In an effort to acquire input from the growing ultimate community across the United States, the national governing body USA Ultimate, is in the middle of their “2017 Vision Tour” in which they are holding meetings at city’s across the nation. They are coming to Seattle next Tuesday (4/4) and your chance to influence the direction of the sport in the U.S. will be from 6-8pm at the new ultimate gym — Ren Fitness (1404 NW 49th St, Seattle, WA 98107). You can pre-register online.
Agenda and attendees
USAU’s CEO and a few members of the board of directors will present something like the following agenda (from the Mar 23 tour stop in Pittsburgh) in effort to hear from Seattle area players, coaches and parents about our region’s hopes and dreams.
Welcome, brief outline of the evening, goal of the Community Conversations (5 minutes)
The ultimate community’s hopes and concerns about the future of ultimate (10 minutes)
A look back: ultimate’s history (5 minutes)
A look forward: ultimate and USA Ultimate in the wide world of sports (15 minutes)
Q&A (10 minutes)
Considering our next steps: Group exercise, facilitated in six small groups. Then, led by facilitator in large group (60 minutes). Topics and facilitators include:
AUDL: Henry Thorne, USA Ultimate Board Vice President
Elite Level Play: Josh Murphy, USA Ultimate Director of Member Services & Community Development
Equity & Diversity: DeAnna Ball, USA Ultimate Board President
Olympic Dream: Tom Crawford, USA Ultimate Chief Executive Officer
USA Ultimate Brand: Stacey Waldrup, USA Ultimate Manager of Communications & Publications
Youth Structure: Kathy Hendrickson, USA Ultimate Board of Directors
Guest Speakers: (10 minutes)
Sarah Lemanski: Gender Equity and Disparity
Marcus Ranii-Dropcho: Club ultimate vs. semi-pro
Close, Appreciation and Rating the Output (5 minutes).
(We all thank John for helping us access the school where he’s a teacher. Prior to his help, Scott was really struggling to find a space that met the USAU facility requirements and budget!)
Alex led the group in a quick name-game. We went to the cafeteria and threw a soft cone in two circles of ~10 participants. You had to thank the person who through to you (e.g. “Thanks, Alex”), say your name, say the name of a person who had not yet been thrown while making eye contact with them, and then throw the “disc” to them.
The two groups competed to see who could cycle through everyone in the circle and back to the original thrower. The groups were different sizes, so it wasn’t fair, but it was fun to add complexity to the game — first by speeding up the cycle; then by adding a second “disc” that was started after the first disc had reached the third or fourth person. We headed back to Leahy Land with a new game that could help a team of unfamiliar players learn each others names efficiently.
Back in the classroom, Alex had us go around the room introducing ourselves. This was the beginning of one of the best aspects of the in-person workshop: getting to know other local coaches and sharing ideas with them. Here are a few topics that folks said they were hoping to learn about during the day:
How to manage middle schoolers!
Nuts and bolts of running a practice
How to get more young girls involved
How to teach the rules
How to get equal improvement in a group with varied experience or different learning styles (e.g. not leaving passive kids behind)
How to “seed” elementary and middle school teams in ways that support the development of high school teams
Best practices for coaching elementary school
9:00 Why do people play ultimate
This was a great group discussion. We came up with lots of ways to “hook” new players on the sport, as well as some shortcomings of the game as it’s currently played by younger youth (mostly grades 3-8). I’ve listed some highlights (ideas that were new to me), but there were many more that Alex noted and discussed.
Why people play ultimate:
The beauty of the disc flying (play Dog on the first practice!)
Spirit of the Game (try playing look-up/down to choose throwing partners)
More equitable and confidence-building play:
Don’t say sorry rituals
The “special” (has to be thrown to before team can score)
Keep away (practice low-emotion mistakes)
2v2 scrimmages (lots of touches for everyone)
try mixed and single-gender practices/drills/scrimmages
rotate who leads a middle school team each practice
girl-girl leadership pair
boy-girl leadership pair
boy-boy leadership pair
Try 4 girl, 3 boy scrimmages
Hire more female middle school coaches!
Attracting more girls and retaining them through middle school
understand other sport calendars and trends
market to groups of girls/women
classrooms, especially social groups of girls
teams from other sports that are burning out
Verbal face-to-face recruitment of girls by coaches (helps make them feel valued!)
Riot’s 3 tenets: ETL = Excellence. Trust. Love.
Team work and athletic development: be purposeful with a charter?
Seattle Public Schools has a process to follow for creating a charter (Charlie mentioned it, but I missed its name)
A charter should describe how do you want to feel (as players; as a team)
Then plan: What do you do to achieve the charter?
Camp Orkila has a process for creating a constitution/charter with new campers…
As a coach: watch 1 player for about 2 minutes and ask “Are they engaged in this drill/lecture/game?”
Experienced parent’s role: teach ultimate culture to other parents
Things that detract from ultimate:
soccer gets calendars out 6 months in advance!
USAU web site is messy (trick is to google your search term and append “site:usaultimate.org”)
Lack of good practice fields
Canceled games (because many youth games are played on grass fields which SPS closes when super-wet)
Handout: 25-page booklet — “Coaching Ethics Workshop” including sections on: intro; the sport; Spirit of the Game; Liability and Insurance; Safety; & Emergency procedures; plus 2 appendices on: child abuse reporting agencies; references/readings.
We read through the USAU ethics pamphlet, discussing each point (many of which originated with the U.S. Olympic Committee).
Key concepts for coaches of youngest youth:
Teach and practice the foul/conflict resolution process (Rules; how to call fouls; how to contest; how to resolve; best perspective)
In game, coach is a resource not a judge
“Do you have a question about the rules?”
“Can I help you with the process of calling and resolving a foul?”
Use them mostly for compliments and positive coaching
If both teams mis-understood a rule in the game, coach can use as a teachable moment and clarify for all
Pet peeves (of various participants)
Don’t teach middle schoolers to call travels!
Don’t allow kids to kick rolling discs!
Playing time: try to keep it balanced by using a sub-sheet
Player is unspirited (cheating): start with a question, like “How did you feel about that last play?” Then educate about a relevant rule or process.
10:50 Took a 15 minute break for snacks!
11:20 Spirit of the Game
We broke up into small groups to define and discuss SotG. Then came back together to share and look for commonalities.
Try having a spirit “captain” (esp on high or club school teams)
Coaches role is as a model of good spirit (calm communication; fairness
Incorporate SotG into drills: e.g. high 5s when you enter a line; offering encouragement and compliments to teammates.
5 duties to avoid exposure
Proper instruction for risky activities (e.g. lay outs)
Provide safety equipment (safe field; don’t mix cleats and bare feet!)
Provide care (upon injury)
We made sandwiches, ate chips, drank juice, and chatted at our desks.
Handout: 76-page booklet “Coaching Performance Workshop” covering: intro; communicating with your school; parents; logistics; growth/promotion; equipment; conditioning; & tips; plus 12 appendices on rules; affiliates; state associations; sample season schedule; sample parent letter; sample med form; intro clinic schedule; 12-week fitness program; injury prevention; nutrition/hydration; injuries; and references/readings.)
We discussed the fundamental skills and knowledge we need to teach in ultimate, then prioritized them into an optimal sequence for new players.
5 steps to learning:
Brevity ends with a “Why?”
TALK LESS (2 minutes is too long)
Use 2 or 3 cues, e.g. for backhand “keep disc level” (see hard-copy handout “Skill Specific Cues” for lots more)
13:15 Transition to gym
The active portion of the workshop included: coming up with a drill (in groups of ~4 participants) to teach fundamentals; demonstrating how to run those drills to the rest of the group; and Alex demonstrating typical parts of a practice (warm-up/plyos, throw foci; drill iterations).
13:15-14:30 — Coming up with a drill to teach each fundamental
Groups formed up, took 10-15 minutes to prep a drill, and then demonstrated it (for a few minutes). [I have video of some of these if folks want to see themselves in action!]
Cues and notes on each demo:
level the release by thinking of serving a glass of water on it
Snap your wrist (like snapping a towel?)
“pull through” (not uncurl, that’s the “BBQ throw”)
hinge from the shoulder
“buckle the seatbelt
outside edge down
finish with palm up
hips low, shoulders up
arms active and low
“land” then throw
be clear with language
“pivot on foot opposite your throwing hand?”
“move foot on same side as your throwing hand?”
Force — emphasize it is a form of team work
Sharp change in direction
Clap near end of cut?
Chop stop (NOT 1 big stop and step)
Go/fake away from target area, then cut back
“Cut to a cone” (e.g. any corner of the endzone)
3D: defend, deny, deflect?
dictate (instead of chase)?
But be careful with language and younger players!
stop the under; stay between receiver and disc
shadow movement; dance
“be the mirror (image)”
14:30-15:00 — Demonstration practice (by Alex)
Started with a cheer: e.g. “1, 2, Learn!”
Do a lap while tossing with a partner (take note: 40 throws/lap x 10 practices = 400 extra throws per season!)
We’re teaching movement (to protect bodies over a lifetime)
The goal is to talk about and practice movement (e.g. running form)
Think of plyos (dynamic warm-up) as movement puzzles
Have a base warm-up; make small changes; add new challenges
Practice names of muscles and parts of bodies
Go from small, low intensity to big, high-intensity movements
Practice names of muscles and parts of bodies
Science shows: static stretching is good for flexibility after exercise (not before when a dynamic warm-up is better)
Sequence of plyos (from toes to head) [we did these as a big group lined up across the gym]:
Toes out; heels back
High knees; lunges
Airplane; picking dandelions
Close the gate; open the gate
Arm circles (forward, backward)
Fast feet out; high knees back
Butt kickers out; Door busters back (toe pointing to sky; hit door with sole not toe)
Leg swings (with partner or fence)
Kareoka (or Kareoke)
Run @67% out; 42% back
Skips (emphasize height, or distance, or both)
Jump and land (prevent ACL tears [7x more prevalent in girls than boys!]: quiet; soft; knees over toes, NOT knocked-knees)
Proplyoception => challenges (do it backwards; close eyes); try airplanes w/eyes closed; fast knees backwards (and eyes closed?!)
Retro-runs (forward, backward)
Choose high repetition
Prioritize familiar drills; then build on them
Lots of iterations w/small changes and limited focus (2-3 cues max)
Examples of coach challenges and nuanced skills:
How to counter blacksmith leg (from always pivoting on leg opposite dominant throwing hand)?
Catch with dominant/throwing hand under in the alligator (so grip is ready to throw)!
Step back to throw hammer.
Variants on paired throwing drill (we tried these with a partner)
3 forehands; 3 backhands
vary release points (regular, high, low, wide)
vary release angles (inside/out; outside/in;…)
Goofy foot compass throws
15:20 Overhead throws
Normally discouraged with youth, but Alex likes them for fun and to help handlers practice decision making.
15:30 Practical aspects of drills
Clear wide; yell “Safety” to prevent collisions
Alex led a “Go to” drill (2 sets of participants) as an example of how to iterate w/distinct cues
chop feet; go to disc; ready; eye contact
alternate sides to give drops a chance to clear
different focus point each day
5 full steps = deep cut
chop feet; get low; rotate hips; explosive first 3 steps; drive knees.
challenges: pancake every disc; non-dominant hand catch
add a mark (open side; break mark)
different cuts (out/in; handler cut = fake to open side, cut to break mark side)
15:45 Return to classroom to discuss practice planning and structure
Set expectations with players and parents
Pre-season “goal setting” (+ a mid-season check-in)
will this work for elementary?
best practices for goal-setting are still developing