Ten more of the best of Zip's Tips!
December 8, 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.
These have been edited to fit Ultiworld’s style guide and use inclusive language intended for our whole community.
Do not cede victory, in any way, to anybody before the game begins. When I look across the line at the chump I am about to D up, I think exactly that. This does not mean you should not acknowledge an opposing player’s strengths; if your matchup is a good deep cutter, recognize that’s probably what they want to do and plan accordingly. But they are certainly not a better deep cutter than you are a deep defender. Simply know that you are better. Some may call it cockiness; I call it confidence.
We’ve all heard, and many have encountered, that space where cockiness and confidence cohabitate. Let others refer to it as a thin line; I think it’s more of a gradient. Somewhere in there is a healthy belief in yourself, your team, and the work you’ve put in together.
While I might not go so far as to assume that I’m a better deep defender than every opponent is a deep cutter, I like to say “Every problem has a solution, even if every solution has a problem.” There’s a strategy to counteract everything, so long as you can pay the costs associated. But if you don’t have the foundation of belief — if you come into a game already expecting to lose — there are very few tactics or schemes that can save you.
2. Backhand Power
To improve the power you have on your backhand throws, find a partner and stand about 10-15 yards apart. Throw on the backhand side, but keep your legs planted at a little wider than shoulder width. You can do a trunk-twist-type motion to throw and this will work a lot on your arm mechanics and force you to put good spin on the disc (rotation = stability). After about 10 minutes of this, you can step across with your right leg as you normally would and your throwing power and stability should be dramatically increased. When you begin to step across, try not to change your arm motion, just add power from your lower body.
A few years ago, Emory Luna coach Kayla Emrick showed me the value of breaking down basic throwing instruction into isolated elements. I believe it to be a wonderful way to introduce throwing fundamentals, but it can also contextualize more advanced throwing. When adding power, many novice players’ first attempts come from their arm and shoulder. As Zip demonstrates, engaging your core and ratcheting up the torque is where great throws add power. Isolating that element and then adding the other components makes it easier to develop.
3. Being Casual
Sometimes people think that superstars look extremely casual and relaxed when they play. Relaxed is good, but casual is very bad. A short anecdote: in one of my first big club games, a disc got thrown deep to my matchup and I was sure I had the D, so I went up to get it casually and he skied me straight up. Make sure on every play; be casual at the parties after we’ve won the tourney.
We live in a time where young people call each other “tryhards” as a pejorative. It is undeniably cool to make everything look easy, but there’s some sort of false belief that if you fail while looking uninterested that you’ve got a built-in excuse. Trust me: you look so, so much worse, and everybody knows exactly what you were doing. Get over it. Work your ass off for your teammates and people will respect that.
4. 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 matchup from cutting deep 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 your matchup and give a 25-yard gainer underneath, but think about forcing them in and then marking hard. When they do get frustrated and huck it deep (note huck, not throw), we’ll get the D more often than not.
“Dictate” and its conjugations has to be one of my most used pieces of terminology as a coach. It is almost impossible to win as a defense simply reacting to the offense. Take control on defense and set the agenda. Take something away from the offense and force them to do something else. Maybe that means stifling their initial pull play and forcing them to secondary or tertiary looks. It could be taking away the deep space from an athletic team to force them to show offensive discipline. But don’t play their game; make them play yours.
5. Throw Extension
You often have to move your throws out when you want to make a throw around a mark. A common misconception is that, to do this, you should extend your arm out even further than normal — this causes you to lose control of the disc and it will often not be released parallel to the ground (instead it will be an outside-in bending throw). To throw around your mark, extend your entire body out so you can keep your arm at the same distance as if you did not have to stretch for the throw. If you do this correctly, when you are in the throwing position, it will look like you are doing a lunge.
Three words on breaking around the mark: outside foot wins.
Plus, a bonus: the further you step out, the lower you’ll get to the ground. To teach low-release and step-out throws, I have players start by throwing with one knee on the ground in a lunge-pose before graduating to actual steps.
Stop trying to reach past your mark and start trying to step past them.
6. Getting Low
When you are going to make a catch on a low disc, there are two acceptable ways to catch:
1) go into a slide
2) run to the spot where you want to catch and then get low for the disc.
First of all, in both cases, you want to get your body in front of where you want to catch, A.K.A. ‘the bread basket’. Secondly, you certainly do not want to run for any number of steps with your hands down around your knees. This is as silly as running with your hands over your head to catch a high disc. The former is much more common but just as ineffective — it is extremely hard to maintain speed and balance running in this way.
There are so many things I love about this tip. Getting your body behind the disc is a huge part of being a great receiver. Run to the spot and then reach; extended arms slow you down while you’re trying to get there.
But can I step up on a soapbox to advocate for the slide? Sure I can, this is my article. I get that UltiPhotos probably isn’t going to snap off like they would if you laid out, but sliding is very effective for catching throws that are low and close. If you don’t have to cover a lot of distance, hit the ground like you’re on the baseball path or trying to tackle in soccer and it’ll give you a secure catching opportunity that’s a lot less injurious. I love me a good slide!
Make your cuts run parallel to the sidelines as opposed to parallel to the goal lines. You will make your thrower’s job much easier, and with one juke you can go from an out cut to an in or vice versa. Players that do this well are inarguably the hardest to guard.
I’m sure the terminology for this varies across communities, but it’s a familiar refrain for teams integrating inexperienced players. Prior to explaining the nuances of the value of various field positions and types of cuts, where there is some room for using the width of the field and flatter cuts, it’s a simpler and more direct explanation to keep cuts going towards and away from the end zone and avoid going towards a sideline. But remember that this a good suggestion and not a good rule.
8. Imaginary Lines
When you are on the green throwing around, establish imaginary lines for yourself and try to stay ‘in bounds’ wherever your field might be drawn. Good athletes look as though they keep their feet in bounds when catching very naturally, but nobody does something awkward like that naturally. Good receivers have practiced the footwork and practiced thinking about the footwork while not losing focus on the catch.
Another tip to turn tossing into throwing. Without some intentional practice, you don’t actually get many reps toeing in a catch, but you can manufacture it with some mental effort and visualization. Next thing you know, you won’t even be thinking about it as your body acts on its own for that highlight reel toe-drag that sets off your sideline.
9. Being In Shape
Never let fitness be your limiting element. Get yourself in good enough shape in the offseason so that it is not even an issue during the season. What a miserable thing to be the ceiling on your game when it is one of the things you have greatest control over. Let your learning curve not catching up with your desire or want or excitement be what limits you, if only for a couple practices.
Be the best version of you that you can be. As an old person with lingering injuries, I can tell you the frustration of my brain telling my body to do something that it has done in the past and simply not being able to make it happen. It’s a brutal feeling. And it is much worse when you’re letting your teammates down. If you have a team fitness plan, follow it. Do the work, don’t cut corners. There’s no reason to open yourself up for regret.
Do not drink alcohol in large amounts in the week leading up to a big tournament; it is a poison and it is not good for your body.
And if you decide you want to, don’t pressure your teammates (or anybody) to do it. Candidly, there’s too much pride in drinking culture in ultimate. You’ll be alright without it for a few days.