Thursday, June 10, 2010


Leslie Wu of UltiTraining asked me a few questions in the comments section and I thought I'd move them up to post-status.

is the text of the original questions. I am going to skip question one since it is the hardest and most complicated.

I should preface everything with a disclaimer that almost everything I do I learned through on-the-job training. I ran track in high school for a program that was okay, but I graduated knowing nothing about how to train. I played four years of CUT and ten years of Sockeye, squeezing four years of coaching Syzygy and seven years of captaining in there somehow. (Don't do the math - it doesn't work.) I've been involved with Oregon now for three full seasons.

I am a big proponent of tapering, particularly before the final tournament of the season. You lose a little bit of polish, but more than make up for it with the improvement in health and freshness. Particularly for a team that has been playing seriously for five months, a week and a half break isn't going to seriously affect your chemistry. You have to prepare for the break mentally and be ready for the first game to be a bit shaky, but after a half, you'll be fine. At a tournament like Nationals, you can usually afford a rocky half at the beginning of the weekend. (Usually.)

Typically, the last weekend before Nationals I like to run a practice that is warm up and then game to 5 and then done. It leaves people with an unexpected 90 minutes and hungry to play more. Perfect.

I also like to run a sharpening track workout about four days before play. It is a series of sprints with full recovery. Four 20s, four 30s and four 40s. When I was still playing, I would take a book or crossword puzzle, set a timer for five minutes and run on the beep. Then go back to my book. The only issue is staying warm, particularly late in the club season. Oregon did this workout twice this year: once before Regionals and once before Nationals.

Both Oregon and Sockeye employed a double taper: once for Regionals and once for Nationals. When I was coaching and playing at Carleton, we worked right through Regionals because there was never any doubt that we'd qualify for Nationals. (CUT and Syzygy went 56-0 at Regionals during those years.) Additionally, the Minnesota weather is a bit difficult to play outside in until April. So that's really something that depends on your circumstance as a team.

With Oregon, we also changed what we worked on as the season went on. Throughout January, February and March we really focused on sprint endurance in practice. We run a lot, but always with the disc. Instead of running 70s, we'll do a huck drill. Instead of running 200s, we'll do a couple sets of no-defense up and down the field. The challenge is to get the team to run these at full speed and for that you depend on your leaders to set the tone. As April fades, the focus begins to switch to speed. Distances get shorter and rest time increases. Again, running is always done with the disc involved. It is only at the very end of the season that we did any running without the disc.

The longer I am involved in ultimate, the more focused I become on injury prevention as an essential element of training. If I could change one thing about my playing career, it would be to spend more time doing core strengthening and in the weight room. Yoga (which I think is actually bad for ultimate) and pilates (which I think is good) weren't really in popular culture when I was playing, nor was the idea that core strength was an essential component of fitness.

Oregon was actually really lucky with injuries this season, losing only one player for the season. (And that was to an undiagnosable quad problem.) Going into the last couple of weeks we had more than our share of 10 - 20% injuries, but only one big injury, which was Kimber's ankle. As a team we were very good about working out individually and a number of women took weight training as a class both winter and spring. The instructor took their needs as ultimate players seriously and even came out to watch us play to learn more.

Clearly, the biggest issue in women's athletics is ACL injuries. Three seasons ago, we lost three players (Gordy, Marie and Kate) to blown knees, but since then we've been lucky. Gordy blew hers again in 2009, but played Nationals anyway (baller!). This year, we had none. My experience has been that you're due for one a season. This year, though, there doesn't seem to have been that many in college ultimate. Atari blew hers at Prez Day, but that's the only one I know of. I don't know if it's luck or improved training. Probably, its a little of both. My experience tells me that most knee injuries can be attributed to playing out-of-shape or fatigued or both. As preseasons have gotten longer and teams better prepared for them, you have less tournaments where just-out-of-the-snow players are going full tilt for eight games.

Hamstrings are the bugaboo of ultimate. Mine dogged me for years before it ended my career. Regardless of what type of training you do, it is impossible to equal the miles we put on our legs and backs throwing, drilling, scrimmaging and practicing. The unbalanced nature of throwing really stresses the upper hamstrings (particularly on the step-leg), lower back and S-I joint. I know that core strength and pilates really made a difference for me, but it was too little, too late.
What I emphasized with the Oregon players who had bad hammies was management, not prevention. I have three big rules: do your core work, always wear pants and warm up early.

I'd be quite interested to know what kind of suggestions people had for knee and hamstring injury prevention.

Whew! That's a big one. It'll have to wait for the end of school.


  1. The Injury Timeout site has some good stuff on ACL prevention through the PEP program warm-up, which has been shown to reduce women's ACL tears by up to 70% among soccer players.


  2. I am curious as to why you don't like yoga but do like Pilates for Ultimate. Also, what do you mean by "always wear pants"?