Sunday, May 31, 2009

Drill Baby, Drill!

Yesterday I attended the Ozone try-outs. One of the girls I coach during the spring season is on the team and three others were trying out. The first drill the team ran to get everyone going was the standard "Endzone" or "Mushroom" drill. The past two years, we've run this well-known drill on Paideia but with a small variation - the goal thrower after throwing the goal, moves to the sideline to receive the disc back from the goal scorer while the next player from the front line steps out to set up a game-like reset* cut (starting 10-12 yards laterally from the thrower, driving up line and then coming back in order to receive the reset).

While I was watching the drill yesterday, every one of the Paideia Girls after throwing the goal automatically moved to the sideline before remembering that the drill was not the same. Seeing how all of them automatically executed an element of a drill without thinking reinforced the power of drills.

I was talking to Tiina Booth at HS Easterns while watching the Paideia Boys play Columbia HS. We were talking about goal setting for games (the Paideia girls set goals for each half of each game). She said that she used to do this but has stopped because it increases the amount of thinking that players need to do on the field and she doesn't want her players to think.

This to me, is the primary value of drills. Running well-designed drills over and over again eliminates the unnecessary thinking that results in mistakes and miscommunication on the Ultimate field. In order to eliminate thinking all together drills must be run to the point where they become boring and feel repetitive. Teams will often try to run a lot of different drills in order to keep players engaged, but the irony of it is that the keeping players engaged only happens when players think and as long as players have to think think your team will not receive the full benefit of the drill.

So, identify the skills and tactics that your team needs. Design as few drills as possible that train those skills and tactics. And run those drills until everyone gets bored with them- while focusing most on the ones that give you highest value for time spent. If everyone is bored with your drills and can execute them with their eyes closed or while having a conversation (or while trying to run another drill) you'll know that the lessons of your drill have become ingrained.

*Just so everyone is clear, whenever I say "reset" I mean "dump." I prefer the term because it doesn't have the somewhat negative connotation that "dump" has. "Dump" also implies that the disc goes backward when a good reset changes the attacking space of the offense by moving the disc laterally, or in some cases, upfield.


Martin said...

This post would seem to go hand in hand with the 3 person marking drill post. But I would add one extra bit that I'm confident Kyle would agree with. Tailor your drills so they mimic game situations as much as possible, and in cases where that may be difficult to see, be sure to point out the application to your players. Visualizing something in a game is important for a player's triggering mechanism for whatever action it is you are drilling.

Many players will go through a drill working on skills that work in the drill, without thinking about when they will be applied on the field. In the case of the mushroom drill that Kyle mentioned knowing the game situation of the throw you are throwing will affect what type of throw you use.

Kyle Weisbrod said...

Yes. I had meant to mention that in my post but guess that I left it out in my stream of consciousness writing. It is critical that your drills are applicable to game situations. That is the reason for the adjustment that we make to the standard endzone/mushroom drill.

Also, why do my post show up as being authored by "Muffin" on

M.J. said...

Sounds similar, but a tad different to another variation.

After throwing the goal, the thrower begins to clear the opposite way(2-4steps) and then cuts back for the reset.

*2 desirable outcomes from this.

1) no standing to gawk at the throw and then trotting over for the reset. D would be all over the lazy watch and trot over approach.

2) the reset should be received at least 10yds off the sideline to avoid a trap. Having started away and then coming back naturally pulls the throw more towards the middle...shortening the swing throw.

The other half of the mod is for the handler cut from the front of the stack to start as a same side "gut cut" and then flair to the middle.

*3 desirable outcomes from this.

1) in a game, you may get the score on the gut cut.

2) the reset is "tighter" with less chance of floaty far side garbage and keeps the disc more central on the field (think inside the has marks on a football field).

3)Makes it much easier to time the deep cut.

I've got a diagram somewhere...

James said...

Eliminating unnecessary thinking from the game is a good goal, and so is minimizing the number of drills run in practice. But I am not so sure about eliminating thinking altogether, or setting boredom as a goal.

Like any interesting game, ultimate requires players to make choices, and so it only makes sense that players should make choices in the context of drills. There are many good drills that require players to make choices, but there are also many good drills that do not. But even in these seemingly mindless drills, players should be encouraged to visualize the drill in the context of a game situation, especially if they have mastered the basic skills of the drill. Players who do this during drills will be better equipped to make good choices during games.

For example: one of the simplest drills of all, two people throwing the disc, is greatly enhanced if the players are visualizing game situations during the activity. By visualizing circumstances such as the marker, the defender, a cup, etc.. focused, imaginative players can derive endless variation from one simple exercise, even after they've mastered the basic skills.