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I had a blast teaching the students about Ultimate this summer! I offered the week-long workshop four times over the six weeks with minor alterations to each day’s Lesson Plan, which depended on how students were progressing and their feedback. The number one request students made was, “can we play more scrimmages?” I responded to the feedback, but I made sure to still work on fundamentals each day and not always give into their “pleading”.

One thing I did do was play a fair amount of “hot box” because it made smaller teams, so each student could get a lot of contact with the disc, required mainly short passing and simulated the rules associated with a full field game of Ultimate. What is Hot Box? Well, if you are asking that question here is the basic set up:

  • Create a large square area about 25′ x 25′ with four cones
  • In the center of the larger square mark out another, smaller square (4′ x 4′) with four cones; this is the scoring area

And the Rules:

  • Two teams of about 3 to 5
  • All play must happen within the large square; outside the square is out of bounds, resulting in a turnover
  • Stall count is usually set to 8, but depending on the level of the players it can be as high as ten; if the stall is reached it is a turnover
  • Players  must complete a set number of throws in a row, say three before they can score
  • A score occurs when a pass is completed to a teammate inside the smaller square after the three throws
  • You can add in as many “standard” rules of Ultimate; I usually use no fouls, no traveling, no double teams as a base.

Teaching Points:

  • Creating Space
  • Communication
  • Cutting
  • Playing as a team
  • Improving offensive (throwing) and defensive (marking) skills

Originally, I wanted to write about each day, however, because of my busy schedule I really couldn’t keep up with that ambitious plan. So, instead, I will recap highlights from each week below and show some pictures that the program’s photo journalist shot. Feel free to check out her photo blog. I goofed around with color saturation and blurred the original images a bit using Picasa 3 for fun.

SESSION 1 WEEK ONE: learning names and working out the kinks

Grip

Forehand Grip

As with each week’s day one of the workshop, I started by “breaking the ice”, with some ice breakers (see Lesson Plan). They worked alright, but I put a little too much time into them, taking away the core elements of the day’s lesson (I corrected this for all of the following weeks). Plus, there was some crazy scheduling issues with the rest of the program, which cut into the first day a lot. So, after completing a short jog around the field and then stretching we only got to do some forehand and backhand throwing. I adjusted to the issue and looked forward to having the full period the following day.

After the first day, both the jog and the stretching were led by the students. I made the students aware of this, so they knew what to expect and could get into a routine. To lead the jog, I would pick one student from those that volunteered; and for the stretching, I would have everyone circle up and asked each student to offer one stretch the group could do.  I would have them explain which muscles or area of the body the stretch targeted, and they would count out how long to hold the stretch, calling when to switch legs, arms, etc. Students seemed to enjoy this and even made up some stretches, like the lie-down, close your eyes stretch, which I let them do… for a full count of 10 seconds. It made me laugh and showed them I was there to have fun, too.

Passing

Students pass in a zig-zag pattern

The first two days we jumped right into talking about throwing: grip, stance and movement after the warm ups. Each week I varied this a little, but it consisted of me basically describing how to hold the disc, how to stand and then the movement associated with the throw. I would pass to volunteer and then have everyone partner up to practice. Catching with two hands and making eye contact with your receiver was also stressed. When we reviewed throwing on the second days of each week’s workshop, I would have students lead the review where they would explain the grip, stance and movement to the group.

We played “Hot Box” on Tuesday and Wednesday of the first week’s workshop. I waited till the End of Thursday’s class to run the first full field game. I was a little worried that students would start to make long, wild passes once they got on a full field, but because I added the rule that you have to complete three passes first it didn’t happen that frequently. Plus, the students were good at positively reminding their teammates about poor passing.

Overall the first week went well and each student gained confidence in throwing both a backhand and a forehand, experienced a number of different drills and learned about some of the basic rules of Ultimate.

SESSION 1 WEEK THREE: Round two, a little wiser and more efficient with time

The second time I ran the workshop, my transitions were smoother: setting up cones for drills then on to hot box or a game; and I made sure to be very concise when explaining rules or a concept like cutting to the disc or marking with a force.

Cutting Drill

Cutting drill

I really enjoyed using what I call a “Basic Cutting drill” for a throwing warm up. It helped students with throwing short forehands and backhands, running to the disc and leading the receiver. Another drill I enjoyed was a “Stack Drill“, which worked on timing and using a vertical stack. I would have all of the students form four, single file lines all facing one sideline. I would be at one end of the field with a pile of discs. One student in the closest line to me would make a straight cut for the sideline. I would then throw the first student the disc. When the disc was in the air, a student in the second line would cut straight for the sideline to receive the next pass from the first student. And so on till the forth person caught the disc. Each student who participated in the drill would then return to their original line, allowing the next student in each line to do the drill. Each line was spaced about ten to fifteen feet apart and helped them all work on “Flow”. Flow is something that all novice players struggle with because it relies on a lot of elements: individual timing of cuts, trusting teammates to make cuts a certain way and throwing well timed lead passes.

I used a “Huck drill” to close out one of the days, which worked really well in helping the students read the disc. I like this drill more than “Five Hundred” because students have to run to the disc and adjust to its flight path to catch it. Where in 500 players are stationary and then react. Plus, when there are only two competitors it lowers the risk of injury. I also made the rest of the students call “up” to let the runners know when the disc is in the air. “Up” calls are very important to the game and this drill helped students get in the habit yelling out.

Different angle of Cutting Drill

A Different Angle of the Cutting Drill

Which brings me to one thing students didn’t do well during our scrimmages, which was make calls. They would just let the foul happen and not say anything. I realized that it was more important and more beneficial to not focus on making foul calls, so I didn’t spend too much time talking about it after the week’s workshop. If the workshop was longer then I would’ve made a point to stress the rules.

One thing that happened during this week’s workshop caused me to change to my rain day plan. A storm canceled our outdoor field time, so we had to go into a classroom. I used this time to play flutter guts, talk about positions (handler, reset or dump, cutter and deep)  and watch clips from Stacked the 2003 UPA Club Championships. I showed the “out takes” reel, which is a set of compilations covering blocking, marking, hucking, passing and layouts. The students enjoyed watching the clips from the film and asked a number of questions about rules, levels of play and if the players were paid professionals.

SESSION 2 WEEK ONE: Running Smoothly

Close Call

Almost got the "D" Block!

This week went the smoothest out of all of the weeks. The warm ups, introduction, drills, hot box and games all ran pretty much according to plan. I even got to teach a different play to each of the teams before we started our scrimmages on Friday’s class. I felt a real sense of accomplishment because I was able to stick to almost everything I laid out in my lesson plan. I did have to adjust here and there because that is the nature of teaching, but it wasn’t because I ran out of time or that the students weren’t responding to the subject matter.

The students played hard and had a lot of fun all week. I was really impressed with the level of energy each student brought to everything we did. Sometimes you get lucky and it is the intensity of the students that makes the class so easy to teach. Not to say that other weeks weren’t as much fun or that the students weren’t as into the workshop, but a lot of things came together to make this week great, including the weather.

SESSION 2 WEEK THREE: Running low on Energy

Jumping Catch

Jumping Block

When week three of session two came around it marked the start of my seventh week at the program. I was tired. But I couldn’t let it negatively effect my teaching. Thankfully at this point I knew what worked and what didn’t (complex or in-depth explanations of rules or tactics). I anticipated what students would have difficulty with (the heat, forehands, etc.) and what they would excel at (hot box). I knew from the beginning to always hold on to all of the discs when I explained the next drill or talked about the skill I wanted them to work on, but now I also knew that playing hot box helped to let everyone participate and playing a full game left some students out. All of this knowledge helped me to deliver another fun week while running low on energy.

Now that I am back home, I am playing with a local club team, but I hope that I can get a chance to work with students again, doing some coaching. Growing the Youth level of the sport will ultimately enrich the overall Ultimate community.

Thank you and I hope you enjoyed the post!

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