What We Did Right: Good Decisions

I teach math. I like patterns and I like certainties. In Ultimate, one certainty is that the difference in points between the two teams at the end of the game is the difference in turn-overs, plus or minus one. If your team turns the disc less than the other team, you will never lose the game.

We identified three places that most turnovers happen: drops, bad hucks and endzones. With catching incorporated into practices, we were already working to minimize drops, so it was time to get rid of bad hucks and endzone turnovers.

Jake catches the disc over LP right at the back of the endzone.

We had three rules for a good huck. It had to meet the rule of thirds, it had to be thrown from behind half so that the yardage gain was worth the risk and it had to be from flow or from a player designated as a static hucker because of their throwing skill.

It took a lot of work to build the right habits. We ran scrimmages where any huck that didn’t meet the rules was automatically a turnover. We set up our huck drill to meet all the rules every rep. We even ran our huck drill against the rules to show ourselves how much harder it was to complete the throws. At one practice, a player put up a flick bomb from one step behind the half line and then turned and grinned at me as it was caught in the endzone. Our awareness of what was a good and bad huck was becoming ingrained.

Our biggest challenge was training ourselves to take good endzone looks. Most of our players had habits from previous teams and league play of taking risky endzone throws. We had great throwers who could run 80% completion rates on the hammer to a player cutting away, high loopy throws in wind and threads through a crowd. We didn’t want to settle for 80% completion rates, so we set about changing our habits. Drill, drill, drill and eventually we were taking better choices here as well.

I’d love to say that our completion rate in the finals was great, but it wasn’t. The good news was that those turnovers generally came from gusty wind, poaches or excellent defense. We rarely lost possession because of throwing into too small a space, choosing an angle that made the read too hard or trying something too fancy into the endzone. Given the small margin in the game, we didn’t have a lot of room for bad decisions.

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