Wednesday, December 07, 2005


I tried a lot of stuff during my first couple of years coaching. I was new to this role, and as I felt I needed to keep the girl's interested, we did all kinds of tricky things. Zone to man, various spread O's, etc. To a large extent, I was probably struggling with the lack of self-imposed limitations. Too much freedom, really, and I knew, deep down, that not only was there not much added value, but that my girls were not benefiting from it very much.

Last year my captains were adamant that the focus would be on throwing and catching. During the dark winter months, we would spend our time in the little basketball gym throwing and catching. This was different than previous years in which I preached variety as a primary tool toward combating boredom. I guess we were a little less sympathetic last year.

We emerged into the spring with a fair amount of confidence in our ability to throw and catch. Early on, we went to a tournament in RI, and we got a chance to play Amherst High school. They beat us 11-2, but Emily B said it was one of the hardest fought games of the season for them. What became clear was not only had our work paid off, but the ARHS girls provided a clear example of the benefits of focusing on fundamentals.

Tim is talking in his blog about the good old days of college, and the lack of strategy. Or, at least, a simple strategy that suited their skill set, however limited at the time. I think most college teams can get a lot of mileage out of the following fundamentals:

1) Being able to throw and catch deep into your roster
2) Confidence in breaking the mark
3) Real person D
4) An effective zone D

1) and 2) will allow you to run pretty much any offense, and 3) and 4) should get you the disc. Once your team has really got these down, then you can refine the basics. Stack O. German, Swedish, Argentinian, or whatever spread you want. (How many times have you had the following conversation while waiting for the pull: Player A-Hey, let's run the Swedish!. Player B-Is that the one with the pairs on the side? Player C-No, that is the German, the Swedish is the one with 2 horizontal rows, 3 handlers and 4 cutters. Observer-You have 10 seconds to signal readiness. Player A- No...No...the Swedish is the 3-1-3 with the iso person in the middle. Player C-Fuck it...let's just do a stack. Jack it to me).

We played a team last spring that brought it all, and was prepared to execute none of it. By point 6, we had seen every O and D system known to our young sport, and we were never off-balance or even particularly ruffled. I thought at the time that that team had spent a lot of time working on things that were not adding value. One of the primary responsibilities of a coach is to decide how you are going to allocate your precious practice time. I think many of us put the cart before the horse in the interest of being "tricky".


sometallskinnykid said...

Those 4 fundamentals are exactly what any college team hoping to improve must do.

I would even go as far as to say that #2 is an advanced technique of #1. We always worked with a marker throwing to the open side first. Then working on dumps to the break mark. Then throwing break marks to a cutter. Kind of like learning handwriting in the 2nd grade, you can't just go all the way in a week.

Also, focusing on these 4 ideas take a lot of the extra thought out of the game. The less you are thinking about where you are standing the more you are thinking about what you are doing.

Lastly, if your team picks up those main 4 points, they are going to trust each other more. Trust not only comes from playing with each other, but seeing improvement in basic fundamentals as a team. With more trust, you can work on more advanced techniques as a team.

If you can't trust half your roster to catch a disc or to help deep, no amount of trickery or creativity will help in the long run.

gcooke said...


I agree about #2 as far as being more advanced. I also think your take on how to get to breaking the mark is right on.

We spent all of 03-04 only being able to do the "poor man's break" (dump-swing). After all that throwing and catching last year, we get outdoors and BAM! we have real BREAK MARK THROWS. I was delighted, and it really opened up things for us.

Perhaps "confidence" in breaking the mark is not right way to put it.

Maybe "have multiple options" or "look to change the field"...something like that.


Jeff said...

Good ideas George. I think I might just steal 'em.

A couple additions I'd have:

5) Being able to make a real cut.
6) An effective zone O.

5 counteracts the other team's 3 and 6 counteracts the other team's 4.

gcooke said...


I agree, though I would say that you need 1) before 5).

Thanks for your comments.


Jeff said...

I definitely agree that 1 is more fundamental/important than 5.

On the other hand, 1 is something that is easy to work on outside of practice. And 5 is something that can be surprisingly difficult to teach and learn.

In past years, I have found us spending a large porion of our practice time working on cutting. Probably more time than any other single skill if you discount throwing to warm up.