Sunday, August 06, 2006

Let's Start From the Beginning

So, I just came back from Ultimate Camp where I had the opportunity to coach 16 young guns on how to play ultimate. Over the week, we have about 32 hours of ultimate time to teach the kids how to play. These kids start with the ability to throw a poor backhand, and that's about it. One guy was a returning camper, Scott, and has amazing disc skills. Finally, one of the councilors played for her high school team.

I'm going to talk about some of the successful drills/activities we've come up with to make the week a success for essentially beginners.

One of the toughest aspects of teaching teenagers how to play is focus, and focus over a 32 hour period is a challenge. In general, it all comes down to challenges and competition.

The first thing you have to teach is how to throw both the backhand and the flick (forehand for some of you). Mechanics of these throws are challenging to teach, and I'm not really going to get into details about teaching throws. Instead, I'll talk about a drill which I use to improve throwing.

The main concept we use to teach throwing is work on throwing the disc back and forth for a few minutes. Then we like to do what I call, "The Minute Drill". Minute drill is a very simple drill in which, obviously, you have one minute to throw as many throws between a partner. Sure, the form of the throws might not be that good, but the focus and improvement can be incredible. Form is more of a challenging thing that takes time to learn to coach.

Another useful competitive drill is a simple line relay race. The main principles here are the passing skills plus the pivoting and quick throwing. You can add lots of different variations to this drill to bring in other aspects that you want to teach.

Other aspects of the theme of using competition include lots of mini games and leisure games like double disc court and golf. These games provide lots of touches, which is important early on.

Finally, with beginners, playing a game of ultimate early is a waste of time. We like to start out with a game called ultimate capture the flag. I might explain this later, but the premise is that throwing is not the only way to advance the discs. This allows players to throw a bit, but at least play a game that flows, promotes touches, and is fun.