I was recruited by Michelle Ng and Without Limits to write about my experiences in my final season of College Ultimate. 2011 has many possibilities...let's see how they pan out. E-mail me (robyn-fennig@uiowa.edu)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Improving Disc Skills During Crunch Time

This started out as an e-mail to my teammates. It turned into a post directed towards people who are "in-season." Saucy officially makes the transition into the outdoor season next weekend, with Midwest Throwdown (St. Louis, MO).

2008: Jaime, Katelyn, Lauren and I, showing off our clean jerseys. Thanks mud!
The Midwest, like most of the country, likes to make us play in ridiculous conditions, like below freezing temperatures, 30-40 mph wind, sleet, hail, slush, snow, 2 inches of mud that swallow your cleats (my personal favorite, horizontal sleet rain is typical every year at Regionals for us). We all know that these conditions make throwing and catching more difficult, to say the least. So how can someone expect to gain significant improvement from now until Midwest Throwdown (12 days away?): more touches on the disc.

My challenge is to find 10-15 mins every day of the week to get at least 100 throws/catches in. Go outside if the weather permits (today is great for throwing outdoors!) You might be thinking, "Robyn, you're crazy. 100 throws in 10-15 minutes!?"

If you don't believe me, watch me warm up before practice or a game (ask Bekah or Timko). I guarantee that if I am cleated up at 8:00, I can get you at least 80 reps in before we start our first drill.

Before every practice, this is my target:
-10 backhands, 3-5 yards
-10 forehands, 3-5 yards
-10 backhands, 10 yards (4 straight, 2 inside-out, 2 outside-in)
-10 forehands, 10 yards (4 straight, 2 inside-out, 2 outside-in)
-15 backhands, 15 yards (5 straight, 5 inside-out, 5 outside-in)
-15 forehands, 15 yards (5 straight, 5 inside-out, 5 outside-in)
-15 backhands, 20-25 yards (5 straight, 5 inside-out, 5 outside-in)
-15 forehands, 20-25 yards (5 straight, 5 inside-out, 5 outside-in)

Personally, I don't worry so much about working on low release throws or fakes during this "warmup" time where I'm trying to maximize disc touches. I don't do either of these skills (low throws or fakes) unless I have a mark on. So I focus on these skills during drills with a mark. If I have no mark on me, I have no reason to get really low. It slows down my throw and adds unnecessary movement. As for faking, I practice that when I'm watching TV or walking around campus (I prefer to make eye contact with strangers and fake throw at them. General rule of thumb, if they flinch, my fake was good. Which means, I have lots to work on with my forehand...). I am not sure how many coaches or more experienced folks would agree with this philosophy.

My advice: constantly be moving. Work on your footwork. Most importantly, work on your "transfer time." (Timko is probably more than sick of me preaching transfer time, haha)

As a former college fastpitch softball catcher, my coaches emphasized the need to decrease the amount of time I actually had the ball in my possession. Minimizing my transfer time (time that elapses from when I actually catch the ball and it gets in my teammates glove on a base to throw a runner stealing a base out) helped me play my role of keeping base runners in their place. I can control how long the ball was in my glove, how long it took me to set up my throw, how long I took to get the ball out of my hand, how fast the ball got to the base. Working on taking out every unnecessary movement was essential: it was the difference between throwing someone out and giving them a free base.

The same can be said of ultimate. The faster you get the disc out of your hands, the more options to throw you have. Things to minimize:
-How long it takes you to gain possession
-How long it takes you to find your grip
-How long it takes you to set up your throw (footwork, body positioning)
-How fast your release is

Something else to work on:
-How accurate your throw is*

Having a fast transfer time is great, but when it comes down to it, if the disc doesn't come close to your receiver, what good is a good transfer time?

Accuracy comes from practice, repetition, and touches on the disc. Case in point, get outside and throw!

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