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What are your challenges in terms of having your team mentally prepared to play at its best?

As we head into the gauntlet of the college season, as well as the main part of the high school one, what are some specific challenges that you are having with your team? Motivation? Commitment? Skill Development? I would be happy to chat about any and all of these things and welcome coaches and players to join in.


One of the biggest challenges I face as a coach is getting my team to understand the importance of investing time in their skills and conditioning outside of practice times. It’s frustrating to see them struggle with simple execution errors (drops, poor throws, fatigue) in games, when I know how much better they would be with just a few more hours of work a week!

How have you approached this problem?


Resources for implementing a new defense are scarce. Clam/zone variant, etc Can you help with the process of communicating and teaching new schemes. Any helpful tricks or hints for Def game-planning that you’ve found that’d be great! Thanks so much.

My (club) team has always struggled a bit with the perceived strength of other teams. We used to play too scared against better teams and down to the level of teams we should beat.

I have made a concerted effort to not talk about who another team is but rather what some of their tendencies are (huck a lot, small ball, etc). Since that change we play a little more fearless against - and even beat one of - the better teams, but still struggle to play our best against lower competition.

So far as conditioning goes, I created a workout log for our guys to use over winter break. Didn’t work as well as I would’ve liked, but it at least kept a few of them going over break.

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Hopefully this question is open to anyone, not just Miss Booth. As a current captain, I definitely relate to this sort of issue with you. This is how we approached it. At the end of the season, we had a end of the fall meeting to address these issues. Pointed out if we want to be serious about possibly going to the next level (Nationals, game to go, etc.), more is needed.
I took the initiative after New Years Day and began hosting 6 am auxillary indoor practices at the indoor soccer complex of our gym (3-5 days a week). Mainly younger guys (usually the freshmen) came, we would work on throwing along with some light conditioning. These players noticeably improved, and started to get notable playing time as the season went on. Usually 2 people besides me would join, with a surprise of 4 or 5 once in a while. But there was a notable rivalry growing among people he came with higher skill sets and the people who attended my aux practice.
It’s hard to drill this concept into the team’s mindset. It’s something they can’t physically see or touch. A remedy is designating a team leader or 2 on your squad to take the initiative and bite the bullet or enjoy being a the current level they are at.

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One of my biggest challenges has been getting the guys really energized on the field, particularly on defense. Our team is relatively young and just hasn’t developed the technical ability on defense to consistently apply pressure UNLESS they have people constantly in their ear on the sideline. Which is a challenge because 1) we have a small sideline and 2) they are inexperienced players not used to being vocal. We’ve gotten better at this, but it’s hard, and compounded by the fact that I’m much more of a technical/analytical sort than a yeller/motivator.

Here’s a common one: your players are doing a drill and, after some warm-up reps, you give the team a numerical goal - complete this number of reps without a turnover, score this many times, etc.

If the team fails to hit the numerical goal for an extended time, what do you do? If it is an execution issue, in particular? Do you not even set yourself up for this scenario by avoiding these type of goal exercises altogether?

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My team did that as well! It looks like the people that were already going to workout anyway used it, but it did not seem to encourage people to workout if they weren’t going to.

That’s a really good approach. As a captain, you have more of a personal relationship with your teammates (as opposed to a coach like me). Having someone “with boots on the ground” who is willing to put in the extra time is really important. I’m always looking for ways to encourage people’s buy-in to that mindset.


I tried to offer some extra motivation by pledging to do a bunch of pushups at our first practice back if someone put in more workout hours than I did. At least one of our captains tried to keep up… but I ended up owing no pushups.

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We’re struggling with intensity at practice and weekday one-off games in our league (coaching HS girls). Our captains largely do an excellent job of creating excitement in and around the huddle, but on a Tuesday afternoon, that wears off quickly. Many of our players are sophomores in HS, ramping up both their extracurricular involvement and academics.

Lately, I’ve been encouraging players to pick a movement or skill, and work on making it strong, or aggressive. That applies to throwing, cutting, and defense. My huddles have often included me saying, “This is practice, so it’s a great place to screw up because you’re trying something. We want to see you make mistakes big --we’d rather see that than a half speed correct cut or weak throw to space.”

What ideas do you have around ramping up energy and excitement for high schoolers?

I think a few things are important when you’re trying to teach or learn a new zone. The first is to have a clear idea of what the purpose or goals of that particular zone are; sometimes, you are trying really hard to contain any disc movement and force the offense to make a ton of throws. Other times, you want to force them into a tougher throw and take a risk at making a play on it.

Then, I’ve found it helpful to try to isolate different positions in the zone with some sort of drill. Tube (4 defenders vs 3 offenders on a small, narrow field) can be a good way of getting people into a “zone” type of mindset, and is one I’ve often used as a warm up for zone-heavy practices. There are some other types of drills that can allow players to work more on a cup/front wall type of position, vs a wing/short deep position.

Finally, I think it’s important to be willing to make changes to certain zone strategies as necessary. Being able to film games or practices can be very useful for this, but even just having defensive lines bring it in and discuss successes/failures immediately after points can work. Especially if you are trying out a new zone, you may find that things don’t always work out the way you thought they might, so it’s important to be able to look at things impartially and make changes as necessary (for example, changing the way you trap, or where on the field you trap, to avoid the trap getting broken too easily).

Hope that helps!


One thing that has worked for us in the past, is to have times where guys are consistently out throwing during times of they day players can come. For college it would be like having 3 guys pick different times of the week where they try to get players to come and throw for a half hour or more. Since they are committed to be there anyway, they work to get more guys there without it coming from team leadership all the time. It really starts to create a culture of work outside of practice which can be nice. Of course this is just one isolated incident so it may not work for everyone.

Along these same lines, I’ve found it helpful to focus more on how to play good zone defense on an individual level. Players in certain zones will get away with poor fundamental defense sometimes, but when they move do a different defense or spot they will struggle. Having everyone able to play good defense, along with the things mentioned above about knowing what they purpose of the zone is, will make it easier to implement new strategies and even adjust strategies on the fly.

I appreciate everyone’s input, Mr. Thompson. I absolutely love what you did and I applaud you for your dedication. 6 a.m.? Wow!
Competition for PT is one of the main motivators we use. And clearly those who do not work out will drop the disc more, play poor defense etc, which will also hurt their PT. I would say it is a constant battle to get individual players to commit but the more you can get them to show up and work out with a teammate, as opposed to trusting them to post on a workout log, the better it will probably be.


The easy answer is to have them not focus on the other team at all and to go into each game with no expectations. That is much easier said than done. There are a bunch of things you can do before you are lined up against an “inferior” team and people are playing lazy, then getting annoyed when they are getting scored on. That is the worst place to be.
I do not want to do this too much, but taking a look at Dr. Alan Goldberg’s website, competitiveedge.com will give you some good ideas of how to frame each game.

New players don’t help out on the sidelines because, most of the time, they don’t know what to say. Develop a lexicon of perhaps 10 scenarios with the phrase or word that everyone should use all the time for each scenario. Only one person talks at a time. Practice these in practice. It is not a waste of time and when someone hgets a help D from the sideline, make it a big deal.

My team struggles with these same things, and it flows into games. We struggle to play intense when we feel we should win the game after playing great the first few points, and we struggle to keep intensity when things aren’t going our way or there aren’t big plays. What can we do to create an environment at practice that allows players to keep intensity throughout games without it relying on emotion from the moment. Practices and scrimmages that all focus on the same thing, with goals implemented are the only things that seem to help consistently, but it doesn’t transfer to games.

This is a tough one and it changes all the time. My main suggestion is that you give them some specific downtime between getting out of school and starting practice. I used to be annoyed that they were so preoccupied and unfocused when they arrived at practice. I eventually learned to give them the time and space to unwind. "Practice starts at 3:30. You may arrive any time before that, put on your cleats and do every silly throw you have ever imagined, chat to your heart’s content and throw grass at each other. But at 3:25 I will give you one warning that practice will start for real in 5 minutes and you need to take that time to regain your focus. At 3:30 we start and all your energy needs to be focused on making you and your teammates better at ultimate."
I know this doesn’t quite answer your specific question but having dedicated time for being OFF as well as ON makes it easier for people to manage themselves and their energy.