So, with the mixed season over, I thought it was worth a little think about what makes great players in the mixed division, or rather the areas where most players could think about developing to be bigger and better mixed players. Definitely got a future post planned for domination of the women’s game in a few weeks – and of course some thoughts on double-double nationals – but all in good time…
Ultimate is still ultimate in the mixed division. Just thought I’d make it clear that I don’t think that there are no transferable skills. However, the value of different skills changes in the mixed division, and stuff which is ‘a bonus’ in open or women’s suddenly becomes essential for your team’s success.
This was originally going to be one post – but turns out I’m talking too much again. As such, I’ll deal with men and women separately (not that I approve of segregation…). So, gents first, for a change!
Advice piece 1: adjust your bids. Try not to kill anybody. It’s pretty obvious, but in mixed you can’t always make the same bids you could in open. There is far more potential for breakage.
Obvious point aside (and provided you’re not an injury machine at open, you probably won’t be at mixed), I would argue there are two skills that are essential for every male member of a successful mixed team: throwing finesse, and pitch awareness.
Women are smaller targets – sure, they get free by the same amounts as the men, sometimes more so, but throwing to a free woman is more challenging than throwing to a free man. Your margin for error is narrower. In open, distance is a big winner on hucks – you need to be able to get that disc into space in front of your speedy receivers. In mixed, it’s easier to get the disc in front of your receiver, but harder to then get it within a window they can actually reach. Enter finesse.
Two of the best mixed players I have had the pleasure of playing with (Pencil and Steve Balls if you’re wondering) are not the biggest throwers (Pencil might be if he stopped injuring himself…), but it is the quality of their throws that sets them apart: accurate, with touch, and weighted to the speed of their receivers. Obviously, these abilities are pretty damn handy in open, but they are crucial in mixed. In open, there will always be the Ashley Yeos to leg it after your discs – you might even have a few on the same line. In mixed, your completion rates will plummet without touch and accuracy.
Equally important for throwers (ie. everyone) is the mental ability to trust your female players. In an ideal world, everyone on your team is able to throw to your women, deep or under, and has the confidence to do so, even your goons. Another great mixed player to highlight this: Dyno. Ok, he’s a great open player as well (see above re. “ultimate is still ultimate”), but at mixed, his great throws combined with unfaltering trust in his female team-mates is what sets him apart, not just his ridiculous grabs. In lanes with Dyno, you know he’s going to get free, and you know that wherever you happen to get free afterwards he is going to throw it to you. Sounds pretty basic huh? But let me tell you, that’s some motivation for cutting right there.
Pitch awareness is the second skill that pays big dividends in mixed. Having great female deep cutters doesn’t mean a thing, without having male cutters who can keep their big goony defence away from the lovely weighted hucks thrown to those women. Again, pitch awareness is handy in open and can dramatically reduce the number of poach ds opponents get on you. In mixed it is vital to enable you to complete hucks to your women. Yes, if the disc goes up and you can bid on it as a male cutter (or handler!), by all means go get it – because your man probably can too. The impulse you need to fight is the one to run deep without cutting, with your man right on your shoulder, because you’ve just seen one of the women go past you five feet free of her mark and you’re pretty sure it’s going to go. Maybe it is, but your job isn’t to catch it – it’s to make sure your mark is too busy D-ing you to go get a bid on it.
Pitch awareness is recognising who else is free where, while you’re trying to get free yourself. It’s a challenge in itself, a critical piece of the ultimate skill set. The easy place to start is conditioning yourself to spot other players going deep and dragging your man under or break, before they even know they could go poaching. Think of it as aggressive clearing out.
Pitch awareness and throwing finesse. If you want to be a big male player at mixed, you’re gonna need these.
Next week: Mixed Skills for the Ladies.