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.