-To drill is doesn’t give enough reps to really practice the concept. What I ended up doing is converting a basketball drill that I read UConn borrowed from Steve Nash to work on free throws. It’s a solo drill: drain 17 free throws in a minute, and if you fail, you sprint. Repeat until success.
My ultimate-version of the Nash Drill focuses on the same concepts. Repeating a motion until it’s thoughtless and continuing to be able to perform when tired.
I set up a thrower, a disc collector, and a cutting line (5-8 kids in the line is good, I think). It’s basically one half of the Cut-To drill. Cutters continually make in cuts, catch, drop the disc off, and get back in line. I set the goal at 15 completions in a minute, which was doable for nearly everyone. Two kids had to take a lap, but both did better their second time.
With one person throwing 15-20 throws in a minute, throws are bound to have a range of flight paths. But I think what most impressed the kids was how seemingly off-target the throw could be and yet still be caught.
Both games this week were good experiences. For our night game we were in the rare position of having over twice as many players as our opponent, School L. We took half up a break, 7-6, but it easily could have gone the other way. School L was fast across the board, but what really hurt us was the lovely combination of a tall track star with some huck-happy handlers. Good deep games still give us headaches, as our best defenders are still several inches below six feet.
While we did give up too many deep shots, the rest of our defense was spot on. The girls in particular, forced all night to match up against teenage equivalent of Hermes, put forth a fantastic effort both containing and denying their match ups. There were zero complaints all night. They just went out there and worked.
Running a lot of zone helped, too. It’s easier to hide speed mismatches by stationing slower players as wings or even as a short deep, and it can limit huck opportunities simply by having someone standing back there all the time.
Once we managed to slow down their deep game, School L had to work much harder. And since we had over twenty players to their ten, we eventually ran them out of the game.
Sunday’s game against School I was similar, except both teams had ten or fewer players. That meant we could no longer rely on legs to exhaust our opponent since we needed to conserve ours. Zone wasn’t an option to slow down big throws either since I didn’t want to wear people out by running cup. What helped was switching to a straight-up mark for the first four stall counts and then sliding back to our normal force.
It took a little while, but just like our game against School L, we managed to bring our opponent’s huck completion percentage down to the point where they were no longer a threat. Unfortunately I had to make an emergency room visit with Megaman midway through the first half, but I learned after that we gutted out the W.
Final Score: 15 – 11
The Secret Weapon – He gets a bad rap on the team because of poor attendance, but I think he’s taking 30 AP classes, so I’m not about to call him lazy. I really wish he would show up more though, because he could easily be one of our best players. He made more ridiculous catches Thursday night than I’ve seen all season, including bringing down a huck between two defenders and somehow snatching a horrendous throw from The Thinker (see below). Thankfully, I think we have him committed for States, and I can’t wait to unleash him.
The Thinker – In the last week he has scored his first goal and thrown his first assist. Big, exciting benchmarks for a freshmen with minimal experience coming in. His assist happened at our turf game. He got the disc roughly eight yards out of the endzone, saw The Secret Weapon open, and immediately launched a backhand that went about 30 feet in the air at a 70 degree angle. It was not pretty. That The Secret Weapon somehow caught it managed to make up for the fact that I aged ten years in the process. But hey, the look was good even if the execution wasn’t, so that’s something. Baby steps.
Quote of the Week
“Everyone give The Ninja a pat on the back for trying to play through an injury, and a smack on the head for trying to play through an injury.” – The Professor (a coach)
Play of the Week
I have to give a nod to Megaman, who is out for the rest of the season recovering from a dislocated shoulder that was incurred during Sunday’s game. Despite being in a unfortunate amount of pain (An eight out of 10 on the pain scale, I believe), he still managed to smile, make a few jokes, and flirt with the nurses.