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The Connections Count

Aside from ultimate, think of another sport where the act of scoring a point or a goal requires an interaction between two players….

I can’t think of one. Any other team sport allows a player to score by themselves. It is an individual’s act. Whilst the rest of the team plays an important role in getting the scorer into a scoring position, the actual act of scoring a point is the responsibility of one player alone. For example, kicking a goal in soccer, smashing a puck through the posts in hockey or sinking a hoop in basketball.

In ultimate there are always two players responsible for the score, the thrower and the receiver. Whilst this isn’t a revolutionary realisation it does highlight that the connections between players really matter. A team lacking reliable connections won’t be scoring much as a result.

With that in mind it is worth considering how the reliability and success-rate of connections can be improved. The relative strengths and weaknesses of both the thrower and the receiver will impact the completion of any pass.

In reality that is a team made up of players with different experience levels it is very common for good players to compensate for less experienced players. A less experienced receiver is more likely to end up with the disc if there’s a good thrower on the other end, capable of throwing a catchable throw. Similarly, a less-experienced thrower will have a higher connection rate with experienced receivers as the receiver will be more equipped to compensate for any lack of accuracy in the throw.

Whilst these scenarios are common and understandable there is a risk that a team starts to rely on these connections too heavily. I’ve been on teams where certain receivers won’t do any work until they see the disc in the hand of particular, experienced handlers. This mentality has a disruptive effect on any offensive flow and also becomes quite predictable for an opposing team after a few points.

Similarly, I’ve been guilty of over-compensating as a receiver when a less-experienced thrower receives the disc. Recognising that the thrower doesn’t have very varied throwing comfort zone can set me in the mindset of having to “rescue” the thrower by making sure they have an easy option. If you’ve ever seen a newer player swamped by their own teammates when they have the disc in their hands then you know what I’m referring to. The whole team goes into hyper-drive to ensure a successful pass is made.

Again, this sort of action is quite disruptive to the offensive flow. It also probably isn’t that beneficial for the thrower. They won’t be exposed to correct tactics or encouraged to attempt throws that will help them learn and progress.

Overall the best way to increase the reliability of connections is for all the players to recognise that the connections count and train accordingly. Receivers should remember their offensive roles and stick to them. Throwers should practise their throwing with a focus on throwing catchable throws. I will take a look at both of these aspects in more depth in future posts!

In the meantime, I’d like to thank Huddy Fuller for giving me the idea behind this post and asking me to write it on his behalf. He’s a friend and regular teammate of mine and he loves throwing swill for me to clean up! Ok that’s not true – he’s actually a very talented handler.

Have you ever played with receivers who only work when the success rate is likely to be high, or throwers that look off cuts unless it is a certain receiver? Let us know in the comments below!

11 thoughts on “The Connections Count”

  1. Good observations here.  I find Ultimate easier to coach than other sports because of the isolation of the tasks (throwing & receiving) and the fact that the player with the disc cannot go on to score on their own.  It stops young players from slacking once the best player has the disc. 
    I see your scenario with too many cutters all the time.  This confuses the inexperienced thrower and they throw some really bad swill, often backwards.  I tell players who struggle with too many options to chose a player and wait for them to get free or huck it to gain ground on 8/9 of the stall.
    I look forward to how you continue this.

    1.  @Lion44_Ultimate 
      Hi Scraggy,
      Thanks for your comments! Some good ideas there regarding instructions for newer players. We spend a lot of time emphasising that the thrower should look for one good option forward, and then engage the dump if a clear option is not provided. Hopefully my continuation posts will highlight this as well 🙂

  2. You couldn’t think of Football?  And before you say “oh but you can run it in yourself,” every play involves at least the center handing the ball off to someone (let alone the quarterback doing it).
    Also, you can score unassisted in Ultimate.

    1.  @muisyle Assuming you are referring to American Football, then you’re right – I didn’t really consider it. Mostly this is because I live in Australia and American Football is not very big over here at all. 
      I agree with you that this is a very similar example. The act of receiving a pass and running in to score is akin to a receiver making a cut and receiving the disc within the end zone. The same concept applies to Rugby League and Union too so good thoughts!
      As for scoring unassisted in Ultimate, the only scenario I can think of where this applies is scoring a callahan. In my experience a callahan is more of an opportunistic event that occurs during good defence (or bad offence). I’ve never witnessed a team that specifically trains or implements tactics with a callahan as the desired outcome. That would certainly make for some interesting plays though!

  3. I think an very underrated aspect to teamwork and connections is trusting your teammates. 
    I don’t mean trusting them to make the throw (in the case of the newer player), or trusting them to catch the throw (in the case of an experienced player), but trusting that, if a teammate has been called in a position, they will fulfill that position.
    Play can be completely disrupted and dump situations can go bad just because players don’t trust their teammates to get in that space and/or because they feel it’s their “duty” to save the game (when, in fact, their duty lies somewhere completely different!).

    1.  @maziltov I agree, it is not just the role of the thrower and the cutter to commit to each other but the rest of the team also has to trust people in their roles and stay out of the way if they’re not supposed to be involved. Not a bad idea for a potential future post!
      A bit of trust in an experienced player can work wonders in terms of their improvement as well 🙂

  4. i have always stressed the point that ultimate requires 2 players to score which is why i am not a big fan of the callahan because it changed this fundamental point. you could now of some rockstar throw ueber-amazing pulls and then score with an amazing D all on their own. of course the rest of the team will likely need to play some decent D to make it happen .. but you get the point.

    1.  @lsmith I see what you’re saying but there are so few callahans that it’s not really a big issue. It forces the offense to value the disc even more when they are around their endzone since if they throwaway in the endzone, it could quickly be a point for the other team.

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