How does a good player make the leap to the elite level? What separates those players who are solid enough from those players who can be depended on when the going gets tough against all opponents? To find out those things you'd need to be an elite-level player. An elite-level player willing to impart their knowledge and wisdom to the world.
Well, fortunately for you all, I found some.
The conclusion: in addition to training at the highest level you can, some of the best things you can do revolve around what you do off the field. I've summarised the quotes (of which there was a lot of overlap) with some editorialising of my own below.
1. Throw. Lots.
Go throw. If you throw 20 mins 2 times a week focused you can be the best thrower at uni level if you do it for a couple semesters - Axel Ahmala, Clapham
This was by far the most dominant advice. It can't be underestimated how important throwing skills are. The more you can improve your throws - and learn the muscle memory to execute said throws - the more you can improve the range of options on field and the more mental processing power you can use to assess the validity of those options.
It is important to realise that not all throwing sessions are equal. The important part of Axel's advice is "focused". Think about what range you are throwing, and work out what range you can achieve with different throws consistently. Improve that. As Hannah said, the type of throw is also important. Practice breaks, and make sure your core skills are up to scratch. This is not to say more unusual throws aren't occasionally valid, but if you want to become an elite player, your fundamentals need to be solid.
2. Find a place to do sprints. Work on your movement.
Run more track than you think you need to. - Connor McHale, GB Men/Clapham
Know how to turn efficiently. - Hannah Brew, GB Women/Iceni (paraphrase)
I don't know about you, but when I watch track events at the Olympics, I don't often see them looking wildly around in the air. Half a second can make a big difference when chasing down a disc or following a player, and every deviation you have to take from proper sprinting form is one that is going to slow you down.
Of course, for that deviation to really affect you, you need to have good form in the first place. It's actually not the most natural movement to turn quickly with a jab step, or to keep your hips pointed forward while glancing over your shoulder to keep an eye on the disc. Again, like with throwing, the more you can commit form to muscle memory, the more it will pay off on field.
3. "Lift heavy things" - Anon
You don't really need to know much about elite players to know they spend a lot of time working on strength and conditioning. Not only does this help prevent injury (meaning more time can be spent on field practising), but being faster and stronger is obviously an advantage in any sport.
This was actually the piece of advice that I was worst at implementing. The gym seemed like a scary place to me, and while I would (very) occasionally go with friends, I was petrified of going on my own and of injuring myself/looking like a fool. So I have every sympathy for players in a similar position.
I wont give advice about what S&C you should do - I'm still learning that side of things. But my advice for how to start doing it: find a friend and set up a schedule (nothing is as powerful as habit), look up YouTube videos videos, and try to build some sort of exercise plan you can stick to. Some people take to S&C easily. Some people don't. But it is a very useful tool in becoming a better player, so it's worth pushing yourself to do.
With that said, don't let this become the be-all and end-all. Fitness is good, but it's part of the whole picture:
Turn one (probably two) of your weekly fitness sessions into throwing/disc-based fitness sessions. Teammates want the elite with disc in hand during crunch time. - Josh Briggs, GB Men/Clapham
4. Self-reflection makes a better player
I naturally reflect on how I played quite a lot...take a focus from your reflection into your practice. - Alice Hanton, GB Women/Leeds
Ask people who are better for feedback and advice. Most people will give it to you, and you shouldn't be scared to ask. - Someone who decided not to give their name.
But to be able to self reflect properly, you need to know what good Ultimate looks like, and whether that matches how you play. I'm very lucky - for me, commentating is actually a very good chance to critically analyse play and recognise things I want to implement in future. But even just on the sideline at tournaments, you can recognise impressive play. What anon says is very valid though - we are a community, and we're actually very willing to help each other out. Don't be afraid to ask people for advice, both for yourself and for what they think good Ultimate looks like.
|A shot of SMOG 1 vs Deep Space at UKU Nationals. |
Players from both teams put in a lot of work behind the scenes to reach the level they're at today.
Photo Credit: Sam Mouat for the ShowGame