Tuesday Tips: Five Ways To Mentally Help Bring Your Team Back Into The Game, Presented By Spin

Even when you're down, there are way to battle back and win.

Carleton CUT’s Alex Olson, Chris Padilla, Alex Walker, and Dillon Lanier on the line, waiting for the Pittsburgh En Sabah Nur pull. Photo: Paul Rutherford-Ultiphotos.com

Tuesday Tips are presented by Spin Ultimate; all opinions are those of the author. Please support the brands that make Ultiworld possible and shop at Spin Ultimate

At some point over the course of the season, your team will get gut-checked.

There will be a game where things go wrong, where an opposing team surprises you, or where a lack of effort just seems to stop the squad dead in its tracks.

Weaker teams, especially teams with weak emotional or mental cohesion, will lose these games. These will be the upsets and the collapses—the games that will often haunt the passionate player, that person who knows they could have, should have won.

Good teams find ways to overcome these hurdles and win, no matter how ugly it gets. Even if the team still isn’t hitting its stride or playing to its potential, even if every single team member knows they played awfully, they’ll still find a way to come out victorious. 

Those good teams have mental and emotional strength. But even more important, those good teams have players who find ways to snap the squad out of its funk, bring them back mentally into the game, and keep the spirits and energy up to stop the bleeding, end the collapse, and get the group back on its feet.

RELATED: Three Important Aspects Of Your Sideline 

Every team gets punched. Good teams find ways to shake it off and punch back.

Without ever stepping foot on the field, the last role-player can make a different from the bench by poise, action, and voice.

Here are five ways to mentally bring your team back into the game from the sideline.

1. Muscle Memory

What’s the best way to correct mistakes, play to potential, and find ways to beat a team?

Quite simply, it’s to play better.

But that’s an easier said than done cliché of the first order. Oftentimes, players are failing on the field simply because they are making those mistakes and cannot find ways to fix their errors or stop getting beat. In fact, the opposite is often true. Like quicksand, the harder some players struggle, the more they fail. It’s the slippery slope of trying to do too much: we all know players who want to win so badly, but keep can’t get out of their own way.

The answer is going back to the basics and doing the little things right. When disaster strikes, it is not the time to reinvent yourself as the superstar or try out a new role. Instead, it’s time to get back to throwing and catching, tight defense, and pure effort.

So how do you channel that energy and passion into the right conduits?

Muscle memory.

Your body and the bodies of your teammates have spent countless hours doing these little things right, but now you need to remind them of the simple steps so that they can then carry you on the field. Your body knows what to do, your mind just needs to get out of the way.

Do this with throwing and catching basics and sprinting basics.

Getting in throws and catches during timeouts, in-between points, or half time is critical. Focus on smooth, flat throws and basic pancakes. Step out and bend your knees; throw in fakes; and remind your body of how to do what it knows. That will take care of half the battle.

The other half of the battle is waking up your legs and putting all that frustration into running hard, in a constructive way. Doing a short sideline sprint, or having your squad race across the field between points, or sprint to the line, will remind them to make hard bursts on offense and defense to do what is needed to win, with sharp clears when required.

Set an example and lead the team by doing this yourself. Use your voice to encourage others to participate. Such building basics are always a good idea.

2. Relentless Positivity, Especially At Your Weakest Moments 

It is very easy to get upset in the bad moments.

When an O-line with weak mental cohesion gets broken, the entire line may want to lash out, yell at each other for failures, or huddle to over-diagnose who messed up or what went wrong.

Sometimes the balance of talking and not talking is a hard one to define. Sometimes rehashing the point and saying too much is making the negative thought spirals worse. Sometimes people just get beat or just make mistakes and you have to move on.

In such low times, yelling at each other can be just as killer as a deathly quiet sideline.

Channel any anger into loud voices of supporting the team on the field. Doing a cheer for your squad from the sideline, no matter how basic or seemingly ill-fitting, is being constructive. Loud, proud, and positive is the way to go.

When in doubt, just yelling something like, “Let’s go dark!” at the top of your lungs can make the difference. Fill that void with overwhelming positivity when you need to, focus the squad on the plays at hand, and keep people upbeat whenever possible.

3. Calm In The Quiet, In The Key Moments 

It’s also important to recognize those moments where being that positive or loud upbeat player can be a distraction.

Sometimes a player or team doesn’t want to hear your voice for a while.

Take a cue from the leadership and those just on the field. Give an attempt to cheer up a teammate after a tough point or play, and if they don’t respond, give them their space.

Don’t push too hard if others are quiet and won’t join in your cheers. Everyone needs their own way to mentally respond to crisis, and may need time to process; your example will eventually win through if you can hold it up long enough. The middle of a game is the wrong time to tell a teammate they’re processing wrong. 

Most important of all, recognize the difference between cheering and distraction. Sometimes being too loud from the sidelines is just like being too frantic on the field; emotion is contagious and you do not want to cause players to rush, feel like they need to play every position, or make a mistake.

See those key moments, especially when the disc is in a critical spot and instead pick your words carefully. Convey information from the sideline, rather than relentless noise (that’s usually good for in between points or as the pull is going up).

When everyone else has found their calm, find yours. Five deep breaths and two minutes of silent contemplation can be just as effective as a team huddle and cheer, depending on the situation. Read the sideline, take your example from the vets, and try different tactics depending on how people respond.

4. Partner (Or Crew) Up

In the worst situations, we feel like we are alone on an island. 

It’s not coincidence that players who are making mistakes or getting beat often turn to yell at their teammates or sideline for abandoning them, not giving help or information, or lacking general support.

Playing can be hard and can be even harder when this team sport feels like an individual one.

Find time on the sideline to partner up with a buddy or crew (small group). Many teams have established groups or pods in place to help each other already, but it can take only a few seconds to find a friend or similar player and reach out for help.

Make a deal with each other. Ask this player to keep you motivated when you’re on the field, to specifically watch and help you, and to help you with one or two specific points in your game that you are failing at. Then, promise to do the same, and have your teammates as well.

Usually this is enough, turning that general yelling for the into and focus, with one or two voices for every player on the field. It’s incredible how big a difference can be made when suddenly a personal coach and cheerleader is on you at every moment, keeping you psyched up, engaged, and physically and mentally ready. Especially if they are helping to correct weaknesses on the field (everything from running through the disc to staying low on the mark), suddenly a team can drastically change energy and performance in a more successful way.

Oftentimes, that one focused voice can make the difference.

5. Try New Tones, From Silly To Serious

People say that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

The bottom line is that you should never lose using the same strategy throughout the game. Try new things on the field and also don’t be afraid to try new things off the field.

Every team is different, as is every game, and every situation, and you and the team leadership must be able to adapt accordingly.

In one case, getting angry and letting the team know they are better than their play may work; if a serious tact fails, it might take a lighter touch.

Some squads play their best when they have rap battles, sing-offs, or dance-offs in the huddle. Others can’t stand that kind of antic. You have to find what works for you.

If one tone or tact works, keep at it. If it doesn’t, switch it up. It might feel weird to go from full serious to asking your players to play a mini game or start cracking jokes at halftime, but it can be enough to keep players out of a mental funk, end the snafu, and distract from the yips.

Keep trying new tones, just as you try new tactics, and don’t lose a game until every possibly idea is expended.

* * *

Even the last player on the roster can make a difference from the sideline. Mentally wake your team up and get them in the game, while still finding that balance to make sure you don’t make it worse.

More than anything else, it’s about the effort, about the willingness to put all your energy on the line for the win.

Try and you might succeed.

  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, and has played for Haymaker, Chicago Club, and Machine. He currently plays for Chicago Wildfire. 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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