Teams across the globe know how important it is to have home field advantage. When NFL teams travel to New Orleans or Seattle, chances are, the home team comes out with the dub. Matter of fact, those two teams are so difficult to beat, they are a combined 30-5 when playing at home since 2012. Switching leagues to the NBA now, the Oklahoma City Thunder posted a 34-7 record last year at home. The Thunder are known for a lot of things, but having a great crowd presence is one of the things they rely on big time. So if playing with a home crowd directly affects performance, how do we implement this into Ultimate? Easy, have a booming sideline presence.
Sideline presence is constantly overlooked and one of the most underrated portions of Ultimate. There are four major aspects of a good sideline. Being loud, being knowledgeable, being constructive and being fun. Here are the dos and don’ts of each of these aspects.
Do: Being loud on the sideline is almost always a good thing. Think of whenever you’re on the field and the opposing sideline is being so loud that it’s difficult to focus. Similar to how it’s difficult to shoot a free throw with the crowd yelling, it’s challenging to catch with a noisy opposing sideline. A loud sideline on a defensive point can act like an eighth defender. I like to say Ultimate is 50% skill and 50% mental. If the sideline can get in the head of the opponent by being loud and supportive of their teammates, they can get the defensive stop by themselves.
On the offensive spectrum, the sideline noise is always awesome whenever big and smart plays happen. Someone gets a break throw? You better praise them like crazy from the sideline and help your team out by giving advice on the next throw. Someone skies a defender? The sideline better go nuts. It’s discouraging making a sick play (especially because I never make any) and having no support from my teammates. Get loud on the sideline when a cool play occurs.
Don’t: Do not belittle the other team. I know it’s easy to get carried away on the sideline without having a referee on the field. We can literally say whatever we want to the other team and get away with it. But we have to remember to represent the sport of Ultimate by holding ourselves to the highest level of spirit. No one likes a bully on the sideline, so don’t be a jerk.
Do: I recognize that there are a lot of rookies out there and don’t necessarily know what to say. Being “broken” and yelling strike-calls aren’t necessarily ingrained in their heads. So it’s important to know what to say and when to say it. Captains and veterans on the sideline will lose their voices making the right calls and giving advice from the sideline. So when you’re on the sideline and you want to offer help, be talking to someone on your team about what’s going on and what they can do to better their field play.
One thing my team does when we run a zone is we tell the sideline to pick one specific person and talk to them about what’s going on behind them. If I’m playing as a wing in the cup and I hear 10 people talking, it’s hard to actually take anything they say to heart. But if I designate one person for me to listen to during the point, it’s a lot easier of a point. That person will talk to me and only to me about what’s going on in my zone.
Don’t: If you don’t know what some of these obscure phrases mean, don’t call them. It might sound harsh, but find some other way to be helpful. Even if that means yelling, “Go team!” a few times, it’s better than nothing. It’s important to be knowledgeable about the terms the players need to hear, so make sure you study up on these sayings.
Do: Having a sideline full of positivity is ideal. Obviously, no one wants to be yelled at, especially while they’re in the middle of a point. I’ve seen so many occasions where a captain or a group of teammates are on the sideline just hammering their teammate on the field about something they did wrong. I’ve done this and I can’t believe I fell victim to this. While on the sideline, being constructive and offering as much help as possible is vital.
One thing I do while on the sideline is offer help to the mark. The mark doesn’t have eyes on the back of his head,
so he doesn’t know when a cut is coming. If a cut is coming directly to the disc, offer some help by saying something like, “Strike! Straight up! Cutter is coming underneath!” Things like this help the mark adjust to pressure the throw they know is about to come. Also, when the thrower looks to the break side, talk to the mark telling him where he needs to mark. Point at his target so the mark knows exactly where the target is at all times, instead of just relying on a handblock.
Don’t: We can’t bring our teammates down. Not only does this kill team moral, but it doesn’t do ANYTHING good. When someone makes a terrible decision, yelling at them to not do it again won’t help. They know they screwed up when they turn the disc over. Pull them off to the side after the point ends and offer some advice for next time. Or in a timeout huddle, use it as an example and build from it.
Also, keep your cool. Cussing, throwing hats, kicking things and yelling just makes yourself look like a fool. Stay cool and relaxed and I promise it will show directly in your teams performance.
Do: A teams performance can be changed by the sideline’s attitude. If the sideline is tensed and angry, chances are, the players will perform accordingly. If the sideline is having fun and being helpful, it’s gonna be fun on the field.
Some things I do during practice is play Fantasy Ultimate. Everyone on the sideline drafts one player from their own team to compete against each other during a point. An assist is two points, a goal is two points, a D is three points, and a layout is three points. This gives the sideline something to root for. No one wants to lose their fantasy point, so they root hard for their teammates to perform well.
Some teams designate some people on their teams as “spirit captains”. Their role is to basically pump people up on the sideline and make sure the team is staying loose and having fun spirits. If someone is down on the sideline, the Spirit Captains go to them and get them excited to play. These teammates are typically the more lighthearted people on the team who play for fun.
I also read about an interesting idea the other day. Sideline bingo. I’m hesitant to try it because it might distract the team, but it might be something fun to do on the sideline. Have a bingo board for each player and have them fill it out when they’re on the sideline. Have the board be filled with phrases like, “So-and-so gets a D” or, “Ask someone for advice from the other team”. The first one to fill out a bingo gets something (a disc, a hat, etc.). I’ve never tried this, but I imagine it could bring out some lightheartedness within the team and have them rooting for their team to get some tasks done so they can get a bingo.
Don’t: Don’t slouch around. Having fun on the sideline can be accomplished by drinking beer under the tent, but that doesn’t do too much for your team on the field. It’s discouraging seeing my team sit comfortably in the shade drinking water (or whatever beverage you choose on game day) while I struggle to move my cramping legs around the Texas wasteland fields. Having a still-sideline is awful. Get up and have some fun and motivate your team!
The sideline is important to your team’s success. It gives the game a home-field-advantage-type of aspect that Ultimate lacks. Bringing a loud, knowledgeable, constructive and fun sideline to tournaments can ensure the opposing team feeling like they’re the underdog.