How to come to back to play better than ever after your winter break.
November 23, 2021 by Scott Andrews in Opinion with 0 comments
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Imagine coming back to your college team after winter break being stronger and smarter with better skills than when you left. Imagine proudly hitting the spring season with a leg up on your teammates and close competition. Or, at the first practice back from break, leaving your teammates in the dust because you took the time to better yourself as a player and teammate.
As a college player there is nothing more detrimental than a large break in the middle of your season. The skills and theory that you have started to develop and hone turn to mush. Your first step starts to slow, and your endurance is now shot. Then the first two to three weeks after a break involve picking up the pieces and getting your team and yourself back on track. As a coach, I have found a few things that you can take to heart to progress your game while still taking time with your family and enjoying the days away from your university.
Fix Your Injuries
If you have a nagging injury or something like a pulled groin that takes time to heal, take the time to heal. There is nothing more frustrating than having one of my players come back to the field with an injury they should have addressed and fixed during the break. Be proactive and go see your physical therapist or doctor during your break, explain the problem, and make a plan to fix it. If you do not address the root of your injury, you will have very little to contribute to your team at the end of season when it really counts. Coming back in better shape may seem like a good solution to counteract your minor — or not so minor — injury, but at the end of the day you will be more injury prone at the end of the spring season. Winter break allows you the time to focus on healing and recovery so you can be ready to go when you get back to school.
Ask for Input
Teammates, coaches, and captains all want you to become a better player. They know your game as well as anyone. Before you leave for break or at the start of break ask your captains, coaches, or any players you look up to for advice about what you could focus on during winter break. This initiative shows your captains that you care and want to get better. Questions like this keep you top of mind with leadership and will ensure they focus on your improvement as much as you will.
Always Be Throwing
Throwing is the most important part of a newer player’s game — or anyone’s game for that matter. The more confident you are with the disc, the more confident you will be in almost every aspect of the game. An older player can take time off of throwing and knock the rust off within a week (or so they may think). A newer player can destroy what they have worked on all fall semester if they ignore their throwing routine.
If you have friends at home to throw with there are multiple throwing drills and ways to practice. The key is to actually do it. Go out and throw with someone two to three times a week for 30 minutes, and you will be one step closer to maintaining what you had over the semester. If you want to really improve those throws, you need to throw every day.
When you don’t have a friend or teammate near, that’s okay. You can still improve your throws without a buddy to throw with. You will need a minimum of five discs. I have found that reps of five work well when we are working on a new throw. Next go to a home improvement store and get yourself a six foot piece of PVC (maybe 5 bucks) or if you have the funds purchase a small batters practice net (around 60 bucks). Go into a field, stick the pvc pipe into the ground or set up the throwing net, and start throwing at it. Start by being ten feet away and work your way out to as far as you can throw. If you can get within three feet of that pipe (or two feet or one foot), or hit the net 75% of the time (or 80%, 90%, 99%) you have figured it out and should move back another ten feet. Start with one throw like a flat backhand and move back, then go to your next throw like an outside-in backhand and move back. Eventually you should be throwing every throw in your tool bag to improve accuracy and range. If you need inspiration check out Jamie from Lawless or AJ from Space Heater. Both players show how much work high-level players put into their throws each day and post interesting drills that they do on a regular basis.
Burn out in our sport is real and sometimes we just don’t want to do another track workout or intense throwing drill. I have played many sports in my life, but I think two in particular are really fun, helpful, and allow us to get better without the burnout factor.
Disc golf is just another reason to get out in nature and throw plastic. Yes it’s different, yes it’s weird. Get over yourself and try throwing something different. Disc golf has improved the range of my throws and confidence in my pulls more than just about any other throwing drill out there. If you are getting started go out with someone else who has played ultimate first and then transitioned into disc golf. They will be able to give you advice on how to throw that will be much more applicable than a disc golfer that’s never held an ultra star.
Climbing is something that I think everyone should try. It’s an adult version of a jungle gym! This sport has a massive amount of core, leg, and arm strength as well as a balance aspect that will become important as you age in ultimate. It is fairly low impact and perfect for those of us looking for a workout that doesn’t feel like a workout. Trust me, you will be sore after your first time climbing. The climbing community is also very welcoming and inclusive from what I have found, and they want to grow their sport just like we do.
Remember, your goal should be to return to your college team rested, strong, confident, and ready to compete at your highest level during the spring semester. We want players to come back to ultimate excited to play, ready to better their teammates and themselves, and eager to be the best teammate they can be.
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