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Yeah Iverson, We've Talkin' About Practice

by Ryan Morgan

I have a rather painful childhood memory from back in middle school. I was playing basketball and went to set a low screen for another player. In a moment of miscommunication both my defender and the player who I set a pick on rushed to guard my teammate. I was left open for just a few seconds, but before I realized it, the basketball hit me in the face. The point guard recognized that I was about to be open and passed the ball early. I remember appreciating two lessons learned from that moment. First, always keep your head up so you don't get hit in the face unexpectedly. Second, and far more importantly, if you keep your head up you can take advantage of narrow windows of opportunity. This second lesson is field vision. 

Like many Ultimate players, I can trace my field vision skills to non-Ultimate sports like basketball and soccer. These taught me to move without the ball, respond to a teammate's positioning and see open passing lanes. After lots of practice one learns to pick up on tiny cues on the field from which one can anticipate what will happen next. The hours of practice that give a basketball player the field vision to use no-look passes are the same hours of practice that give a handler the field vision to throw to a cutter that isn't open yet. In both cases, field vision is a matter of picking up on and taking advantage of tiny cues. In both cases, the only way to learn those cues is through hours of practice. 

Sure, some field vision skills from non-Ultimate sports translate to Ultimate. A brand new Ultimate player with a soccer or lacrosse background will generally have less trouble adjusting to the pace and movement of Ultimate than a brand new player with only a golf background. But just like learning to throw a flick, transferring field vision skills to Ultimate requires practice. I remember my first few weeks playing Ultimate in college when, because of my soccer background, standing in a tight stack in the middle of the field felt so unnatural. I wanted to spread out like in soccer. As a rookie who couldn't throw further than 15 feet, I was pegged as a cutter and continued to struggle with the stack concept until one practice where we were randomly assigned different roles. I got to be a handler, and though I still couldn't throw, I could see where I wanted to throw. That's when the stack concept started to make more sense to me. All it took was seeing the field from a different perspective. 

I think the way to teach field vision, if it can be taught, is to give players the opportunity to see the field from a different perspective, or a different angle, than they are used to. If the player is a cutter, make the player spend some time handling. If the player is a defender, make the player spend some time on the offensive team. If the player is a deep-deep in a zone defense, make the player play in the cup. Seeing the field from different positions helps you hone field vision because you learn the little cues that allow you to anticipate what will happen next. All it takes is practice.

huddle Issue 29 Field Vision

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

A Little Perspective
by Mark Earley

Closing Your Eyes To Open Them
by Josh Greenough

Understanding The Information
by Greg Husak

Yeah Iverson, We're Talkin' About Practice
by Ryan Morgan

Play A Different Position
by Ted Munter

Learn To Think so You Don't Have To Think
by Jim Parinella

Pattern Recognition
by Charlie Reznikoff





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