Ten more of the best of Zip's Tips!
December 1, 2020 by Keith Raynor 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 picked out ten of my favorites to share, and I’m back with ten more, and I’ve 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. Break Mark Cuts
The only player on the field that can create break mark offense is a cutter. Once a good cut has been made, the thrower is responsible for breaking the mark, but the cut needs to come first. As a cutter, once you have established the break mark cut, most defenders will begin to inch little by little to the break mark side until you will be open on either the force or the break side. Cut to the break side; we have great throwers.
While there’s some thought in ultimate that plays can be cutter or thrower-initiated, there are very few opportunities where the thrower can simply send a disc to a space and have a cutter still effectively get there if the cutter wasn’t setting it up. Focusing on the relationship between cutters and throwers is important, and there are a lot of young teams that don’t know their teammates can break the mark simply because they never offer them the chance.
2. Being On Time
Get to practice on time — and by “on time,” I mean 10-15 minutes early. If practice starts at 4, be at the fields at 3:50 so you can put your cleats on and get some throws in before we run at 4. If you have class, then bring your gear and start putting your socks/ankle brace/mouth guard on when your prof goes into the ‘theres only three minutes left in class, but I don’t want to let them go early’ spiel. We’ve all made a big deal about how we weren’t on fields until mid-April and how we’ve seen nothing but pools and tracks…well now we are on grass. If we run at 4, then we do marking at 4:15 and drills at 4:25 and 10-pull at 4:45…we get to play more, which is certainly why I do this.
This will get the coaches and captains in the crowd praising “Hallelujah!” For all teams, the time you have together is finite; for most teams, it’s very limited. If your college team practices three times a week for two hours, that’s 24 hours a month. Through six months of practices, that’s 144 hours. You might spend more time traveling to and from practices and tournaments in a season! Do not waste that precious time! You can never have it back.
3. Throwing Up
If you throw up – whether it be because of sickness, exhaustion or drinking – go out and get yourself some Gatorade or Powerade. You lose tons of electrolytes when you boot, those little things in your body that make you good at whatever you do and sports drinks replenish these very well.
Look, I’m no nutritionist, but there’s a sort of “hydration subculture” within ultimate, and most of the rest of us probably just don’t get all the liquids we need in a day. Take care of yourself. Pedialyte is also a popular choice. And if you’re vomiting a lot…get that checked out.
4. Be Ruthless
Don’t hesitate to be absolutely merciless in the opening games of a tournament. Especially in longer and more competitive tournaments, getting these games done quickly and soundly helps in terms of escaping fatigue towards the end of a tourney as well as building confidence from the first point of the first game.
While I would have chosen some different, less combative language here, the point still stands. Being efficient during tournaments is very valuable, especially given the format much of ultimate takes place in. By the time you get to the final, you’re often playing your seventh, eight, or ninth game in two days. If you’ve played 20-30 fewer total points than your opponent, you’re at a big advantage. That’s especially true if you can rest some of your higher usage players. It’ll keep your team healthier throughout the season, too. Don’t coast: close.
5. Vary Throwing Speed
When you are throwing around, try varying the speed of your throws. Great throwers not only can throw well at different distances or angles, but at various speeds.
This is the kind of work that can turn your tossing into throwing. Being able to pace the disc is an underrated skill. A lot of people can throw hard — although this is another one you should work on — but after that, you should be able to intentionally throw softly. Add touch to your game. Extend the range of that touch. All of that extra control will pay dividends when you become able to place the disc effectively in a wider variety of scenarios.
Make a list (preferably on paper) of the things you do well and the things you don’t do well. For the things you don’t do well, find someone who you think does that well and talk to them about it or watch them play. No one player is naturally good at everything in ultimate. Watch other players that are good and make yourself a mosaic of good ultimate players.
There’s a lot of goal-setting advice out there in the world, but, sometimes, finding good advice can be just a valuable as the quality of your goal’s design. One of the best things about doing this is you can do it all the time when you’re around the game. Whether it’s watching film, on the sideline at a tournament, or waiting in line for a drill, watch and learn. Emulate what works. Take note of and avoid what doesn’t. These mental reps add up.
7. Pack The Night Before
Pack your bag the night before a tournament or early practice. You won’t forget your cleats ever again.
Whatever you think of the “controllables vs. uncontrollables” paradigm within ultimate, this is 100% the type of manageable controllable that should never be an obstacle.
8. Bring It
Bring the fire to practice. Do whatever you need to get psyched up. If you bring it to practice, you will play better, the person you are guarding will have to play better, we will play better. It is extremely important that our practices are intense and hard fought, for this in turn will make them productive and fun.
For teams with aspirations for a higher level of play, this is one of the grandest challenges. How do you make practices compelling and competitive? Many coaches have sought out the answer. We all know practices are not games, but we have to do our best to get them as close as possible. The more a team can close that gap, the higher quality their practices will be, and the more the team will get out of it. If you ever can look across the line at the other team and think “I go against better than that in practice,” then you’re ready to win.
9. When Poached
When you are poached by your defender, immediately do one of two things:
1) cut deep. If there is open space and a good thrower, this is the best way to burn your defender for leaving you unguarded.
2) Instead of standing in the stack or waiting for your turn to cut, go get the disc. If there is a lot of action on the force side, go to the break side and call for the disc and your thrower should be able to find you. You know what they call it you have the disc on the break side, unmarked and smiling because you just made your defender pay: the power position.
As players I coach move from their introductory phase into novice player phase, I find them asking what to do when they are poached. My answer is to make yourself a threat. And Zip points poached cutters to the two most threatening places on the field: the deep space and the break side. Most defenses go to great lengths to prevent the offense from getting to these spots, so if some mistaken defender wants to give you a free pass there, why not take it?
Go deep screaming “poached!” Wave your hands like a Wacky Waving Inflatable Arm Flailing Tube Man. This will send help defenders into a panic.
Or if you’re taking the break side route, realize you don’t have to be in some big yardage-gaining position. You can lose yards if you’re going to be unmarked in the valuable break side space. Quick handlers can utilize you to set up give and goes, you’re a threat to huck, or your offense may just advance up the break side.
I didn’t quite realize until this spring season the feeling of last year’s seniors being gone from the team. My advice is this: appreciate the seniors on the team because, in reality, we don’t have them for that much longer. Invite them to come to [eat] with you after practice, even if it means forking over some meal points for their food. Give them a high five when you connect for a goal and make an effort to spend time with them at practices and tourneys. I promise you, you don’t know how much you will miss teammates after they leave the team, so build a bank of memories for each one of them.
Remember how I said your team’s time together is finite, and usually very limited? And advised you not to waste it? That goes beyond practice. It goes double or triple if you’re on an eligibility-locked team like high school, YCC, or college. Cherish your time together. You’ll never get it back.