Play Smarter And Harder
MagnUM Ultimate - Part I
From Fall 2010 to Fall 2012, I tried out for Michigan MagnUM Ultimate three times. Each year, I played in ultimate leagues during the summer and fall, trying to improve. Each year, I didn’t make the team. In summer 2013, I played for Spoiler, the Ann Arbor club men’s team. The first summer with Spoiler was one of the most difficult phases in my ultimate career. I was bottom of the roster, and I hated it. Every other player had a huge experience advantage over me. At every practice, I was targeted and exploited for my lower skill level. Guys would throw to the player I defended, and bait my teammates into dumping me the disc so I would turn it over. (Side note: this is in no way an attack on my teammates. Any good competitive player will exploit bad matchups.)
Opportunity for Improvement
To compensate, I started taking a more thoughtful approach to my development as a player. Two core concepts are the basis of my personal player development.
First, at each practice, I think of a skill that I need to work on. I focus on that skill for the entire practice. This could be an offensive skill, like finishing cuts, or a defensive skill, like not giving up open side passes.
Second, I check after each point that I am running as hard as I can. It doesn’t benefit a healthy player to short themselves on conditioning. If the point was long, everyone should be tired. But if the point was short and I gave up an easy score, I’m not doing enough.
These two concepts, though I never wrote them down, accelerated my player development tremendously. I was also exposed to a large amount of playing time and variation in skill by playing ~5 days per week at different levels. Without a thoughtful, driven approach, this much playing time could easily have resulted in frustration and meltdown. I did have some tough moments, but seeing progress kept me from quitting altogether.
Magnum Ultimate - Part II
In Fall 2013, I tried out for MagnUM once more. I immediately noticed my progress in body positioning and knowledge of the game that I gained playing with Spoiler. I finally made the team!
This type of thinking can benefit anyone in their own sport. It’s just one small piece of thinking that is part of a successful player’s journey.
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