Much has changed in the Atlanta youth scene since Jolian Dahl graduated from Paideia High School in 2003. While Paideia had already produced many nationally ranked players and local schools such as Woodward and Centennial had established teams, that foundation was merely the seed that would develop into the youth scene seen today.
There are now over 20 youth teams and more than 400 youth players throughout Atlanta and its surrounding suburbs. Reflecting on his own experiences in the area, Dahl sees how “the local scene has come a long way. Competition has expanded, and schools that could not field a team when [he] was in high school are now giving good games to [Paidiea] Gruel, which has been around three times as long.” What is most impressive is that the quality of ultimate has sprouted alongside its popularity. Dahl and the rest of Spin team will further nurture this growth at Spin Academy this week.
Because coaching has made an impact on Dahl’s developments and successes as a player, he is inspired and dedicated to give back to his community. “Atlanta’s rapid youth growth and improvement can be attributed to the considerable number of dedicated coaches in Georgia,” he says. “Coaches play an important role in guiding the enthusiasm of young players.” With a national championship with Colorado Mamabird, an elite club success with Johnny Bravo and Chain Lightning, and a defining experience on Team USA in 2009, Dahl has a lot of experience to contribute.
Along with Mark Poole and Mario O’Brien, Dahl will be working as a lead instructor starting tomorrow to facilitate Spin Academy, a week-long camp designed to prepare youth players for college and club ultimate. 50 high school campers will have skill lessons and drills from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. followed by competitive scrimmages from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. On Saturday, campers will have the chance to watch elite club team Chain Lightning practice and scrimmage using the same drills and techniques practiced by the campers during the week. This exposure and access to elite club players is one of the ways Spin will revolutionize the campers’ outlook on ultimate.
Due to his strong background, Dahl was able to design a curriculum that will benefit both experienced and inexperienced players. Drilling in fundamentals such as offensive and defensive principles, the curriculum will also delve into more complicated strategies such as set plays and zone formations. “The goal is to improve players’ instincts and fundamentals through adapted drills that challenge their imagination,” he says. Incorporating many effective methods from his own experiences, Dahl and others “have designed drills and games that allow campers to discover new and better ways to play without being told what lessons need to be learned.”
The emphasis on individual growth and discovery isn’t the only creative measure Spin is taking to facilitate the development of youth ultimate. Another distinguishing quality of Spin Academy is its emphasis on coaching development. “A motivating factor [for starting the Academy],” says Spin owner Dan Konisky, “and this is where I think the Spin Academy is different from most, is that we wanted to invite coaches to the camp at no cost to them so that they could learn how to teach, structure practices, talk about strategy. Hopefully they can apply this newfound knowledge to help their teams grow.” Spin’s ability to focus not only on youth but also on the ultimate community as a whole is vital to creating a sustainable environment for long-term growth. By crafting an environment where coaches can exchange ideas and gain exposure to experienced players with innovative strategies, Spin is producing continual opportunities for growth that will reach far behind the youth who attend the camp.
Konisky clearly has a knack for detecting and filling opportunities for growth. When he took over Spin in December 2011, he noticed that, “Atlanta kids have gone to NUTC for years, but it’s an expensive trip and isn’t easily accessible for a lot a kids.” As a result he “decided to put on a camp in Atlanta with the hope of attracting kids from all over the South. As [he] merchandised high school tourneys like Deep Freeze, High School Terminus, and Paideia Cup, the excitement and growth convinced us that the camp would be a huge success.”
Once Konisky and Poole, a Spin employee, settled on a plan for the Academy, they partnered with Matthew Thompson, the Atlanta Flying Disc Club Juniors Coordinator. AFDC’s insurance plan and relationship with Georgia Sports Park, the camp’s location, helped defray costs. In return for the organization’s support, Spin sponsors AFDC’s juniors program. This collaboration is yet another example Spin’s understanding of the community and its ability to create opportunities for growth.
With Konisky’s innovative ideas and the skills of successful players such as Jolian Dahl, Spin Academy has an understanding and passion for a community that is bound to take the development of the youth scene to a whole other level. The camp is a clear indicator that Atlanta will stay on the cutting edge of you ultimate’s development and growth.