James Burbidge

"Don't be afraid to go for your first coaching role, you don't need to be the best player to be useful to that group of players."

What's your background in Ultimate?

I was introduced to the sport by a GB junior in my hall of residence during fresher's week at Uni. I captained the club in my 3rd year and started to enjoy running training sessions then. When I moved down to London I played with a few different mid-level open clubs and ended up captaining Ka-pow! to 4th at Nationals. That year I had also started coaching the SYC women's team and that double duty was too much, so I committed to SYC for the following seasons, with the goal of qualifying for and competing at WUCC. The achievement of that, with that group of players has been the most rewarding part of my "career" so far!

How did you start coaching?

Ultimate is at a stage where basically all (or, when I was doing it) captains are also coaches. So 3rd year at Uni I started leading training sessions etc. I started coaching without playing when I started working with SYC - I had been thinking about putting myself forward to them over the off-season and then they asked for formal applications. I did that, and had a slightly odd interview and got the "job".

Who are you coaching now?

I am currently one of the coaches for the GB u24 Women's team. Previously I coached SYC for 4 years.

Why do you coach Ultimate?

I really enjoying leading training sessions. I enjoy seeing people's skills improve, I enjoy seeing a team come together and become one unit. I got some of that from captaining, but always compromised by having to also focus on my own performance. Coaching gives me the freedom to do the bit I enjoy more (and am probably/hopefully better at).

What do you enjoy most about coaching Ultimate?

Seeing the hard work a player puts into their game paying off. Seeing a player execute something in a game we talked about in training and come over buzzing with excitement about it. Seeing a team come together around a plan, with the same energy and play as one. Being part of a group of people working hard towards the same goal.

What’s been your coaching highlight to date?

Semi-finals of UK Nationals against Bristol Women in the qualification year for WUCC. We knew there was only 1 spot guaranteed to the country, but we thought it likely there would be 2, so we played that like it was our game-to-go and we executed under pressure. In the end there were 3 spots.

What are your top three tips for a new coach getting started?

Don't be afraid to go for your first coaching role - you don't need to be the best player to be useful to that group of players.

Get good captains, trust them, delegate to them, be lead by them.

It can be overwhelming when you start, so keep it simple and just work on a few key areas until you get positive change.

Any other tops tips?

Get feedback from the team in a structured way where they can be honest. You don't need to to what they suggest though.

Don't confuse symptoms with the actual problem. This can be a broken drill, tournament tactics, emotions, anything. Your job is to read through the obvious symptoms and get to the underlying problem.

Admit when you don't know something and work through it as a group.

Be prepared, but build flexibility into your preparation.

It's easy (and important) to highlight what someone did wrong, but much more rewarding to highlight what people are doing right.

No team has ever been good enough at sideline resets!

What’s coming up next for you?

World U24s this summer - then who knows?