|1||Three Hour Tour||15||3||48|
|3||Cap’n Geech et al.||14||4||55|
|13||Hokey Pokey People||6.5||12||-18|
|18||Auburn Kids & Co.||0||18||-89|
|Place||Team #||Captain||W’s||L’s||Pt. Diff|
The past 2 and 1/2 years I was a student at Alabama pursuing a Masters degree in elementary education. Since I started playing competitive ultimate around the age of 25, I still had two years of ultimate eligibility that I used during the spring of 2012 and 2013. It was a great experience and more fun than I would have believed. It was amazing to see players like Brian Moore and Austin “Draco” Taylor fine tune their skills from those of solid college players, to great college players, to some of the best ultimate players in the Southeast. It was equally exciting to see new players discover the sport and fall in love with it the same way I have.
So when the fall of 2013 rolled around, and I was out of ultimate eligibility, I decided to start playing with Alabama’s disc golf team to fill some of the competitive void left from ultimate. It was a wholly different experience than playing ultimate but a wonderful time nonetheless. I started playing disc golf in 2002, but never took it terribly seriously. There were spells where I would play regularly followed by months (and even years) where I never played at all. Since I was going to join a team with players who have a love for disc golf that is equal or greater than my own love of ultimate, I approached the sport with a the desire to improve my game as best I could to ensure that I was giving my teammates my best efforts. Our team ended up finishing in 9th place at the National Collegiate Disc Golf Championships.
So why am I writing about this on the Birmingham ULTIMATE Disc Association blog? First, I think there is a fair amount of overlap in the ultimate and disc golf communities. I see BUDA’s members out on the disc golf course regularly, and most of my regular playing partners are my ultimate friends. More than that, however, I believe that disc golf presents a real opportunity to improve your ultimate game. Joe Thacker has been playing disc sports since before many members of BUDA were born. He has played ultimate at the highest levels of the sport, and can do things with an ultimate disc I have never seen anyone else do. When people bring up players who can put the disc anywhere on the field at any time, Joe is the guy I think of. He is also a fantastic disc golfer who has been equally competitive in that community.
In talking with Joe over the years, he believes strongly that disc golf can make you a better ultimate player. I could not agree more. If you start playing a fair amount of disc golf, you really begin to learn how a disc flies. Yes, disc golf discs often (but not always) fly differently from ultimate discs. However, what I will term “the principals of disc flight” hold true in both sports. Disc golf will help you learn how to throw a disc for distance. Disc golf will help you understand what a tailwind, headwind, left to right, or right to left wind will do to your disc. Release angles of your throws are crucial in both sports. Creativity in disc golf shotmaking can translate into creativity in ultimate. Learning how to put touch on throws is a valued skill in ultimate as well as disc golf. So go out and play a round or two. If you have not played much, pick yourself up a midrange disc (the Mako is a great disc for ultimate players as it flies very similarly to an ultimate disc) and a putter and try it out. If you want to throw drivers I think most ultimate players will find Latitude 64′s Fury to be a good option (it’s easy to throw and has low stability – the tendency of a disc to turn left when thrown right hand backhand). I think disc golf has made my throws better and can do the same for others willing to invest a little time in it.
This past Thursday there was a question regarding rules relating to a player’s vertical space. I did not see the play in question, but I want to address the rule to clear up any misconceptions. The pertinent rules read as follows:
XVI.H.3.b.3. The Principle of Verticality: All players have the right to enter the air space immediately above their torso to make a play on a thrown disc. If non-incidental contact occurs in the airspace immediately above a player before the outcome of the play is determined (e.g., before possession is gained or an incomplete pass is effected), it is a foul on the player entering the vertical space of the other player.
XVI.H.3.b.3(exp) If the disc is caught (or rendered uncatchable) before contact occurs, then the outcome of the play is determined already and the contact is not an infraction of this rule.
The rule states that each player has the right to the space directly above them. If a disc is floating above my head, I have the right to jump up to catch that disc without being impeded by contact from another player. However, this rule must be read in conjunction with the second statement regarding the outcome of the play. It states “If the disc is caught (or rendered uncatchable) before contact occurs, then the outcome of the play is determined already and the contact is not an infraction of this rule.” Therefore, while I am entitled to the space directly above me, if another player leaps up and catches a disc above my head, and then comes into contact with my body after catching the disc they have made a fair and legal play.
However, it needs to be clear that any play on the disc must not violate the rule regarding “dangerous plays.” A dangerous play is defined as:
XVI.H.4 Reckless disregard for the safety of fellow players or other dangerously aggressive behavior (such as significantly colliding into a stationary opponent), regardless of whether or when the disc arrives or when contact occurs is considered dangerous play and is treated as a foul. This rule is not superseded by any other rule.
The top priority in any BUDA game should be to ensure the safety of all players. Accidents happen in ultimate, but it is each player’s responsibility to make sure their actions do not create a situation likely to result in injury. In league games there is often a significant disparity in the physical stature of players . We have 190 lb men playing on the same field as 95 lb women. With that in mind, players must recognize that a play that might be a reasonable play to attempt at the highest levels of club ultimate should be avoided in favor of erring towards player safety. Nobody wants to be responsible for an injury to another player, so we should all make sure we are taking the necessary measures to avoid potentially dangerous situations.
For new ultimate players one of the biggest challenges is often learning to throw with someone closely guarding them. They may have mastered throwing nice, straight throws when playing catch, but adding someone placing a nice, tight mark on them can change things dramatically. Additionally, if a new player only knows how to throw a backhand they may struggle if they are consistently forced forehand in leagues. The following are a few ideas directed at those types of players in our leagues.
First, the easiest change to make immediately is in how you pivot. Newer players tend to either pivot in small increments in a circle or not pivot at all. I regularly see players turn only their head towards their teammates, as they try to contort their arm to throw whatever throw is most comfortable for them. This often leads to getting the disc blocked or missing the desired target. In contrast, a more experienced player pivots 180 degrees from one side of their body to the other. This causes the defense to have to guard a significantly larger area and opens up easy throws for the person with the disc. It’s also very powerful to pivot in such a way that you quickly turn your back all the way to your defender. If your defender is directly behind you, any throws to the dump will be wide open.
Second, if most of your experience is playing in games where people do not mark closely (or just playing catch) you need to get yourself used to stepping out when you throw. The mark can easily guard a player who throws from an upright position, while a player who uses the length of both their arms and legs to release their throws away from their body is much more difficult. This means practicing stepping out when you are throwing before games or playing catch with friends. When most people play catch you will see them throw the same throw over and over. Good throwers, however, throw a variety of throws and step out as if they are in real game situations.
Finally, if you are finding yourself regularly turning over the disc in games begin looking to your dump early. Every single team in Summer League has at least a few players who will be able to get open for you if you allow them 7-8 seconds. This means looking to your dump very early and not looking away if they are initially guarded. Not allowing the dump enough time to get open is one of the most common mistakes I see in new players. If at the end of the game your team has fewer turnovers than the other team, you will always win in a game of ultimate. Try to do everything possible to make sure your turnovers are as few as possible.