I’ve been trying to write this blog post for far too long – mainly because over the course of the season i’ve had to rewrite it a fair number of times due to the subject matter i’ve wanted to talk about: The Identity of Glasgow Ultimate.

Personally, i’ve had plenty of times where i’ve been asked about my hobbies/interests/what happened over the weekend. Mention Ultimate and people either respond with either surprised interest or some form of one-liner. I’m sure we’ve all been there before. However when trying to describe what Glasgow Ultimate is I found that I actually didn’t know all that well; a mishmash of comparisons to other sports, tournaments, leagues and all manner of other explanations that simply didn’t do us justice.

So, with a simple reminder that this is nothing more than my opinion;

Lets talk about our approach to the game. The ‘Ultimate’ in Glasgow Ultimate.

Throughout the season i’ve seen all of our players turn up to trainings in pouring rain, grim fitness sessions and general physically abusing our bodies in the pursuit of progressing our team. Glasgow Ultimate is a team based on grit and force of will.

T2

That doesn’t mean that we don’t know when to let go and have a bit of fun.

But, it does mean that our training sessions have been well attended, professionally run and with a particular focus. It means that in the deep lows of a Sunday morning full of broken dreams we think of nothing more than achieving what we can at that moment. Grit and determination is the foundation of sport, a willingness to sacrifice time and comfort, and will give us the bedrock on which to build our team – and our winning attitude.

Lets not pretend that it’s been easy this season; it has, however, been one of the best I’ve ever played. We set aims, lofty and ambitious aims, to start up a team – stay in A Tour and get to Nationals.

We did it.

The best thing is, that as we enter this time of reflection on MVPs and highlights of the season, that its the depth of players who carried us all there. Our team is just exactly that, a team. Comprised of more than individuals and greater than the sum of our parts.

The ‘ultimate’ part of our name is about our approach to the game.

Simply put: We are a team who together play every point of every match with everything. Anything less would let my teammates down. We also like winning. A lot.

This however, doesn’t encapsulate everything that Glasgow Ultimate is about. The most important part about our team is the community that we’re in. Glasgow.

By choosing to be an outwards facing club through running a number of beginner/taster sessions, participating in glasgow life events and even the summer league, Glasgow Ultimate has shown a statement of intent for the future.

We are not only a club that plays an amazing sport well. We’re a club where you can play that amazing sport – and we’ll teach you how to play it well.

summerleague

This gives us two key advantages. Firstly: it raises our profile within the community and also helps us potentially gain new talent. This is an obvious advantage for any minority sport, as many people don’t actually know what ultimate is or even that they can come along and try it! We’re now able to do more coaching in schools, get TV coverage, news reports and generally spread the word.

This is a good thing – and a key pillar of our future success.

The second advantage is slightly more subtle, but none-the-less just as important. By being attached to Glasgow we have a “home base”. Our trainings, fitness, coaching, socials, meetings and activities are all within Glasgow. This has meant that people that live in Glasgow have a greater buy-in and less barriers when it comes to committing to the team. Something that has been reflected in the numbers to our trainings/social events. It also means that any player looking to play with us knows exactly whats expected of them – travelling through to Glasgow for everything – before coming along.

This central hub is the underpinning of our whole identity and indeed, success.

Without it we would end up either; relying on “super players” from across the country creating an ever smaller pool of available/willing talent or people with a lot of money to burn.

Our hub allows everyone, of all ability levels, to come along to the trainings and get better.

It allows a player like me, who has never played in a tournament of a higher standard than university div2, to become an A tour/national squad member of the best club team in Scotland.

The community of Glasgow has shown that, if given the chance, we will commit to working hard for our first team place. We will teach others the sport we love. And we’ll make sure that everyone in Glasgow is welcome. Improving the reputation, knowledge and standard of our sport as we go.

We are Glasgow Ultimate.

And personally – I’m proud to say that.

Written by Laurie Brown – Glasgow Ultimate Player.

This article is a guide for experienced university players on how to teach basic catching and throwing techniques to incoming freshers, and how to play with and against the freshers at the start of the year.

When experienced players are able to teach basic techniques to incoming players, the speed at which freshers improve increases dramatically, and when experienced players know how to play in a fresher-friendly way during the first weeks of term, the retention of players skyrockets. The first step to getting this working within your club is to connect with the returning experienced players before term starts, and make sure everyone knows the specifics detailed in this article.

When a fresher arrives at their first training or taster session, they should be welcomed by an experienced player, and invited to throw a Frisbee around for 15-20 minutes – in pairs or in as small a group as possible, with one experienced player per group. After a few throws, the experienced player should ask if the fresher would like some tips on their catching or throwing. It’s important to ask this question and get a ‘yes’ answer, as then the fresher has psychologically ‘bought in’ and will be eager to listen to what you have to say.

When teaching catching technique, focus on a few important points:

  • Move your feet to get your chest behind the disc
  • Use both hands, clap catch in the centre of the disc with both hands hitting it at the same time
  • Watch the disc into your hands

Throwing technique involves four points:

  1. Footwork – step out wide at 90 degrees, bend at the knees
  2. Grip – fingers tight inside the rim for the backhand (index finger where it feels comfortable); power grip for the side-arm (index and middle finger together, not split)
  3. Release – coil up before backhand, cock wrist back before flick, release at or below knee height, with outside edge pointing slightly down
  4. Spin – snap the wrist

The order of these four points is critical. Don’t teach the fresher about grip until they have their footwork sorted, don’t teach them about the release until they have their grip sorted, and so on. Focus on one point at a time, and whenever you give some advice, give some praise, such as, “your throws are getting to me, which is great, but try releasing the disc lower for more consistency” or, “there’s a lot of spin on your throws, but make sure you step out at 90 degrees as it’ll help you in the game”. Remember at all times that you are setting an example with your own throwing and catching, and a lot of players learn by watching rather than listening, so be a model player with clap catches at your chest and wide, low pivots.

After some throwing, it’s time to play. Remember that when a fresher comes to Ultimate practice for the first time, they don’t want to learn how to play great Ultimate; they just want to play. They certainly don’t want to be told to stand in a line and run in a particular direction for no apparent reason, so skip any drills and go straight into games.

Split into teams to play 5 vs. 5 games (no more than 5s – better 4-aside than 6-aside), ideally teams of 5 or 6 beginners with 2 experienced players, who will briefly teach them the basics of the rules and have a chat for a few minutes whilst the pitches are being set up. Make the pitches big enough for a good run around – 20 meters wide by 40 meters long with 3 meter deep end zones is reasonable. If the beginners can be split into groups with some pre-existing connections (friends, living in same accommodation, course mates etc.), this is even better and will really help retention.

Spirit of the game should be explained by the team captains before the games start, but make sure that the game stops for any clear fouls and that the rules for that particular circumstance are explained clearly to the players involved, who should come to their own agreement about what happened. Freshers won’t stop the game – you have that responsibility.

These are the points to remember when playing Ultimate with freshers so that they have fun, learn, and want to come back. When on offence:

  • Let freshers pick up the disc if they want to. Progress to calling a couple of people at the start of the point who will pick up the disc and make sure you rotate through everyone.
  • Throw slow, flat, easy to catch passes, both for short and long throws, even if they are easier to intercept.
  • Throw when the cutter wants it, even if you know it’ll be intercepted. In the worst case, the defender does a good thing, and your team mate feels you trust them.
  • Let your team know you’re always there for the easy pass if they need it, but don’t demand the disc, reprimand speculative shots, or disappear up field.
  • Don’t teach a formation (such as stack) unless the freshers ask about strategy – it’s too much information at this point. Better to work from principles around creating and using space. Under no circumstances stand over the disc waiting for everyone to ‘stack up’, or pick up the disc and demand ‘cuts’.
  • Put up long shots if it’s getting crowded around the disc. This will encourage deep cuts in future points, and will also give freshers the unique experience of chasing down a long throw… an experience which in itself can be enough to get a fresher hooked.
  • Ensure everyone is getting disc time. Calling a ‘string’ play helps with this (player A looks to player B, who looks to player C, etc.).

Then when on defence:

  • Don’t teach the stall count (or stall anybody) for the first week, it only adds pressure and complicates things.
  • If marking another experienced player, let them get free when and where they want around the disc. After summer it’s tempting to play hard, but you must resist. If the experienced player you’re marking goes for the end zone though, go for an amazing interception.
  • If marking a beginner, let them get free too, though mark them out when they start clogging space around the disc as it’ll encourage them to clear out. If the genders on the pitch aren’t balanced, it can be better for an experienced player to mark a female fresher instead of another experienced player.
  • No poaching. It’s not a challenge to get a poach D in a game with beginners – especially when you’re already out of position due to letting players get the disc as detailed above.
  • No point blocks or even stopping break throws – you want throws to either be completed or be intercepted by beginners. If an experienced player wants to break you, let them. If a beginner looks like they’re going to throw it into your force, get out of the way. Don’t let your team know you’re not pulling in the same direction as them on defence though – make it look like you’re concentrating and playing hard.
  • Don’t teach strategy, such as forcing one way, unless the freshers ask, or if you’re nearing the end of the session and your team has a good understanding. Better to work from principles and simple instructions – man defence can simply be explained by saying, “if they throw the disc to your man, get it before he does”.
  • When marking confident or athletic beginners, raise the intensity to give them a proper challenge. Some freshers won’t come back if you intercept their throws or mark them out, while other freshers won’t come back unless they get a tough challenge and are shown what they can achieve, so play it by ear.

In general when playing a game:

  • When two experienced players are involved in a foul and have a subsequent discussion, remember you are setting an example for all the other freshers, so explain your point of view honestly, clearly and respectfully, and settle the call in the ‘proper’ fashion – a joke between friends may be misunderstood by freshers.
  • For violations such as travels, picks, and close in/out calls, and not quite being in the end zone for a score, only stop the game if it’s a fresher who notices the violation – even if they affect the play, it’s much better for the game to continue if the freshers don’t notice.

Finally, remember it is your responsibility as an experienced player to ensure everyone on the pitch is having a good time, and not just your team. You could be scoring every time and thus feel everything is going great, but think about your opposition, and adjust your tactics accordingly (having your weaker freshers pick up the disc, for example).

After the games it’s good to circle up and let the freshers know how your club works – hopefully that everyone is welcome to continue coming along even if they didn’t have a good practice that day, and that over the year they’ll all be taught everything they need to know to go from a noob to a good player. Mention beginner tournaments, fun tournaments, and how Regionals and Nationals work, so you’ll retain freshers who simply enjoy the game and will make your club socials great, as well as the competitive freshers who will be trying to get onto your first team for outdoor Regionals. Then let everyone know that some people are going straight to the pub (on campus near where you train, hopefully), and some are sticking around to play a quick game of 7 vs. 7 first, where freshers will be welcome to join in after the first couple of points.

This game should be on a full size pitch, with as close to a 4:3 gender split as possible, and everyone playing proper, hard Ultimate, hopefully showing what the freshers can aim for. Again, don’t call picks or travels, but do call and discuss fouls properly when they occur. After a couple of points invite freshers to join in, but don’t stop the game. Make sure the experienced players try to persuade their team mates from the 5-aside games to get on the pitch, and to sub out for any freshers that show interest in playing. You may only get a handful of freshers joining in, but they will likely love the experience of being on a big pitch with so many experienced players, and they’ll appreciate greatly how they have been given the opportunity to play in a fairly high level game at their first session.

After the session, make sure as many freshers as possible come to the pub, and then talk to them! It’s very tempting to catch up with your team mates who you haven’t seen all summer, but there are better times for that. Go out of your way and make it your responsibility to get every fresher talking, as it can easily make the difference between them never coming back, and them captaining the team in two years time. The confident and athletic freshers will want to hear about the GB Junior and GB U23 opportunities available to them if they stick with Ultimate – they want to be challenged and they want to know it’s possible for them to achieve greatness. There will also be freshers who want to take up a sport but hate the ethos of rugby and football so now is a great time for them to find out if the vibe of your club is something they can enjoy.

By applying the advice given here, at the first session and to varying degrees for the subsequent sessions, your freshers will hopefully enjoy their first few tastes of Ultimate and become hooked in no time. By ensuring all experienced players learn these guidelines before the fresher intake each year, hopefully the recruitment and retention rates for your club will keep growing, and thus lead to huge performance gains.

_______________________

Felix Shardlow has been coaching the Sussex University team Mohawks for 10 years (Open & Women’s Outdoor National Champions for the last two years), Brighton University’s Panthers for three years (SE Open Uni Regionals finalists this year), the Brighton Ultimate first team since its creation in 2004, and has just been employed to introduce Ultimate to Brighton Uni’s Eastbourne campus from scratch in 2012.


So far we have read about university level leadership and development, having survived the AGM I think I’ll leave that subject well alone, then Dick told us all about ulti down under, given you’d stop reading now if I followed a similar route of discussing my pre-Glasgow career I’m going to write about how to get into the first team and the commitment levels I expect once you get there – who knows maybe this topic will strike up a debate feel free to share your opinions.

The thing I noticed most about Glasgow ultimate is we routinely place higher at Edinburgh beginners than regionals. Having come 1st and 3rd in 2011, and 2nd in 2012 at beginners (without even using a Webb!) yet haven’t qualified for division one nationals for as long as I’ve been playing ultimate! Worse still than this I don’t THINK any of the beginners from those teams have broken into the first team. WHY!?

beginners

Evidently we are recruiting large numbers of promising noobs and either Glasgow students have a natural talent for ultimate (myself and anyone else who has read ‘bounce’ will doubt that), or (the more likely reason) we are initially training beginners to get better faster than the other clubs in Scotland before they reach a plateau and get stuck there.

Why then does this development stop?  As I see it there could be a number of possible explanations –

  1. Our coaches are expert beginners, but that’s their limit.
  2. The training facilities aren’t adequate for a top-level team.
  3. The firsts are a social team that aren’t fussed with competing.
  4. Commitment is variable, players gradually get good enough during their 4 year career, get selected for the first team due to previous players graduating as opposed to earning places on merit.
  5. Training is the issue.
  6. Individuals don’t take enough responsibility for getting better.
  7. A. N. Other.

I’ll try and address these in order in an attempt to keep this shorter than my under grad dissertation.

1. Our coaches are fantastic, we are blessed to have them, the fact they provide stability and structure to the club year on year is invaluable, an asset most teams in Scotland can only dream of. They prove they can get results with their initial results at Edinburgh beginners . . . so are they beginners specialists? Can they train a first team to compete in division one? Well yes they can, a little known fact is that they as player/coaches led FarFlung to win div 1 nationals both indoors and outdoors in 2002. Due to that, I’m going to rule out low quality coaches as an explanation.

2. So are the training facilities good enough? Do we have enough pitch time to compete at the highest levels of university ultimate? Whilst outdoors I would say absolutely not. Not only due to the sub par playing surface, or even the fact that the university doesn’t provide a full size pitch for us to train on but also the fact that we only get our small sub par pitch once a week meaning a choice must be made between club training or first team training. Naturally a compromise is made, we try to accommodate everyone and pitch a training session to all levels. Whilst admirable and I think a relatively successful attempt is made at this, it clearly limits the intensity and level the first team can play at. I don’t know of any other sport where the first team are expected to do their training amongst complete beginners (please don’t misinterpret this, I think this is a very important session and beginners need the experienced players to help out at club sessions, however I would say a first team training is required IN ADDITION to a club session – that’s a whole post in itself). So I’ve solved it! All we need is a bigger, better pitch we can use more often . . . well no (if that was the case I wouldn’t have written another 1000 words), even if that did explain outdoors there is indoors to consider where we have played, on a full size pitch, with first team specific sessions yet still failed to qualify for div 1. So I’m going to let the uni off the hook for the time being and continue my hunt for the real reason.

3. So do the firsts want to compete? Or are they a bunch of players content with mediocrity? Well I’m on that team, and I can tell you there where glum faces all round when we lost at regionals. As for when we lost the semi final at div 2  (only to see a team we beat win the final) the disappointment was obvious, just ask our 3v4 playoff opponents (pre tournament top seeds) who got chumped 15-2 and point capped with plenty time left on the clock. So the first team are a competitive bunch and do want to win. Whether they know what it takes to win at that level is what I’m trying to address.

4. Clearly commitment varies from player to player. The nature of our sport, and the unusualness to have played before coming to uni means that naturally the first team is dominated by players in the latter stages of their university career, and with that often comes more work, dissertations and exams that actually count towards degree classifications. Also the fact that many players feel their position in the team is safe and the increased importance of university work leads to missed training sessions, decreased effort and thus a slowing in development. This takes me back to point 3, are the first team REALLY competitive or do they just want to be? But that doesn’t explain why the beginners aren’t getting onto the first team.

Competitive? So we all know I like to post motivational videos in the build up to tournaments the focus of these are always about hard work, commitment and sacrifice busting your balls because you know your team mates are doing the same. I’m not suggesting anyone prioritise ultimate over university. However I would suggest that no one is so busy that they can’t commit to a bear minimum of a first team training, a club training, and preferably fitness and throwing sessions each week. I think that sometimes people forget that hunger to win until they get to the tournament, by which time it could be too late, our opponents may have been hungry all season, training hard and training properly months in advance of the matches that matter. Most final year students want to go out with a bang, a last hurrah, one big chance to win that medal they have craved since first year. So what I’m saying is remember that disappointment you felt last regionals having to make do with div 2 again and use that to drive you to get that essay written in advance of the deadline so you don’t have to miss training and let your team mates down. If you really want it you’ll get out of bed before midday at the weekend and do your work then. I think the biggest improvement we could make as a first team, with the smallest change in what we are doing is by changing the mentality of the first team away from a ‘please may you attend training’ to a ‘first team are expected to attend training in the absence of a dam good excuse’. More than that the first team training squad should be desperate to train, not just to improve as a team and individually, but to earn a place on the first team. If this was to happen the captain and coaches could focus their efforts on training and getting the best out of the team, as opposed to getting the team to actually turn up!

5. Training I think is an issue. Not the training sessions themselves but the lack of first team training commitment and the apparent belief that going to Monday night training once a week is good enough training for a first team wanting to win BUCS points at Div 1 nationals. The best resources we have at our disposal in Glasgow are our coaches, and the ability to train against top quality opposition thanks to Strathclyde University and the Glasgow Ultimate community. Yet despite Glasgow Ultimate training sessions being put on only half of each university first team actually attend regularly. If our entire first teams committed to playing with Glasgow Ultimate at each session and attending AT LEAST one non student tournament a year we would undoubtedly make a spectacular return to div 1. If for no other reason than the best way to get better is by playing people better than you, Glasgow Ultimate provides this opportunity like no other city in Scotland yet it remains a resource frightfully underused. At the start of each academic year there are always a few players who have played tour over summer, and they always make massive improvements and surprise the university scene at Stirling tune up. It’s obvious the players who play tour so lets do exactly that

6. Do individuals take enough responsibility for getting better? I think not. If they did they would jump at the chance to play with Glasgow Ultimate. More fundamental than this is the fact that I think skills should be learnt outside of training, training should be for plays, tactics, games and teamwork. Like in Coach Carter shooting practice is done in your own time, I think throwing practice should be the same. Buy/borrow a dozen discs, drag a team mate to viccy park/kelvingrove and practice throwing. Make it your personal goal to learn the full pitch huck, get invited to become the team puller, and wow your team mates next time you rock up to practice and break Phil with that full pitch forehand you spent the weekend practicing. We don’t have enough training time as it is, so lets maximise it by learning individual skills outside of practice!

7. A. N. Other, so in reality there are a combination of possibilities as to why neither of the Glasgow Universities have been to Div 1 for far too long. Maybe it’s a combination of what I’ve outlined, or maybe you have spotted something you thinks glaringly obviously missing. Use the comments below to share your ideas. I’d be interested to hear what you have to say.

That’s me done, I hope you enjoyed what I had to say, and look forward to some discussion on the subject of how to get better. Laurie Brown, you’re up next.

Written by Rory Curran – Flung 1sts Captain 2012-2014.

The line’s been called; they’ve pulled. Game on. Shaun picks up the disc, but doesn’t take the early offload. He’s held it too long now and he’s looking to me for the dump. Where to cut? The obvious option is an international perspective on Ultimate in Scotland. I can see Shaun’s suggested it so I break in that direction. But it seems every team I’ve played for (and against) since arriving here only ever has a token Scotsman. I’m coached by Kiwis, captained by a Pom, and they put an Italian in charge of the finances. I break and go straight back the other direction: a wee perspective on Ultie Down Under. It’s a novel cut and wide open. I take the disc; it’s my turn now.

ultimate-croc

Weather

It might seem an obvious difference, but then it was the British that sent all their convicts to paradise so maybe it’s worth pointing out. The thing about Australian weather is it’s only good when you’re on holiday; when you’ve got time to go for a surf, get a tan, ride your kangaroo down the pub for a Fosters. The rest of the time it’s just fuckin’ hot. So what does that mean for us Ultimate players?

Well for one it means we do most of our Frisbee-ing at night. It also means we can take a much more laid-back approach to our Frisbee. No under layers and over layers to deal with the snow and the rain. No multiple pitch surfaces to deal with all those weather conditions. No buying several pairs of boots so I can still cut in the mud, on that precious 3G or on frozen Astro-Turf. Just throw your cleats in your kit bag, maybe pull on a hoodie cause it’s a bit nippy out, and away you go. No worries mate.

Space

The other thing there’s plenty of Down Under is space. Just big areas of the country with bugger all in ‘em. Roads that go 90 miles without a bend or corner. And the result of all this space and fine weather is that we don’t have the foggiest about Indoor Ultimate. I think I heard of an Indoor HAT tourney being organised one time to mix things up, but there’s no mention of an Iso at training and no learning catching styles that don’t involve crocodile snapping at discs. TWO HANDS!

I suppose the other result of all that space is we don’t have to wait for a tournament to play some frizz. In fact we’re not that big on tournaments at all. Our uni team only plays two: one is the annual uni-games carnival that all sports play at, and the other is our annual warm-up trip to Singapore. Instead every eager beaver in the club plays two games a week. Monday nights they play in the internal social league, leading a team of freshers or non-frisbee club friends (and probably practicing their handling). Wednesday nights they’ll play for one of the uni teams against local clubs in the regional league, pushing their skills and tweaking team strategies.

Get Involved!

If I was going to give some advice to Ultimate in Glasgow it’d be to consider this system. As great as regular practice with world class coaches is for developing skills, there’s nothing like regular competitive games for practicing strategy and bonding a team into an elite Frisbee-ing unit. The other drawback of being all practice, no play is that your freshers and old-hands have different practice needs. However this needs the keen bees to get involved. So if you’re reading this because you stumbled across Glasgow Ultimate and are thinking of trying out Ultimate, do it! Do it now!

I see Curran cutting under. Wide pivot, low disc to the chest. Momentum’s built, what you got Rory?

Written by Richard “Dick” Grice

Part one of this post can be found here

Transition Of Club Administrative Positions

The committee’s job is to keep the boat afloat, find novel ways to attract new passengers and aim to transform the club from tug boat to tanker to cruise liner. But it is also your duty to help the new crew find their sea legs. Put together a cohesive plan to prepare the new hands before you jump ship and avoid putting one of these guys at the helm:

drunkphil The Drunk: You return to university 2 days before term starts, having not checked your email all summer, to find a barrage of messages from your fellow committee members begging for guidance on how to organise freshers week. It’s at this point you remember drunkenly accepting the role of club captain at some party a few months back and decide to text the previous captain for some tips.

fidel The Dictator: This is going to be your year! You’ve spent all summer at the desk beneath your Stalin poster reading management books and Frisbee blogs and devising your revolutionary plans, it’s time to take control!

Ensure that those stepping into your shoes are suitably prepared and understand the long term aims of the club. Don’t let your hard work go to waste, make sure the incoming committee shares your vision for the club and hopefully has a few new ideas of their own.

It is up to you to find the most effective method to transfer your knowledge. This might involve sitting down with your successor and explaining your responsibilities and duties, providing them with notes, documents or diagrams and importantly discussing any of your failures or problems from the previous year. By documenting your wisdom and an outline of your post, you will provide a valuable resource for the future of the club and flatten the learning curve for your successors.

Often the best way to learn is by guided experience; introduce a period of overlap during the transition, share the shoes for a while. Hold your AGM early so that the incoming committee slots smoothly in to position and maximises continuity. Then set them free; sure, they will make some errors but as any junkie will tell you we learn more from our own mistakes than others advice.

The AGM

The annual general meeting is your chance to elect a new governing class, to assess your achievements from the previous year and set goals for the upcoming season. The AGM should always be conducted with last years minutes at hand to discuss the aims previously set, to what extent these have been achieved and if they need to be altered for the year ahead. Highlight ways in which you can improve the club and choose specific goals that allow you to measure your success at the end of the year i.e. get a better training facility, send a competitive 2nd team to outdoor regionals etc. Plan to continually assess performance of the club and committee and put in place methods for other club members to provide feedback. Then get drunk.

05afghan-xlarge1

When it comes to electing positions don’t feel you need to stick with the traditional appointments. Identify the duties that need to be performed, the weaknesses and strengths of the previous structure and create roles based on your expectations for next year. Clearly define the roles, tasks and duties for each position. For instance, who is responsible for planning each training session? Who is in charge of keeping the club calendar up to date? Who will register teams for tournaments?

Take on the role if you are committed. Make sure you are aware of the responsibilities you are taking on and how much effort and time they will consume. Think about your year ahead, your potential workload and other commitments. Once elected get in touch with your predecessor (if one exists) and get to know your position and any potential issues you should be aware of. Finally, sit down with your committee and write your two year plan. Ensure your individual goals are transparent to the entire club and not just on your own private checklist.

How Can We Develop?

“Player turnover is relentless in university ultimate and the committee changes every year. How can we set long term goals?” – scared new committee member

By setting 1 or 2 year goals, encouraging a communicative transition between committees and constantly transferring your skills and knowledge to other club members. Focus on the parts of the club that are consistent e.g. funding, training venues, a large population to recruit from, registered coaches etc. Here are a few things to think about:

Recruitment
A bigger club means more money and better recognition. Recruitment is something that can be accurately measured. Not only initial recruitment but player retention. Set goals to increase your membership each year and use novel ways to do it. Think about your audience, are you are able to attract total beginners and elite athletes? Can you interact with other sports clubs and societies? Can you have multiple recruitment drives and taster sessions?

Most players start as complete beginners and take 4 years to become good players and coaches. Due to this cycle a bad recruitment year can have a profound effect on the following 3, leaving holes in your talent base.

Funding
How can you get more? Make sure you are aware of all the schemes your sports association has to offer. Quite often they will pay for travel, kit, coaching courses, gym sessions etc on top of the funding you have applied for. Find out what entitles you to a larger budget. Is it club subscription? Better results or BUCS points? A raised profile of the sport in the community? Whatever it is make it a focus for your club. Can you apply for external funding or sponsorship outwith the university? Can you fund raise at all or host more lucrative tournaments?

What do you do with any extra money? The best use of funds is usually anything that gets more people playing ultimate. This means that fully subsidising tournaments your members would go to anyway isn’t always the best use of resources. You do want to give something back to your committed members but you are also trying to increase that demographic.

Other University Perks
Find out what similar sized minority sports/societies are getting at your university. Find out what other ultimate clubs at different universities are entitled to and try to fight your case. For instance:

  • St Andrews are offered access to gym facilities, pitches and fitness coaches for a week of pre-season training (more on that here: Benji Heywood on being a professional coach).
  • Ro Sham Bo elite players have free access to personal training programs.

What other contacts can the university provide you? Nutritionist, gym instructors or fitness coaches to run one off sessions. Coaching course, First aid courses? Venues for social events? What can the unions do for you on social occasions? If you don’t ask, you don’t get.

Help players reach their full potential
Make sure you are connected with club teams in all divisions in your local area and can provide the correct information for players that want to play beyond university level. Make them aware of club trials, GB trials and national/international tournaments. How can your teams and players earn sporting colours? Has anyone been nominated before?

Training venues
Training venues and schedules should be reassessed each term. Don’t stick with the status-quo because it’s the way things have always been done. Constantly harass your sports association for better training venues if available.

Stay in touch with UK Ultimate
Find out what UKU (www.ukultimate.com) are doing to promote the sport and to help out their affiliated clubs.

Why Should You Want To Develop?

Why should you be the one to do this? University clubs are not under pressure to survive, they will always have the funds and resources available to exist and allow students to play Ultimate, isn’t that enough? Can’t I just do the bare minimum?

Firstly, setting goals for the club and achieving them is a huge learning experience and demonstrating these skills will look good on your CV. A matter of pride should also compel you to hand over a better club than the one you received. Honour aside, it is actually your responsibility.

frisbeepapua As an elected committee member you are obliged and trusted to keep the club in good stead and produce a plan for the future. By improving membership, funding, quality of training and social interaction you are setting up a better base for ultimate when you leave. I’ve always said “all I need is a disc and my body”, but it’s so much more enjoyable when you have an organised club, committed team mates and a structure in place to improve and recruit. You can make a significant contribution to the sport in your local area that will make everyone’s Frisbee experience more fun and probably cheaper. Cheaper = More Frisbee (or more money to spend on food as you spent it all on books, beer and Frisbee).

fatherly-advice

Prologue

nationals2000 Far Flung and I have been on/off lovers for around 13 years. I first met her as a fresh faced beginner, fell in love as a national champion, finally agreed to be her first team captain in my post-grad year and now have the privilege of watching our children grow in my role as coach.

These experiences have had a huge impact on my life, not just in the form of friendships and sporting achievement but in maturing my confidence and developing leadership and management skills. So I care, at least a little, about the fate of my future grandkids and seeing the club succeed and continue to develop and enrich other peoples lives. Given that I have somewhat arrogantly portrayed myself as a father figure I should back that up by imparting some wisdom to you all, or at least a few observations and useful tips to consider as the club is passed on to the next generation. I will try to talk in general terms so hopefully this applies to Dark Horses as well, although I don’t know much about your club setup and tend to think of you more as Phil’s bastard child…

Legacy

We are now approaching the time of year where those in charge should be thinking about how to pass on the reins and the up-and-comers should be readying themselves to take the wheel (that’s a stunning metaphor for progress….). Many of you will be final year students, readying yourself for the real world and moving on to greener astroturf. But spare a thought for those you leave behind; think about all the positive experiences you have taken from being part of the team and ensure you bestow your club to capable hands and allow that legacy to continue.

The Next Generation of Players

Player Development
Results on the pitch are ultimately the responsibility of the first team captain and success is frequently measured by a first teams placing at Nationals. As a result, long-term development is often sacrificed in favour of short-term goals with captains eager to secure the best results during their year in charge. I have seen Scottish clubs go from top 5 UK to 6th at regionals after one round of graduation. This shouldn’t happen if you have a proper plan in place for team development. Think about your part in the club as an ongoing entity that will exist after you are gone.

cowboy

“I guess it’s not what you take when you leave this world behind you,
it’s what you leave behind you when you go.” – Randy Travis, Cowboy

Well Randy, in the context of university Ultimate Frisbee, you’re half right. It’s about finding the balance between achievement and development. There is no point in constantly sending development teams to tournaments if your aim is to compete, but there is a lot to be said for providing players with first team experience. The decision to take 8 or 10 players to indoor tournaments is always a tough one but a 10 man squad can be just as competitive as an 8 man squad if managed effectively.

Unlike most sports, the majority of club members start their ultimate career at university and require opportunities to improve and develop rather than showing up ready-made. This also puts responsibility on the first teamers to ensure they are playing regularly with other club members at training and less serious tournaments. Beginners especially need to learn from these players, get to know them and understand what it takes to make the top team if that’s their goal. The added workload for later year students often makes it difficult for a lot of first teamers to commit to multiple training sessions but try to integrate as much as possible with the rest of the club and avoid becoming an elite, exclusive gang.

Impending graduation is an inherent issue with University ultimate as your most experienced players often see their final year as a last chance to claim success. This naturally, but somewhat selfishly, comes at the price of excluding developing players from training sessions and tournaments in order to focus on the top players. If you truly enjoy ultimate then this won’t be the end of your playing career and you will realize there are bigger prizes out there than student indoor nationals.

Perhaps the role of first team captain does not extend to the whole club but there should be a clear plan implemented for player development. This should be discussed by coaches, captains and other senior players to identify who is responsible for raising the level of play in the club as a whole and progressing competitive players towards the first team.

passthebaton Who is going to replace you?

Grooming. No, not like that. You are going to lose some big players at the end of the year, it might even be yourself. Someone will need to step up to the plate. You need to earmark your replacements and give opportunities to those that could replace the replacements. Traditionally many players make it to the first team in 2 ways:

  • Show a bit of athletic promise in your first year, get promoted to the first team and play as a deep, you can’t be trusted to throw just yet. Spend a few years playing in the endzone and still only know how to throw a dump pass.
  • Didn’t show enough athleticism to make the first team early on. Spent a few years on 2nd teams where you got to do most of the handling as you were one of the more senior / better seconds players. Good at throwing a disc now but lack competitive experience and knowledge.

In the first scenario a player has been brought on the first team early and forgotten about, in the second the promotion to the first team environment is too late. In both cases the players talents have plateaued due to a lack of development opportunities.

Give your developing players experienced mentors that they can emulate or accept advice from. Open up your first team doors at suitable opportunities e.g. after big tournaments or by running extra sessions for the whole club or even posting summaries of first team training to the entire club. You need to find the most effective method to pass on the knowledge you have acquired to those who will eventually take over. Expose your players to multiple positions and roles in training and at tournaments whenever possible. Give them the freedom to make big plays and learn from mistakes in the right environment. As a captain you need to lead and teach others to lead.

Who should be the next captain?

It’s time to pass the baton to your successor:

“Here’s a few cool drills and join this email group, good luck!” – Bad Captain/Committee

Not the sort of transition that will ensure ongoing success. I would personally like to see a captain that has more than one year left at university and doesn’t see it as a one year job. Ideally the captain should come in to the role with a 2 year plan, spend a year as captain, transition smoothly to the next leader and stick around as an experienced player that can offer guidance and maintain a committed first team culture that is instilled in new players.

So what if you find a great captain? Shouldn’t they stay captain? What if they decide to do a PhD? They can be captain for another 4 years right? Being a captain is a skill and an immense learning opportunity. It requires you to lead, coach, manage, strategise and speak to large groups; it can turn men in to more manly men. I believe it is definitely an opportunity worth passing on to others and not one you should deny a willing and committed teammate. In your post-captaincy year your presence will be extremely supportive and your experience invaluable. Plus there is always room for fresh ideas and innovative blood.

What should the next captain do?

Be your own captain, not in a self help sort of way, but in a non-sheep sort of way. You may have the added challenge of captaining your previous captain and more experienced players than you, but don’t be afraid to shake things up a bit and introduce your own style. It probably doesn’t make sense to radically change tactics and training if the previous team has done well, but it is important to reassess those methods, goals and strategies and adjust them to the current player pool. Make that 2 year plan; sit down with the previous captain or other experienced players/coaches and write it out.

Decide on the role you want to fill as captain. For many clubs the first team captain is an umbrella term for captain, coach, manager, transport organizer, pitch booker, strategiser, selector etc. Feel free to delegate roles; give people responsibility and they feel a stronger connection to the team. If you have access to decent (ahem) coaches then use them to plan tactics, run sessions and select teams.

Your role as captain starts the moment you are elected, not the first training session of the academic year. Take on the role immediately, groom your players for the next year and prepare over the summer. Get your tactics and training sessions planned, maybe plan a pre-season to give your team more time to get in shape. Set a team meeting and schedule them regularly, even if it’s a 5 minute chat after training.

Written by Shaun, part 2 touches on the role of the committee and other senior players.