Sunday, January 22, 2012

Midwest Captaining 101 Clinic Recap

What a weekend. 12 hours of clinic time split between the fieldhouse, auxiliary gym, and classroom. 6 coaches. 65 players representing over a dozen teams in attendance.

For an outline of the weekend, check out:

At the beginning of the weekend, I encouraged players to come to the clinic with an open mind and to be willing to listen to and learn from players with backgrounds different than their own. The coaches did a great job at covering an incredible breadth and depth of information. Seeing players furiously taking notes on the knowledge being dropped by the coaches was awesome. The players were SO engaged, and asked lots of really thoughtful questions. It was really inspiring to see such a desire to learn from these players.

Robyn teaching a session on "Team Structure and Developing a Team Identity"

The majority of the players in attendance at the clinic play for teams that are uncoached. The captains and team leaders shoulder a tremendous amount of responsibility developing a vision for the season, planning practices, taking on administrative tasks, etc. While some knowledge is passed on from year to year, many of these players struggle to figure out how to get their team to the next level. Our goal with this clinic was to equip these players with more tools to lead their teams, covering topics such as basic O / D fundamentals (and how to teach them), practice planning, matchups and game-time adjustments, how to get the most out of the players you have, among many other things.

Our coaches have played at the highest levels of the sport, and have wide range of backgrounds, from helping grow young college women's teams to coaching and captaining elite college teams to captaining elite club teams. While none of us claim to be an expert, our experiences over the years have helped shape us into the players and leaders we are today, and our hope was to share that with these younger players.

Over the course of the weekend, we also had the opportunity to meet on a more individual basis with the leaders of several teams including Oberlin and Grinnell. What a joy and privilege to interact with players with such vision for their teams and such passion for our sport. THIS is why we do what we do!

Paige Hill, one of the captains of the Grinnell women's team, was the driving force behind the clinic, organizing all of the on-the-ground logistics. The Grinnell men and women were also gracious enough to offer free housing for everyone who needed it. A huge thank you to them for their hard work, as well as to all of the coaches and players who made this weekend such an awesome, rewarding experience. The future of ultimate in the Midwest is bright thanks to so many invested players and leaders, and we look forward to watching all of these players lead their teams to glory this season!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Pre-Midwest Captaining Clinic Thoughts

I was thinking back to the first time I met the Grinnell girls at Midwest Warmup in Fall 2009. I had gathered a bunch of team leaders in an ice cream shop on Saturday night to talk about how to grow women's ultimate in the South and Midwest. Wisconsin, Michigan, Texas, Kansas, and Illinois were all represented-- these were all teams I knew well and had worked with in the past. On a bit of a whim, I extended an invite to the other teams at the tournament, and the Grinnell girls showed up.

At first, there was a lot of talk about how to develop events in the region like Midwest Throwdown and Women's College Centex into more competitive events. Most of the talk was about the elite teams and how we needed to work together to get on a more level playing field with the West Coast teams. At some point, the conversation shifted and one of the Grinnell girls talked a bit about her team's perspective. It was eye-opening to listen to her talk about the need for us to invest in teams like hers, how they wanted to learn from us, and how they didn't have club players or many resources to help them. She said that when she wished playing elite teams was more of a learning experience and that it would be cool if we would give them tips on how to improve. I remember being half-incredulous and asking, "So you wouldn't be insulted by that?!" And her response was, "How else are we going to learn?"
I left that meeting challenged and humbled, realizing that it wasn't enough to create a few well-run events. There are countless teams on the fringe of those events, who want to improve, but who have relatively few resources to do so... that's how the first Roundup Division was born.

1.5 years after that ice cream shop meeting, Grinnell made Quarterfinals at D-III Nationals, which is quite an accomplishment.
Their hard work and determination to build a program have brought them a long way. They have created opportunities, and have done a phenomenal job of turning those opportunities into success.

Largely thanks to the efforts of Grinnell captain, Paige Hill, I am sitting on a couch in Iowa
, getting ready to run a Captaining Clinic for 64 college captains and team leaders in the Midwest this weekend. This spring, Grinnell will also be participating in Roundup Division v. 2.0, this time in Virginia. This time, we'll be more than tripling the number of teams and guest coaches-- it's overwhelming to plan and fundraise for, but if even a small number of teams get something out of it, it'll be well worth it.

This weekend should be fun. I'm prepping the coaches' notes for printing, and wow, there is some good stuff. It should be a great kickoff for a crazy spring. Stay tuned to Facebook and Twitter for updates, and I'll try to get a recap posted after the event as well.