My sports background is extensive, but basketball was what I played the most growing up. The thing is, I was never all that into shooting.
I had a bunch of different coaches, and while they all had varying takes on the game, most centered in on the idea that our team’s shooters should shoot the ball to get hot and shoot to stay hot. As a point guard, it was my job to get it into those shooters’ hands; I never really got comfortable shooting unless it was off of a rebound.
I honestly enjoyed distributing more anyway. But I’ll also admit that I had a discomfort about shooting that bordered on disgust (which is especially funny when you consider that I always had a pretty high field goal percentage). While my dad was happy that I liked being a pass-first player, I also know I frustrated him whenever I looked off an open shot.
“Shoot it, Robyn!,” I could hear him yelling in the stands… as I was attacking the lane with the intent to pass.
Fast forward to today, and people characterize me as a high-risk “shooter” when it comes to ultimate. I feel conflicted almost every time I play because the teams I have played on ask handlers to throw deep, and I can throw the disc far. Although I like to think of myself as a passer with a wide range of throws, I am characterized as a “shooter” because I throw deep a lot.
You can only listen to people’s opinions so long until you start trying to own that persona, so that’s what I’ve done. But even though I joke with my friends and teammates that we should “let players make plays!,” there are times when I’m still uncomfortable in this role.
I just don’t really see myself as a shooter. All I want to do is the one who brings the ball down and passes to my teammates.
So how did I get here? How did I become a “shooter?”
It took a conversation with my friendly rival coach from the University of Kansas, Loren Schieber, to help me wrap my head around it. I am a handler, and as Loren said, “a handler should be the best distributor.”
Then it clicked and my busy brain ran with it. It took someone putting it simply and bluntly for me to understand. I now realize that my knack for handling comes from my overall desire to get the ball into the right teammate’s hands.
The times I enjoy handling the most all involve playing zone offense. And it makes sense: zone offense (especially in the Upper Midwest horizontal sleet rain) is all about quickly distributing and not shooting.
I still don’t like shooting, and that’s why I always gravitate toward cutting when I have the opportunity. On every team I have ever played on, I always asked the leadership if I could be a cutter, at least sometimes.
Could this be the season I turn over a new leaf and develop into the player I would feel most comfortable being? Only time will tell, I suppose.
My question to you reader: do you feel like you’re stuck in a dichotomy on the ultimate field when you play? Do you have a dilemma between your brain and your body? How do you rationalize or justify your actions and thoughts? For me, I just keep passing the disc and focus on adjustments I can make so my teammates come down with the disc. I justify a lot of my turns deep to teammates in coverage the same way I did when I threw it to a center posting up down low on the basketball court: I’m going to let her make the play (and shoot the ball).