The Ultimate Results Coaching Academy wrapped in late August, and this is my third and final summary of the conference’s presenters. You can find my first two recaps here and here. Before I get into specific content matter, a few more things I learned watching URCA:
- I wish all conferences were recorded and accessible like this. Being able to rewind and rewatch things is great.
- Most of the talks serve as ways to get your mind thinking more completely about a specific aspect of ultimate. What this means is that you’re getting concentrated information from people who have put years of thought and experience into their subjects. It’s great.
- On the less great end, so many of the answers in the Q&A boil down to, “It depends,” and especially so when dealing with player interaction. There’s no substitute for actual experience.
- Ren Caldwell is really into flying trapeze at the moment. Sweet.
Important For: Players looking for tips how to improve as an individual defender; teams looking to improve how they teach defense.
“Load the springs”
“If you had pistols on your hips, you could theoretically hit the cutter and thrower”
This talk was marred by technical issues, but the presentation being compiled and put into the VIP section looks good and plays smoothly, so I encourage everyone to revisit it.
Keith separates the basics of man defense into five chunks (ACTOR):
- Activating your body early
- Commit hips second
- One thing to take away
In each section, he breaks down what players should be trying to do and why, along with adding a few key words he likes to use to remind players of certain techniques. I personally found his explanation of the Activation section great – he goes beyond simply saying, “Be in an athletic stance,” and actually shows in slow motion what physically happens to defenders who aren’t ready to defend.
There are also three drills Keith details throughout the presentation. They are effectively treated as checkpoints of ACTOR during his talk, but could certainly be used outside of it. They also do not need to be run together to be effective.
Keith’s Q&A had several questions on two related subjects: playing physical defense and playing defense on faster players. His advice here is something I’ve heard echoed repeatedly over the last year so I encourage checking it out. There’s also some advice on responding to “Up!” calls and applying ACTOR to dump defense.
Octavia “Opi” Payne
Important For: Coaches looking to improve their relationship with players; Teams thinking about adding a coach; Players trying to deal with coaches they don’t mesh with.
“There are common themes to the most successful coaches”
“What separates good coaches from great coaches is the ability to manage teams on the human development side”
If I had to assign any required viewing from this conference, I think it would be this one. For coaches, there’s always another resource out there for strategies and drills, and the fitness and training side is catching up as well. There isn’t much of an opportunity to get a player’s perspective on a coach, especially one as talented and experienced as Opi.
Opi lays out several areas that coaches should focus on to get the most out of their team. These are team buy in, team culture, dealing with logistics, ability to relate to players, flexibility, team empowerment, and knowing when not to coach. A lot of you might infer things from those topics, but what surprised me the most was what she was saying about culture.
More than just being supportive and encouraging, her best coaches have gone out of their way to facilitate team bonding. This meant organizing things like team scavenger hunts and pumpkin carving, but also knowing that bonding happens even with little things like clapping together to end a huddle. Teams might already have traditions, but you can’t rely on every team to have them in place, nor should you automatically put that responsibility on the captains or other leaders.
For her Q&A, Opi touches on topics like crafting a team identity, the necessity of coaches for established teams, and as a player, how to work with a coach that you don’t mesh with. Obviously these are important areas for coaches to brush up on, but teams wondering about the necessity of adding a coach can also learn a lot.
Important For: Leaders of teams without a clear direction (whether that team is competitive, developing, or just for fun).
“You need to know your team.”
“This is going to make you ball outrageous.”
“As coaches we need to really focus on technique…so we don’t break them [kids]. Breaking them is bad.”
Ren’s talk was the third fitness one I watched, and is probably the best one for a coach that knows next to nothing about functional performance training (FPT). So really, this was right up my alley.
The talk is centered on figuring out your team’s goals and figuring out how FPT can help you achieve those goals. I was skeptical that FPT would have any sort of role on ‘just for fun’ teams, but consider me convinced, even if it’s only doing a few things for injury prevention.
The best part here is that after walking you through types of goals and areas of FPT, Ren brings up a cheat sheet (included in the VIP section!) that simplifies it all down. By figuring out your team goals and factoring in age, you are instantly getting an experienced trainer’s advice on how deep into FPT your team should get. This could mean players getting individual evaluation and testing sessions versus a quick and more generic team evaluation, or just knowing roughly how much time to spend on movement cues.
A few more great things came out of the Q&A. Specifically, Ren’s recommendation of a book (there’s an accompanying video, too) called ‘Athletic Body In Balance’ for teams and players that don’t have the funds to accommodate a trainer. I think money is a huge roadblock for most teams looking to improve fitness, as the knowledge divide raises concerns about spending a team’s limited dollars on a trainer that could otherwise go to travel, food, and jerseys.
Also, she’s working with RISE UP to put together a season on FPT, which I’m sure is going to be an instant hit.
Important For: People in charge of making team cuts; Players looking to improve their tryout experiences.
“I want you thinking about the steps involved when you select a team.”
“My guideline is, ‘Avoid bad surprises.’”
It wasn’t until the end of the talk that I realized Owen was coming from a completely different level than my personal experiences. As an Australian player and coach with years of experience at the Nationals and Worlds level, he was talking about tryouts where his only job was to evaluate and make selections. He had a coaches, line callers, and other people managing many of the other details.
Not that this makes the job any more envious. It’s likely that everyone watching Owen’s presentation along with everyone reading this has had some sort of bad tryout experience. The lesson I learned from Owen is that nearly all these bad experiences stem from poor organization and poor communication on the part of the selectors.
The bulk of his presentation deals with the planning process. Owen talks about a litany of things to consider, such as the number of people involved in selecting a team, communicating with candidates and getting their information, the best ways to observe and provide feedback to players, and even the best ways to announce a team.
The second part, while short, got my brain going just as much as the first. In it, Owen details specific scenarios that selectors are certain to encounter, such as a top tier player wanting to join the team after application deadlines, or how to account for roster spots when dealing with injured players. He never gives a straight-up instruction, but instead follows up the scenario with a host of questions regarding the situation. The questions all relate to information and decisions selectors should have conveyed before the tryout process, and the scenarios should resolve themselves based on those decisions. Problems chiefly occur when things are not communicated upon beforehand.
The Q&A tackles interesting questions such as having reserves, using a screen process before tryouts, handling boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse baggage for a mixed team, and trying to maintain a well functioning B team.
I wrapped up my conference viewings under the impression that it helps to get several people involved in the running of a team. It’s difficult, time consuming, and stressful to try and plan out every aspect of an ultimate team by yourself. Outsourcing something like fitness training seems critical to maintaining sanity as a coach.
While an online conference can have a variety of conveniences, such as being able to effectively DVR presentations and making travel unnecessary, the technical aspects of URCA need some refinement. Things were fine for the first batch of talks, but technical difficulties slowly piled up as the week progressed, making some of the later talks frustrating to watch at times. This was surprising, as I expected it to be the other way around.
Still, Melissa managed to find workarounds for each talk, personally sitting in on each one to ensure things ran as smoothly as possible. The URCA conference was well executed and I’m impressed with how Melissa, Emma and everyone else involved managed everything. The price is a steal, and I’m looking forward to the next one.