The Grapevine U23 Special

Here come the Irish

IFDA, Ireland, Irish Ultimate, news, Open, womens

Aidan Kelly outlines the strength and impending invasion from Irish Ultimate.

There’s an invasion coming. A red-hot fury is coming from the west of the UK and it’s heading straight for the Ultimate field. Board up your changing rooms, tie down your endzone lines and lock up your significant others because the Irish are running riot.

A few weeks ago, UKU announced the significant news that from 2017 onward, they would be inviting a number of Irish teams to UK Nationals. This is in line with Ireland switching region for the European Ultimate Championship Regionals (EUCR). Up until this year, we Irish had been part of the southern region, comically grouping us with our ‘neighbours’ Switzerland, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Israel. Historically, this arrangement has been a burden to teams who that qualified for EUCR, as they have found it tough to afford the surprisingly heavy and awkward journey to Italy.

irish

EUCF 2016 – the Irish teams: PELT and Rebel

EUCF, EUCF2016, IFDA, Irish Ultimate, Mixed, Open, Pelt Ultimate, Previews, Rebel Ultimate

As part of our series previewing EUCF, certified Irishman Aidan Kelly looks into the condition of Ireland’s two representatives in Frankfurt; Rebel in the Mixed division, and PELT in the Open division.

There is a strange feeling of optimism in Irish Ultimate these days. Fresh from some fantastic international results at both WUGC and WJUC, as well as UKU Tour, our small nation feels like they really can take on the world when it comes to our fair sport. However, historically, no matter how successful a year we’ve had, there has always been one event that we couldn’t stamp our mark on, until 2016: Euros.

The 2016 Irish national champions, PELT

PELT overcome Ranelagh and weight of history to become Irish national champions

An Irish Eye, IFDA, Ireland, Irish Ultimate, Pelt Ultimate, Ranelagh

Lorcan Murray reviews the action last weekend in Limerick as PELT stormed to an unlikely, cathartic championship on home soil.

After several years of close calls and an uninvited moniker for stress-induced asphyxiation, PELT have claimed their first national title. The Limerick lads emerged victorious from a virile performance in the final on home turf against national bad guys (and actually fairly sound blokes) Ranelagh.

Keith Mernagh, one of Ranelagh's contingent on the Irish National team, against Australia at WUGC. Photo by Danny Ryle

Irish Nationals preview: can anyone stop Ranelagh?

#IRL, An Irish Eye, IFDA, Ireland, Irish Ultimate

In his ShowGame debut, Lorcan Murray previews Irish Nationals this weekend.

Limerick, High Lady of the Shannon and the Celtic Tiger’s forgotten daughter will once again open her walls to welcome Ireland’s finest disc dancers onto her fertile fields. Though this intrusion will be borne on the opposite end of the club season to that which she is accustomed, rest assured precise execution and intense competition remain defining aspects of her Siege mentality.

Dublin Coaching & Skills Clinic

Brummie, Coaching, Colonel, IFDA, UKU Coaching Courses

Sion “Brummie” Scone tells us about how the ESC in Dublin went down.

Recently, Daniel “Colonel” Furnell and I headed to Dublin to work with the next generation of Irish players and coaches. Following my interview with Mark Earley on Ultimate Interviews, I was approached by David Rickard, President of the Irish Flying Disc Association (IFDA), in March with the idea of running a version of the Elite Skills Clinic in Ireland at some point. 

Brummie coaching the GB World Games team in Cali. Photo courtesy of Isabela Vivas.



However, nothing is quite so simple as just repeating a previous session; instead, Rickard wanted us to focus on working with the elite level players and also to work on developing a small group of coaches, with the ultimate aim of a self-sustaining coaching community. Coach the coaches, and be sure to include some innovative tactics. No small ask considering neither of us had ever done anything like this! 

Fortunately, Colonel and I are both UKU Coach Educators and so have experience delivering the Level 1 coaching course, and I was heavily involved in developing the Level 2 coaching course. We weren’t really aiming to repeat either of these, but instead to take a few key points, and instead focus on content beyond the level of either of the UKU courses. As such, those present for the Dublin weekend had a preview of what the Level 3 content might one day look like just two weeks before the first Level 2 course it taught! Between teaching our own skills masterclass, introducing some new concepts to our coaches and letting them loose, then performing tactical reviews of performance on the fly. We crammed in a huge amount in two days; fortunately, all of our coaches showed never-ending patience, and they were also lucky enough to have 25 very keen players who seemed to have boundless enthusiasm. Finally, we’d had the sense to use an indoor 3G venue on the weekend that a huge storm passed overhead! All in all, it proved to be very fun and hopefully extremely useful, and it has certainly helped to ignite some discussion about the future of the UKU coaching courses. 

[ED] Here is what some of the people who went thought about it:

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I personally really enjoyed the weekend. It was a fantastic experience not only learning from the two GB lads but getting to train and go through drills with different players than the ones I usually do. The atmosphere was relaxed but it was clear everyone was there to learn and take as much as they can from the clinic.

If this was to ever happen again I’d be the first to sign up. It’s great to have a new set of eyes look at players in Irish Ultimate and get us all to learn new techniques and tactics. I feel I’ve learnt more in two days than 4-5 months of training sessions, and I’m glad that myself and other players can go back to their respective clubs and colleges with what they’ve taken in.
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Yes the weekend was fantastic. It should definitely be run again if possible and there should be a lot more hype about it. I don’t know anyone that didn’t enjoy it or learn something really useful from it. Keith was almost not going to go and was incredibly glad he did. So I think more of a description about the calibre of the coaches and quoting people’s positive feedback from this weekend next time might help stress how great an opportunity it is…
… people who were properly invested in the weekend were really receptive and enthusiastic about it all. I think they worked really hard and showed Brummie and Colonel a lot of respect.
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I thought the skills clinic was excellent, really benefited from it. I definitely think you should do it again. … The GB lads ran really good drills, explained them well and when they had the coaches running things I thought they did a great job too. … I can only see Irish Ultimate benefitting from this in the future…
Thanks for organising it all.

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I was quite happy with the clinic. Gave me some ideas and alternate views on certain aspects.
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Yea, it was good craic, the lads were very qualified and provided a refreshing approach to a few new drills.
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I was very happy with it. I would highly recommend that it is repeated. The content and the coaches were great!!
All in all I was delighted with the weekend.
Thanks for organizing it.
Brummie and Colonel taking silver at WUGC 2012 in Sakai. Photo courtesy of Dan Furnell.
Interested in more info? Drop Brummie a line, particularly if you’d like a skills clinic catering to your precise requirements run for your team or a small group of coaches.
DP @ tSG

Elite Skills Clinic for Dublin

An Irish Eye, Coaching, ESC, IFDA, UK Ultimate
In anticipation of the upcoming Dublin Elite Skills Clinic, Mark Earley interviews the coaches as well as president of the Irish Flying Disc Association for The ShowGame.

Next weekend Sion ‘Brummie’ Scone and Daniel ‘Colonel’ Furnell are travelling to Dublin to coach players and coaches alike. This is the first time such a clinic has taken place outside of the UK. We spoke to Brummie about his coaching, about the start of Elite Skills Clinics, about how the trip to Dublin came about and what his plans are for the weekend in question.


TSG: When did your focus switch from playing to coaching and why?
SS: 2010; it was time for another GB cycle, but I wasn’t really interested in getting involved unless there was a different approach than we’d had in the past.  It was my opinion that basic skills – even at the top teams – were too poor to allow GB to compete when it mattered most.  I therefore wanted to coach the team, to make sure things were done properly, even if that meant that I didn’t get to play. 

TSG: What in your opinion is the most important facet of coaching?
 SS: An analytical mind.  I actually think that people who aren’t “naturally good” players – but who are good players – tend to make good coaches, because they have to learn what to do and work out where they have gone wrong in the past.  Watching ultimate is also important, but with an analytic perspective; how does that cutter get open, how does that defender always get a block, etc.  By watching footage and looking exclusively at a single player, you are able to watch them set up their movements a long time before they actually make a play.  Take that away and teach it, and everyone learns that skill.  I think between all of the players in the UK, our collective knowledge is probably just as good as anywhere else in the world, I just think we’re really bad at collaborating and sharing that knowledge.

TSG: How long have the Elite Skills Clinics (ESCs) been taking place? How did they first come about?
SS: Ever since 2005 I’ve been running free skills days, and attracting up to 100 players at a time to listen to me talk about ultimate fundamentals.  It made me realise that there was a real lack of information out there, so I started thinking about whether people would be interested in an entire weekend of instruction.  Initially I thought about trying to coax 40 players into a field for a weekend back in 2010.  I turned to a few of the people I’d met on Team USA (notably Jolian Dahl and Dylan Tunnell) for a bit of advice on how to run a dedicated weekend clinic, and, because it was WUCC in Prague that year, I ended up asking them to come over and help me run it.

“Elite Skills Clinic” was born; the aim being to transfer the elite-level skills to those who wouldn’t normally get the opportunity to learn these things. I strongly believe that people need to know how to do things well if they want to improve, and while you can sit and watch a video on how to throw better, the video can’t look at you and tell you where you’re going wrong.

Anyway, getting some frisbee celebrities helped me to market the event, plus I’d get to watch these guys do some coaching and learn a little about how they do things.  In the end, so many people wanted to come that I got another 8 players from the USA to come and I was relegated to water-boy!  It did mean I got to go and listen to them all talk, which was really useful as a coach, and the 185 people who turned up really enjoyed themselves.

We’ve repeated the clinic every year since.  I quickly realised that there wasn’t really a “magic bullet” that the US players had in terms of knowledge, but rather that all of them had a really well-rounded understanding of every facet of the game. Because of this, I feel confident that I can give just as good a coaching experience as a top US player, without the travel costs.  If you asked them how to do A, B or C, there’s a 90% chance they’d all tell you pretty much the same thing.  I think our frisbee education here in Europe just isn’t as detailed, people tend to pick up bits and bobs but there are skills gaps everywhere.  Even when I work with the GB Open team or GB World Games squad, I have to go over fundamentals with some people. 

When we get to the point where someone running a GB team knows that their players will have sound throwing skills, a solid mark, know how to play effective man defence, etc etc, then we’re going to see a huge leap in the level that we can play at.  And it starts with the people with aspirations for being better.  That’s all I say: “if you want to be a better player, come to ESC”.  I guarantee I can teach you something about ultimate that will improve your game, but people have to realise that they are not the best they can be yet and they still have things to learn; an open mind is crucial in the coaching process.

I initally thought that I’d attract the likes of GB U23, and the next generation of people aiming for GB Open.  In fact, we ended up with mostly B & C Tour players.  This is because those players are generally uncoached, so they have a real need to learn.  Of course, I’d love to attract the next generation of GB talent as I think that a few coaching tweaks can have a profound effect, and I’d love to give GB 2015 a head start; anyone who is unsure is invited to ask any of the GB Open squad for a frank and honest opinion of my coaching!


TSG: What do you see as the main difference between coaching in the UK and in the US?
SS: US club teams have non-playing coaches.  UK teams do not, by and large.  In fact, I’m struggling to think of any… Until we develop a coaching culture, we’ll always be stumbling in the dark, one step behind.  Fortunately, the UKU realised that a long time ago and took steps to resolve it.

TSG: Do you think the importing of US coaches is a good thing or perhaps damaging to UK Ultimate?
SS: I don’t think it is necessary at all, but while UK clubs do not analyse their own play and those of their (prospective) opponents, there will always be a need to get access to good coaches who are capable of doing this.  Besides, if you are a UK-based player and don’t happen to play for one of the handful of teams who has access to a coach who has played at a high level, then it’s highly likely that they won’t have access to anyone who can actually teach them something.  As I said previously, RiseUP and similar resources are fantastic, but they can’t watch you throw and give you feedback.  There will always be a need for good coaches.
Sion Scone gets up and over Sweden for GB Open


TSG: In just over a week you and Colonel are heading to Dublin to deliver a Clinic, a first for you. Looking forward to it?
SS: Absolutely!  I’ve never actually been to Ireland, quite an oversight considering I have been to Canada, USA, Australia, Japan, Taiwan, Colombia and all over Europe playing Ultimate.

TSG: How will the Dublin clinic differ from any you’ve given before? What are you planning to cover?
SS: The focus is on developing coaches as well as players, so we have a 50/50 split between throwing fundamentals, teaching methods for improvement when breaking the mark, field awareness, new tactics / approaches, how to design and teach new drills, analysing team performances, designing and implementing tactical adjustments mid-game… it’s going to be very busy, and we’re going to throw the coaches in at the deep end.  Hopefully everyone who attends will get what they want from the weekend, I’m certainly excited about some of the content that Colonel and I have put together.

TSG: What are the long term goals of the ESCs?
SS: Developing better educated and more rounded players.  Those who I’ve coached for any period of time I would like to hope have learnt some new skills, techniques or tactical knowledge as a result.  ESC is all about exposure to new ideas and methods of how to do stuff, so just attending one weekend isn’t going to make someone into a world class player, it’s the process of practising those skills over a long period of time that will make the difference.  And if they can take that to their clubs and spread it, perfect.  If we can also develop more coaches, then I think we are in a great position.  I am waiting for the day that I see someone performing a skill well and they say “I learnt that from someone who went to ESC” 🙂  We can work as hard as possible, but a bit of knowledge goes a long way, and I’d like to see the level of play consistently improving in the UK as a result of the UKU’s coaching schemes.  ESC forms part of that vision.


We also spoke to David Rickard, the current President of the Irish Flying Disc Association about Irish Ultimate and where he thinks it will grow in the future. David, or Rickard as he is known, has been a part of Irish national teams as well as being a central administrative leader over the past decade in Irish Ultimate. He has seen how much Irish Ultimate has benefited from UK Ultimate over that timespan and is excited about what Brummie and Colonel are bringing to Dublin next weekend.


TSG: Roughly how many players are there in Irish Ultimate at the moment? How does that compare to previous years?
DR: There are currently 400 people playing Club Ultimate, with probably a couple of hundred people playing weekly in schools and colleges but not directly registered as members, and many more playing casually or having been introduced to the sport in school.

TSG: Where has the main area of growth been recently? What do you put that down to?
DR: Juniors and Youth. We had five teams at U23, U20 and U17 level this year, where five years ago we would have been lucky to have 1 or 2. I think most of the growth has come from club and college players working directly with local schools (particularly the work done by UCC, Dublin Youth Ultimate, and Mark Earley in Gonzaga College).

TSG: In terms of coaching schemes, how does the IFDA qualify coaches at the moment?
DR: We don’t have Irish Sports Council recognition (but we are working on it!), and so don’t have a Coaching Ireland framework. We currently license the UKU Level 1 coaching course, having sent a number of players over to the UK to qualify as Coach Educators.

TSG: Links with the UKU are very strong. How does Ireland benefit from these links?
DR: We owe a huge debt to the UKU, both as an institution and a community. We (the IFDA) have been able to learn a lot from their structures and organisation, while the player base has been able to find top quality, reliable and well organised tournaments on our doorstep. Ultimate in Ireland is a minority sport on a relatively sparsely populated island – travelling to find good competitions was always going to be likely. To find a competitive structure reaching to the highest level only an hour away, and one which welcomes our participation at practically every level, has been invaluable. It has given our teams something to aim for and something to measure ourselves against.

IFDA President – David Rickard


TSG: In a couple of weeks two of the UK’s best coaches are coming to Dublin. What is the aim of their visit? And, how did it come about?
DR: We’re delighted to have Sion Scone and Dan Furnell coming over to Dublin. The aim of the weekend is two-fold: to run a high-level skills clinic for our upcoming college and young international players, and to take advantage of the coaches’ expertise by including some sessions working with our own coaches. With the emphasis on grassroots ultimate over recent years we felt we wanted to pitch something at the players on the other end of the spectrum, and the Elite Skills Clinics run by the UKU were what we had in mind. Most of our teams, meanwhile, are being coached by young player-coaches and we felt it would be good to let them learn from the experience of some of the best coaches around. While the idea – bring someone in from outside our own ecosystem to throw some new information at our coaches and players – has been around for a while, eventually it came down to someone just getting on the phone to Brummie!

TSG: Where do you think Irish Ultimate is going over the next few years?
DR: I think it will be unrecognisable, just like it has changed so much in the decade or so I’ve been playing. Our player numbers are growing, our organisation is becoming more streamlined and professional, and I’d expect us to obtain Irish Sports Council recognition within the year. Every season sees more new clubs and schools playing the sport (colleges having been the mainstay for so long) and we’re finally getting to the stage where we have players looking to coach more than they play. It will be an exciting challenge to tie together the development of the sport at these levels and direct the right resources to coaching, competitions, national squads and any associated administration. So we’re certainly going to be bigger and a better run organisation. Just how that will translate to results on the international stage is hard to say. We’re not the only country experiencing the growth in popularity, and I think you’ll see a couple of European countries leapfrogging each other in any table you care to look at over the next few years. Our challenge will be to take the momentum we have built and try to take some of this summer’s results – best ever placings for Ireland at Beach and U23 competitions – as records to be broken rather than high points to be satisfied with. 

Interviews by Mark Earley for tSG. How are you coping with the off-season? Keep an eye out for more pieces in the coming weeks.  As always – make sure to comment, like, share! JCK @tSG