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Ultimate – Techniques & Tactics
Parinella, James and Eric Zaslow. Ultimate Techniques and Tactics, Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 2004. 208 pp.978-0736051040. Paperback. $19.95

Ultimate – Parinella and Zaslow

DESCRIPTION: What’s inside?

Ultimate: Techniques and Tactics, by authors and long-time Ultimate competitors James Parinella and Eric Zaslow, is filled with useful content for all players. Divided into three parts (Individual Skills, Team Skills, and Building a Successful Team), the book covers not only what the beginner will need to know about mechanics and rules, but also the more cerebral elements of play that will allow novice and intermediate athletes to up their games. As its tag line states, it is “a complete guide to playing the coolest game”.

Below you will find a list of chapters:

Part I Individual Skills
Chapter 1. Principles of the Game
Chapter 2. Throwing
Chapter 3. Handling
Chapter 4. Catching
Chapter 5. Cutting
Chapter 6. Guarding
Chapter 7. Marking
Chapter 8. Switching and Poaching

Part II Team Skills
Chapter 9. One-on-One Defense
Chapter 10. Zone Defense
Chapter 11. Junk Defense
Chapter 12. Stack Offense
Chapter 13. Zone Offense
Chapter 14. Set Plays
Chapter 15. Other Formations

Part III Building a Successful Team
Chapter 16. Team Structures
Chapter 17. Off-the-Field Players
Chapter 18. Conditioning

Both Parinella and Zaslow keep blogs  (Parinella’s Blog and Zazblog) that comment on Ultimate and their continued involvement in and with the sport. Check them out.

DISCUSSION: How will this help my Ultimate game?

Though this book offers thorough content about the basics, its mainly for intermediate and advanced competitors. To connect with this audience, the authors introduce what they feel are the six basic principles of good Ultimate – focus, weight (think balance), space, communication, efficiency and possession – and show how they effect game-play situations. For example, in the section discussing “One-on-One Cutting Techniques” (p.56-60), the authors point out how to recognize a defender as being off  balance, and capitalizing on it. “Reading a defender’s reactions [weight on heels, legs crossing over while running, shoulders leaning forward] is crucial to good cutting. Any time a defender is unable to stop or change direction quickly, she’s vulnerable, and that’s the moment to make the final push” (p.57).  In another section discussing “Fakes” (p. 26-27), the principle of efficiency is stressed: “If you don’t see a developing or existing cut and are holding the disc waiting for the offense to act, you’re wasting your energy if you blithely pivot back and forth — a serious violation of the principle of efficiency”. In multiple sections, communication is brought up: participation by the sidelines, zone defense and offense, spoken and unspoken ques from handlers to cutters. At each of these moments in the text, a beginner can learn a lot, but it will be the intermediate and advanced player that will be able to apply them to their in-game play.

CRITICAL EVALUATION: Any complaints or stand-out elements?

I appreciated  the “Key to Diagrams” page located at the beginning of the book, and the diagrams and images accompanying many of the explanations were all helpful. I also liked that they used gender to designate offense and defense.

Even though the book is almost eight years old, the core elements of almost all of the sections ring true today and will for quite some time.

As I’ve mentioned in other book reviews, a DVD would have been a great addition; maybe links to online material created by the authors could help demonstrate the plays or drills, too. Granted, this book was published in 2004, so I can’t fault it too much for not taking advantage of adding a multimedia component. However, if the same or a similar book was published today, I would expect either an online or multimedia element. I could see a great eBook just waiting to be published with imbedded media. Maybe I should get to work on that?

Where to buy? You can find this book online at the Amazon, Barnes and Noble or Human Kinetics websites. You can also sample it on Google Books.


If you are looking for another book that will offer a lot of insight into coaching Ultimate try Essential Ultimate by Baccarini and Booth. You could also try Fundamentals of Ultimate by Studarus, but it isn’t as polished as this text or Essential Ultimate. As for other avenues of education and training, USA Ultimate also offers a fair amount of resources for coaches, including yearly Coaching Clinics throughout the US in which they partner with 5 Ultimate. You can also check out the website Ultimate Coaching or RISE UP Ultimate for drills and coaching advice.

I know its been awhile since I posted a review, so thank you for taking a moment to read this post!