"Kids LOVE this activity. It's a great example of taking risks in a controlled environment and is an excellent confidence builder."
What's your background in Ultimate?
I've been playing ultimate for about 19 years, starting out with GB Juniors and then going on to captain at university (Leeds). After uni I dropped off for a bit but I have begun playing for my local club since moving back to my home town (Leicester) a few years ago.
Who do you coach?
I coach a weekly evening class for 7-12 year olds at a sports hall in my old school (coincidence). I don't have a lot of top flight experience but I've been teaching beginners of various levels for years.
How did you start coaching?
I started out doing one session a month which was attended by the kids of all the old Ultimate players in the area. Numbers were good and the kids all had a great time but the age range was too large to allow for any effective coaching. It did, however, generate enough interest to start a weekly session for ages 7 and up, which is perfect.
What do you enjoy most about coaching Ultimate?
I love teaching kids with potential. Nothing is more rewarding than coaching someone who has all the ingredients to be a really good player.
What’s been your coaching highlight to date?
After practicing pivoting and throwing a sidearm, one of the kids I was forcing pivoted out to throw a sidearm on the open side (just like he'd been taught). It sounds silly but it can be very hard to get younger kids to adopt this kind of behaviour (especially in games, where everything you have taught normally goes out the window) and to have them playing proper Ultimate after only a couple of sessions is really great.
What are your top three tips for a new coach / getting started?
1. Simplify the game (for younger kids).
We start off playing "beginners rules" where they only have to touch the disc on offence instead of having to complete a catch (they have to catch a score, though). This helps to maintain momentum, as constant turnovers can be very confusing.
Almost more useful is limiting the force. We adapted how we introduced the force, starting off standing still with our arms by our sides (but you can pull faces!), then introducing a stall count, arm waving and finally moving feet later. Indeed in the adapted rules for Schools Games competitions there isn't stall count at all - adapting the way you mark the thrower is a good way to help the kids develop confidence with their skills.
2. Practice pivoting and the sidearm.
At first kids often hate throwing a sidearm. I use a "3 to 1" rule, where they have to throw at least one sidearm for every three completed backhands. Almost all my drills are reversible to include throws on both sides. I also try to coach throwing on a 1-2-1 basis as much as possible.
3. The long Cut Drill.
I run a drill where the kids take turns making a long cut and I float the disc into the endzone for them to run on to. Kids LOVE this drill. It's a great example of taking risks in a controlled environment and is an excellent confidence builder. They can choose to add difficulty by asking for a hammer or having a go at throwing the long discs themselves. I can't overstate how much they enjoy this. I'm pretty sure they would do it for the whole hour if given the choice!
Any other tops tips?
Sometimes when you're trying to correct the mechanics of someone's throwing action they can over-think it and you can make matters worse. I call this the "fun-zone" (i.e. they are not having fun anymore). At this stage its best to just abandon any teaching and try again later. Advice that worked for one person might not work for another.
For kids under 5 use a softer disc - there are several available. My 3 year old has a wicked backhand and can catch really well but only because we invested in one of these. You don't have to hit them in the face many times with a hard frisbee to put them off.
What’s coming up next for you?
I'd like to continue to coach the group I have until they're ready to start training with the local club (RED). I'd also like to take them to a tournament, so watch this space - the kids are coming!