There’s nothing like a skill clinic to make an out of shape Ultimate player feel sore, tired and motivated. Yes, that ultimate player would be me and after attending HUCCfest 2012 yesterday, I am all of those things.
The clinic was geared mostly towards beginner ultimate players, which was exactly what I needed. Although I have the understanding of the strategies that were brought up, my 2 month break from Ultimate has definitely left me lacking on the mechanics side of the sport.
After a quick warm up and subsequent chalk talk about the backhand and forehand grip, we run a quick 10/40 throwing drill: 10 backhand OIs, 10 backhand IOs, 10 forehand OIs, and 10 forehand IOs. First, this highlighted how important throwing regularly is. I know I can throw with accuracy, precision, touch and all that. Although I can always use pointers on adding a bit of finesse to my throws, hitting a target is not usually an issue. However with the lack of practice lately and a the little bit of wind, my backhands were a mess.
The key to cleaning them up (besides getting a feel for the throw back), was low releases. Ow, my legs. Once I realized I needed a low release to get the throw off that’s all I did for the rest of the day. The stance came back quickly enough, unfortunately my muscles are going to take a little more time to build back up.
It was gratifying to see that my flick didn’t seem to suffer much from disuse. Although the backhand section of the drill was mortifyingly embarrassing (and backhands continued to be the bane of my day), my forehands were spot on, even the IOs.
Our next drill was a twist on the basic 3 man marking drill, with emphasis on the thrower faking. In the pre-drill chalk talk 6 zones were identified as the easiest places to hit around a mark:
The mark can take away most of the throws near their arms , body and legs. The holes are the spaces to the outside of their legs (step way out and low release), under their arms (good fake to over extend the mark first), or over their shoulders (hardest throws to make; high releases, scoobers and hammers).
In the typical three man mark drill, you switch positions constantly. The handler fakes around the mark, throws to the receiver, then sprints after the disc and becomes the mark. The receiver becomes the next thrower and the mark becomes the next receiver. The drill focuses on faking, throwing and marking, made progressively harder by the constant sprinting. The idea is to wear you out while you work on fundamentals.
The drill we ran had the same positions, except the emphasis was heavily on the handler. We rotated positions every 10 throws or so, which kept us from being too worn out. The twist was that the receiver pointed at one of the holes and the handler had to set the fake up so they could hit one of the holes.
It was an interesting drill, but my takeaway was perhaps a little different than that of the newer players. I focused heavily on marking, and marked up against two larger men. The difference in size made an exponential difference in how I had to approach the defense side of the drill. Every fake I had to go twice the distance that they did, wearing me out that much faster. I hate to admit it but between practicing my low releases earlier, and marking, by the time my turn to handle in the drill rotated, my legs were already feeling the work out.
Our next two drills focused on handler strategies when trapped on the line. I won’t go into them too heavily, but we worked on squaring up, making eye contact with the dump and setting up the dump throw. Finally we finished off with the end zone drill and something of a huck drill.
The huck drill was the most loosely organized event of the day. We piled all the discs on one end and the beginners/intermediate players hucked off to the more experienced players, who then threw the discs back. There was no line or organization, we had more discs than players anyways. Without needing any tips on my hucks, I could feel the difference between now and two months ago immediately. Even the wind wasn’t a good excuse for my throws. About 10 minutes in I finally started to get the right snap to my wrist and arm swing to put up a halfway decent huck. Nothing close to what I was throwing when I left Syracuse a few years ago, though.
Finally we finished off with a scrimmage. I was pretty done by that point. Surprisingly it wasn’t the running that destroyed me, but the low releases. My legs and hips just aren’t used to supporting a good handler stance anymore. I foresee more squats, lunges and throwing in my future!
All in all it was a lucrative day, and even if I’m too sore to stand today, I know it means I took the first step back towards being the Ultimate player I want to be… again.
P.S. Forgive the lack of pictures and other visuals lately! My laptop is still in the shop, hopefully having the hard drive successfully backed up. It’s hard to do picture editing or anything else on my little netbook!