The ‘Honesty Guy’

indebchmxA quick tip about designing drills.

With all drills, you want them to be as game-like as possible, while at the same time stripping them down to practice only the things you’re really interested in. You might want to remove much of the complexity of real games so that you get lots of reps at a particular skill, but you don’t generally want that skill to be performed much differently than it would be in a game (except perhaps to get across the basic concept, and you would want to fairly quickly add in more realism – otherwise you’re practising the wrong things).

One of the common challenges in designing good drills is in creating a realistic defensive situation; often, when a defender knows which skill you’re working on, she can ‘cheat’ to prevent it – which of course is not going to create realistic conditions. It’s almost never a good idea to ask the defender not to cheat, or to play at half-effort, because that removes realism and intensity from the drill.

Ideally, you would structure your drills so that the defender is also making realistic decisions – e.g. if the offence has two different options then the defence cannot normally overplay one of them. But it’s not always easy to make those two (or more) options balanced, and a defender may still rationally decide to cheat, meaning that you only ever practice one of the two options. Or, equally likely, you may be working on something so specific that you don’t want the additional complexity of giving the offence more options, but you’d still like a defender around to encourage crisp execution and intensity.

inddyjexThere are lots of small tweaks you can use to handicap the defence but still allow them to try hard – starting them from two yards behind the cutter, or making them keep their eyes closed until an ‘Up!’ shout, or infinitely many others. One I like – and which can be used in all sorts of different throwing drills – is the concept of an ‘honesty guy’.

One of the most common things required to make a drill game-like is a force – but if we’re working on a particular cut or throw then the marker will be able to cheat very easily to block that single option. Often, a good drill will have options to both the open and break sides to keep the marker honest – but that’s not always possible when working on specific throws or cuts.

For example, at a basic level, you might wish to have a force on a simple huck drill or leading-pass drill, to create some game-like pressure on the thrower and encourage proper pivots and quick releases. The marker, however, will face a huge temptation to go straight-up with the force because she knows where the throw is going. This isn’t very game-like for the thrower, because in general the defender would not over-commit to the open side in this way – or if she did, we would expect the thrower to take advantage and break the force.

What we can do is create a break-force option for the thrower (and make it clear that allowing that option is a failure on the part of the marker*). And we can create that break-force option – without complicating the drill for the cutters or requiring additional queues of people – simply by having the coach stand unmarked in a position that the thrower ought never to be able to reach with an around break.

honestyguyThe force in this example** [click on the image to enlarge] is forehand (for a right-hander, at least). If the thrower is able to get a backhand break – around the mark – to the honesty guy, then that’s pretty clear evidence that the mark is cheating to the open side.

The exact angle and distance of the honesty guy will vary depending on the skill of the players or how aggressively your team chooses to pressure the open side (and thus how much risk of a yard-gaining around-break you are willing to concede). But for any meaningful force, there must always be a point at which it would be considered over-committing if the thrower was able to get an around-break to that spot. Stand someone right there, and you will give the defender a reason to force properly, and to bite somewhat on fakes in that direction – which will make all the difference to the realism of your drill.

What similar tricks have you found for designing more realistic drills?

*There are lots of things you can do to make it clear that getting broken to that ‘honesty guy’ is unacceptable. Awarding press-ups is an obvious one, but you may need to be a little careful with that. There are two main reasons why many people are increasingly against the use of physical effort as ‘punishment’ – one is that people might then see effort as a negative, as something to be avoided; the other is that incorrectly-applied punishments can discourage risk-taking.
There’s lots of discussion about youth teams in various sports being made to do press ups or run laps for losing, or for poor skill execution, and all that sort of thing; it’s pretty clear how that could impact both their enjoyment and the culture of risk-taking and of learning from mistakes that is crucial to improvement. There’s evidence, for example, that young hockey players will shoot at the dead centre of the goal (where the keeper is likely to make the save) if the coach punishes them for missing the target – rather than trying to place the puck out of the keeper’s reach.
That shouldn’t be a big issue here, where we’re awarding press-ups merely to add a negative element to getting broken – a negative element that would already exist in a game situation but which we need to artificially replicate in the drill – rather than for poor performance of a skill.
And with an athletic, committed, adult team, you should usually find that the stigma of being seen doing press-ups is really the key rather than the physical effort, so they shouldn’t develop an aversion to physical effort. I do sometimes award press-ups. But it’s probably wise to be wary about how you intend to motivate correct behaviours, and to be conscious of exactly what it is you’re doing, and why.
**I’m not suggesting this as a great drill for practising your hucks – there are hundreds of ways of doing that, most of them superior for intermediate or experienced players. This is just a simple image to demonstrate a way of keeping the force honest which can then be applied to a whole host of different drills and situations.
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4 Responses to The ‘Honesty Guy’

  1. Robse says:

    Just for that example: DON’T HUCK STATIONARY! DON’T TRAIN THAT!

    or in other words – change the drill in two variations
    1) have the marker start 5-10 meters away and once he is there – he can mark however he wants, hucker has to be quick, otherwise the situation is over and he needs to dump/swing
    2) have a defender start 1 sec. later than an upline cutter, who get’s a easy disc and is the designated hucker, then again, once the defender is there, he can mark however he wants, that way the cutter has to learn the time the handler

    press-ups are not a punishement – honestley, i call them rewards, they are a good and important part of teamsports


    • I know, Robse, I know; you’ll note that I even anticipated this sort of comment and made it clear it wasn’t a great drill for hucking, but just a simplified drill to show the drill-design principle I was talking about…

      But on the other hand, whilst we probably don’t want to build our offence around completing stationary hucks, it’s not a completely useless skill for your handlers to be able to threaten the deep shot from a static position – otherwise your cutters will never be free under for the first pass. It’s not the ideal hucking position, but we definitely can’t say, ‘Never huck from a static disc’ – it’s not so clear-cut as that.


  2. brady747 says:

    Good examples. I’ve lately been looking for a good answer to this issue. An intriguing idea is the concept this ‘touch and go’ drill uses:

    We started playing with this concept to add honest defenders to ‘in cuts’. For example, if we had a cutter iso’d in the middle of the field and we wanted to have them sprint deep for 5 yards, plant, and accelerate at the disc (“going to”) – We’d have the defender setup at that 5 yard mark, facing away from the thrower with their hand behind their back. Then when the cutter plants in front of the defender he must slap the defenders hand (ala the video above…. the defender turns and gives chase. Adding this ‘turn and accelerate’ helped keep defenders from ‘false starting’ on the under cut or using other shortcuts. I haven’t played with the concept in the video enough yet, but I think there must be ways of using that to keep defenders honest….work in progress…now I’m more worried about snow and cold temperatures 🙂


  3. Pingback: The Grapevine – 22/11 | Show Game

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