Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Things I've Learned about Being on an Ultimate Team

I've been around this sport on various teams for a while. Here are some of the tidbits of wisdom that I've learned about being on a team.

-The way to build your teammates trust in you is to let others throw scores. Make passes to them that put them in very good position to throw easy scores. Instead of trying to impress them with the craftiness of your basketball-assists, make them look good with the selflessness of your hockey-assists. Holster the 80%-20% huck and throw a break to a teammate on the other side of the field so they can throw the 95%-5% 15 yarder. It wont show up on the stats sheet, but people will notice over time.

-The second way to build trust is to NOT tryout those tricky throws in the end-of-practice-scrimmage. Be solid, save the 40 yard hammer for warm-ups and hammer drills. When teammates see you taking a practice scrimmage seriously, they will know you can take a game seriously.

-When you do something good - throw a critical break, get a layout D, and especially catch a difficult score - its necessary to celebrate in the appropriate way. People often say "act like you've been there before" but this DOES not mean you must act like its no big deal or be diminutive or shrug it off like it was lucky - look at how football and soccer players celebrate. Perhaps a more apt analogy is volleyball players: when they score they fist pump, scream, high-five and jump. The key is to demonstrate your high energy level to motivate your team and NOT direct anything at the other team. Look to Moses Rifkin on Sockeye for how to celebrate with class.

-This next point is really a continuation of the last. Learn to take a complement and you'll be much better off. When someone says "Nice throw/catch/shutdownD/ect.!" don't reply with "Yeah, well I could have.... and really it happened that way because .... so it wasn't really that good". The correct way to respond to a complement is "Thank you." That goes for the rest of life too. It does not feel good to complement someone and be told you were wrong to commend them.

-Learn to take criticism and you'll be much better off. This is a big one in the Ultimate world that we all need to work on. Your teammates just want to help you and help the team. They are just trying to share their knowledge. Accept that the person giving the criticism, even if they are your captain or coach, is no expert on the subject. Don't get mad because you are being told that you're wrong, don't argue because things look a lot different to the person actually on the field than to the criticizer watching from the sideline. Simply listen and think about it. If there are things you want to discuss, do it AFTER the commenter is completely finished with his comments - he probably has a specific train of though that he wants to express without interruption - its better to let the moment pass and then discuss it 5 minutes later after both parties have given it some thought. This is especially hard when your blood and your ego are pumping quick from getting scored on but no one is helped when teammates argue: just listen. Even if you completely disagree at first, think about what was said and then decide if its helpful or not. If it does not help you, just disregard it: again, no one is really an expert on anything so even if we say "This is the way to do ..." what we really mean is "In the past, I have had some success with..."

-Learn how to give constructive criticism and you'll be much better off. 1 on 1. Stationary, not walking. No yelling. Keep it short and directly relevant - the sideline is no time for a rambling blog post. Understand that you are not the expert - you are simply sharing your experience. Say "thanks for listening" at the end. Don't get your ego hurt if they get mad, just let it go: no one is helped when teammates argue. Be open to talking about and debating the advice later. You can learn a lot too by making your criticism the beginning of a thoughtful discussion.

-Its OK for there to be silence in a huddle. Better that there be 1 constructive thing said and nothing else than lots of people talking just to say something. Look at people in the eye and show them you want to win: that's the best thing you can do in a huddle.

-If you are not playing well you can get out of your slump and help the team by focusing on other players. Be positive about others' good play, yell from the sideline, give high fives and smiles. Rush the field after goals even if you are getting benched. Focusing on your own bad play will not help you that much to fix it, and doesn't help the team at all. Often I have felt that I must curse myself and act mad when I screw up to SHOW my teammates that I am appropriately upset about my poor play - that I care enough about turnovers. Fuck that. Just let it go, the rest of the team wants to think about the next point and you should too.

-The best way to get to know people is to travel to a tournament with them. I absolutely LOVE long drives up the 5 because I can really get to know my teammates. Don't put on your headphones; make a mix CD of your favorite music and share it with the rest of the car. You'll be amazed at how much better your team plays together after they all know about each other's girlfriend situations, high school shenanigans, and philosophies on life and politics.

-Its good to get really really drunk with your teammates. Throw hockey-assists to build on field trust, stumble around plastered to build off the field trust.

-You must try to include the newer members of the team in fun stuff. We've all been on the other side of the equation and it sure feels nice to get invited to the after-practice lunch. Even if they have made the roster, they will not feel fully "on the team" if they are not part of the extra-frisbee activities of the team.

-Enjoy your team for what it is even if you are striving to be better. Take some time every now and then and say to yourself: "I am on a team with my good friends and we try hard and have fun." Even if everyone around you is dying of heat exhaustion and loosing to your rivals or on the verge of vomiting in the middle of a track workout at least you are doing it together.

-Live with your teammates. Its awesome. No one else can put up with or understand all the muddy stuff by the door after each practice like your fellow teammate who just dumped his sogging wet cleats next to yours.

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