Low attendance problems? You’re not the first. Between final exams and colder weather, it’s normal for practice attendance to taper off. While having to run practice with fewer than 14 players can be frustrating, as a captain, you can and should use these small practices to your advantage.
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Like any practice, it’s important that you identify the specific skill sets your team needs to work on. While fewer than 14 players means that you can’t do a full scrimmage (bummer), there’s still plenty you can do to help your team improve! Plus, fewer people means more reps for everyone!
We've put together a bunch of activities for you to try instead of scrimmaging. They're broken up into categories to help you better target your team's weaknesses:
sharpen up your Technical Skills
First, let’s establish what you want to work on. We’ve broken down activities you can do at small-numbers practices, based on that focus. Most are fun games that’ll keep your core attendees in high energy and get those no-show slackers jealous and more committed to coming to the next practice.
Throwing and catching
Guts: Think dodgeball, but with a disc. Two teams of any size spread out on a rectangular court across from one another. The offense starts with a disc. Once each team signals they're ready, the defense is not allowed to move their feet. A player on the offense will throw the disc as hard as they can at the frozen defense. The defense is only allowed to catch the disc with one hand (no body traps!). The offense scores a point by landing the disc in their opponent’s area without them catching it or if the disc is dropped. If the disc lands outside of the defense's court, the defense scores a point. If the disc is caught, no one scores. Play this game to 11 points switching back and forth between O and D.
Keepaway: Create a boundary with cones--the smaller the area, the more challenging the game will be. Half of your team will try to complete throws among one another while the other half will work to intercept or turn the disc. Set the stall count at 5. Award a point per 4-6 completed throws. If the disc is turned, the other team starts with the disc. First team to 21 points wins!
Double Disc Court: This game can help your team practice throwing accuracy and teamwork. It’s played on a shorter ultimate field with two teams of 2. Each team begins anywhere within their respective endzone. A team can score a point by either getting a disc to drop and stay in the other team’s endzone or if the other team throws a disc that lands outside of your endzone. You team scores two points if you force your opponents to both be touching a disc at the same time. It may seem confusing if you’ve never played so, here are the official rules and a video so you can see how it’s done.
The 2013 VA Double Disc Court Finals
Urban Disc Golf: Play disc golf around campus with normal discs (that you don’t mind ruining). "Holes" such as fountains, statues, signposts, etc. are agreed upon before each round. Start roughly 3-4 throws away from the first hole. Like in golf, the player who hits the target in the fewest number of throws is par and everyone else is scored by the additional number of throws it took him or her. Many play that the person who took the most throws chooses the next hole. Maybe you’ll even catch some troublemakers skipping practice!
Flutterguts: Two teams face each other a few yards apart. The disc is thrown from one team to the other in a manner where it does not rotate about its central axis. The disc can flip and flutter, but it may not spin. The other team must catch the disc with one hand in order to get a point. Teams switch off throwing and catching.
Dump sets: You can never practice too many dump sets! In groups of four one person starts as the handler with the disc and another person sets a mark. A second handler lines up across from them with a defender. The primary handler will look up-line for a few stall counts and then they will look to their dump who will immediately make cuts to get open. Try it first with defense at 70% and work your way up.
Three-person Marking Drill: This is a great drill that many teams do to practice making quick movements and getting low on the mark. Odds are you’ve done this drill before. You have two people set up 10 feet away from one another and a third person who starts by marking the person with the disc. After ~4 seconds of fakes, the person with the disc will throw it to the person across from them and then run to become the new mark. The previous mark is now the receiver. Make sure everyone gets 10 reps at the mark.
Hot Box: This is one of my favorite games. Like in ultimate, each team's goal is to score in an endzone, but what’s different is that the endzone is shared by both teams in the shape of a 4 ft. x 4 ft. square box. To set up the game you’ll also want to place a larger box that’s about 20 ft. x 20 ft. surrounding the smaller box. Unlike ultimate, this outside box is not the boundary. Instead, before a team can “unlock” the endzone in the middle, one of their teammates must catch the disc outside of the large box. If a team scores in the endzone, the other team starts with the disc outside of the larger box. You can choose any number of points to play to!
Here's a visual to show you how to set up the game.
Ladders: This is best played with two teams of 5-6 people. Both teams begin on the same endzone with one disc per team. They may line up in any order on the line. Both teams work simultaneously to score in the opposite endzone. However, each team can have an unlimited number of people playing offense or defense at a time (and these people can also switch around). If a defensive player is within 10 feet she may choose to set a stall count. If there is a turn on the way to the endzone, that team must get the disc back to where they started and try again. Once a team has made it to the opposite endzone, you can turn around and go play again! First team to 7 points wins.
Dictating defense drill: Set up three cones about 10 yards from each other with a thrower at one cone ready to throw a long throw. Have an offense and a defense start on the breakside of the thrower. The offense will make a deep cut, an under cut, a break cut, and then a deep cut again where the thrower will throw the disc. The person on defense will practice moving her hips and staying on the open side of the offense as this video shows. Have your players cycle through as the offense and defense.
Defensive footwork: Go through some ladder drills to help your players improve their defensive footwork. Ren Caldwell has compiled a video resource of defensive footwork drills for you to do here and talks more in depth about why defensive footwork is so important in this Skyd article.
work on your ultimate Conditioning
Conditioning is one of the best bonding activities for small groups! They say misery loves company.
Abs: Time the whole team in a plank competition or do planks together in a circle while the circle goes around counting to 100.
Hand-eye coordination: Windshield Wipers are great for practicing throwing while you're tired. Grab a disc and a partner for this one! The person with the disc will remain stationary and the other person will make cuts in a V. They’ll catch and throw back the disc at both edges of the V. Have them do 10 total.
Endurance: Do a Snertz workout with the team! It’ll be great.
Strength: Take practice into the gym for a change of scenery. Put together a circuit so that small groups of 3-5 can start in different places. Include exercises such as squats, split squats, short sprints, arm work, and abs.
scrimmage with Mini ultimate
This classic never seems to get old. Playing mini helps your team work on dishies, cutting, and conditioning. The best part is, you can play it with as few as four people (2 on 2)!
If you’ve never played mini, all you’ve got to do is set up a miniature ultimate field. Most people tend to eyeball the dimensions based on how many people are playing. Other than that the rules are exactly the same as normal ultimate except you’ll want to reduce the stall count to about 6 seconds.
And... there's a few fun variations you can add to shake things up!
Make it take it: When a player scores, she simply walks the disc out to the edge of her team's endzone, taps it in, and begins trying to score in the opposite endzone. This adds a bigger conditioning element and forces players to stay focused.
Queen/King of the Court: If you have enough players, you can set up your mini fields so that teams who win move "up" a court and teams who lose move "down" a court.
Instead of sulking in the low practice attendance, try to keep practice as relevant and engaging as possible to reward those who did show up. Your players might even mention how great practice was to their friends who didn’t make it!
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OVER TO YOU!
What are your favorite games or drills when you've got low numbers? Do you play a different version of these games? We'd love to hear from you in the comments!