After losing to Clapham in the EUCF 2018 final, the big question in everybody’s head was: what do we have to do to even think about beating these guys? It seemed liked nobody had a real solution simply because we didn’t have to do any one specific thing. We didn’t have to change our playing tactics or switch players from the D line to the O line or run faster or workout more. Talking about it on the way back from Poland, everybody knew that we could only beat them if we changed our way of practising and our mentality during practice.
Preparing for 2019
Since the beginning of this year, we were practising with no specific goal; the only goal we had was winning EUCF, but nobody could actually consider it as a goal cause it was so far away in time. Practice was becoming extremely repetitive and almost boring.
What we decided to do was to think of new drills, new specific goals for each practice and especially to have each player work on his mindset and concentration. This season was a very long one for most players, considering that more than half the team played with the national team at EUC in Hungary. So we knew that whoever was going to EUC was going to be in great shape by the beginning of the summer, but they also needed a break at the end of the summer.
Everybody knew that the 6 weeks before EUCF were going to be super intense, and that’s exactly what they were. We started keeping stats at practice, working on set plays that Stefan wanted us to do, telling each player to work on their errors and to change their way of playing if they were playing particularly good or bad on a specific day.
We forced everybody to think more.
This, I think, is the most important adjustment that we made. All of us are amazing players but nobody had worked on our minds and having talked it through with the team and also having Stefan had everybody feeling more relaxed and concentrated.
The Bologna Community
The frisbee community here is amazing. There are new players that become really good every year. We have a pool of kids to pick from that no other city has. It’s almost like being in the USA (like San Francisco or something) but better cause it’s so small that getting around is super easy. Players can go to different practices of different teams in the same week. For example if (for any reason) a young player skips a practice on Monday, Davide will tell them to go practice with another team on Tuesday and even if the other team plays on the other side of the city it really doesn’t make a difference, it’s still only 30 min away by bike. So if a player wants to practice 5 times a week he can do it really easily. And this is great cause players become super good super fast. And also you feel part of a really big group and you fall in love with the community
Changes to the way we train
Gasperini, Laffi & I started thinking a lot about simple ways of modifying the drills that Davide would always have us do. We really wanted to make them harder from a mental and skill point of view. It didn’t necessarily have to be more demanding from a physical point of view (even though it often was because that’s what Davide likes to do when a big tournament is approaching).
So, for example, take any fairly simple drill in which you have a thrower being marked and a runner with no mark. What we would do is tell each player exactly what throw they had to do, very specifically, like: super wide pivot backhand/forehand, throwing super late, fake a hammer and throw a slow flick, throw before the runner changes direction, etc. We tried a lot of different things cause every 2 or 3 minutes we would change the type of throw or cut or mark.
As soon as we finished our warmup we started keeping track of throwaways, drops and saves. Everybody was way more concentrated on the details and nobody wanted to mess up, ever. Doing this can have some negative consequences cause players can get frustrated with themselves or feel under pressure, but we said: we want to feel under pressure, we want to make it hard. We wanted to be able to tell a player: “you threw away 6 discs in 1 practice, that’s way too many, do better next time” or “you had 0 drops and 0 throwaways, think about what you did to be that good and continue doing it”. Practice quickly became very competitive and everybody was playing hard. This approach really got into everybody’s head fast also because we are a team in which nobody is shy with one another: we talk a lot of trash at practice, we joke around about errors in a way that some teams might think is mean but we really don’t care, nobody takes it personally and keeping stats had everybody on the lookout.
Using a Guest Coach
When we finally met Stefan in Paris he was also interested exclusively in working on our minds. He wanted to learn our plays to understand what we were trying to do, but he never called plays during games. Sometimes he wouldn’t even be in a timeout circle or tell us anything at halftime. All he did was observe and talk to us for 5 minutes before the game and 5 minutes after the game. He wanted us to go from “Good to Great” and we could get there only by working on concentration and teamwork. Even in Caorle, Stefan didn’t ever really talk to the entire team about tactics, he always let us decided what we wanted to do asking questions like: “What did we do well today on O? What did we do well on D? What can we do better?”. The questions were always about us and we had to think about it. he wouldn’t give us an answer cause he didn’t have them, he didn’t know us well enough to coach us as a “normal” coach and he knew that we didn’t want or need a “normal” coach.
Another thing that happened in the practices before EUCF is that the few players that always layout at practice (mainly me and Cioppo) started getting annoyed with people that wouldn’t layout. We were constantly telling players to layout on D when they thought they had a chance and telling O line players to layout to save discs. The reason was that we are convinced that if you don’t layout at practice you’re never going to be ready to layout in a game when we need it. Not laying out at practice cause you’re scared of getting hurt is the stupidest thing in the world for players like me, Cioppo, Toby and others. Not getting hurt comes with practice; you have to know how to land, know how to not touch the opponent, etc. Layouts started becoming pretty routine and we saw some really sick plays at practice before EUCF. Playing super hard on D became a top priority because the D line knew they had to make the O line’s life as hard as possible.
Style of play
Our style of play is hard to describe and explain. It doesn’t have a fixed structure and it varies a lot during a game. We have several set plays (V stack, H stack, Side stack, 3 cutters 4 handlers, Handler ISO, Split Side stack), we really love to mix it up and we also love to learn new plays. Usually, Davide introduces them at practice and each time he explains a new play or a way of using the field it always seems like it’s going to solve all of our problems. He convinces us first of all because he is Davide, second because he explains why a specific thing is going to work against specific teams. So we end up having lots of different plays and each year we integrate new ones, and we choose one based on what we feel like doing. If something works particularly well we’ll use it more, but we never stick to one thing for too long.
Stefan helped us a lot on D by permitting us to play less systematic D and encouraging us to poach, keep our eyes on the disc and not only on our man, playing smart D, etc.
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Also in Coaches Corner:
- Improving Decision Making in Ultimate
- Fast Break Principles
- The Around Backhand – Why and How
- Fury 2018: A Veteran’s Perspective
- Fury 2018: A Rookie’s Perspective
- PoNY 2018: Show me your superpower
- PoNY 2018: Building a Championship Winning Team
- Ireland 2019: National Camps
- Ireland 2019: Solo Training
- Ireland 2019: Coming from a small community
- Ireland 2019: Making the mental Switch to Winning
- Ireland 2019: During the tournament
- CUSB 2019: Building a community
- CUSB 2019: Scouting was the difference
- CUSB 2019: Working with La Fotta
- CUSB 2019: An insider’s view