This list is for everyone looking for unique, engaging, and interactive ways to hold a virtual Ultimate practice. As coach of Ultimate at American University, I have utilized the Zoom platform to host team practices. Not everything revolves around strategy and tactics. Keeping practices engaging, fresh, and fun are the most critical factors as they lead to higher attendance rates.
While this list was cultivated for university teams, it can easily double for teams at any level that are doing their best to engage virtually. Online Ultimate Frisbee practices should be dynamic, engaging, and enjoyable. Enjoy these and share your own ideas for virtual Ultimate Frisbee practices to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Casual Film Day
Sometimes it’s best to promote a relaxing and entertaining feel for a virtual practice. This format is valuable when practices coincide with midterms or finals and mental fatigue is high. Free film day can be watching a classic game without dissecting strategy. It can be watching entertaining Callahan videos. Below are some video suggestions to consider:
All-Star Tour Documentary (College & Club Women)
Chasing Sarasota (Club Men)
The Black Tide: An Ultimate Story (College Men)
In one of our favorite practices last spring, we had our team watch one pre-selected Callahan video and present on it. There are so many great videos to choose from on YouTube. We picked all of the 2020 entries and used some of “the classics” to fill out the rest. Players watched their assigned Callahan video and presented to the team their thoughts and breakdown of the following aspects:
- Player name and school
- Player best or favorite attribute
- Video quality
- Song choice
- Highlights to music
- Best play
Virtual team bonding practices are the best. By introducing these types of enrichments into practices on occasion, you can heighten team morale. Try this to shake things up instead of giving an expected strategy or coaching session. Fun team bonding games can not only give a break from learning, but build chemistry and comradery. Below are a couple of our favorites:
Jeopardy: Create a jeopardy board customized to your team. Keep it fun. Perhaps a team specific category, a couple Ultimate categories, and a pop culture category. Check out the board we played last spring and see how you do!
Scavenger Hunt: Compile a list of items players have to track down around their online space in 10 minutes. Assign a point value for items based on how common they are. Throw a couple of Frisbee-focused items in.
Charades: A classic “act it out” game. Try with an Ultimate theme or just take it in any direction!
After back-to-back practices discussing the concept and strategy of spacing on the field, we created a surprise quiz. We created 8 GIFs from the Riot vs. Fury semifinal in 2015 with an accompanying 8 question Google form so players can submit their own answers. After the quiz, Coach Natalie shared the answers the coaches were looking for, as well as other outside-the-box answers that also worked.
Quizzes are a great way for coaches to see if information is being absorbed by the players, and also a fun way to see where players are at understanding strategy.
An occasional project to be completed outside of practice is a fun way to connect small groups of players together. Our semester project was to have groups of 3-4 players break down read about Ultimate training topics such as hucking or skying. We also had players break down an Ultimate tutorial or strategy video and create a PowerPoint breaking down the concept and teaching it to the entire team. That way, the players had to put on their coaching hat, and the coaches enjoyed hearing a fresh perspective on hucking, reading the disc, playing in the rain, and other Ultimate concepts.
One challenge of the online format is getting interaction from all the participants. Many of these practice ideas revolve around just a few people leading the session. However, when you create a team discussion day, this allows everyone to interject, increasing the engagement and attention of all involved.
Last week we watched arguably the most mentally challenging game of all time, the 2008 Women’s Club Championship game (no spoilers). The following Tuesday we used our hour long practice as an open discussion stemming from one of the major takeaways from the game, mental resilience. The coaches had 4 cues ready, and players spent an hour discussing their own experiences, trials, and tribulations regarding headspace, uncontrollables, mental resilience and more. Every player contributed in an incredibly unique and valuable way.
A huge part of normal Ultimate practice is spent running around and exercising, so capturing a piece of that through the virtual setting is vital. As a bonus, having a team workout on screen, also gives a sense of the team working hard together.
One of American University’s co-coaches Coke and has taken it upon herself to come up with a novel and engaging 15 minute fitness session each practice. Workouts this semester have included a kickboxing routine, yoga session, strength building HIIT, and more. Last practice, Coke surprised everyone by requesting each player put in their favorite workout in the chat, and created a teamwide circuit. Get your playlist ready!
Create A Playbook
One common challenge to teams is incorporating a playbook and getting the buy in from every player to know all the plays. How many times has a player been out of position on the pull play, or missed an assignment in the zone. Use the online practice as a chance to start building up and memorizing the playbook for the Spring. Whether it is introducing new plays, or going through plays that already exist in your system, this can save valuable practice time come Spring for a team looking to run multiple pull plays.
Try this: Create a teamwide contest to see who can come up with the best play. This will challenge every player to think creatively, and it is super fun. Make a competition out of it. For the prize at American University, we put the best designed play into the official playbook! The coaches broke down each player’s play into 4 categories: effectiveness, creativity, feasibility, and the name. Here was the winner!
Strategy is a no brainer when it comes to virtual practices. There is so much you can do to build a team’s fundamental knowledge of Ultimate. However, be careful about droning on about Ultimate tactics and strategy all practice, every practice. Mix it up with interactive and fun surprises that can be found on this list. That said, two of our favorite types of strategic coaching methods are:
Game Film: Share your screen as you explain concepts, tactics, ideas or adjustments. Bonus points for using your own team’s footage.
Whiteboard Sessions: Bring a whiteboard to the camera, or use the whiteboard feature in a shared screen to draw out certain situations. The benefit here is you can control where the players are, creating customized lessons for your team. Try opening up the floor to a Q+A to keep everyone engaged.
Online Ultimate Frisbee practices are a great chance to branch out. Bring in a top player to join a practice and speak on a topic they enjoy discussing. Ultimate players are widely accessible, shoot them a DM on Instagram. If they don’t respond, move on to the next one.
Try this: Watch a game that they have played in and have a list of questions about the game from their perspective. Examples can range from strategic adjustments throughout the game, mental mindset of the team, and personal anecdotes or vivid recollections. This is an amazing way to see Ultimate from a new perspective!