Whether you’re a total beginner or returning to ultimate after some time off (perhaps due to Covid), doing these three ultimate frisbee beginner drills will prepare your body and mind for the rigours of actual game play.
After coming out of a nice long period of total lethargy… who wants to put themselves through the hell of mental, physical, and technical skills conditioning? Maybe deep down, you’re one of the special ones who secretly likes the pain.
If you’re anything like me, you’ve made the mistake of just jumping into your first game back without any preparation whatsoever. Then, like myself, you were sore for days. Injury risk is higher during that first game back because our bodies are often unprepared for the demands of a full game of ultimate. Avoiding injury is an excellent reason to consider doing some preliminary training for ultimate frisbee.
How to Train for Ultimate Frisbee… and Love it
When you hear the phrase “ultimate frisbee beginner drills” you probably imagine players running agility patterns, doing burpees, and stretching. And of course, no approach to training be complete without addressing strength, mobility, and flexibility. But to address the human being as a mere mechanism comprised of bones, muscles and connective tissues is to fixate on the hardware, and miss the software.
A basic ultimate frisbee training routine will therefore include mental performance. It doesn’t matter how strong, fast and talented our bodies are if we choke under pressure. So a crucial aspect of training for ultimate frisbee is mental training. I’m talking about sharpening our minds to the point where we delight in playing upwind against a hard team, in the rain, with no hope of winning.
The final area to focus on is technique. It can take months to make progress with physical training, but technique offers rapid gains as soon as bad habits are traded for good ones. When your technique improves, your ability as an ultimate frisbee player evolves rapidly.
When executed properly, mental, physical, and technical training invariably results in improvement. Once we get a taste for this sweet progress, we begin to love the very drills we used to hate.
Ultimate Frisbee Beginner Drill #1: Morning Routine
I go through this warmup routine every morning – it keeps my back healthy by addressing tight hip flexors. If you sit a lot (driving, working, watching TV), then there’s a good chance your hip flexors are also tight. Starting every day with this gentle stability drill in order to relieve existing low back tension and activate your glutes. Active glutes help prevent overloading in the low back throughout the day.
If you’d like to work with me to learn the full pre-game drill, including plyometrics and post activation potentiation to get you ready for peak in-game performance, register for my online Spring Training Group.
Ultimate Frisbee Beginner Drill #2: Make Your Mind Like a Mountain
This mental ultimate frisbee drill is for beginners, but it is really useful for players at all levels if they struggle mentally or emotionally during games. I’m just assuming that feelings of doubt, stress, and anxiety are likely to be most acute early on, when players are least familiar with the game.
Here’s the drill:
Find somewhere quiet, where you won’t be interrupted for about 10 minutes. Visualize a stressful, shameful, embarrassing or otherwise unpleasant situation from some point in your past as an ultimate frisbee player.
While bringing this memory to mind, see if you can feel any emotions arising. Feel the nuance of each emotion, and label them to the best of your ability. If the emotion seems to be located somewhere physically in your body, simply notice where the feeling is happening. Quietly, whisper to yourself the simple phrase, “(insert emotion) is arising, I feel it in my (part of the body).”
For example, “Shame is arising, I feel it in my chest.”
Next, just keep your focus on the raw feelings. There is no need to revisit the original thought of the event that originally gave rise to the feelings, that would just create a loop (and perhaps not a very productive one for our purposes in this drill). Simply shift your attention to the raw feelings without trying to change or fix them. If anything, hold this raw feeling like you would a frightened child or small animal – with love and acceptance.
Acceptance is Key
The key is acceptance. It is not possible to struggle with something you accept. As a convenient byproduct of accepting these afflictive thoughts and emotions, they tend to decrease in intensity in real time. If they aren’t, that’s okay too – just continue to sit there and “hold” the feelings with love and acceptance. It can take time, but ultimately (pun intended) all challenging emotions pass.
The goal is to become so comfortable and accepting of challenging thoughts and feelings that they no longer impact on our minds. They will arise, but they will not have any power behind them. In this way, our minds will be completely untroubled under even the most difficult situations. Operating from a mind like this is akin to being “in the zone” – it is the point from which we will be able to fulfill our greatest athletic potential.
Heightened Awareness During Games
As a real-time application of this mental ultimate frisbee beginner drill – try to notice what’s happening in your body and mind during games. When are you getting stressed out or overly emotional? The goal is total mental freedom. No matter what happens during the game, your mind is unmoved. Your mind is the mountain in the storm.
To get to a point of total mental stillness, it is necessary to sharpen one’s awareness of afflictive thoughts and feelings.
When these arise, simply notice them. Watch them without judgement, as if you were watching animals at the zoo. Just be curious and watch as they change. Do not attempt to change or avoid these afflictive thoughts and feelings. They will eventually dissipate on their own.
The Mountain is Not the Fire
Be careful about identifying as these thoughts and feelings. For example, you are not angry; you are experiencing anger arising in you. This subtle dissociation from being the anger is key to having a mind like a mountain. The mountain is never “fire”, even if it is completely engulfed in a forest fire. When the fire has burnt itself out, the mountain is still there, unmoved (but perhaps a little crispy).
Finally, recognize that all thoughts and feelings arising in relation to ultimate frisbee are happening in the icing layer of existence. There really isn’t anything worth worrying about in relation to ultimate frisbee.
The very fact that we have the opportunity to spend our excess energy playing this game means we’re among the luckiest life forms in the known universe. When 2 billion people are currently without access to safe drinking water, it’s a good idea to regard our own struggles with some perspective.
Ultimate Frisbee Beginner Drill #3: Building Finger Strength and Dexterity with a Disc
This simple drill builds strength in each of our fingers and trains our hands to become more familiar with the feeling of the disc lip against a single finger. This is important because every throw, in essence, involves the disc rotating around one or more of our fingers. And so exposing our fingers to 360 degrees of force from a disc, just by spinning the disc on the finger, will build strength and coordination over time.
Join the Online Spring Training Group
If you’d like to join in on virtual training sessions, stats tracking and video calls where we go into more depth for training the physical, mental and technical for ultimate frisbee, check out my online Spring Training Group. People from all around the world are welcome! I’m going to be recording the in-person video calls so that you can catch up if you’re in a different time zone, and I’ll vary the call times so that everyone has a good chance of making them in person.