Ultiworld Club Awards 2023: Coach(es) of the Year (Men’s Div.)

The masterminds behind the division's best teams

Ultiworld is pleased to announce our annual Club Awards. While we consider both regular season and postseason performance, because of the nature of the Club division, we weight success in the Series and at Nationals above all else. The Club Awards are voted on by Ultiworld reporters, contributors, and editors.

The Coach(es) of the Year closes our annual awards. As so many teams have added more and more sideline-savvy consultants to their roster with less asked of a single head coach, this has essentially morphed into “Coaching Staff of the Year.” Coaches can impact the game in so many ways — tactics, motivation, communication, personnel management, program development, skill-building, etc. — and it can be hard to divine what exactly each has contributed to their team. But good coaching is something that we feel that “we know it when we see it.”

Player of the Year Award
All-Club First Team
All-Club Second Team
Defensive Player of the Year Award
Offensive Player of the Year Award
Breakout Player of the Year Award
Coach(es) of the Year Award
Club Awards Voting Breakdown
Snubs and Superlatives


 

2023 Men’s Division Coach(es) of the Year

James Highsmith, Kevin Yngve, Alex Champe, and Joey Kennedy (Chicago Machine)

Chicago Machine coaches Kevin Yngve (left) and James Highsmith (right) at the 2023 Club Championships. Photo: William “Brody” Brotman – UltiPhotos.com

Machine have had the talent to push for a championship for a few years now. The core of the team in 2021 and 2022 greatly resembled the 2019 unit that made the National final. The results lagged behind when it counted though, with quarterfinal exits that felt far below the team’s ceiling. A reset, refresh, and recommitment were in order – so Kevin Yngve and Joey Kennedy went back to the drawing board, brought in a couple more coaching savants in the form of James Highsmith and Alex Champe, and refurbished Machine.

The results of their tinkering were a couple of major recruiting coups (Connor McHale and Malik Auger-Semmar), a retooled offense that offered more prescribed moments for deep cutting from the whole unit while still giving Joe White, Keegan North, and Pawel Janas plenty of kitchen-space to cook, and a defense re-energized by placing more trust in the team’s younger playmakers (Jace Bruner, Jeff Gao, Ben Preiss, Tim Schoch). They were more adaptable point to point and more adaptable game to game: their willingness to shuttle two-way stars like Johnny Bansfield and Nate Goff between lines depending on matchups was one of the key reasons for their success at Nationals.

It takes a lot of effort to break a team’s inertia. It takes a lot of honesty to look at it and judge it fairly. It takes a lot of buy-in to keep a 25-plus person unit coordinated and upbeat. Kudos, plaudits, laurels to Machine’s crack staff, then – and a well-deserved Coach of the Year award.

– Edward Stephens

First Runner-up

Alex Crew and Lauren Boyle (Washington DC Truck Stop)

Washington DC Truck Stop coaches Alex Crew (left) and Lauren Boyle (right) at the 2023 Club Championships. Photo: Kevin Leclaire – UltiPhotos.com

What is left to be said about the job that Alex Crew and Lauren Boyle did to set the foundation for Truck Stop’s championship? The offense continued the dazzling flamenco dance that saw so much success in 2022. The defense – an underappreciated unit last season – was the deepest and best in the country. They plucked the regular season’s crown jewel by grinding rivals PoNY to paste at Pro Champs. They showed the ability to re-center themselves after two potentially de-stabilizing losses in pool play, not to mention the single most bizarre moment of the year after the strip controversy in quarters. To top it all off, they entered the national final against Machine without Crew, who was injured while being chased by a dog the morning of the final and did not get back from the hospital until the second half. The preparation – and Boyle’s cool head – showed itself in full plumage in his absence as the team didn’t miss a beat, soaring to the program’s first championship.

– Edward Stephens

Second Runner-up

Sam Lehman and Jake Smart (Boston DiG)

Boston DiG at the 2023 Club Championships. Photo: Kevin Leclaire – UltiPhotos.com

We’ve all had that thought: college ultimate was so sick. What if I got all of my goons from [insert your place of higher learning here] together and we ran it back in club? We would be so good/it would at least temporarily fill the hole in my being left by college ultimate that I have yet to get over.

For most of us, these dreams are folly, but Jake Smart and Sam Lehman are pulling it off. The duo that coached Brown University to a title in 2019 have brought several of the key pieces from Brown, along with their disciplined offensive focus to bear in the club division. A whirring offense that keys off of smart front of stack movement and a defense that combines intelligent poaching with big play ability has Boston DiG back near the top of the men’s division after a shock defeat at Regionals in 2022.

– Patrick Stegemoeller

  1. Edward Stephens
    Edward Stephens

    Edward Stephens has an MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College. He writes and plays ultimate in Athens, Georgia.

  2. Patrick Stegemoeller
    Avatar

    Patrick Stegemoeller is a Senior Staff Writer for Ultiworld, co-host of the Sin The Fields podcast, and also a lawyer who lives in Brooklyn.

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