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What Else Makes A Good Handler?

by Cara Crouch

Many players in Ultimate have good throws, but that does not necessarily mean that they are great handlers. The key to becoming a great handler is combining the mechanics of good throws and a versatile throwing repertoire with three big picture attributes: awareness, communication, and mind set/attitude. 

The first characteristic of a great handler is awareness, or vision. The ability to evaluate the field at a moment's notice is crucial for calling plays, or dictating what you want as a thrower. What is the positioning of your offenders and their defenders? Whose defender is out of position? Are there poachers about? Has someone set up particularly well for a deep cut? Great handlers can also apply this keen awareness to their mark in a very short time period. What plane is the mark taking? Are they sitting heavy on the inside out or outside in? As soon as you figure these things out, take what they are giving you or throw from a plane that is not parallel to theirs by stepping towards or away from them. The last mark of a great handler in the awareness category is to open your vision. The hardest handlers to mark do not follow individual cuts with their eyes; they use their peripheral vision and scan the field instead of following one cutter at a time. Just a note on this: it is helpful if your team establishes what order you want to scan the field in. For example, some teams scan deep early in the count, then open side, break side, and finally the dump space at a higher count. I learned to expand my vision the hard way by getting hand blocked by Miranda Roth, a great handler. I also learned to expand my throwing repertoire to include more creative throws by observing and playing against Roth. 

Communication is the second responsibility of a good handler. When you have the disc you are in control of the game for that short amount of time. You have the ability to dictate the play by communicating with your cutters about what you want or do not want, and this can be done through verbal or non verbal communication. Verbal communication might involve an established play call or basic directive to a player. Non-verbal communication might involve more subtle means of communicating through a pump fake, head nod, eye movement, hand gesture, or another subtle body cue. Lastly, good handler communication does not only occur on the field. Be vocal with your teammates about what kind of cuts you like to throw to or spaces you particularly look to hit. 

The last quality of a great handler is mind-set. While playing on Ozone, I observed Angela Lin and Holly Sommers exude a calm confidence with the disc that I tried to mimic as a young handler. Besides exhibiting the knowledge that you are in control, know when to take risks and do it confidently, do not be too hard on yourself for poor execution (vs. poor decisions), and be aggressive about quick movement. Lastly, and perhaps most difficult for the aging Ultimate player in all of us, try to avoid falling into "the handler trap" mind-set of getting stuck behind the disc. The line between stealth and sloth is thin and blurry, so if you are inactive make sure it is serving a purpose. 

Matthew Sewell once told me that Ultimate is 60% skill/athleticism and 40% confidence. Although I am sure he was exaggerating the percentages to instill confidence in a young player, he was absolutely right about the necessity of a confident and aggressive attitude. That mind-set, combined with good communication and a keen awareness, will help turn a good thrower into a great handler.

huddle Issue 21 Team USA On Specialities

Tuesday, July 14th, 2009

Well-Rounded Deep Threats
by Gwen Ambler

What Else Makes A Good Handler?
by Cara Crouch

Handling: Vision
by Deb Cussen

Defensive Handlers I Admire
by Kathy Dobson

Schwa's D-Handler
by Chelsea Putnam

Handling: Doing The Little Things
by Jon Remucal

D-Line Handlers
by Adam Simon

Deep Cutting
by Dylan Tunnell

Cutting Thoughts & Techniques
by Bart Watson

Defense From The Handler Spot
by Seth Wiggins





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