Mark Bignal

"It feels so good when you give some advice that unlocks a problem."

What is your background in Ultimate?

I started playing in 2007 at the University of Reading and in 2010 I helped form Reading Ultimate. I can't quite remember when I started coaching but must've been around 2010. Since then, I've had many opportunities to coach different groups: primary, secondary schools, university, club, elite club and GB juniors.

Where and who do you coach?

I currently coach the junior team Windsor Wolves, several primary and secondary schools in Windsor, Reading Knights (The University of Reading), Reading Ultimate and GB u17 boys.

How did you start coaching?

I guess it started with taking a conscious decision to observe coaches. I then started organising drills and added actual teaching points when I got more comfortable with the topics.

I took a bigger lead when we needed someone to step up and volunteer as it must be for most coaches.

Why do you coach Ultimate?

Initially, it was just to help out when needed as I had nothing better to do.

Now, it's a mixture of wanting more players to increase playing opportunities and player quality, giving back to the club, wanting to share the sport I play (and love) and the realisation that without volunteers (other roles like treasurers are needed too), the sport wouldn't happen. Oh, and I guess anger at seeing (what I deem as) poorly executed drills.

What do you enjoy most about coaching Ultimate?

Progression: It feels so good when you give some advice that unlocks a problem.

Watching juniors, that are playing thanks to me, fall in love with the game.

What’s been your coaching highlight to date?

I've mainly been a player coach so best would be to avoid that scenario. GB u17s was a great opportunity seeing the progression the boys made in 2017. They were extremely receptive to my coaching. It's great to see them still playing (and dominating).

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

Disc/player ratio: Get more discs in hands. More emphasis on mini: 1 disc for 6 is much better for developing individual skills than 1 for 14 people.

Reps: Players need thousands of reps before mastering a skill. I hate queuing for drills. Time how long it takes for 1 player to get 2 reps in. If it's a long time, it's probably worth setting up more stations. They may also forget mistakes or successes from previous reps. Can they do the skill several times in a row before switching positions? eg. force/throw 10 times in a row.

Continuation drills: For less experienced players, avoid drills that require the previous person to catch it. Simplify the drill.

Any other tops tips?

Introducing a new drill: Explain the drill without learning points. Get them to get used to rotations/drill. Then bring players in and explain learning points. This avoids information overload.

What’s coming up next for you?

I've got GB u17s this summer in Poland. Much of the same for the rest.

Got a promising bunch of year 9s so watch this space!