The Ulty Results Coaching Academy Conference (URCA 2015) concluded on Friday with sessions from Alex Davis (Furious George, Team Canada), Mike Payne (Revolver, USA Ultimate), and Marc van der Poest-Clement (New Zealand ultimate). Each brought their backgrounds to bear on important coaching topics, including what statistics tell us about sub calling and pitfalls therein, coaching the individual, and how to give up some control to create leaders on your team.
Takeaways From Alex Davis’s “Strategy, Subs and Stats: the Science behind Calling Lines“
- As a team leader, you work in human resources. We’re dealing with statistics, but team and player satisfaction factor into everything you do
- Data for this session comes from a survey he sent out to ultimate players rating their playing time in several different scenarios
- One finding: everyone, regardless of experience, expects to play least when winning and most when losing
- Therefore, a captain of a losing team can suffer a double blow of both losing a game (which no one likes) and criticism for not playing particular players.
- In general, players feel loss more so than they feel gains. Players will notice more if they feel underplayed rather than overplayed.
- One of the rules Alex presents: players with most defined roles have the most realistic expectations. They have a better anchor for the scenarios.
Q: Since you can’t just try something that’s new and formal reasonable conclusions based on a few points, at what point do you decide if a new thing you’re trying is working or not working?
Alex: “That comes down to filtering random trends from systemic ones. You have to look at exactly what the circumstances were that led to what you call a failure.” Alex then provides two examples of particular defensive match-ups that didn’t succeed and how he, as a coach, chose to filter out what appeared to be random trends from systemic ones. He concludes, “That’s why I say it’s important to apply your filter of experience and ask yourself questions about the nature of the failure in order to decide whether you should change or not. You have to make that decision on a small sample size regardless … and it’s probably not wise to try to make it fully scientific because you shouldn’t spend ten point in a row to see if a big guy can cover a small, fast guy. You’re going to have accept a certain margin of error on your decisions and use your experience to inform whether you’re looking at a systemic or random fluctuation.”
Clip Of The Day
Alex Davis on How Teams Misvalue Stats
Takeaways Mike Payne’s “Coaching is Not (Just) a Team Sport: Focus on Individual Player Improvement to Build Championship Teams”
- Coaching is about both leading an overall group and the individual. Time spent should be roughly 50% full team and 50% individual or small groups.
- “If you came to a Revolver practice, you might think it’s a college practice based upon how much time we spend on basic fundamentals.”
- In business it’s common to have a mission, vision, and values for your company. Sports teams don’t always have those. It’s a missed opportunity.
- Revolver uses concepts to associate with particular skills and to communicate efficiently
- Things a coach should do: clear time, get help, watch closely, be honest, highlight the best
- When trying to figure out why a player is good at a particular skill, ask why. Keep asking why until you arrive at the answer you need. Get granular.
Jonathan: Do you have any tips to help players get into that loose state that’s so important?
Mike Payne: “Loose is different from ‘being in the zone’. Loose literally means physically relaxed. One of the most impactful throwing tips that I got when I was a very young player at Stanford was from the best thrower on the team Jorah Wire. What he said was, ‘When you’re throwing a long backhand you should think about your shoulders as a two by four. And you should think about your arms as two pieces of rope that hang off the two by four and the disc is attached to one of those pieces of rope.’ And what he was trying to communicate is that when you’re trying to throw an 80 or 90 yard backhand …. the only way you can generate that much distance is start with your core, start with rotation of the body, and start with the strength of your shoulders.” Mike concludes that it’s about looking for awkwardness in players and that oftentimes that awkwardness is because they are too tense.
Clip of the Day
Mike Payne on Providing Useful Player Feedback
Takeaways from Marc van der Poest-Clement’s “Losing Control: The Development of Future Leaders”
- Goal is to develop leadership capabilities in every player
- Set parameters for giving each player a voice, indicate what the spaces are for players
- Encourage mistakes! Create scenarios in practice where mistakes might be more likely.
- Coaches have distinct roles in pre-season, in-season, and tournaments
- Letting go of some coaching responsibility will empower players in the end
Judith: What kind of language do you want your players to use from the sideline to communicate with players on the field?
Marc: For example, for a deep option in a zone defense the sideline player “is not telling [the deep d] where to go. [The sideline player] is telling them where on the field … the opposition is.” For the wall, the sideline tells the wall where the poppers are or if they’re crashing. The key point is that it’s not instruction from the sideline, it’s information to allow players on the field to make more accurate defensive assessments.
Clip of the Day
Marc Clement on Player Leadership Roles: Spirit Captain and Game Planners
Did you miss the conference?
Or want to do a bit of re-watching? Support the conference and get access to all the sessions, a VIP Facebook group with the speakers, and discounts from Five Ultimate and Rise UP with the VIP Pass. More info here.
What Is URCA?
URCA is a free online coaching conference. We believe coaches will determine the growth and trajectory of ultimate. Through URCA, we hope to inspire more people to become coaches, especially at the youth level in the US where a lack of coaches inhibits the growth of the division. Most importantly, we hope to foster discussion about best practices in coaching not just for teaching skills, but also for passing SOTG on to the next generation of players.
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