Ten Things I Learned in the Ultimate Skills Project

This post is sponsored by UltyResults, the creator of the Ultimate Athlete Project and the Ultimate Skills Project. It was written by founder Melissa Witmer.

Like the Ultimate Athlete Project, I made the Ultimate Skills Project was because it’s something I wish had been available when I started my ultimate career. I had the drive and work ethic to improve, but I didn’t have access to the great minds of ultimate. I know this is still a barrier for many players all over the US and around the world.

I made The Ultimate Skills Project with young, hungry players in mind. I’ve been playing ultimate for over twenty years now. While I know learning never stops, I have honestly been surprised by how much I’ve been able to use from the USP and how quickly certain areas of my own game improved. I have played with elite players and have been coached by elite coaches for years. And even then, the Ultimate Skills Project has added exciting improvements to my game with very little effort.

My own highlights from the project include throwing a lefty backhand in a tournament three days after completing the “digital mentors” module, getting more handblocks during UK Tour thanks to Robyn Wiseman’s advice, and laughing hysterically while doing Brett Matzuka and John McNaughton’s Four Throw Box drill.

We’ve got more than a year’s worth of activities in The Ultimate Skills Project. Here are the top ten things I’ve learned while working with our contributors and trying out their drills. Hope you learn a few new things and have your own highlights next season!

Properly Throwing an Off-Hand Backhand

Fey Lefty Backhand

Off-hand backhands weren’t a specific module in the USP, but the byproduct of our first module, Finding a Digital Mentor, with Lauren Boyle. To be honest, I was hesitant about having this topic as our very first module in the USP, but it has proven to be very popular, with over 75 comments from folks posting clips of who they’re looking at and what they’re learning.

While the idea of watching players for inspiration is a bit obvious, this module provided the structure that made me go looking for very specific players and skills. Within three days of finding this clip I had practiced this specific scenario with a partner and executed the throw in a game the very next tournament. It was a moment of near-instant learning gratification. Those moments that are rare after playing for so long!

The Pulling Game

This is a fun game for everyone, but be prepared to learn, like I did, that you have terrible pulling accuracy!

Divide an ultimate field into three lanes lengthwise (about 13 yards each). You will pull nine different pulls. IO, flat and OI aiming for each of the three lanes.

The Pulling Game

Scoring:

  • 1 point for a pull that lands in bounds
  • 1 point for the correct shape of pull (IO, Flat, or IO) (do not award any points if the pull is out of bounds)
  • 1 point for a pull that lands in the target third
  • 1 point for the pull landing in the endzone

Zero points for any pull that lands out of bounds. Maximum four points per pull for a max total score of 36 points.

This is from Colin McIntyre’s module on backhand hucks and pulls. The module includes instructions for doing your own film assessment vs expert throwers, many other games, and tips on improving your hucking and pulling form.

The Drop Step Drill for Defensive Footwork and Positioning

This seems to be everyone’s favorite drill from our Defensive Footwork and Positioning module.

Square Drop Step Drill

Common Mistake

These are from Carolyn Matthews’ module Defensive Footwork and Positioning. This module includes plenty of agility ladder drills (plus instructions on how to make your own agility ladder) as well as the W Drill, Square Drill, Diamond Drill, and other defensive positioning help.

Choosing My Mindset

What I love about Anna Rogacki’s mental strength coaching is that she understands how to fit mental strength practice into everyday life.

Mental strength training is a lifelong journey. But here’s one quick thing anyone can practice, any time anywhere:

Rogacki’s Mental Strength

While I travel a lot I find myself on temporary teams or in communities for short amounts of time. This past year, I have tried to cultivate a mindset that is open, present, and looking for opportunities. In Anna’s Mental Strength Training module she ensures that your mental strength training is both specific to your values and fits into your life.

The Importance of Transitions

This isn’t anything mindblowing or new. But you gotta admire the way Ben explains things in a way that makes you wish you said it that way yourself!  

Wiggins Transitions

The complete module from Ben Wiggins explores the details of handler O and D.

Your Uncomfortable Clap Catch

It’s always fun to bring your unconscious actions into your conscious brain every now and then. I did not know that I had a dominant way of clap catching. Turns out I do! (Left hand on top, if you’re interested.) What’s your dominant clap catch?

Clap Catch Drill

If there are limits on your catching skill, there will be a limit on the type of team you’ll be able to play with. Still, most players don’t spend much time on thinking about their catching, hoping instead that it will just come naturally. In our Catching Techniques module, Felix Shardlow covers more than the basics, including what you do before and after the catch.

Deliberate Practice in Action

What I love most about Throwing Progressions that Transfer to the Field, with Mario O’Brien, is that he visually demonstrates what so few aspiring players ever see. It is deliberate practice in action.

Mario week 2 vid

It may look ridiculous to play with a frisbee by yourself in a parking lot, but this is exactly the type of behavior that separates the best players in the world from the rest. Deliberate practice involves an obsessive focus on the details of the game, usually has some element of visualization, and is often not that exciting or fun. But it works.

In this video, Mario O’Brien visualizes and practices various scenarios that are related to his position and his team’s offense. In Throwing Progressions that Transfer to the Field, Mario will help you develop your own throwing scenarios to visualize and practice for better decision-making and performance on the field.

The Curl Cut

From Keith Raynor’s module all about cutting comes an example of one of those small things that I never thought about in my 20 years of playing. If I ever executed this type of cut before, it likely wasn’t deliberately. As usual, Keith’s explanations are clear and demonstrated with examples from game footage.

This cut is won by the offender when they can create a moment where they are accelerating away from the defender, but the defender can’t accelerate in the same direction because they are committed to going behind the disc and because the cutter is in the space they would use to accelerate. This is a great shoulder cut for getting upline action.

Curl Cut 1

Curl Cut 2

How to Get More Handblocks

While getting more handblocks is really not the objective of Robyn Wiseman’s Building a Better Mark module, it was the definite outcome for me! I chalk this up to simply paying far more attention to my mark than I have in while, and to this goofy drill to separate arm action from the movement of the torso. As Robyn explains, a common error is to lean toward the release point of the thrower and get off balance. Getting rid of the torso lean creates a mark that is more balanced and can move much more quickly.

Wiseman Marking Drill

The whole module includes both theory and drills. Learn how to execute triangle marks instead of flat marks, and get a real handle on your footwork approaching the mark and moving on the mark.

Four Throw Box Creative Drill for Creative Throwing

This is going to be my new go-to drill for throwers of all types. As an experienced thrower, I was still surprised at the difficulty of specific combinations  – like trying to throw an inside out forehand to the inside-out cone. The results were often hilarious, but always useful.

The day after doing this drill with a friend, I used it with less experienced players. It worked fabulously to break through some mental barriers about throwing lefty throws and scoobers. Because they players did not expect to complete all of their passes, they were much more relaxed in trying new throws!

Four Cone Throwing Drill

The purpose of this drill was to explore and stretch your arsenal of throws. Brett and John covered the five P.A.R.T.S. of throwing which you can see here.

The Ultimate Skills Project is always open to new members. Sign up here! In addition to the modules mentioned above, we’ve got a module to help you make better decisions and one for working on changes of direction. We have new modules on forehand throwing mechanics and how to break the mark planned for this coming year.

If you’d like the opportunity to be coached by experts like the players and coaches above, and if you’re interested in putting in the time to completely revolutionize your game, sign up here to learn about our NEW project, UAP Premium! It will be more time intensive (and more expensive) than our other offerings. But if you have a strong desire to take your game to another level, UAP Premium could be the right solution for you. Before our new project launches in a few weeks, we we’ll be exploring what separates the elite players from the rest of us. Hope you join us!

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