In my previous post I highlighted the importance of connections within ultimate. I’d recommend having a read of the full post. As a recap, the interactions between throwers and receivers is an example of where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. By recognising that there are two people involved in any pass, appropriate steps can be taken to ensure that the connection is successful.
In this post I want to focus on the receiver’s aspect of the connection. As a receiver, what actions can be taken to help with the success rate of the connections on the field?
For receivers it is important to recognise that you are only one half of a connection. Being a receiver can be a very glorious thing, as a long receiver or a mid-field centrepiece. However, a mentality of “I need to catch the disc” is quite different to that of ”I need to catch the disc from Jeff”. With that shift in focus, here’s a few things that may assist:
Recognise Your Thrower
Most team members will have a rough idea of the capabilities of their fellow teammates. After some practise sessions and time spent playing as a team you should become familiar with the sorts of throws you are likely to receive from any given thrower. For some throwers the options will be limited, whilst others will have a large array at their disposal.
Use the knowledge of the thrower to your advantage when performing your cut. Think about the places on the field where the thrower can comfortably throw the disc and make a point of cutting there. For many throwers this will mean cutting in front of them on the open side but for some it may mean an intentional cut to the break-force side or a long cut deep down the field.
Being predictable sounds like strange advice for a receiver. One of the initial challenges that a receiver will face is how to do something unexpected in order to outwit your marker. This is certainly an important part of any cut but it is necessary to strike a balance between sneakily getting away from your defender whilst also making your destination obvious for the thrower.
One good approach is to communicate a cutting protocol across the team. I’ve been in situations whereby receivers are instructed to fake, cut then clear (whilst still being a threat). This expectation is communicated to the entire team. A thrower watching a receiver will understand that the second motion is the one with intent. The thrower can then execute their own throwing plan accordingly.
You want to avoid a situation whereby a receiver is making many cuts in-and-out and side-to-side trying to run around their defender. These actions are taking valuable time and the thrower will never know which of the cuts they should be throwing to.
Communication between receivers and throwers is crucial for successful connections. I believe that the communication responsibility lies primarily with the receiver. The receiver knows when they are about to be in a position where they can safely receive the disc. Yelling at the thrower as you transition from your fake to your cut gives the thrower a clear message that this is the motion being made with the intent of receiving the disc. The thrower can then assess the situation and take action accordingly.
Communication via eye-contact and pointing can also help. I have had success by catching the eye of the thrower and pointing to the space where I want to receive the disc. I then fake in a different direction but the thrower knows my goal and therefore where to throw as the ”real” cut occurs.
Know Your Role
In my previous post I alluded to a situation where receivers can swamp a thrower when it appears that the forward options are failing. It is important for receivers to recognise that they are not the rescue point for a thrower who is struggling to get the disc up field. A receiver’s role is to cut in the prescribed order, clear and repeat. Should the forward-looking options be unsuccessful then it is the role of the dump to step in and receive the disc.
Clarity in roles leads to clarity of actions on the field. This allows connections to be completed in a less frenzied environment, increasing the success rate.
Finally, practise makes perfect! The more time you spend throwing and receiving with your teammates the more familiar you will become with each other’s capabilities. You want to know who has a strong hammer, a good long throw or who can reliably break the mark. Who has been working on their high-release forehand? Keep in tune with your teammates and plan your cuts accordingly.
Hopefully that provides some useful tips on how receivers can assist with the connections on the field. I’m sure there are other points that could be beneficial as well so please leave your tips in the comments. A post on throwing for connections will be coming up next!