"The joy the kids get from running down a disc and catching it is totally infectious."
What's your background in Ultimate?
I started playing in 1993 and was one of the original members of Chevron which started up in 1995. I first played for GB in 1997 and continued to play for the Open team until 2008. Since then I have played for GB masters and most recently GB Grandmasters at EUBC 2019. I started coaching with Chevron and first captained/coached the GB team in 2003 where we won Europeans.
Who are you coaching now?
I am currently coaching a group of kids where I live in Manchester. It started out when a few of us players in Manchester had some games with our children. This has now grown to a regular weekly session with at least 20 kids, ranging from 6yrs to 14yrs old. They have recently come up with the name "Didsbury Flyers" and they are all really keen.
How did you start coaching?
I started coaching with Chevron almost by accident as we were growing and becoming more competitive and I was giving more and more input. With GB it started when I got together with Si Hill (Clapham) and Rik Shipley (UTI) as the three dominant teams at the time we wanted to try to bring together the best GB team we could.
With the kids I am coaching at the moment that also started by accident. It wasn’t so much coaching as teaching my kids and their mates how to play.
Why do you coach Ultimate?
I guess that has changed recently. I used to love trying to get the absolute best out the team I was coaching, I am very competitive so I would be constantly striving to find improvements from the team.
Now I am trying to teach total beginners how to play, starting with how to throw and catch.
What do you enjoy most about coaching Ultimate?
As I said I used to love looking for areas to find minor improvements and dealing with small details. I always thought I would find working with beginners too frustrating, I wanted to ‘fine tune’ good players and teams. Having now spent time teaching beginners I have found it tremendously rewarding, especially the young players. The joy they get from running down a disc and catching it is totally infectious.
What have you learnt from coaching Ultimate?
I think the thing you realise is that each individual needs to be treated differently to get the best out them but also different teams need to be approached differently. With all the different personalities come a wide variety of opinions and views. Although there are some fundamental things you all need to do correctly, there are loads of different systems and tactics a team can employ to be effective and the different personalities will have varying views on which is best. The most important thing the coach can do is convince everyone to fully commit to playing the same way, it sounds easy but it’s really not.
What’s been your coaching highlight to date?
I think it would probably be our success with GB at Europeans in 2003. At that tournament all the GB squads got into finals and it really felt like we were part of GB starting to dominate European Ultimate.
Winning Europeans with Chevron was very special too, the journey from sitting with a handful of mates thinking up a name for our team in 1995 to winning xEUCF in 2009 will always make me feel proud.
What are your top three tips for a new coach / getting started?
• Work out what makes your players/team tick and then use it to focus everyone towards the same goal.
• As Chevron was getting more competitive and we were getting quite detailed with the tactical side of the game we found we were trying to get the team to think about too many things just before the game or in time outs. It was usually Harry Golby and myself doing the talking so we came up with a strategy of limiting ourselves to only two things to focus the team on. It helped us as the coaches focus on the things that would influence the game the most and it simplified things for team. It’s quite hard to do at times because there is always a temptation to add ‘just one more thing’ but if you do it it is very effective.
• What I’m learning now working with kids is to turn everything into a game. Although the kids are always keen to play Ultimate we try to do lots of drills with them to develop their skills, the more time they spend with a disc in their hands the better. It’s amazing what a difference it makes when instead of telling them the objective of the drill is to move the disc you tell them they are moving pirate treasure.
Any other tops tips?
Never eat yellow snow
What’s coming up next for you?
Working with the Didsbury Flyers to get them in a place where we can play against other teams. It’s not only about the playing side of the game but also Spirit and understanding the rules. We have also been asked to run a session at the local school fun day so we may be about to grow some more. Exciting times!!!