Finding Your Digital Mentor with Lauren Boyle

author - lauren boyle skills

The growth of video in ultimate has given way to a surplus of footage that shows us elite players in action. Few things are more fun than looking at highlight reels.

Better still, what we have on camera can take us beyond entertainment. How can we use ultimate footage not just for entertainment, but also to make us better ultimate players? Highlight reel plays are only happening a small percentage of the time. What are those great athletes doing to be in those positions to make such spectacular plays and what are they doing to be throughout the game? 

 As a coach, my job is to find ways for my athletes to capitalize on their unique strengths to shine on the field. You can be short and speedy, tall and explosive, average human size and aggressive, etc. and find ways to be successful on the field. As a person developing their skills, this is an exciting time with all the footage available to see people your size and shape crushing it.

 Last weekend, I was at Team USA’s U24 tryout.  At the end of the weekend, a player asked for feedback for how they could grow in an initiating cutter.  To dial in my feedback, I asked who they aspired to be in the club scene. The person they picked was tall and lanky, and used those attributes to dominant in the air. The person standing in front of me was short and speedy.

To expedite their learning process, I suggested they watch film of Laura Bitterman (Boston Brute Squad), an elite ultimate player relatable to their physical attributes. They would be able to see and break down how that elite athlete attacked the open space and used speed get position to win the disc in the air.

How to Find a Digital Mentor

Watching footage is a skill. It can be learned. Here are five steps to get you started.

  1.  Pick an elite-level game on video to watch. (Don't know where to start? Try NexGen, Ultiworld, or USA Ultimate's YouTube channels.) 
  2. Identify players your size and stature. (short, average, tall) (light or grounded).
  3. Narrow down that list to find someone who moves like you (squirrely, speedy, aggressive, powerful, linear, smart).
  4. Use film to see how your digital mentor use their size, stature, and strengths to be successful with the disc, on offense and make defensive plays. For example, does an elite player break skilled marks by using their length, quick releases, or agility with fakes?
  5. Go out and practice. Reps, reps, reps.

Example of a Digital Mentor

During the 2016 season with the University of Colorado, I used a similar method to the one above. This activity helped my players level up throughout the season and provided me with a communication shortcut. Knowing your player’s digital mentor gives you a more specific knowledge about your player’s motivations, goals, and self-image than an abstract conversation about goals ever could. 

 Here’s an example of what one of my players turned in for her digital mentor homework:

“I found my person - Paige Soper. I was watching the 2016 Brute vs Riot final and was really impressed by her handling abilities. As I try to grow as a handler this season I'd like to do a couple of things like she does: 

1) Overall play and aggression: she plays physically and shows that this can be a game-changer. She generates turns and then can calmly turn around and play great offense. She bids for lots and lots of things.

2) Commitment to opening the field: she clearly thinks about where she wants to put the disk and carries it out, lots of great swings and field vision.

3) Risk taking (calculated risks).

Some highlights (from the 2016 final) are:

10:50 --> great poach interception = aggressive + good field vision + takes a risk and it pays off

17:52 --> Takes a risk in a throw that some would consider not the best but she did it anyway. I like that she's not afraid to put this up. I don't want to ever be afraid to try something that seems mostly reasonable and a maybe a little risky.

39:20 --> A great layout grab and then she gets up and has some awesome fakes followed by a quick throw for a score. She stays composed and isn't really shaken up by anything.”

Your Turn!

Our four-week Finding Your Digital Mentor module will teach you how to use film to grow as a player by starting with your unique size, stature, and strength of movement. I will teach you how to use a digital mentor as a catalyst for growth in ultimate skills in 1-2 hours a week. Once you learn how to tap into how to use film, the entire world of ultimate athletes are available to be your mentor. In The Ultimate Skills Project, I’ll help you to dissect top players skills and discover ways to practice and apply skills to your game.