School is out for the summer, but if you're a college captain, this is no time to sit back on your laurels. Summer break offers an opportunity to improve both your mental and physical game.
Here’s a quick list of things you can start doing right now to become a better captain in the off-season.
1. Analyze Game Footage
Actively watching footage of the best teams in the sport is an excellent way to improve your high-level understanding of the game.
You can use high-level game footage to learn new offensive and defensive strategies, or to practice analyzing how opponents adapt their tactics throughout the course of a game.
The key to learning from game footage is to actively watch a game with a specific goal in mind. This is not about tuning out and waiting for the huck to go up.
Here’s what to do:
First and most importantly, have a goal in mind when you start the video. This is not relaxation time; this time to get better as a player and a captain.
Have pen and paper handy. Bonus points if you utilize a note-taking system.
Record whatever comes to mind while you watch. If you see something particularly interesting, note the time stamp so you can come back later and dive deeper into the circumstances around that play.
When you’ve finished the game/video/whatever, go back and re-read your notes in the context of the skill you were trying to improve. More ideas will come to you as you review.
All right, let's put this into context. Say, for example, that you have a superstar player on your team. You may want to dig into footage of the Oregon offense to learn how it creates space for a superstar like Dylan Freechild to make big plays.
First, pull up an Oregon game. The Ego vs Pitt game in the 2013 Open Semi of College Champs should fit the bill. Then, rather than oggling Freechild, like you would if you were watching the game for entertainment, focus on what the rest of the team does while Freechild is dominating the opposing team.
Finally, you can imagine how you might apply those principles to your own team.
Looking for free full-game footage? Here are some great options on Youtube:
USA Ultimate – Best range of elite ultimate by far. Encompasses men/women/mixed divisions and club/college play.
All-Star Ultimate Tour – Some of the best HD video of elite women’s ultimate out there.
NGN – Excellent repository of HD elite men’s play.
Skyd Magazine – Particularly good for international play.
2. Use an RSS Feed To bundle important articles and Avoid Distractions
But unless you’re visiting each of these sites multiple times a day, and specifically seeking out info that’ll help you become a better captain, you could be missing vital posts from the great minds in our sport today.
Cue the RSS reader app! An RSS app (also known as an RSS feed) allows you to subscribe to specific authors or columns on your favorite ultimate sites, group them into subjects, and then read them at your leisure.
I recommend segmenting the content you want to read into a "work" and "play". This will allow you to choose when you'd like to better yourself as a captain, and really dig into the content that has accumulated in that feed without any fear of being distracted by the fluff floating around on ultimate sites today.
Here are a couple of columns/authors/pages I follow via RSS:
The Grind by Alex Davis drills deep into player-level skills and strategy, particularly defensive positioning. This column is a great place to start if you’re looking to analyze your own play and relate your findings to your team.
Tuesday Tips from Ultiworld is a smattering of ideas and talk about skills and drills for all levels of players.
It Takes A Village by Deanna Ball focuses on the philosophical and emotive side of team development.
Ren Caldwell's youtube channel is a great place for bite-sized fitness tips that you can start using immediately.
Skyd's Training Blog offers more in-depth articles on fitness and training from Ren, Melissa Witmer, occasionally Tim Morrill.
3. Get Out And Play
Okay, theory is great. Watching ultimate and thinking about the cool stuff you’ve learned is great. But there’s only so much you can do in your head or on paper. At a certain point, it’s time to take it to the streets (fields?) and put your conceptual learning into practice.
As the coach of a college program, I think that joining a club team is the single best thing a college captain can do for his or her game.
Joining a new team will force you to learn a new system, and provide context for the system you run on your college team. Chances are, if you make a club team, you’ll also be at the bottom of the roster, and it never hurts to be reminded of what it feels like down there!
If you want to try out for a club team but don’t know where to start, I recommend using Ultimate Central. They have a dedicated Club Tryouts list, as well as a robust search function for leagues and pick-up.
If you’re looking for a more casual playing experience, you’re probably better off heading to the Where To Play section of the USA Ultimate site. There you’ll simply click on your state, and select from a list of local ultimate organizations that can help you get started with pickup or league play.
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Over to you
What else can you do to be a better college captain in the off-season?