Category Archives: All audiences

Hammers win games! (80 ultimate throws for the creative player)

As a youth coach, what should you say when an elementary or middle school player asks you to teach them the “hammer” throw? The normal response is to tell them they should first master the backhand and forehand throws. But I’m starting to wonder: if our goal is creative players, maybe kids should get a chance to choose what throws work best for them to accomplish a particular pass or play…

What goes on in the mind of a kid who finds themselves holding the disc?

Why not have 80+ throws from which to choose?!

Consider the enduring wisdom in the favorite cheer of my daughter’s coach, Denny: “Hammers win games!!”

Not long ago, I followed that dictum in one of my favorite moments as a club player for Che. I had never thrown a hammer in a league game before, but faced with an intense forehand force on the sideline, I suddenly saw an opportunity in the far corner of the end zone. (Thanks for being tall, Rebecca!) What an awesome feeling of satisfaction to watch that hammer drop down to my teammate… The receiver — that a moment before had seemed unreachable because of the tough mark that was shutting down my standard throws (forehand and backhand) — caught the throw and we won!

In the hope that more players — especially young ones — can feel that creative bliss, here are 80 different ultimate throws from Rowan McDonnell — 

And here’s a “table of contents” for Rowan’s video…

  1. Two-handed backhand (0:27)
  2. Forehand (0:34)
  3. Two hand forehand (0:37)
  4. Barbacue (0:40)
  5. Around backhand (0:43)
  6. Gym class hero (0:49)
  7. Thumber (0:53)
  8. Hammer (1:00)
  9. Scoober (1:07)
  10. Airbounce backhand (1:13)
  11. Bootstrap (1:17)
  12. Airbounce forehand (1:23)
  13. Airbounce thumber (1:29)
  14. HRFABB (1:34)
  15. Beckham (1:37)
  16. Rapinoe (1:46)
  17. Push pass (1:50)
  18. Sky hook (1:57)
  19. Two hand sky hook (2:05)
  20. Briefcase (2:09)
  21. Two hand push pass (2:15)
  22. Prayer (2:19)
  23. Mortal Kombat (2:24)
  24. Knuckleball (2:32)
  25. Behind the back push pass (2:37)
  26. Jump shot (2:43)
  27. Behind the back pizza (2:45)
  28. Pizza pie (2:52)
  29. Smukie (3:01)
  30. Scroogie (3:04)
  31. Chicken wing (3:11) [footage blacked out!]
  32. Two hand bootstrap (3:13)
  33. Twirler (3:17)
  34. Spinerama (3:24)
  35. Windmill windup (3:30)
  36. Bixler (3:42) [in game!]
  37. Seabiscuit (3:47)
  38. El primo (3:52) *
  39. Matador (4:00)
  40. Conquistador (4:10)
  41. Rebel (4:18)
  42. Corker (4:24)
  43. Haxi maxi (4:32)
  44. Shovel (4:37)
  45. Waffle fries (4:43) *
  46. Helicopter (4:48)
  47. Double backhand (4:58) *
  48. Backhand scoober (5:06)
  49. Dragon (5:12) *
  50. Elevator forehand (5:19)
  51. Elevator backhand (5:28)
  52. Slingshot (5:38)
  53. Slingshot blade (5:42)
  54. Slingshot scoober (5:47)
  55. Yuba (5:50)
  56. Maxi haxi (6:00)
  57. Palm springs (6:05)
  58. Bounce pass (6:20)
  59. Thumbixler (6:26)
  60. Spin cycle (6:33)
  61. Spin wheel (6:44)
  62. Home run (6:53) *
  63. Body roll (7:00)
  64. Stu (7:09)
  65. Dough boy (7:12)
  66. Chain lightning (7:19)
  67. The Timmy (7:27)
  68. Change up backhand (7:34)
  69. Change up forehand (7:40)
  70. Heel pass (7:47)
  71. Kick pass (7:51)
  72. Wheeler (7:56) *
  73. Shot put (8:00)
  74. Cricket (8:04) **
  75. Chicken head (8:09)
  76. Fireball (8:12)
  77. Toe flick (8:14) [in game!]
  78. Behind the back flick (8:19) [in game!]

So… since he skipped 76 (accidentally) maybe that’s 78 throws? Except he’s sneaky and counted the “flick” with which he started the video (at 0:25), so 79! Maybe *you* should make up #80, or teach Rowan one that he didn’t include?!

Finally, below is a list of all of Rowan’s throws, plus an ever-growing list of a bunch more. For many throws there are also links to tutorials so you can break each down and learn it. Feel free to add your own throws via the comments, and we’ll incorporate them into the big list.

Harvard thesis says no to vertical stack in endzone!

In April, 2015, Harvard undergrad David Zhang presented a thesis on ultimate analytics to the Department of Applied Mathematics (archived PDF version). The thesis has some nice diagrams of basic concepts that may be useful to youth players and coaches.

Black circles are offense; black lines are defense. The white circle is the disc. The mark is trying to “force” the handler to throw a (right-handed) flick to the open side, thereby allowing the other defenders to be a few steps ahead of the offensive player they are guarding.

He also offers this elegant synopsis of the two basic forms of offense in ultimate: the vertical and horizontal stacks —

The basic two formations for any offense are the vertical stack and the horizontal stack. Any other offense is a variation of one of these two formations or a hybrid of the two. The vertical offense employs two handlers in the backfield and five cutters spread vertically downfield, creating a perpendicular L shape. Usually, the vertical stack lines up centered with the disc so that there are two lanes to throw into: both the open side and break side (see figure above). The horizontal stack uses three handlers in the backfield with four cutters spread horizontally downfield of the handlers, creating a parallel set of two lines. The same principles in a vertical stack hold true in a horizontal stack. In either stack formation, the cutters have one of two options to cut: either “deep” (away from the handler) or “under” (toward the handler). The horizontal stack is the most popular form of offense right now at most levels of ultimate. However, most elite teams default into a vertical stack in the “red zone.” Generally, the exact type of offense is less important than the overall idea of maintaining space on offense and throwing to favorable matchups.

Zhang’s thesis also proposes two alternative offensive strategies for the “red zone” — the area within ~10-20 meters of the front of the endzone where you’re trying to score. The conventional strategy is to form a vertical stack, but Zhang argues that fewer players in a limited space give the offense an advantage. So he suggests isolating two offensive players (and their defenders) either in the back corners of the endzone, or as dump opportunities for the initial handlers. Finally, he suggests thinking of the remaining 5 players as two triangular groups working to score in the increased open space within the endzone.

Both end zone offenses are motivated by two principles: maximizing space while maintaining the ability to change the point of attack (allowing the disc to swing laterally). These offenses are created by taking two of the seven offensive players out of play and allowing just five players to run the offense. (Fewer players gives an advantage to the offense. Imagine the opposite, extreme scenario where teams play 100 players on offense and 100 players on defense. The disc would never be able to advance downfield.)

In the first end zone set, the two players stand in the back of the end zone, where they are threats to score, albeit, minimally. In the second end zone set, the two players sit wide behind the handlers on “rails” acting as dumps. These two placements—the back of the end zone and the rail dumps—are not distinct to either end zone set; we could
have easily switched them around. The five other offensive players are the intriguing part of the end zone offense: Both sets rest on the principle of three players working the disc. The first end zone set sees two handlers and one cutter, and the second set sees one handler and two cutters. Depending on the strengths of the offensive team and the individual match ups on defense, teams should adapt one of these two end zone sets in order to maximize their chance of scoring.

Just before each game, my team of 40-70 year olds (Che‘s motto is “Old, but slow.”) traditionally runs an “endzone drill” in which we form a central vertical stack spanning the endzone and practice cutting from the back of the stack to the front corners of the endzone (with handlers cycling from the front of the stack through the “red zone”). These new ideas from Zhang suggest we may need to create some new drills — with some folks practicing staying out of the way while others learn to throw and cut in equilateral triangles!

Schteattle Schtick: build ultimate skills in a fun game with 75 youth & 25 discs

Ok, here’s how Seattle kids play Schtick.  We’re gonna call it Schteattle Schtick and it’s best played with 10-75 youth players (assisted by their coaches and/or parents) and lots of discs — at least 1 for every 3 players.  (If you have more players and discs than this, you should play Galaxy Wars instead.)  Either way, you’re in for a lot of fun and intense aerobic conditioning (even if there are minor inconsistencies with developing good fundamentals, e.g. you’re allowed to run with the disc)…

Schtick field schematic (from )

Here are the basic rules of Schteattle Schtick — forged on the first-mucky then sun-hardened grass fields of the DiscNW summer camp fields.  The main difference from standard Schtick (described below) is that there is no stoppage of play upon scoring (in fact there really isn’t even any “keeping score” amid the mayhem), and there are no pulls — even at the start of the game.  The Seattle variant simply adds these stipulations:

  1. The game cannot start until all players and all their discs (half the total available which must be at least 10) are packed inside the scorebox they will be defending.  Everyone must be ready to rumble, and silent (ha, ha).  The coach (or some responsible person) yells “go,” or whistles, and everyone runs amok.
  2. The only way to win is to get all discs out of your territory (across the middle line (hint: always keep at least one in reserve to counter stockpiling).  You get a billion bonus points for getting all discs not only over the middle line, but also within the scorebox you are attacking (it’s never been done, BTW).
  3. Dimensions may vary based on team size and field space available.
  4. Follow the rest of the standard rules (see box & links below).

Local variants:

  • If you have even more kids, you can add scoreboxes, e.g. two boxes per side!
  • Played with a 2×2 box and a triangle half that size. Triangle worth 2 points. But we never really keep score of course!
  • If you have way too many kids, try Galaxy Wars…

What is (Schtandard) Schtick?

From —

  • It is played with 2 or more discs (AKA “Frisbees”) simultaneously.  Usually you play with about 1 disc per 2.5 players. (see official rules)
  • It is way more fun than most sports.
  • It can be played on grass, sand, or snow, and has many cool variations.
  • Players may run with the discs (unlike ultimate).
  • The playing field consists of a middle line which bisects the globe into the 2 teams’ territories. On the ground within each territory, about 20 meters from the midline, is a 2×2 meter scorebox.
  • 8-80 players are divided into 2 teams. Each team is assigned one territory to defend (like capture the flag).
  • Scoring occurs by getting a disc to rest on the ground within the scorebox in opposing territory.
  • Players with a disc who are tagged by an opposing player in opposing territory must relinquish their disc.
  • In practice, the play of Schtick is flexible enough to permit people of widely different disc skills & athletic skills to legitimately face off on the same field.
  • It is imbued with a spirit of the game that is rarely paralleled in a sporting world otherwise geared for jocks only. More important than athletic prowess is a flexible mind & willingness to try.
  • It is fun for every player almost every time. See what people are saying.

USA Ultimate’s 2017 Vision Tour in Seattle Tues 4/4

In an effort to acquire input from the growing ultimate community across the United States, the national governing body USA Ultimate, is in the middle of their “2017 Vision Tour” in which they are holding meetings at city’s across the nation.  They are coming to Seattle next Tuesday (4/4) and your chance to influence the direction of the sport in the U.S. will be from 6-8pm at the new ultimate gym — Ren Fitness (1404 NW 49th St, Seattle, WA 98107).   You can pre-register online.

Agenda and attendees

USAU’s CEO and a few members of the board of directors will present something like the following agenda (from the Mar 23 tour stop in Pittsburgh) in effort to hear from Seattle area players, coaches and parents about our region’s hopes and dreams.

  • Welcome, brief outline of the evening, goal of the Community Conversations (5 minutes)
  • The ultimate community’s hopes and concerns about the future of ultimate (10 minutes)
  • A look back: ultimate’s history (5 minutes)
  • A look forward: ultimate and USA Ultimate in the wide world of sports (15 minutes)
  • Q&A (10 minutes)
  • Considering our next steps: Group exercise, facilitated in six small groups. Then, led by facilitator in large group (60 minutes). Topics and facilitators include:
    • AUDL: Henry Thorne, USA Ultimate Board Vice President
    • Elite Level Play: Josh Murphy, USA Ultimate Director of Member Services & Community Development
    • Equity & Diversity: DeAnna Ball, USA Ultimate Board President
    • Olympic Dream: Tom Crawford, USA Ultimate Chief Executive Officer
    • USA Ultimate Brand: Stacey Waldrup, USA Ultimate Manager of Communications & Publications
    • Youth Structure: Kathy Hendrickson, USA Ultimate Board of Directors
  • Guest Speakers: (10 minutes)
    • Sarah Lemanski: Gender Equity and Disparity
    • Marcus Ranii-Dropcho: Club ultimate vs. semi-pro
  • Close, Appreciation and Rating the Output (5 minutes).

The Northwest Challenge: free inspiration from the best of college players

Tomorrow night (Friday 3/24/2017) the exhibition games for the Northwest Challenge will begin at 6:30 pm with the women of the University of Washington’s Element facing off against Syzygy from Carleton College.  The men’s game immediately afterwards (8:30 pm start) will showcase the UW Sundodgers vs BYU CHI. These free games in Seattle’s Memorial Stadium will be a great chance for local youth players to get inspired.  More information on the Northwest Challenge Facebook page

If you’re busy Friday night, there are also a bunch of games happening at the UW’s IMA fields in Seattle on Friday, and then up in Burlington at Skagit River Park on Saturday and Sunday.  All these games are free, so you should consider volunteering for a couple hours (they’re still looking for help over the weekend).  Here are schedules and game locations for the women and men (Tier 1 | Tier 2).

According to Ultiworld’s “Power Rankings” for college teams, UW Element is ranked 20th and will play rank 16 Carleton Syzygy.  For youth spectators in Seattle, here are the other women’s games that will be played tomorrow (Friday):

Fri 3/24 10:00 AM IMA 1 – # 2 Dartmouth (1) Washington (19)
Fri 3/24 12:00 PM IMA 1 – # 2 Dartmouth (1) Pittsburgh (9)
Fri 3/24 2:00 PM IMA 1 – # 2 Carleton College (12) Michigan (14)
Fri 3/24 4:00 PM IMA 1 – # 2 Pittsburgh (9) Michigan (14)

Similarly, the men’s exhibition game has Power Rankings of 16th for UW Sundodgers and 12th for BYU CHI.