Coaches Corner Training alone is truly a mental game by Michaela Dunmall

Stuck on your own? No training partner? Michaela has some tips for you!

I’d like to preface this article by saying I’ve been truly privileged in the opportunities I’ve
been presented with in the short 3 and a half years I’ve been playing ultimate and I owe a
tremendous amount of that to the South Australian Ultimate community. However, training
in South Australia is hard.

When I began my training to make a team going to Perth for the next Under 24 World
Championships in 2018 I didn’t realise that the hardest thing wouldn’t be making it on to
the team to begin with. It would be mentally preparing myself for everything that would
come after that – namely, spending hours a week doing sprints, strength, ladder work, and
throwing alone. Perhaps strangely I like to do sprints and strength alone, so that was a small
and immediate win.

Unsurprisingly, the Stingrays coaches; Michelle Phillips, Sarah Brereton
and Bree Edgar realised this challenge before I did. My first piece of feedback went like this:

‘You are having to train inside an environment that doesn’t currently offer you a lot of
training support. It is very easy to absorb the habits of the training environment you’re in.
That is the default state. You have a choice to make here.’

Putting the Team First

After I was told this my biggest fear was a totally selfish one: I didn’t want to look terrible on
camera if The Stingrays were to be streamed out live to the entire world. However, further
into the campaign, as I became more accountable for what my training habits looked like
inside the environment I had, my fear became I didn’t want my team to potentially suffer
because I’d decided to take the lazy option.

Like any mental switch it wasn’t as simple as just saying I’m going to change my training
habits and then it happened the next day. I had to identify what my weaknesses were and
then recognise what changing my habits looked like to turn these weaknesses into
strengths, or at least points of growth. To anyone who knows me or has seen me play, my
selection onto teams is generally justified by my receiving ability; I’m fast, I can jump and
I’m fairly willing to hit the ground on a layout (sometimes more then I should). My biggest
focus areas of growth are my throwing skills, both execution and decision making. This is
where my development within South Australia became difficult. When you’re known for
one thing on teams, in my case receiving, it’s very hard to find a team willing to give you the
opportunity to develop anything else.

Unfortunately training decision making when you have nothing that forces you to make
decision is quite difficult so I decided to focus on throwing execution. Here’s a list of throws
you can train without a partner:

  • Flat backhands
  • Flat forehands
  • Inside out backhands
  • Inside out forehands
  • Outside in backhands
  • Outside in forehands
  • Wide releases
  • Low releases
  • High releases
  • Over heads

Sounds suspiciously like a basic throwing set… It’s surprising how many more uses cones and
trees have when you’ve got nothing else, specifically no throwing partner. You can throw at cones or trees, or use them as obstacles to push your release points or ability to curve the disc around objects. There were definitely times where I went home before I was finished because I was tired of hitting my knuckles on trees when my pivot didn’t quite stretch far enough, or when I’d already
collected 100 discs and the idea of collecting 20 more seemed like the worst thing in the

Tips for Success

If you’re training alone you’re going to have setbacks like anyone else would, it’s definitely
hard to hold yourself accountable when you know that no one else will find out. My 3
biggest tips would be:

  1. Don’t beat yourself up over missing a session or going home early. The more you
    beat yourself up over it the harder it is to get back out there.
  2. Have a goal in mind that’s going to motivate you. For me it was The Stingrays but it
    does matter if its something more personal and if it is more personal that doesn’t
    make you selfish.
  3. Almost anything can aid you in your training so long as you have a focus in mind.

Mini hot tip: If throwing is your focus use smooth trees so bark doesn’t scrap your
knuckles all the time.

Finally remember that a mental switch is hard and it doesn’t happen overnight, but long
term it could lead to you making some awesome ultimate highlight reels and who doesn’t
love that?!


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