Building the Repetoire: Thought-Guiding Tools

Posted May 13th, 2009 by Mackey and filed in cutting
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Jeters hits on an important notion for developing your repertoire as a cutter (and, by extension, with any other skill involving adjustments), namely the need to develop a decision flowchart to guide your in-game actions (and especially reactions).

Imagine this. You initiate your cut from the horizontal stack, at maximum speed, in the direction of a deep strike. Now, what is your response if …
  • … another cutter strikes deep.
  • … your defender doesn’t commit, but a poaching defender is in a good position.
  • … you reverse your cut but find that your lane has been taken.

… and the list goes on.

What eventually becomes “instinct” on the field is honed through lots of trial and error or prior thought. (Stop thinking when you play).

To aid that sort of thought process (which is to say, to aid visualization), I’d offer that these sorts of deliberations are exactly why I started drawing up cutting schematics in the margins of my notebooks, and I’d also offer an older post on Threat PointsTM for a bit of this thought process with crappy MS paint schematic to boot (that notion is one I plan to revisit and put more succinctly at some point, as it’s a powerful one).

Zone: Offensive Skills

Posted April 9th, 2009 by Mackey and filed in Mental Aspects, Offense, zone, zone o
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First and foremost, you have to:

  • Recognize SPACE and MOTION. Any zone player worth his salt needs to be able to do this. Being able to attack a defense necessitates recognizing where and when holes form. By “motion,” I mean motion of the defense, but I especially mean disc motion and player motion (anticipation, in other words)–recognizing When positions will change and you might have an open angle of attack is just as important as Where–both are necessary (though perhaps not sufficient–you have to be able to act on this information too).

How do you cultivate such recognition? Unfortunately I don’t have a good (easy) answer for this. (I know zone, and can play zone, but it tends to be more of an inexact, hard-to-explain “art” and less of a precise “science” for me).

Experience goes a long way; sometimes you have to screw up royally before you’ll remember well enough to get it right. To that end, constantly evaluating your performance–after a point is over, looking back and seeing what worked, what didn’t, if there were opportunities missed–can help accelerate this learning process (obviously this applies beyond zone).

You can also gain this experience through observation. Watch high-level ultimate teams and see what kind of throws they take and avoid–what surprises you? Try to get back to the source of their decision-making, figure out WHY they do what they do.

Finally, visualization can help here too. If you can remember an opportunity you missed, replay it in your head and act on it this time–key in on what stands out most (you spot them with nobody in a 10yd radius? He’s moving deep and the wing is in front of him staring at you?), as you want your in-game recognition to be quick.

What else?

  • Communication. This is of extreme importance in zone D, but it has its role in O as well. It doesn’t necessarily need to be out-loud “look here” “go there,” but subtler forms–faking, looks–can communicate a lot in terms of “there’s a hole here” or “you’re covered there.” This tends to fall under the umbrella of experience & chemistry, but I think any team could institutionalize a system without too much extra effort. It’s particularly important for your handlers, who need to be able to adjust within the span of 1-2 stall counts to ensure continued resets against a novel defense (of course, this all depends on how dynamic you want your offensive set to be).

  • Mobility. Handlers, poppers, and wings all need to be able to move when the time is right–a quick backfield is a backfield that can quickly flow up the field once the disc gets past the cup. Quick handlers can frustrate even the best cups with motion and crashes from behind the disc, forcing the defense to adjust to you rather than the other way around.
  • Judgment. In short, don’t make bad decisions. It’s important to distinguish “bad decision” from “bad execution” or “unlucky.” (It’s also important to realize when “bad execution” or “unlucky” are symptomatic of a larger trend (i.e. lack of skill or an opponent who outclasses you), and are therefore “bad decisions” in the context of a given offense, game, or player’s role/skillset).

    That cross-field hammer that would’ve broken it wide open, but slipped through the wing’s fingers? Likely bad luck/bad execution. That high-release backhand for five yards that got D’d by the lurking middle-middle? Maybe a bad decision, depending on what your offense is trying to do. Generally speaking, value the disc, and if you’re going to take a risk, make it one for significant yards or position.

    Again, evaluating yourself after each point can go a long way towards improving your decision-making. It’s almost mandatory in fact; if you’re not holding yourself accountable, who is?

  • Throwing and catching. These skills in a zone context are not fundamentally different from a man D situation, but your “riskier” throws (over-the-tops) become more necessary; extra work in being able to throw, read, and receive them will help to make “risk” into a strength.

What sticks out in your mind as essential skills for zone O? I’m no expert and I’d love to hear more in the comments.

Stop Thinking

Posted February 15th, 2009 by Mackey and filed in Mental Aspects, Offense, throwing
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You hear about it plenty with regards to ultimate, usually something like “if you can consistently complete a forehand/backhand to an open cutter, throwing ability will not keep you from playing elite-level ultimate.”

How do you get it? You know where I’m going because you’ve already read the title.

This is something I’ve mentioned offhandedly before–honing your skills to a point where they become unconscious–but this cannot be restated enough. It’s only when you get to a point where you don’t have to think about what you’re doing that you can really thrive. When throwing a forehand is as natural to you as walking (ok, perhaps nothing is quite THAT natural, but you get the idea*), you’re in a good place. How often do you stumble when you walk?

You really need to develop a mental state for performance. Part of that is avoiding distraction, and “distraction” includes what you do with your body. If you HAVE to think about your throwing technique while you’re doing it, can you really expect it to hold up under game-time pressure? If you need to think about your footwork mid-cut, are you really going as fast as you possibly could?

Levels of Competence

An exemplar of athleticismI believe it was in a book about Bruce Lee (if I had anyone who I’d say was a personal role model for me, he’d be the one) that I read the following about skills progression–specifically for martial arts, but the parallels with any physical activity are evident:

  • As a beginner, your instincts are bad, unwieldy, inefficient at best.
  • As an intermediate, your instincts are still bad, but you know what’s proper and can correct. (There are multiple intermediate stages, with “knowing you’re wrong” and “knowing what’s proper” and “being able to correct” each their own, discrete stage).
  • At an advanced level, you again return to your instinct, but the old, inefficient ones have been replaced with the precise and the honed**.

It was due to this belief that Lee’s original school of Jeet Kune Do‘s first and final ranks were both symbolized by an empty circle (your intermediate ranks were a progression of the yin-yang).

Many people reach a high level of intermediate proficiency–able to consciously will themselves to perfection of a sort–and get complacent, missing the pinnacle: true unconscious competence.

That’s where you want to get. Every time you step on the field, you want to operate unconsciously. You don’t want to have to think about your footwork. You don’t want to have to think about your grip. Your thoughts and energies should be focused purely on recognizing your situations and responding appropriately–no logistics of how to get there, merely intended destinations. Many a D set has been thrown that succeeds simply by taking players out of their unconscious selves and forcing them to think. Don’t help out your opponent by doing it to yourself unprompted!

Developing Unconscious Competence

How do you develop this kind of unconscious competence? Well, it ain’t easy, but there is some transferal between tasks (usually you regard it as “talent” or something similar when a player seems “naturally good;” natural is a good word indeed, for these individuals are almost always allowing their body to take over, getting out of their own way–and I can guarantee you they went through the process of learning to let go at some point. Whether they realize it or not). Again, I’ll mention driving (esp. stick) as a nice example of an opportunity to learn to let go. I’m currently learning how to play guitar–instruments are another great analog.

Relevant reading: SciAm Mind’s*** latest on How to Avoid Choking Under Pressure, page 2:

“Let’s say you’re trying to play the piano. If you were relying on your motor memory”—just letting it fly—“your motor command would automatically read out the next note in about 50 milliseconds.” But consciously monitoring your performance brings this superfast sequence of motor commands to a screeching halt, resulting in a choking incident of epic proportions. “The feedback from the first note takes 100 milliseconds just to move from your cochlea up to your brain. So if you’re saying to yourself, ‘Okay, I just finished the C, now I have to go on to the D,’ you’re going to have problems.”

This sums it up perfectly. In order to become a good musician, athlete, public speaker, you have to learn to let go, to let your body simply DO. You have to hone your body’s skills to a point where you can let go with confidence.

If you can develop a regimen or strategy to learning this skill, you can continue to apply it elsewhere, too.

Deliberate Practice

The foundational building block of all unconscious competence is deliberate practice. I don’t mean deliberate, as in, you have the intent to practice, but rather in the sense that you do everything you do with purpose. You should always be working towards a goal, honing a skill, refining, testing, repeating. repeating. You sure as hell can’t expect to make all your passes in a game if you can’t do it when you’re simply out tossing, right?

The deliberateness comes into play when you’re not content to just toss, but instead choose to toss with preconditions–you only throw from a full-extension pivot, you only throw after a fake, etc. And then, being deliberate at those things is another layer on top of that–is your full-extension as far as you can make it? Can you get to that point and also keep your balance, throw convincing, effective fakes, not pull a hamstring? When you throw fakes, are you working mechanically on the fake itself, or are you moving beyond that, visualizing a game situation and a covered defender (poor conditions, an aggresive mark) causing you to make that fake? Seeing the ensuing change in conditions that enable the one you do throw?

Visualization is the bridge between deliberate practice and effortless performance. You work on your throws deliberately, get the hang of throwing a forehand with touch…then, you stop thinking about how you’re throwing and instead start thinking about where you’re throwing. You picture a cutter. Does the throw still go where you want it, how you want it? What if you picture a mark up against you, defender tight your receiver’s hip? Can you place a pass where it won’t be D’d? If yes…can you do it again? And again? And again? Get to that point, and you might be ready for primetime.

Developing the mindset for mental toughness and applying it in-game is another component of being successful, particularly when the going gets tough, but you can go a long ways towards getting there if you can learn to simply



It’s a long race when you’re chasing flow****. As they say in Japan, ganbatte.

*to be completely honest, your best comparisons for throwing a frisbee would be with other activities which involve a high degree of coordinated movement of the arms combined with stabilization through the core and a significant transfer of power from the lower limbs, as well as involving a dynamic component to projecting an implement–which make things like basketball shooting, baseball pitching/throwing, tennis ball hitting, or football throwing your truer comparisons. (Adding in the extra factor of a rotational component trims the list farther). Looking for some cross-disciplinary reading to do for ultimate? Look in that direction. Looking for some off season cross-training? You could do a lot worse than the same (I especially recommend a sport like squash, which incorporates a lot of the same sorts of lunging and one-handed motion that throwing does).

**this is otherwise known as the point in which you become a killing machine. Lee worried about some joker challenging him on the street (or one of the stunt men during a film shoot), because his instincts were honed such that in a real fight he might not be able to stop himself from, at the very least, seriously injuring his opponent.

***as I exclaimed to a friend on first discovery: “it’s like somebody made a magazine just for me!” I eat this stuff up. Highly recommended for anyone who cares to understand humanity better.

****fast forward to the last 5-8 minutes for the good stuff.

Cultivating Focus

Posted October 22nd, 2008 by Mackey and filed in focus, Mental Aspects
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If you really scour my blog, you can find this info on my UCPC post on Alan Goldberg’s talk.

So, focus. I’ve harped on visualization a bit here…you might be aware that focus, properly applied, can increase ability even without physically practicing. But did you know that focus can be trained, too? (There’s a whole school of Buddhism devoted entirely to the pursuit of better focus, in fact. Perhaps you’ve heard of zen?)

A former captain of mine was once mocked for telling the team to “focus on focus.” While it sounds silly at a glance, there is something to be said for being aware of one’s ability to focus, and there’s something more to be said for deliberately working on improving this skill.

How? That’s the trick, isn’t it. As Dr. Goldberg has put it, it is not the ability to sustain focus, but the ability to refocus, that separates the high performers from the rest. It’s not that Michael Jordan didn’t get distracted; it’s that he was able to put these distractions aside and return to living in the moment that allowed him to thrive in the big moments (granted, a lot of other things went into that success, too).

Any practice on focus and re-focusing is going to resemble meditation in some form or another. You know that whole “flow” thing? Flow is essentially an active meditation. If there was nothing to it, you wouldn’t see so many practitioners still at it today.

So, in short: meditate.

In long: take the time to simply live and breathe. If you need something to focus on, pick up a frisbee and place it in front of you. You only think I’m kidding, Daniel-san. Pick something simple to say and easy to remember (Goldberg suggests “one”).

Look at the frisbee. Breathe. Focus on every detail of that hunk of plastic. Notice the ridges on top, the imperfections from use…hey, that Vegas graphic is pretty cool. I wonder how this whole Conference 1 thing will shake out?–
“One.” Refocus on the disc. Use the phrase (or simply a thought) to cue yourself to refocus. Work your way from a frisbee on the table to a frisbee on top of a TV playing highlights from the club championships, and you’ll have developed a pretty potent system for getting your mind in the right place.

More conventional means: Sit. Close your eyes, or don’t. Breathe. Count your breaths. Count to 100. Count to 200. Count to 300. Start over when you lose track for your thoughts. When you feel good at that, start over when you simply wind up distracted from your breathing and your counting, instead of when you can’t remember the number. But start simply.

Other means: You can practice focus in a wide variety of situations. Read The Inner Game of Tennis, read The Art of Learning, embrace the ability of your body to execute without your mind’s chaperoning it all the time. Focus on relaxing your mind…focus on letting go. When you’re out for a drive, forget the thoughts racing through your mind, and simply let your body drive the car for a while. (driving is one of the most complicated tasks a human performs on a day-to-day basis, and is a great candidate for flow experience)

Rather than subscribe to stress, free yourself with focus. The opportunities to let yourself go and be content to simply live are limitless. You can become a better ultimate player in this way, and a better person, as well.

UPDATE: Micah adds in the comments that Dr. Goldberg has his own site up and running–I haven’t given it an in-depth look to say for or against it yet (it can often be the case that such sites are simply used to hook more customers without offering any of the meat of their ideas), but you might find it helpful.

Defensive Thought: Anticipation

Posted August 27th, 2008 by Mackey and filed in Defense, focus, Mental Aspects, Offense, throwing
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The Huddle’s Andrew Fleming has a great analogy for this, in his article on being the deep defender when you hear the “Up!” Call:

Have you ever sat a stoplight and watched the light for the other direction turn from green to yellow to red? When your light finally turns green, it’s just a confirmation of what you already knew was about to happen. How much quicker are you off that line if you’re peeking at the other light versus waiting for yours to change? That’s the difference between reacting and anticipating on D. When I hear that “up” call, I want to already know what throw is coming and already be poised to jump on it.

He very succinctly summarizes the components of good, anticipatory D.

Anticipation means not only knowing the current situation and recognizing which throws are most likely, but also learning how to read people and recognizing opportunities to make the play.

General things you should be aware of as an anticipatory defender, as much as possible (in rough order of importance–feel free to dispute my rankings or add others in the comments)

  1. The position of the disc on the field relative to you and your man
  2. How long the disc has been in that position–is it in motion for a potential unmarked huck/throw? Is it stall 7 or 8, so you should really be heads-up for a swilly bail-out throw?
  3. The capabilities of the thrower. Is it the stud thrower, who can not only jack it, but break the mark to do so? Is it somebody who’s only going to throw to under cuts?
  4. The force (the person on the mark). Which side of the field should passes be going to? How likely is it that the mark will hold and not get broken?
  5. The conditions. Is it rainy? Are you going upwind and can dictate out with more confidence? Is there a crosswind that would cause a throw to your expected side of the field to float or sink more than usual?
  6. Your man’s preferences. Are they a relentless deep threat? Do they prefer to stick around the disc? Keep in mind they may still take what you give them, even if it’s not what they prefer.
  7. What, if anything, has the other team as a whole been beating you with? If they’re exploiting the around break, be prepared to pounce on a somewhat floaty around throw (and adjust when you’re on the mark as well). If they love to jack it, start backing your man or otherwise make sure you’re always in a position to strike on the huck.

All of these bits of information, summed together, should allow you to make a few adjustments:

  1. What cut you choose to defend primarily–what’s the biggest (and most viable) threat at this moment?
  2. What cuts you choose to respect–if it’s really windy and the player with the disc does not look confident in her upwind forehand, you can give a cushion of at least a few steps when your woman goes deep (but beware the dump/swing to a more confident thrower in motion).
  3. Where you expect the throw to go to. This is particularly important at high stalls, when a less-than-perfect throw might come suddenly and surprise you. If you expect to see a throw to the forehand side of the field, allow for the possibility of a stall-9 blade.
  4. Whether or not you poach off of your man (!). If you’ve evaluated your man to be less of a threat in their current position than some other play–your man prefers to cut under, but their big thrower has the disc and you see somebody setting up the deep cut–you can sometimes get away with devoting less attention to your man and more attention to the play in action.

This is a lot of information to process at once on the field. It’s impossible (In my opinion) to consciously take in all of this information and still play at 100% intensity (you’ll be thinking too much). However, you can learn to intuit things, or give yourself reminders before the point. The disc’s position should eventually become a natural sense; for me, I can often discern where the frisbee is by the sound of a catch or reading my man and, if in a straight stack, the other men on offense (be wary of eye fakes). You can cultivate an internal stall clock to anticipate high-count situations (or perhaps your teammate will count loudly enough for you to know with certainty). Conditions and the force, you should be aware of before the point begins(or at least before the disc is tapped in on a stoppage). Strive to cultivate an intuitive sense of what space is threatened and in which space (and at what times) your opponent is not a threat to get the disc. I find it usually helps to remind myself of the force on D just before the pull goes up (if I’m starting on D or O), and to spend some time (doesn’t need to be more than 10 seconds or so) trying to visualize the wind vector and anticipating which throws will float or sink on D (and how to compensate with my own throws).

You can, of course, rehearse a lot of these situations through visualization. Cutting schematics can go a long way towards guiding you here–draw up novel situations, impose different conditions, and then try and picture yourself in them.

In addition to recognizing situations in terms of general expectancies, strive to learn the signs that a play is coming–learn to read throwers. You can do this on a team-by-team basis if their system is transparent; you can also learn to read individuals. Eventually, you will start to pick up on tells that are more across-the-board; players who are not skilled in showing fakes or making quick decisions in particular become easy reads with enough attention. There’s a certain look–not quite “Deer in the Headlights”, but a similar single-minded tunnel vision, when a thrower goes from “scanning/evaluating” mode to “preparing to throw” mode. Mid-level cutters get a similar look when they’re in the lane, if you’re trying to read their fakes.

Don’t think too much on the field; simply pay attention and make associations through experience. Eventually, you’ll develop an intuitive sense and good defense will become more automatic (it never becomes fully automatic–invariably there’s always some external condition you should be taking note of). Learn when you can afford to think on the ultimate field, and learn when you need to stop thinking and just make the play. Anticipation will put you in position, but you still have to execute.

The Mental Components of Layout Training

Posted August 24th, 2008 by Mackey and filed in catching, Defense, Fitness, Mental Aspects, Offense
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Visualize, visualize, visualize.

Simple? Depends.

Visualization is a SKILL. Former teammates or blog readers should know that I’m a big proponent of visualization as a means to success.

So, you’ve hopefully read the link above and/or are familiar with visualization, generally. How does that apply specifically with regards to layout training?

For me, there are a couple crucial points to master if you expect to lay out successfully in game situations:

  • Pre-layout–anticipate, be ready
  • Disc is in the air–go for it!
  • Layout execution–technique
  • (minor point)Get back up and play!

Now, to touch on each individually…

Pre-layout–anticipate, be ready: A huge part of defense is anticipation (more on that later this week). If you’re laying out on defense, before you ever get horizontal you need to know when you should be ready to bid and when you should be priming other actions instead(again, more on this later). You can help yourself to recognize some of these situations more quickly and effectively through visualization, but some degree of in-game experience is also necessary here. You can think up simple situations which lead to layouts (you’re on defense, right on your man’s hip, as he cuts in for the disc), but invariably there are other situations where you might want to bid that you won’t anticipate. Learn to see these opportunities when you miss them, and prepare yourself mentally to pounce on them in the future. Offensively the situations tend to be more clear-cut, but if you always expect perfect throws to your chest you’ll find yourself surprised by the rare errant ones. Try to err the other way in your expectations and you’re liable to catch a lot more that comes your way.

Disc is in the air–go for it!: So, you recognize the situation. You’re right there, ready to go. The disc is thrown…what do you do? It’s not at all uncommon to pull up or choke in this situation when you’re just learning to lay out. Why? You’re still uncomfortable with executing the layout. Maybe some situations–big game, you’re really fired up–you go for, and others you don’t. It’s normal to have a threshold for this sort of thing, but you want to make that threshold pretty low–so that you laying out or not laying out is not a matter of how revved up you are, but whether you decide to lay out or not. Again, visualization can help here. Run through situations in your mind–remember to perceive these situations in detail, focus on the disc coming your way–and get the reps you need to get over the mental block with some mental effort.

A friend of mine got over his mental block by mixing visualization with physical practice–he would have me throw a frisbee to some target–he started off with a trash can, and worked up to progressively faster-moving human targets (they started off at a walking speed, worked up to 50/70/90%, etc), running up and laying out past the target to get the disc. You might have success with the same.

Layout execution–technique: I’ve already gone into the physical components in last week’s post, so give that a look. The key is to visualize these components in slow motion–you absolutely will not be able to focus on all of these things in the heat of the moment (in fact, focusing on anything other than the disc is likely to hinder your performance), so you have to do the mental legwork well beforehand if you’re to get it right without thinking later. Again, visualize detail–see (or feel) yourself exploding into your takeoff, extending forwards, flying through the air, and absorbing the impact through your torso while keeping your head, knees and arms all out of harm’s way.

Get back up and play!: Successful bid or no, you need to get up. This is particularly important on defense, when a missed bid means your man is getting off an unmarked throw–or on offense, when a missed bid means your man could now be sprinting deep uncovered or picking up the disc to get off a throw while you’re preoccupied on the ground. This is partly a visualization exercise–recognize (anticipate) the need to get back up before you hit the ground–but this is also part fitness. Upper body strength is underrated for importance in ultimate, and it is in exactly this situation that all those pushups/bench presses/burpess (the third is my personal favorite, as it actually trains pushing up into a standing position) will come in handy. I take pride in my bids, and I also take pride in recovering from my bids.

Bonus double post: A reaction to the Huddle’s Issue No. 6: "Footwork"

Posted August 6th, 2008 by Mackey and filed in Fitness, Mental Aspects
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Almost all of the authors are very vague about how one actually improves footwork.

“Oh, do ladder/cutting/change-of-direction drills. Think about changing direction.”

Thought-provoking, sure, but some of those articles are not particularly actionable as far as improving as an ultimate player goes. I’m sure it’s all well and good to be able to watch high-level elite players routinely or be covered by them routinely, but your average layperson can only imagine what most of these authors are alluding to, and much of the benefit of such models is lost.

I’m not trying to say such commentary is not valuable, because it is tremendously so–the Huddle is the best thing to happen to the development of this sport yet. Universally accessible, not filtered through the lens of one person (the problem with blogs today as a source of information, including yours truly), and broadly applicable strategy and skills. It’s a helluva lot better than what I’m doing here, which is more of an effort to guide beginner / intermediate level ultimate improvement.

At any rate, sifting through the thought-provoking-ness for the actionable items yields the following gems, in my opinion:

Get low, chop my feet, and explode…if you can envision [emphasis mine] yourself making a strong cut, you will be able to do that.”

Try combining those two. And then try implementing what you’ve envisioned. Also see my previous entry on stopping for some exposition and a link to some good video on good stopping/change of direction mechanics. Maybe the Huddle didn’t beat me to the punch here after all.

Planting off your inside foot instead of your outside foot” (shamelessly stolen from L&H F)

Again, visualize this and then try it. Ladders, yeah. Drills, yeah. Good, but I say pah.

Work through it mentally–whether purely through visualization, if you’re comfortable enough with your body to know how it should be working, or through a little bit of trial (you can do this in slow motion right now–if you’re at work, maybe fake a little on your way to the bathroom to save face) to give your mind some reference material–and, once you’ve identified what the key motions to stopping and exploding in a new direction (while maintaining balance!) are in your mind, recreate those motions in your practice and your training. Train them with plyos, train the main muscles with some strength training too (hint: single leg lifting works wonders here, and you can do a lot with just your body weight).

Finally, my two cents about footwork: you can compensate for a lot of errors in footwork/balance simply by being strong(er). I’ve gotten away with being off-balance (sometimes intentionally to bait the man I’m defending) by being strong enough to recover quickly. There’s more than one way to skin a cat. That said, you’re usually better off being strong AND having proper technique. Strive to be your best, rather than simply good enough–there’s ALWAYS room for improvement.

Visualization: See Success

Posted April 22nd, 2008 by Mackey and filed in Fitness, Mental Aspects
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Any of the guys on the team will attest that I tend to harp about visualization a lot, particularly leading up to big tournaments or when I am, say, teaching somebody how to lay out (because botched or successful layouts hurt a lot more than visualizing a perfect one–perhaps a post on that later).

So, what is visualization? This and this sum it up pretty succinctly. But how do you then apply that to ultimate or whatever endeavor you want to pursue?

There are a couple ways to go about it…

If you’re a team leader of some sort (coach, captain), consider leading a guided visualization for the whole group. Have everyone lay down or otherwise get in a comfortable position, close their eyes, and then you (or whomever is doing the guiding) will slowly describe a situation–if we’re talking ultimate, go through game preparation (warming up, taking some throws, drilling) and in-game situations (making a cut–playing good defense–laying out, etc.), describing everything in detail–morning dew on the grass soaks your cleats, notice the lining of the fields, see how bright your light looks as you pull it out of your bag before the game–and keying in on important in-game details: you notice your man’s hips are committed, so you plant and go the other way. You recognize the thrower is going to pass to your man, so you prepare to make a layout.

If you’re on your own, or want to visualize more than that, you can do the same sort of thing on your own, right before bed, or when spacing out in class. See from your mind’s eye–visualize situations through your own eyes, don’t see yourself from a distance. Feel the way your body feels; slow down time and key in on every crucial detail, from your running form to the finer points of your throws to cues from your man that reveal his intentions. You can use a cutting schematic to help mentally set up situations to visualize yourself in.

This is probably the single most efficient tool you can use to make yourself better at just about anything. It takes no physical effort! A guided visualization can take anywhere from 10-30 minutes depending on how long you make it; personal visualization can be much briefer than that, visualizing on a situation-to-situation basis. It WILL make you better if done correctly–just think about it. If you’ve already seen every situation imaginable (literally), nothing will surprise you. If you’ve already seen yourself running through and layout D’ing your man in your mind, you’re going to be that much more comfortable doing it for real.

Keep in mind visualization isn’t just for rehearsing–it has an actual training effect on your body. If you’re hurt, for instance, and can’t squat due to an ankle sprain, etc, visualizing a squat–feeling the tension and increased effort that go with it–can sustain your training more so than if you do nothing while you recover. The mind is a powerful tool.

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