Back to the Future for Players and Coaches

What questions should your team be asking after early season competition?

Pittsburgh En Sabah Nur at Florida Warm Up 2023. Photo: William “Brody” Brotman – Ultiphotos.com

This article is presented by the National Ultimate Training Camp! Still time to sign up for college and club coaches panel discussions. Claire Chastain, Rowan McDonnell, Miranda Roth Knowles and others will be sharing their insights and answering questions. Info at nutc.net.

Early tournaments are informational events. Results, whether they are good, bad or mixed, matter very little. Instead it is time to ask questions. Did we prepare well enough in practice? How is our team’s overall fitness level? How was our O-line’s defense and our D-line’s offense?

As teams discuss their first tournaments in online chats, through texts to the leaders and during car rides home, you need a structure to organize, value, and prioritize feedback. An intentional debrief of every team member will provide the clearest way to move forward.

Sample Player Debrief

Use these self-evaluations in whatever way makes sense for your team. I like to save all of them to track growth throughout the season. And sometimes year to year.

  • A. Rank each of these 1-6 with 1 = needs attention asap and 6 = got it for now.
    1. Warm-ups physical prep (sleep, food, stretching, enough time)
    2. Warm-ups mental prep (focus, energy, readiness)
    3. Offense Throwing (good timing, completions, seeing the field, breaking the mark)
    4. Offense Cutting (good timing, secured catches, continuation)
    5. Individual Defense (effective positioning, keeping the force, staying close)
    6. Team Defense (communication, head on a swivel, seeing the field)
    7. Sideline help/energy
    8. Overall fitness/lack of fatigue
  • B. What are 2-3 specific things you can improve by our next tournament? How can team leaders and teammates help you reach these goals?

Sample Coach Debrief

Use these questions for self-reflection and discussion with your leadership.

  • A. When your offense was struggling, what was happening? What might have caused it? Personnel? Execution? Choices? Did your D-line get the breaks they should?
  • B. How did your D-line play? Were they all on the same page when you were running different sets? How did your O-line recover when they turned it?
  • C. How did your playing time protocols work? What needs to be reworked? Better explained to the team?
  • D. How did your team handle adversity during games? Did they work to stay together or did they fall into the trap of blaming each other? The other team? Or you?

I could come up with another bunch of questions but these are more than enough for this point in the season. My guess is that if your team was struggling with the first two, you need to simplify your systems. Or revisit fundamentals. Or change up the lines. Don’t complicate things until you have a teamwide level of performance from almost everyone.

Challenges in C and D point to some culture issues. Both imply a lack of trust that you do not want to grow and fester. Again, it is early in the season and everything is fixable.

Putting together debriefs may feel like another thing to do as a coach. Yet doing these in the week after the tournament is an efficient use of everyone’s time. It’s a system for players to feel heard. It is a way for players to focus on their individual improvement and also works well as a basis for one-on-one talks. It provides data points for later on in the season. And it helps everyone on the team move forward.

Coaches always have the choice of what information to carry forth from early competitions. You do not want lingering problems from the first tournament to show up at the next. And you do not want to move forward with only your highlights either. Both are distractions. You want to arrive at the fields as the next version of your team, ready to meet all challenges, with a new sense of commitment and purpose.

  1. Tiina Booth
    Tiina Booth

    Tiina Booth is the director of the National Ultimate Training Camp and a co-coach of the University of Massachusetts men. She founded the Amherst Invitational in 1992 and co-founded Junior Nationals in 1998. In 2006, she published a book about ultimate with Michael Baccarini, entitled Essential Ultimate. She has coached teams to numerous national and international titles. Her ongoing passion is sports psychology, and she offers clinics to coaches of ultimate and other sports. Tiina will be inducted into the Ultimate Hall of Fame at USAU Club Nationals in October of 2018.

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