Sunday, November 13, 2011

Texas Captaining 101 Clinic:: Recap

For some background on how this clinic came about, read this blog post.

After nearly missing my flight thanks to a combination of traffic, the Pike's Peak parking lot being full, and an incredibly slow shuttle bus, I hopped on a plane to DFW for Without Limits' first Captaining 101 Clinic. Upon my arrival, Laura Weinman (clinic organizer and Hot Mess captain) picked me up curbside and helped me load my bags of clinic supplies into her car. It was the first time we had ever met in person, and we both laughed about the fact that we had organized a clinic for 40+ players through email and text messages.

The weekend was an incredible experience, and no recap can do it justice. We had players from over half a dozen different schools, including schools all over Texas, as well as a player from Yale and two players from Loyola. To have players flying in for this was both thrilling and terrifying, as we certainly felt the pressure of trying to create an amazing weekend for them. It turns out that one of the girls from Chicago plays on the club team I started four years ago in the Bay Area, so that was a pretty cool reminder of how small and tight-knit the ultimate community is, no matter where we are. We also had two open players in attendance- both of them are trying to help grow women's ultimate at their respective schools. I was very impressed with both young men, and it was a privilege to have them at our clinic.

Laura was the undoubtedly the driving force behind this clinic, but we were also fortunate to have the help and support of a number of other people. Traci Popejoy (UT-Dallas captain) helped us secure fields and assisted Laura with a number of other behind-the-scenes logistics. Local players helped us house many of the out-of-town players, and three players from Showdown, Holly Greunke, Shelby Kuni, and Rachel Massey, served as coaches for the weekend. Showdown also donated a number of jerseys to the clinic, Flashflight donated some discs, and VC Ultimate donated a hat for each participant. Jimmy John's gave us a discount on lunch for Saturday, and we had plenty of Emergen-C to pass out. Our local organizers, sponsors, and coaches made this clinic possible, and helped to create an awesome weekend for our participants.

Holly and Shelby lead the players through an active warmup

A bullet point summary of our weekend:
- Fundamental Skills Stations (Offense and Defense)
-- Broke down essential ultimate skills into their fundamental components
-- Taught leaders how to teach these skills
-- Equipped leaders with new drills to take back to their teams
- Power Stations
-- Fitness- track, agility, and strength with an emphasis on how to do this with younger / smaller team
-- Throwing and catching- drills to improve these two crucial skills
-- Drills and games to improve players' level of comfort with the disc
-- 3 v. 3- how to get everyone involved on the field
- Focused Scrimmaging- how to play with a purpose
- Team Defense Concepts- how to run a variety of zone Ds for maximum effectiveness
- Building A Program
-- Recruiting and retention
-- How to shape a season
-- Practice planning
-- Going from team to program

Afternoon zone D chalk talk

I was floored by the overall ability and athleticism of the group, as well as how engaged players were over the course of the weekend. We did over 12 hours of teaching, and the focus from the group was outstanding. I was amazed, inspired, and humbled by all of the players and coaches this weekend. The South Region has come a long way over the past five years, and I know that with leaders and players like those who attended our clinic this weekend, the best is yet to come.

A few quotes from the evaluations we did at the end of the clinic:
"Thank you so much! Best weekend of ultimate in a long time. I'm super pumped to take this back to my team and help us grow together."
"Thank you guys so much. I can't tell you how much this helps me as a captain. I needed this."
"Sweet clinic! Love it! Do it again!"
"Great job! Loved y'all and think you are doing a great thing for the ultimate community."
"Thank you! I rarely have the opportunity to learn about ultimate from such experienced players and when you have to teach a lot, you sometimes lose focus on your own improvement. This clinic gave me new ideas about how to improve my game, so it was inspiring!!"

And the icing on the cake? All of the profits from this clinic are being donated to Smith College to help bring in guest coaches for their spring tournament, Virginia is for Layouts. Not only did we have a blast in Dallas this weekend, but we raised money to make another incredible weekend of development happen this spring!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Silver Level Sponsor #1: University of North Carolina-Wilmington Seaweed

Full disclaimer: I worked with University of North Carolina-Wilmington Seaweed this past spring to run Women's College Easterns and am friends with a number of their players.

Seaweed is the first college team to step up and sponsor a coach for Virginia is for Layouts. My relationship with the Wilmington girls started about a year and a half ago during some tenuous spring tournament interactions. When captain Claire Chastain emailed me last fall to ask for some advice about Easterns, their home tournament, I wasn't sure if I should take her seriously. She emailed me a few times and I kind of shrugged things off as my plate was already more than full for the spring. At Club Nationals, 5th year Kelly Tidwell sought me out and introduced herself to me, asking me to at least have a conversation with her team about their tournament. Being a softie, and impressed by their persistence, I agreed. I laid out many of my doubts in a video conference call with some of their team leaders (none of whom I had ever met in person), and found them to be more than receptive to what I had to say.

Claire summarized last year's experience working on Easterns and how that impacted Seaweed's decision to sponsor a coach:
Last year we reached out to zziNG (Editor's note: funny, Claire...) about Women's Easterns, which at the time, was a 10-12 team regional tournament. She knew about our reputation among the women's ultimate community but decided to work with us despite it and together we made Easterns a competitive tournament that drew teams west of the Mississippi for the first time in years. Not only did it provide another competitive tournament for us to play in but it helped raise funds that helped towards Nationals expenses. After Easterns, Michelle talked to us about paying it forward because she wouldn't take money or fortune cookies (Editor's note: Not all Asians like fortune cookies.) as payment and when this opportunity to give back arose, we jumped on board.

The past year has been a year of learning and growing, both for Seaweed and for myself. I've pushed them hard on their relationships with other teams, and despite my initial skepticism, I've found them to be loyal and loving bunch. They're hard on me, but in working on Easterns, I feel like I gained a handful of little sisters who love to give me a headache, but who also make me incredibly proud. Though they've been quiet recently, their Twitter feed is quite entertaining (@SeaweedUltimate) and if you get a chance to catch the Claire, Kelly, Sara Casey trio playing with Phoenix this fall, you should do so. One of the more rewarding moments of last spring was a Melee-Seaweed dinner at Flaming Amy's Burrito Barn at Easterns. Lots of socializing, good food, and plenty of making fun of me from both sides-- not something I ever could have even dreamed would happen.

This week, I put out a call to all of the 2010 Club Nationals teams, 2011 D-I College Nationals teams, and 2011 College Centex teams to step up and sponsor a coach for Layouts. I feel like these are the teams who either 1) have the most to give and/or 2) have benefited the most from Without Limits' work. Playing elite level ultimate is a huge investment of time and money, and I know most teams struggle to get people to practices and pay for their own uniforms and travel. Any investment in Roundup will certainly be above and beyond the call of duty for these teams.

I'll admit to being slightly surprised at Seaweed being the first team to step up. They're not a team rolling around in money and I've known most of them for less than a year. Claire had this to say about working with Without Limits and why Seaweed believes in what we're doing:

Without Limits sponsored our home tournament last year and every other Spring tournament we attended (Centex/Queen City Tune-Up). These were by far the most competitive tournaments of the regular season, every tournament played made us a more nationally competitive team helping us finish the regular season ranked 3rd and reaching Quarters at College Nationals. We believe in Without Limits' mission to advance women's ultimate because we've seen firsthand the impact they've made in women's college programs like our own. The coverage of women's college ultimate in the past has been almost non-existent, but WL has put a spotlight on teams and players outside of the typical powerhouses, up and coming teams/players who would've previously been unheard of and given them the opportunity to play at competitive tournaments or developmental tournaments with skills clinics to give them resources to take back to their teams and build their program.

So, what is Seaweed's vision for the future of women's ultimate?

Women's ultimate is on the rise and the more competition at tournaments as well as overall advances in skill among women playing will close the competitive gap. Right now, there's a more than a handful of teams that can compete on a national level, but by building teams in the developmental division/regionally competitive teams via skills clinics and tournaments focused on building teams/programs. The tournaments that WL sponsors that bring in coaches who play on a national scale who will coach and teach skills clinics will increase the quantity and quality of women playing ultimate and grow the division altogether.

Thank you, Seaweed, for everything you've taught me, and for investing in the future of college women's ultimate. FTB.