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!