Coaching Tip: Use Your Cones More

In this first article of a new series of posts, we’ll take a look at a coaching tip that will yield some immediate results and lay the ground work for later success. This tip is particularly helpful to any captain or coach leading a team of new players, or a new team with experienced players who haven’t played together before.

It’s a pretty simple rule of thumb, nothing earth shattering and not hugely complex, a very simple phrase that you can repeat to yourself any time you are planning a drill: “Use your cones more”

No joke…it sounds silly, but for the little effort it takes to plan this, it can reap some really big rewards. And really all this refers to is using your cones to show your players where you want them to cut and throw to.

Think About It This Way

In your head you have a picture of what you expect players to do in a drill, e.g. where they should be running, where they should cut in, then out etc. What you see in your head is probably a little different than what the player next to you is envisioning, and without a doubt, it will be different than what a good number of your players are thinking in their head. Eventually, after you run the drill a few times (sometimes a few dozen times), ~eventually~ everyone will hopefully arrive at that same picture in their head and know where they should be cutting / throwing to. But if you want to leap frog a few weeks and also nip bad habits in the butt right away, you can use your cones to show people exactly where you want them to make their cuts and where you want them to throw.

Using Your Cones Can Help Set Expectations

It’s a great way to teach new players some of the patterns they’ll be running, but more importantly, especially at higher levels of play, it’s a way to:

  1. show your players what you are expecting from them in terms of physically, where you want them positioned, and
  2. force you individually as a captain/coach and as a collective group of team leaders to clearly articulate what these expectations are from the perspective of your own team’s overall offensive strategy.

Example 1: The “Go-To” Drill

The convention with the “Go-To” drill is to place one cone at the front of each line to show where the thrower should throw from. “User your cones more” would translate into using a cone for the cutter as well — e.g. tell everyone the cutter needs to cut to/around that cone before cutting back in. This way everyone knows what side they have to go to, how far deep/wide, and then even just based on that they can start learning what distance they need to run to set up their cuts in a game-time situation.

“Use your cones more” could also apply to the marker — e.g. place a cone say ~3 feet away from the thrower’s cone, and tell the marker that they have to stay between the thrower’s cone and the marker’s cone – this will help to keep the marks honest and prevent them from “cheating” by taking a step or two back.

Example 2: A Hucking Drill

For a hucking drill, same thing applies. If you have enough cones, you could place a cone at every location where “something” happens – i.e. pinpointing the thrower’s position, marking where a cut takes place or where a pass is aimed for.

If you have enough of a mix of different coloured cones, you could do something like put an orange cone down where the thrower/cutter starts, a green cone where the cutter runs-to to set up their cut, a yellow cone where the cutter cuts to and where the thrower will be aiming for. That applies to every position in that sequence of the hucking drill.

Another route is to use your cones to lay out the “zones” for where players need to be making their cuts. This is particularly helpful as the drill goes on longer and longer – if you lay out the zone where a cutter is supposed to receive the disc, you’re more likely to have players repeating the basic skills properly time and time again (instead of getting lazy and making their cut shorter, or throwers losing focus on where they should be placing their throws etc.).

Cones Provide Immediate, Clear, and Direct Feedback

For all of this, the eventual goal is to remove these secondary cones as players become more familiar with the spacing/distance for these cutting and throwing patterns. All the cones will do, especially early on, is jump you all as a team right to what you want everyone to be aiming for. Once they see this, they have something they can work towards, and they’ll also get more immediate feedback — i.e. if I don’t complete my pass into the proper “zone”, I’ll immediately see that I essentially failed at that task that time…I won’t need anyone to come up to me and tell me, and I’ll also know right away so that I can work on it for the next time within that same drill when it’s my turn to throw.

On the flip side in thinking of positive reinforcement, when you lay out a zone for say where you want hucks to go to, every time a huck is completed into that zone it can be treated like scoring a point in the endzone. Once you give players this kind of a goal, they immediately see something more tangible they can work towards and know when they’ve succeeded.

It’s a simple concept and as a captain or coach you can use it for any drill with players at any skill level: Use your cones more!

  1. 3 Responses to “Coaching Tip: Use Your Cones More”

  2. Great tip. I always find throwing in huck drills to be a pain because we’d set it up without a defined “field”. The lack of spatial cues means that a lot of hucks end up being lead either too much or not enough, even for players who are very accurate in-game.

    By Mike L. on Mar 11, 2009

  3. Thanks for the feedback, Mike – hope you have a chance to give this a shot, and let us know how it goes if you do!

    By beebs on Mar 16, 2009

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