I’ve been playing Ultimate for 19 years and I love it. Every time I touch a disc or survey the field, I feel the thrill of adrenaline. However, much of my Ultimate career has focused on something other than playing. Many of the hours I spend on the field are not for myself; rather, they’re focused on mentoring and inspiring a growing group of young enthusiasts.
As the holidays approach, perhaps you plan to make a charitable donation to your local Ultimate organization working to grow our sport. Your financial support is critical, but keep in mind, giving money isn’t the only way you can give back to the Ultimate community. Consider stepping up to the plate in a very special way — coaching!
The Ultimate community likes to talk a big talk about how important it is to promote, legitimize and bring visibility to the sport. We go on about the Olympics, pro-leagues and TV coverage, but we often forget that the future of Ultimate depends on the next generation of coaches. Exposure and infrastructure are essential, but ultimately teachers are the pivotal figures that will transmit their knowledge and passion to future generations of Ultimate players.
Where will those hundreds or thousands of kids intrigued by this new game find the context to learn and grow? Who will instill the basics of getting open, playing as a team and dealing with an opponent’s foul call? Role models and coaches are key to determining what kind of athletes kids will become. As you well know, passion for a sport can deeply influence people’s lives. Think about the countless ways the Ultimate community has impacted your life off of the field — perhaps helping find a new job, making friends in a new city or meeting your spouse or partner.
Parents, teachers and Ultimate players — the future of our sport depends on you! Opportunities are endless and commitment levels are flexible: volunteering during a clinic or youth program, working as a counselor at a summer camp, helping organize team parent meetings, assisting coaches or taking the lead by starting a new team. You can choose!
Getting involved in youth Ultimate is also very rewarding. No, you won’t get rich, but working with kids provides unparalleled experiences. But you don’t have to take it from me. Consider this account from Kyle McBard, a club player who decided a few years ago to dedicate her time to help coach Berkeley High School:
“It is incredibly inspiring and rewarding to see high schoolers and middle schoolers comport themselves with such a high level of integrity and respect (for themselves, their teammates, their opponents and the game as a whole), while also bringing a high level of passion and enthusiasm. These kids are the future of the game and its community, and it is one of my greatest pleasures to be so directly involved. Also, they’re just wonderful kids and incredible people, and they are absolutely hysterical to be around.”
Kyle is not alone. Robert Srinivasiah, a South Bay club Ultimate player and recent addition to the Bay Area Disc Board of Directors, had a similar experience coaching youth Ultimate:
“It’s really wonderful to help other players learn and implement new skills, and then see them use them on the field. On top of that, I was genuinely surprised to learn that the kids themselves are wonderful people. They consistently impress me with their enthusiasm, humor and warmth for their teammates and other teams. Coaching has really opened my eyes to kind of impact individuals can have on others.”
I’ll be honest. Coaching isn’t always easy. It requires dedication, enthusiasm, perseverance — and lots of patience. But when I see in kids’ eyes that same excitement and exhilaration I experience while playing Ultimate, I know it’s worth every minute. So reach out to your local disc organization and get involved today!
Youth Director, Bay Area Disc Association
Here are three great opportunities to get involved with coaching and Bay Area youth Ultimate this winter:
- USA Ultimate Coaching Workshop – Level I January 18, 2014 – Marin, CA
This full day workshop includes an ethics workshop and quality instructional methods for teaching basic skills and running a practice. Coaches who participate in this workshop will be eligible for USAU Level I certification after passing a background check and an online assessment.
- Youth Ultimate Coaching Conference February 1, 2014 – Oakland, CA
YUCC is a full-day forum for discussing today’s relevant and pressing issues, networking, and getting inspired from some of the best coaches in the country! Topics include growing the sport, leveraging after school programs, using Spirit to teach conflict resolution and prevent bullying, new resources for player development & skills curricula and teaching methods for different gender and age groups.
- Coaches’ Meeting and Captains’ game February 16, 2014 – Berkeley, CA
Local coaches and captains are invited to connect and talk about the upcoming spring season. The program includes a “High School Captains” game and a “Coaches vs. High School Captains” game. A great way to chase off the winter chill, share team goals and make new friends before the season starts!
Photo credits: Kimberly Kauer and UltiPhotos