Learning from Experience

How do you expect to learn if you don’t play?

What I mean by this is, if you spend all of your time practicing throwing or practicing running plays or practicing catching, how are you actually going to get better?

Of course your skills will be better. You’ll learn to throw further and more accurately.

You’ll learn how to run the vertical stack better than any team out there.

You won’t drop a disc.

But what happens when you finally play a game and just as you’re about to huck, a defender steps in front of you and distracts you from making a perfect throw?

Or what happens when you make the perfect cut, but a defender is standing in between you and the thrower?

Or, just as you are about to make an easy catch for a point, your defender reaches out and knocks the disc away?

The point is, to become a GOOD player. No, to become a GREAT player, you need to play. Play tournaments. There are lots of them, depending on where you live of course. But generally, I would say that for every few weeks of practice, you should play a tournament. At least one tournament per month if you want to become a GREAT player. Less if you are ok being a GOOD player.

Practicing all the time is a great way to develop skills but it’s not a great way to learn how to play the game. Even if you scrimmage within your own team, it’s not the same as playing different teams. From playing different teams, you’ll learn how to play in different situations, against different defenses and offenses and you’ll learn the most important thing, HOW TO WIN. Winning is fun. Playing well and challenging yourself and your team is fun. Playing as a team is fun. Dropping the disc, throwing away and losing games isn’t fun. If you’re going to spend time and money playing ultimate, why not become the best player you can, within reason of course. If you’re not willing to put in the time practicing or playing tournaments, you have to be realistic about how good you’ll become.

What about when you’re not playing in a tournament? Playing league is good too.

Look at it this way:

Tournament > League >Practice

Before you try a throw in a tournament game, you should be comfortable with that throw in a league game. Before trying that throw in a league game, you should have worked on that throw in practice. With practice and experience comes confidence. When I first started playing, I was afraid to turn over a 40 yard huck. But once I got confident with a 40 yard huck, I worked on longer hucks. It’s a process. It doesn’t happen overnight. But you’ll get there. Just follow the simple formula above and in no time at all, you’ll be a seasoned veteran and you will be a GREAT player.

About Ultimate Rob

Rob McLeod is a disc sports competitor, a 12 time World Record holder (including 6 Guinness World Records), 10-time World Champion, 2 time Quadruped title holder and currently holds the Canadian Distance Record. He created ultimaterob.com in 2009.

2 thoughts on “Learning from Experience

  1. While I agree with everything you’ve said, it does make me sad that here in Newfoundland, Canada, tournaments are not so easy to come by.  They are far and more expensive and we’re lucky to get to one a year.  It is probably the biggest contributing factor for why we don’t do as well as we could/should when we do get to one.  Our traveling women’s team is the only one in the province and we play pick ups against co-ed teams but it’s not the same.

    1.  @BettyB I hear you…when I started playing, I was living in Halifax and later close to Fredericton and it was tough to get to many tournaments – often we had to drive at least 5 hours to play in one. Being in Calgary now it’s equally tough (not to mention expensive) and either I have to fly 2 hours or drive 12 to play sometimes. Those are the realities of living in cities/towns that aren’t as close to big ultimate centres and definitely a reason that players will move to a city mainly to play ultimate (Vancouver, Seattle, San Francisco). You’re doing what you can and you will see improvements but in your situation, I would try to have as game situations as possible either in practice or in your scrimmages. You sometimes have to be very specific about what you want the other team to do in order for your women’s team to get the most out of practice.

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