I started my ultimate journey during my senior year in the high school team, when I made my school’s team. After my first tournament, I fell in love with the sport, and, like most new young players, I wanted to continue to play in college. Unfortunately, the college I ended up attending did not have a team so I was left with only playing pickup here and there on the weekends and for a club team during summer. As there were a bunch of guys on my high school’s team I was still friends with and I had nothing else to do during school semesters, I decided to see if I could help out as a coach. I asked the head coach of Independence Flight, Jordan Roe, and I have been under his coaching wing ever since.
Now, maybe there are not that many people like me in my position, but I feel that young college and club players can make a big impact on the Youth Ultimate scene. The first couple of years of being an assistant coach I learned more about coaching, teaching, and being a role model than I ever anticipated. I thought that I could offer some unique insight for those young new coaches, or any coaches, out there.
Ask yourself this question: “Why do you want to coach ultimate?”
Now if the question was “Why do you want to play ultimate?” it would be easy to answer, but there are good reasons and bad reasons to coach ultimate, especially at the youth level. Initially, went to practices intending to hang out with my high school buddies, which, although not terrible, did not help them as individual players, nor as a team, and it did not help me grow as a coach. Eventually I started coming out to practices with basic goals of either helping one player to become a better thrower, cutter, or defender and helping him or her better understand a fundamental element of the game. It is important for coaches to have goals for the team to reach during practice, but always make sure all players have reached said goals before moving on to the next bit. Two seasons later, I still have those basic goals in mind when coming to practice but, in becoming a more involved coach, I realized I still needed to learn more about the game.
Research, Listen, Watch and Become a Student of the Game
After my first season of coaching, my fellow coach and mentor Jordan Roe challenged me to do several things during my club season and time off during the summer that would improve me as a coach. Prior to coaching that season my only experience in ultimate was playing one year of youth ultimate in a state that, quite frankly, does not have the best youth competition.
In order to become a better coach, I needed to broaden my knowledge of ultimate strategy. Even though I played my first club season in sub-par tournaments and against average teams as far as talent goes, I was able to learn a lot. Every time I had the chance, I took mental notes on how certain offenses and defenses worked and thought about how our team won games and how we lost games. It helped me remember my on-field experiences and trials so that I could help younger players when they came across the same problems and difficult situations.
Other than taking notes on my club experiences, I learned a bulk of my ultimate knowledge from, surprisingly, the internet. Who would have known that researching not only helped one write college papers, but could also help with learning a sport? I looked in the archives and vaults from many websites to learn coaching tips, different ultimate strategies, and to breakdown game film, in beautiful 240p video quality. I watched games varying from Ultivillage.com college tournament coverage, Sockeye vs. Russian National team to a classic NYNY vs. Big Brother match from the 1991 World Championship. The goal of my online research was to break down different offenses and defenses to learn how and why they worked so well and how and why they could be shut down or exposed. Sure, it is important to know how to play your own offense and defense, but great teams understand when another team knows how to expose your strategy and then change it accordingly. Obviously these games I watched had a high skill level and I am just a youth level coach, but I always took in consideration what athletic skill and talent level it took to run certain O and D. My high school team could never be up to the level to learn multiple junk defenses or how to play an effective side stack offense, but as a coach I could learn the pros and cons of multiple Os and Ds in order to coach against the opponent’s strategy. I challenge any new coaches to look up different blogs, videos and sites for ultimate strategy, to broaden their ultimate knowledge. Take notes, listen and watch what other coaches do, and become a student of the game.
I will continue to write similar informational articles as I think of more advice to give, but if you have any suggestions, topics or questions feel free to leave them down below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Feature photo by Kevin Leclaire – UltiPhotos.com