With more and more young players looking to better themselves, talented members of the Ultimate community are stepping up to provide the next step to the elite level. Chain Lightning did just that when it hosted an open practice and showcase scrimmage at the end of last week’s Spin Ultimate Academy. The camp, headed by Chain’s Jolian Dahl and Mark Poole along with Portland Rhino’s Mario O’Brien, hosted nearly 50 high school athletes in an intense and structured learning environment. After a week of camp, Chain showed the campers how high level players in an intense environment use the same drills they had learned.
It was only a matter of moments before everyone was sweating in the sweltering Atlanta heat. A couple of shade tents housed the crowd of roughly 40 people, with Chain finding shelter under a similar setup about 30 yards away. Chain methodically worked through their practice, focusing on marking and defensive communication. Meanwhile, Dahl, O’Brien, and Poole came over between drills to engage the campers by outlining each drill’s goals, methodology, and application. Aside from campers, the scrimmage also gave parents and guests a chance to see how elite level players prepare for a season.
Chain’s practice has little downtime and lots of positivity. Even during warm ups, veteran players were cheering on their teammates and constantly referring to the team positively. “Let’s go Chain!” and “Nice work Chain!” were almost rhythmically interspersed throughout the practice. During warm ups, Sam Chatterton-Kirchmeier and Nicky Spiva did some throwing exercises with a lucky SUA camper, and afterward Chain hopped into a front-of-stack break mark drill. Immediately after, the guys got into an end zone scrimmage in order to apply the marking and disc movement required in small spaces.
Once the crowd had some free BBQ in hand, the next step was the first half of a five pull scrimmage, which opened the field and let everyone see what Ultimate at this level looked like up close. The second half of practice returned the focus to marking and sideline communication, with a drill focusing on setting the mark after a downfield receiver caught a pass. A give and go defensive drill came next, with defenders denying the upline, pressuring the dump, then cutting off the swing. Finally, Chain concluded the five pull scrimmage. After saying thank you and requesting a few autographs, the campers dispersed and Chain lined up for some resistance sprinting.
Chain Lightning’s showcase accomplished its goals: it exposed young players and their families to elite level Ultimate and provided a view into Chain’s practice habits, structure, and methods. Positivity reigned supreme and the Chain players made sure to demonstrate their “team first” mentality. Fans saw Chain’s athleticism, hard work, and intense focus throughout the practice. That display, along with deliberate interaction and engagement with the crowd, made for a fitting close to an exciting week of Ultimate at the Spin Academy.
Feature photo by Christina Schmidt.