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This morning's practice frustrations

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I went to the Cows practice today. I felt a little bad about leaving Kris and his parents for three hours on a Sunday morning, when they were going to be here only a few days. Soon into the morning, however, when I realized that Kris and his parents were going to watch the Pittsburgh football game on television, I decided that being outside and moving around would squash any feelings of guilt, and left.

Unlinke most weeks, we actually warmed up as a team, instead of having individuals dribble in, hang out, socialize, maybe throw a little bit, jog a few steps, then jump into whatever game was happening. I feel warming up as a team is important, so I was happy we did.

After playing a game to three, Adrian suggested we run a couple drills. The first one was a timing drill, where a cutter runs out about 15 yards, turns and cuts back for the disc. At the same moment the cutter begins his cut, a second cutter runs deep. The first cutter catches the disc, turns and fires the disc out to the second cutter running deep. We were practicing sharp cuts in, cutting out and back across the field preventing same-lane hucks (though Adrian didn't make that statement as succinctly as Kris does), and the timing of both.

There were details that we needed to work out in this drill: was the first cut out and straight back along the path, or flared out to the side? The answer was the former, but even when I cut that way, the thrower who initiated the drill threw far outside me and I missed my catch. Eh, it happens, I picked up the disc, threw a good huck, and without checking if it was caught, ran to the second line.

On my second cut, my insides disagreed with everything I was doing, and I cramped spectacularly badly. Walking off the field was an effort of heroic proportions, and figuring out what to do more than that was impossible. Eventually, the pain subsided and I was able to make it to the restroom and, eventually, back to the field as the second drill started.

The second drill was a defensive drill of sorts, run in a line. The thrower stood in one spot, the receiver started in front of the receiver facing her, the defense stood 8 yards or so back, facing the thrower also. The drill was for the receiver to run backwards, facing the thrower the whole time, and catch the disc. The thrower couldn't throw the disc until the receiver had passed the mid-point between the thrower and where the defense started. The defense ran forward to block the disc.

When I arrived, the two groups had just split into boys and girls, I assumed because the girls were worried about being clobbered by the boys. I was an itty bitty small bit annoyed at the separation, because, well, we play a mixed game, boys are part of that game, and in game situations, boys are going to poach off onto the girls. Separating the two in practice creates an artificial situation that doesn't accurately reflect real games.

Okay, fine. Whatever. I went to play with the girls.

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After half-heartedly running the drill two times, while the boys were kicking ass, laying out to get that defensive block, aggressively reaching around to deflect the disc before the receiver catches it, the girls degenerated into a talk / complain fest on how stupid the drill was, and how did we make this drill meaningful. I don't know what happened at that moment, but, wow, did I immediately switch to coach mode.

Yes, Santa Clara women, I want to thank you once again for teaching me how to take control of a group of unfocussed women and focus them again. I should probably thank Kris, too, for teaching me that every drill is a chance to practice an aspect of the game, but that works only if you know what to apply the drill to.

In my coach mode, I immediately suggested everyone look at this as a zone defense. You have the thrower, you have the receiver, and you're over on the side as wing. You see the thrower looking at the receiver, so you pull away from your area and go hard hard hard to the receiver. You want to see how the thrower is standing, is she going to throw forehand or backhand, which side of the receiver is she going to aim for? As the receiver, you want to be aware of where a defender might be so that you can block her out with your body. As both receiver and defense, you want to be aggressive to the disc. Both of you want want want that disc.

I totally became animated in the way that I do. As Paul calls it, the full body talking. I don't know where that habit came from, but it's there, and that's how I talk when excited, and I look like a dork and I don't care. I really shoudl, however, get a picture of myself doing it.

After my rearrangement of everyone's thinking of the drill and gift of purpose, we ran the drill a few more times, with my standing on the side, giving encouragement and cheers. We went from a gap of maybe four feet between the defense and the receiver when the disc was caught to maybe 2 or 3 inches. I encouraged everyone to be aggressive to the disc, go go go go go! We started getting blocks. And the receivers adjusted so that we had close calls, but good body box outs. It was great to see the adjustment.

Yet.

As much as it was great to see the adjustment, I was frustrated by everyone's (well, all the women's) lack of ability to see how a drill could be applied to the game. Instead of trying to understand why this drill may be helpful, they just wanted to modify the drill into something known, something comfortable, something where the defense is at a strong disadvantage and there's no motivation to be aggressive on the disc. Turns out, though I was wrong as to when I thought the situation of the drill applied (not zone, but in a poaching defense), I was right in how most of the drill, as well as the aspect of aggressiveness to the disc the drill was trying to improve.

The drill was also supposed to show us how to look past the receiver to the motions of the thrower to help anticipate where the disc would go, in order to improve the defense's line of attack, according to Adrian's after-drill summary, so even I learned something new. Unfortunately, Adrian didn't explain this before the drill, but after, in a Socratic method of learning. I felt I had been the only one to have even TRY to learn the lesson, though.

Mischief has this problem, too, where, instead of respecting the drill and running it, trying to figure out what to get out of it, everyone wants to change the drill or improve it (or maybe "improve" it). While I recognize that some drills are poorly designed and may result in enforcing bad habits, most well-run drills enforce good habits even when they're new to the player. That those players want to alter the drill before trying, before fully committing to running the drill with fire and intensity, frustrates me.

I don't know if the fundamental issue I had was lack of personal responsibility to take the task at hand and find the good in it, or an issue with lack of respect for the person who cares about the team and has has taken the time to set up and explain the drill, or some other issue entirely. I see this is the team I'm on and I want the team to play well. Even if they lose, if they played smart, we can leave the field heads up.

I must be channelling Kris McQueen again.

On a completely separate note, I really wish I had been fearless as a tiny person. Adrian's kids just climb up to high places and climb back down, not seeming to worry about, oh, I don't know, FALLING or such?

Crazy kids. Heck, I wish I were that fearless even now.

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