November 17, 2020 by in Opinion with 0 comments
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Josh Ziperstein is one of the most respected players to ever compete in men’s ultimate. He has a wealth of trophies, from a Callahan Award to a World Games gold medal. He also won a college championship with Brown University in 2005, the same year he was awarded the division’s highest individual honor. During the 2003 season, he started sending “Zip’s Tips” — arguably the original ultimate Tuesday Tips — to the team. Eventually, these reached the wider community and became quite popular.
However, many of today’s young players are likely unfamiliar with this list of advice, which is no longer easily accessible online. It spans tactics to workouts, fundamentals to mental toughness, and is a window into how a highly competitive men’s player views the game. One theme runs throughout: approaching the game with focus and intent. It aligns with Ziperstein’s playing style, one of little wasted motion or excess.
I’ve picked out ten of my favorites to share, and added a few thoughts of my own, reviving Zip’s Tips for another generation.
These have been edited to fit Ultiworld’s style guide and use inclusive language intended for our whole community.
1. Dictate Early
Many teams, like us, run a four-person play or some other type of pull play to score in under five passes. If you stop your assignment from cutting deep during the first five passes of the point, many teams’ offensive strategy will fall like a house of cards. This does not mean stand ten yards behind them and give a 25-yard gainer underneath, but think about forcing your matchup in and then marking hard. When they do get frustrated and huck it deep (note huck, not throw), we’ll get the turnover more often than not.
Disrupting the opposition’s offensive rhythm is one of the few ways defenses can try to tilt the field to their advantage. Teams run plays to initiate offensive motion with clear organization, hoping to set themselves up to maximize their talents. Forcing them out of this gives the defense a better chance of putting opposing players in less comfortable positions. Here are some tips for covering the pull.
2. Fakes Against Poachers
If you are playing against a team that poaches a lot, then the best way to clear the throwing lanes is to use pump fakes. When you fake, poaching defenders will jump out into the lanes and, at a most basic level, you will be able to see where the poaches are so you don’t throw into them. Even better is if you can fake in the lanes and get them to bite on the fake and then throw the disc where they just were, likely to an uncovered receiver.
I’ve removed this part for simplicity, but Zip goes on to define a “poacher” as a player floating around looking for a block. I’ll go one step further: poachers are downfield defenders who are defending a space rather than a person, even if just temporarily. In most cases, these defenders are looking at the thrower, leaving them very susceptible to being manipulated by a player who has more information than they do. A hard fake might not only reveal poaches but punish them.
3. Bring Your Disc
Carry around a frisbee while you walk from class to class or while sitting and watching TV and just mess around with it. One might say, ‘well spinning a disc on your finger or flipping it and catching it with one hand don’t actually ever come up in ultimate.’ To this I respond: soccer players who can juggle the ball well are always very good at trapping and the Harlem Globetrotters are still nasty ballers. You will be better if you are very comfortable with a disc in your hands.
I don’t think there’s any peer-reviewed data-driven evidence for this, but I’m a firm believer in the power of learning subconsciously. Simply the feeling of a disc being controlled by your hands helps your brain and muscles fortify those neural pathways. Plus, you never know when you might have a chance for some extra throws!
Cut your nails before a big tournament, but not the night before: the night before the night before. In case you nick a cuticle, you want to give it at least 24 hours to heal up.
I have had some pretty gnarly broken nails in my playing career. They are usually an inconvenience, but they can be a problem beyond just getting on your nerves. There’s no need to risk interrupting your focus or worse.
5. Throwing Deep
All too often, beginning players completely change their form when they begin to try to throw deep, thinking they have to ‘kill’ the disc or ‘jack’ it. A good thrower’s deep throws and short throws vary only slightly in form; moreso in revolution speed and snap at the end of the motion.
To practice throwing deep, try to throw hard short throws with a lot of spin on the disc. Once you have mastered short throws where the disc does not wobble at all and stays parallel to the ground throughout its entire flight, then you can move onto deep throws, doing the same things you were doing while throwing short, but increasing your arm speed and the torque you put on the disc.
Every fall college season, usually a few weeks into practices, enterprising rookies starting asking about throwing deep. And left unchecked, they’ll build all sorts of horrendous mechanical habits trying to discover the secret form required. You don’t need to be all extra.1 All of the principles of short and midrange throwing still apply, just with more power. That power is coming from your core and lower body through the kinetic chain.
6. Disc Golf
Go out and get yourself a disc golf disc, preferably a driver (for those of you unaware, true disc golf is played with smaller discs). Throwing with this will improve your distance and take away any air bounce that might be in your throw.
This one was simply too topical not to include. So many ultimate players are trying disc golf during this extended offseason, and there’s no question that working to improve your disc golf driving skills yields benefits for your mechanics. Suboptimal habits that are masked by the flight pattern of an Ultrastar will be punished by disc golf discs. Here are ten tips to get started playing disc golf.
7. Spend Money to Make Money
On defense, you gotta spend money to make money. By this I mean that standing five yards behind your matchup and giving them free in cuts to avoid the risk of getting beat deep is not good defense. If you are forcing your person in, then if they get the disc on an in cut, it should be a contested catch with a hard mark immediately following the reception.
With that said, pick your times to force out. If they’re thrown to deep, you should be on their heels, forcing them to play good offense and hold you off – the best defenders in the world get beat deep from time to time, and that is because there are a lot of good cutters and throwers out there. But, those same defenders also get more blocks and have their matchup shut down more often than anyone else, and the number of times they are beaten deep pales in comparison.
“Spend money to make money” can be a nice cue to help players remember how to be an effective matchup defender. I coach “take one thing away, challenge everything else” and approaching defense with that mindset will demand more of you, but also of your opponent. Force them to make catches under defensive pressure. Close their separation as they look to make continuation throws. That pressure begets mistakes that may go down on the stat sheet as “unforced errors.”
8. Stopping Short
When you run a track workout, do not slow up short of the finish. If you are running a 400, then run 400. Slowing up short so you can begin resting as soon as you reach the line is as ludicrous as slowing up a cut before reaching the disc so that when you catch you can be ready to throw (not coincidentally there might be some transference between these two habits..)
All 👏 the 👏 way 👏 through 👏 the 👏 line!
Think of the mental pattern you’re setting up for yourself by slowing down early. Zip extrapolated to finishing a cut, but how about a game? How about a tournament? How about your whole season?
One season, the team I coached opted for what I called “plus one” all year. Whenever we had a number goal for something, whether it be completions in a drill or sprints in a workout, we actually had to do one more than that. It was simply supposed to be understood, and hopefully build the mental fortitude to be ready to give a little bit more than you might have expected.
9. Viable Cuts
Make all of your cuts viable ones. All too often, when a player is trying to make an in cut they will only ostensibly drive their defender out, although they never actually intend to cut deep. A great cut is when you turn your shoulders and run deep for five steps and then turn on a dime and beat your your matchup back in. If they do not respect your deep cut then just keep going. Good defenders will know when your fakes are just that and wont even respond to them.
A side note: this may or may not be why some of the best cutters in the game often look like they don’t really know what they are doing until the last minute but are consistently open by five yards.
You have a finite amount of energy and time on the field. Why expend it on things that can’t help your team when they could be real threats? Force your defender to really guard your moves and you’ll find them overwhelmed more frequently.
10. Hold Your Line
In between points, hold your line on offense. After outplaying a team, I enjoy knowing that they can make no excuses as to why they lost. Give them nothing to complain about, no reasons for whining. Teams who walk around on the line are nervous and fidgety; stand up and let them see who you are and then go out and crush.
Nobody likes a team moving around on the line. Don’t be that team. Don’t make your opponent yell from across the field every point. It happens every once in a while, but out of respect for the game and your opponent, don’t make it a habit.
Did I use that right, kids? ↩