If you were only given one car for the rest of your life, how would you treat it? Imagine this car is built from high quality materials and advanced technology designed to last you over 100 years with proper use. You probably wouldn’t put mud in the gas tank, pop holes in the tires or take a hacksaw to the door panels, right? If you did, you would be lucky to get 60 years out of this vehicle with poor performance for the entire duration.
Interestingly enough, we are each given a type of of vehicle we only get one of: our body. In college, often a time when students are in charge of their diet, sleep and lifestyle habits for the first time, it is hard to manage so many personal choices when they are excited about their newfound freedom. This article is carefully designed to help yourself, your teammates or players identify areas of improvement in not just athletics, but general health and fitness as well. When playing any sport, you must take your body seriously if you wish to use it well into your future as a collegiate and ultimate athlete.
In Team Organics: Part 1 we reviewed how Social, Fitness, and Knowledge Seekers have a certain primary focus on what draws them to the game. Similarly, when it comes down to playing the game, there may be areas of training that players are not aware of. True health, mental training and teammate trust are all complimentary to a team conditioning plan. While we could talk extensively about athletics, these three areas are often less explored and can help many athletes take leaps and bounds.
Filling in the gaps is the goal to make your team as cohesive as possible. Help your players out in their early years by letting them finish the season with “Rookie Rocket Boots” instead of “Freshman 15”. Easier said than done perhaps, so we must again understand the variety of initial mindsets our players have. As a captain, consider which of the following areas each of your players may need to focus in more to make the most rapid improvements. If you’re a player, consider taking the initiative and save your coach some nit-picking time!
1. Remember, you are what you eat. And drink, sleep, think, and do.
True health is one of the most important building blocks when training for any sport. And not just what an equipment-endorsing, pill-pushing fitness industry tells you what health looks like. You must be careful about the information you accept as true, especially if it involves social norms, hype, or products. Eating junk food, heavy alcohol consumption and late nights are all potential bad habits any college student can be at risk for. Just the same, excessive protein, undisciplined weight training and an image obsession can be harmful in the long run too. These habits depend on the type of people a student interacts with and where they put their priorities. The question is: what will your team prioritize?
The body is a COMPLEX system that requires detailed understanding. Fortunately, we have the right tool, a brain, to understand our body with discipline and practice like anything else. Knowing college is a place and time for higher learning, consider building a health and fitness component into your team’s curriculum. Review nutrition, hydration, rest, activity, and stress management habits in a team meeting or small practice reminders. If your players are not easy to budge in improving their habits, try to find a professional with the right experience and energy helping everyone rise to the challenge together.
You may have players who found ultimate because they thought they could throw the disc well or just really liked the people. Meanwhile their initial athletic ability, or lack thereof, puts them at risk for serious injury and could prevent them from playing the sport the rest of their lives. When talking to players like this in private, address the opportunity they have here for support in pursuing a healthy lifestyle, but stay firm with your concerns to make sure they are aware of their limitations.
2. Think of your brain as an important muscle too.
Depending on the types of students that choose your university and the ones that are drawn to your team, you must teach the mindset of an athlete, almost as much as the techniques to become one. Often in private or technical schools, you may be dealing with a smart crowd who still has a long way to go with athletics. However, using the strengths of their minds you can begin to give them an understanding of the game with deep strategy, efficiency, and communication.
In the area of skill development, there are many unique concepts that players cannot master with conditioning alone. Concepts like field awareness, reading, marking intuition, visualization, and quiet eye are all mind-driven skills and tactics that can dramatically improve a player’s execution or athletic progression. However, because sports have been mainly performance-focused, it is harder to find detailed resources that can connect the concepts with most athletes. Believe it or not, from the way in which our bodies and brains grow, it is easier to help a brainy develop athletics than it is for “talent” to develop the deep understanding. Luckily, we see a large portion of ultimate players having a great head on their shoulders allowing them become that diamond in the rough.
If you are a serious athlete feeling like you’re plateauing in performance, expanding your mental game may be an important step for you truly hit that ceiling. Even if training your brain seems silly compared what you are used to for the body, it still needs the same type of attention to improve. After all, what do you think controls all of your body’s movements and functions? The brain is about 2% your weight but uses up to 20%-30% of your nutrients. Something about our brain is making our system invest a lot into it. Let your conditioning plan do the same!
3. Consider why we call it a team sport.
Improvement alone won’t keep everyone happy, though, and that is where competition comes into play. Players will not only have expectations of themselves, but their other teammates as well. It is important to not let those expectations of others get out of hand and turn into frustration or distrust. When it come down to desperation or addiction to winning for some athletes, it must be clearly addressed that all things come with time, and improvements need to be made with everyone supporting each other.
Helping your ego-driven athlete is a difficult challenge though; primarily because they are the way they are from systems of other sports that allowed them to behave in certain ways. Football philosophy or basketball flopping tactics do not translate to Ultimate well as hard as players may try. The good news is that ultimate is actually designed to promote teamwork and dependence on other players. Any player MUST throw to another player to work the disc down field or score in the end zone. They can’t run it in or shoot all the 3-pointers themselves. Getting your athletes to understand this unique aspect of Ultimate may be the key they need to begin to change.
Beyond any proof you might give the ego-athlete, they will still need reasons that benefit themselves while they are still self-centered. Try breaking it down into simplest terms. They have a certain limit to what they can focus on while on the field. If they choose to dedicate a portion to watching what their teammates are doing wrong and hyper-analyzing who they can make a complete throw to, they are limiting their own abilities and not trusting teammates to do their job. This skewed and negative focus is what needs to be addressed. You can show them that if they eliminate it, they can be more focused on that long run into the end zone for the glory. In the long run, with the exposure to your team’s culture and the nature of the game, they should be able to adjust their ego with the care your team can provide.
Overall, consider all factors that influence your body’s optimization, development, and performance before getting too carried away with training and pushing your limits toward injury. If you have a powerful noggin or are looking to develop one, find ways to build your brainpower and use it for additional skills and better focus. When you have players with an ego looking for that glory, treat them well but present the information that serves them immediately to help humble them in the long run. Is your team looking for pre-season conditioning and education yet? Consider these Ultimate-specific programs and resources below.
Advanced Ultimate – Fitness evaluations, foundation & performance workouts, personal-independent training
Morrill Performance – Clinics, workout materials, consultation
Ren Fitness – Seminars, practice visits, movement evaluations
Rise UP – Skills and strategy training videos
Ultimate Results – Resources, The Ultimate Athlete Project, Online Coaching Academy
Next week we will take a look at team organization and approaches towards better funding and recognition in Part 5 – Management Mindset.