Tuesday Tips: 5 Paths to Change Your Game, Presented by Five Ultimate

Whether to make a new team, earn a larger role, or extend a career, sometimes it's necessary to refresh your skills or the way you play the game.

Photo: Jeff Bell -- Ultiphotos.com
Photo: Jeff Bell — Ultiphotos.com

This article is presented by Five Ultimate; all opinions are those of the author. Please support the brands that make Ultiworld possible and shop at Five Ultimate!

There are times in ultimate, just like any sport, where a change in your game is needed.

Maybe you are coming back from a serious injury. Maybe you have failed to make your dream club team (maybe more than once). Maybe you’re getting older. Maybe you just want to have a much bigger impact on the field.

Regardless of the reason, it is important to remember that change is not only possible in the sporting world, but a very good thing. Evolution of your game, whether it is through small or drastic changes, can make an important shift in your mindset and in your physical success. Flipping the switch, taking a look at things from a different perspective, or reinventing yourself as an athlete: all are not only possible, but sometimes necessary steps to compete at your highest level.

Here are five paths to be utilized independently or in coordination that can help you change your game.

  1. Change Lines

This is a mental and philosophical change that might seem paltry to some, but should be vocalized and fully embraced.

Too often players fall into the trap of “I can do it all” or “I can play offense or defense.” Our sport does involve all aspects of O and D and that is one reason why it is so great. But, the very best teams typically make clear definitions and categories of players: offensive and defensive lines are the most basic of these.

Switching your line is, in effect, turning your playing goals and focuses inside out. Going from offense to defense or vice versa is a chance to let your mentality completely turn on its head. Regardless of your style of play or your team’s strategy, by openly declaring yourself for one line you have stamped yourself with an important label (and labels matter in any sport, even one as fluid as ours).

Be specific about what you want to achieve and set goals for yourself on the field. Especially take a look at any weaknesses you thought you had, or any strengths that were underdeveloped.

Feel like you had good throws but couldn’t get blocks? Play savvy defense and take your offensive abilities to be the girl or guy who ensures that the D-line gets breaks.

Feel like you have raw athletic talent, but couldn’t cut it as a coordinated O-player? Be the huck option deep threat that opens up the game for your teammates.

You see where this is going. It’s a mindset shift, a verbal, but important philosophical distinction that can get you setting goals and trying new things, leading to new opportunities for success.

  1. Change Positions

An equally philosophical, yet equally powerful, change up is of position. In ultimate, the distinctions may seem arbitrary, but the black and white roles of “handler” and “cutter” are still defining, whether we admit it or not.

Even though everyone throws and everyone catches, offenses and defenses are set up around people who slot into these positions, and yet (surprisingly) people are often given one label in life at the beginning of their career (often when they are at their worst anyway) and told to stick there forever.

Your position is not set in concrete! Break free of it and be willing to change things up. Remember, if you play the game, you catch and you throw and you run… therefore you can do all the basic things that handlers and cutters can do.

But, just like a line change, this switch up requires mental focus and new goals.

More importantly, you’ll need to think and play in a slightly different skill set; in reality, this is just putting higher emphasis on skills you already use every single game.

Again, don’t doubt yourself here. To change your game, you need to be willing to shift things around, even if it may seem drastic from the outset. What’s stopping you from being a handler, or a cutter? Your height? Your speed? Your throws?

Each and every one of these things (and all aspects) can and should be manipulated and improved upon. Take for example, the cutter who is told she is fast and smart and should be a cutter. Her throws aren’t the best in the world, so she worries about shifting to a handler’s role. But, her speed can be an asset there as well… her smarts the key difference maker. She may not be the person hucking or breaking the mark at will, but perhaps she can be the reset when the team needs it most, or get up-the-line cuts quickly and efficiently.

Will she need to practice? Of course.  But diving right in can make a critical difference.

Experience is the great equalizer. Do something once and it can seem impossible. Do something a hundred times and it can seem incredibly simple.

Make the choice to try out a new position, fully embrace it, and see what changes result from the move.

  1. Switch Up Your Style / Find a New Weapon

Another mental change, but one that is more fundamental to your individuality, is the ability to switch up your style.

In ultimate, everyone throws and catches (so we are all handlers and cutters at times) and everyone plays offense and defense (so we all are O-line and D-line in a way)… but not everyone has your unique skills and style.

Every player has something he or she prides himself or herself on. Perhaps it’s your quickness. Perhaps it’s your inside-out throws. Maybe it’s your ability to run a zone, or to layout, or to sky the heck out of someone.

Conversely, every player has weaknesses. These strengths and weaknesses combined are what defines us a player. But, the goal is to change, and in a way to completely and drastically change your game style.

Redefine yourself and your style. Take your pride (on the field) and make it secondary to something new.

If you previously were all about your break throws, maybe try to switch the focus to hucking more. If you thought of your hops as the best thing about you, go get some unders purposefully for a change.

Specifically, look for a new weapon to add to your arsenal. Even one small aspect of the game can make a huge difference, if added to a larger package. That extra tool in your pocket can remove the obstacles in your path and send you from good to great.

This small desire to go in the opposite direction can have a big impact on your game. Suddenly, your one dimensional style has multiple levels — you play and act like a different person. You’ll surprise others, as well as yourself, with your new found skills. 

  1. Train Differently

Just as important as a mental shift, a physical shift is needed if you want to change up your game.

Many times when players face adversity or failure, they respond with something like “I’m going to do double of what my training was last year!”

While hard work is extremely important, and can often lead to success, training smarter (and differently) is oftentimes more important.

Doing the same training, whether it’s weight exercises, cross-fit, intervals, what have you — even done at greater intensity and consistency — may be beneficial, but it may also lead to injury. The bottom line, however, is that it is the same.

Remember, we are trying to think differently; therefore, we need to train differently. As with our skills, we want to work widely, to explore new areas where we can be dominant on the field.

Don’t train randomly, however; do your research or ask the advice of a player you are trying to emulate. You don’t have to invent or reinvent the wheel; find someone’s program that is something new, go in a new direction, and see what happens.

So often we get stuck in our ways, in the things that we are good at, or that we have done before. It can be scary and difficult to try new training, and this is where the effort must come in to play, oftentimes giving up your time to explore and venture into new areas.

Your body, just like your mind, needs a new path to go down.

  1. Take a Step Back

Sometimes taking a break can be the best thing for both your mind and body.

It may seem converse to some of these other paths, but rest is a powerful weapon that we underutilize in today’s society. Hard work doesn’t always lead you to where you want to go. Going out and throwing or weight lifting or analyzing day-in, day-out may not give you success, but instead give you failure.

Pause a moment. Do something else. Pick up a different sport for an off-season. Hang out with a different friend group.

Why would any of this help improve your ultimate game, or more specifically change it? Well, new perspective is a valuable and often overlooked thing.

Hopefully, your passion will keep you coming back to the sport, and finding new ways to contribute or make an impact. Maybe it will be in the form of coaching or observing, or perhaps in a new role as a player.

Or maybe, with a little rest, you’ll see the field in a different way or realize your skills can make a greater impact than you thought.

It sounds crazy, but a little break can be good for your fundamentals sometimes. You might find that your forehand is better than you thought, that you have some more explosive speed than you realized, and that you are good at playing this game… you were just too run-down to realize.

Rest and return stronger than before.

Paths to Success

Remember, there are many paths to success. You cannot be afraid to change your game and try new things, even if those changes might be more drastic than you could have previously thought.

Have a growth mindset; just because you face an obstacle, doesn’t mean you can’t find a creative way to move forward.

  1. Alex Rummelhart

    Alex "UBER" Rummelhart is an Ultiworld reporter. He majored in English at the University of Iowa, where he played and captained IHUC. He lives and teaches in Chicago, Illinois, where he has played for several ultimate teams, including the Chicago Wildfire and Chicago Machine. Alex loves writing of all types, especially telling interesting and engaging stories. He is the author of the novel The Ultimate Outsider, one of the first fictional works ever written about ultimate.

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