Top coaches from around the world led two days of the Elite Skills Clic.
June 18, 2016 by Sion "Brummie" Scone in Sponsored with 0 comments
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One week before the 2016 World Ultimate & Guts Championships, Flik Ultimate gathered 12 top players and coaches in a small village north of London to put over 200+ ultimate players through a weekend of intensive training. The 2016 Elite Skills Clinic in St. Albans, England, was one of the largest advanced skills clinics in the history of ultimate.
How It Began
Back in 2010, I hosted members of the 2009 USA World Games team that I’d met in Taiwan for a clinic the week prior to WUCC in Prague; we attracted 185 players for a weekend of skills training led by top players from Revolver, Fury, Riot, Sockeye, and others — a real All-American event. With the impending WUGC in London this June, many of the world’s best players would all be travelling to the UK, creating a unique opportunity to host a similar clinic with a truly international feel. Why settle for just getting the thoughts of only the top US players when we could also get coaches from Japan, Australia, Canada and more?
- Alex Benedict, Canada Women. Alex has played and coached across Europe as well as representing Team Canada on numerous occasions.
- Beau Kittredge, USA Men. The world’s most famous player, he needs no introduction. Revolver stud & five-time World Champion.
- Brett Matzuka, USA Mixed. One of the best throwers on the planet and a key player on the DC Breeze, Brett provides invaluable insight into dynamic handler movement.
- Cat Phillips, Australia Women. Cat has led women’s ultimate clinics across the Asia-Pacific region as well as being a key player in the Ellipsis team that won the 2015 US Open.
- Dylan Freechild, USA Men. Along with Beau & Jimmy, is a member of the AUDL team Dallas Roughnecks.
- Jimmy Mickle, USA Men. Jimmy, along with his Roughnecks colleagues, regularly leads E.R.I.C. clinics.
- John McNaughton, Australia Mixed. As well as playing in Australia and with the Barramundis, John has played with Ring of Fire and coached at Ultimate Peace camp.
- Jonathan “Goose” Helton, USA Men. Goose is a leader from Morrill Performance and all-round superstar from Chicago Machine.
- Mish Phillips, Australia Women. Along with her sister, Mish is a member of the Firetails and was also part of the Aussie Crocs team that took home silver from the 2013 World Games.
- Mario O’Brien, Colombia Men. The founder of Rise Up, Mario is a current Seattle Sockeye player and has coached all over the world.
- Moe Sameshima, Australia Women. World Champion with Japan in 2012, Moe brings a rare insight into the Japanese style of play as well as being a phenomenal player in her own right.
- Sion “Brummie” Scone, GB Masters Men. Founder of Flik Ultimate and the man who coached GB Open to their silver medal in Sakai 2012, Brummie has coached all over the world, played for GB Open 2007-2012 and was part of the 2009 World Games team.
While this amazing cast of coaches was guaranteed to draw in players, on a selfish level, I was really excited about getting to work alongside such incredible players and keen to see what I could learn. Needless to say, there was plenty of talk between us about coaching theory during any game in play — at least when we weren’t goofing around.
The theme of the weekend was variety, so even each warm-up was different. The entire group was warmed up by Goose on Saturday morning, two huge lines of 100 people facing each other, with coaches repeating the instructions down the middle. After lunch, Moe led a Japanese style warm-up, complete with synchronized clapping and Japanese instructions; the crowd lapped it up. Sunday morning’s warm-up was led by John who put us through a Barramundis routine with the biggest warm-up circle ever seen (and finished off with a huge group hug), while Jimmy took charge after lunch.
On Saturday, the participants were divided into manageable groups, with each coach working with groups of around 20. The theme of the day was individual skills: people learned Canadian-style downfield defense from Alex, dump sets from Dylan, and how to time cuts from Cat. Participants rotated to the next coach every 30 minutes, and some minor themes emerged; Jimmy & Brett were meant to share a field on one side of a hedge but Brett snuck onto the main field, so Jimmy felt lonely and started to creep back towards everyone else. Meanwhile, Dylan just couldn’t get the timing right and was often caught out by the hooter (“Aw come on! Really?” at the five-minute warning, forcing him to rush the end of his session… I think he just enjoys talking), and Brett was just too kind to stop answering questions and tell his group to move on.
Lunchtime came quickly. A long queue of people making sandwiches and joining the competition to win the 4ft teddy bear formed. The sun was shining and everyone was having a great time.
On Sunday, I wanted to do something different, as well as give our coaches a chance to work with someone new, so our coaches paired up and worked with slightly larger groups for around one hour. Beau & Mish teamed up to teach team defense, Brett & Goose taught vertical stack patterns, Jimmy & Dylan worked on cutting as a team in horizontal stack, Mario & Cat taught how to time cutter movement with handler resets, while I got to work on “Hasami,” a Japanese team defense with Moe. Hasami means “scissors” in Japanese and is a coordinated defense of systematic poaching and switching that was really, really fun to learn. Even some intense downpours couldn’t dampen the mood, and we overran by an hour as people just couldn’t get enough. Maybe next time we’ll do three days.
What Did Players Think?
Here’s a few quotes from people who attended the clinic last weekend:
“Possibly the best day of my life. Meeting and talking to all those people which I look up to so much was absolutely incredible.”
“Overall this event was great for reminding me and understanding about the foundations of ultimate and having the chance to meet some outstanding players worldwide who cared about making sure I understood the different types of plays and formations to develop my game further in a very friendly and unstressful environment.”
“[Brummie’s] session on defensive movement was the most physically demanding, and perhaps eye opening from the weekend. It has changed the way I train and it will change the way I play”
“It’s worth pointing out that the selected coaches were not only the most popular players in the world but also really kind and approachable people in person. No sign of arrogance or being too good to coach a bunch of beginners.”
“Learned a huge amount, and had a humongous amount of fun. The coaches were some of the most humble and nicest people I have ever met (I don’t even think most of them realise just how much we idolise them), and were awesome teachers.”
“We’ve already used one of the drills from the weekend (Alex’s defence drill) at our university training!”
“All the coaches were down-to-earth, able to adapt to each player as well as sharing their personal top tips which were a great insight”.
Each of the coaches has written details & diagrams of their drills, and we will be loading everything onto Flik soon after WUGC. We had videographers on site so we’ll be able to add footage of the coaches talking, and the drills in action. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to stay informed as to when these will be available. Everyone who attended will be able to access the site for free once the content is ready; in my experience, retaining all of the information provided over the course of a weekend is very difficult so an online portal with that information will help them to remember exactly what was covered.
200 players + 12 coaches + 900 year old church + tiny English village + tons of food + warm weather + occasional downpours + some crazy warm-ups + lots of energy + amazing positivity + a friendly vicar + the world’s biggest crowd hug + fire alarms + discs + mud + one giant teddy bear = an unforgettable weekend. Thanks to all who came!
Photos by Andrew Moss & Graham Shellswell for The Show Game