Flik: Field Test

The ShowGame reports on a test run of Flik – a new coaching tool for Ultimate. 

From the minds of Sion ‘Brummie’ Scone and Richard ‘Pringle’ Taylor comes Flik – an Ultimate coaching tool that hopes to help us get the most out of our training sessions. Flik offers an online internet based service that contains all of the coaching theory and visual aids to help you learn, design, and plan sessions, and a counterpart smartphone app that allows you to take all of this planning out on to the field. The skill sets being married behind the scenes are Brummie’s extensive coaching and playing experience (complemented by a healthy interest in dissecting the styles and plays of elite Ultimate) and Pringle’s expertise in design and presentation, as shown by his work at openbracket(ultimate). The timing is apt with the growing focus on coaching in the Ultimate community, yet with little to offer in terms of technology to help us get the most out of our teams.

The session we ran was teaching the ‘Cyclone’ offence of the famous Japanese club and National team, Buzz Bullets. We had a small group of players who had no prior use of the session material, or knowledge of the style. Taking cues from an accompanying theory chapter and suggested plan, we ran a short theory chat followed by a progression of three drills, gradually building up from a very simple ‘away and under cut’ to a complex multi-staged cutting drill in the Japanese style.

Using the app on the field.
Using the app on the field.

What was immediately clear by the end of the session was that we had made significant steps towards playing in a new style, and run an overall successful session whilst doing so. The progression through the various stages of the drills (and the theory backing them) pushed us into trying the new and contrasting way of playing, as we adjusted our play to achieve success in the drills. Reading through foundational material beforehand gave each aspect of the session a solid base, and provided a full context of the reasons behind the particular directions (why to cut in a specific way, what sort of pivoting action is needed). This was certainly worthy of the extra preparation time that it demanded. As an example, in our Cyclone drills we were directed to hold the disc in a pivot directly away from the endzone we were attacking. This created a larger threat of the ‘around break’, which if covered by the force then allowed an even easier ‘inside-out’ throwing lane. Both of these break throws helped us to succeed at the drill, and whilst the pivoting style felt awkward to most at first, it proved insightful both for the drill and for players to take elsewhere. Given the relatively simple setup of these drills (which were largely based on offensive cutting and throwing), it was impressive to see such a development across a short session. The depth of the theory showed through from the beginning, and is clearly going to be one of the key strengths of this project.

The Kickstarter campaign understandably focuses heavily on the usability and graphic elements of the online and app service, and this is another strong feature of Flik. Drill diagrams and in-depth explanations of how and why to do the exercises mean that a clear vision can be created of the training plan well in advance. We saw a lot of potential for further developments here: moving drill diagrams (perhaps even controlled by a slider); dynamic diagrams with move-able icons. Given the tone of the Kickstarter and its emphasis on community driven testing and development, it seems realistic that these kinds of improvements could be realised. Speaking to Brummie after our use of Flik, he certainly seemed open to these sorts of developments and this approach will only benefit the project.

An example drill diagram used in our Cyclone session.
A drill diagram used in our Cyclone session.

Something we did find was that, as pretty as these visual tools may be, it was slightly trickier for us to show them off on the field, and it was here that we found some initial limitations to the app side of Flik. Using a single phone to visually demonstrate was difficult in a group of six players, and would be unfeasible for a larger session whether elite club (20+ players), or university clubs where attendance could realistically be over 50. Use on a tablet would offer one option for those who can, however there is also the practical issue of expensive technology being exposed to the elements (rain being the obvious issue here). Flik doesn’t necessarily provide an alternative to the tradition of water-bottle-and-cone diagrams, then. But by placing the emphasis on session planning in advanced and also offering a way for coaches to share these plans with players, it could form part of a larger solution. If players can use Flik to learn this theoretical material before the session, this only creates more time to drill what they have already learned.

This leads us to our final impressions of our Flik field test, which is that it is already a very good (and potentially fantastically deep) resource for budding coaches and players alike. It still requires a well executed coaching (and coach-ability) performance from those running and attending the practice, but could even contribute towards the learning of this as well. We were using a very early version of Flik which will be much changed and developed as a final product, which the Kickstarter does mention will feature a ‘Coaching Ultimate’ section. Hopefully this will provide direction on the ‘how’ to run your session, as well as just ‘what’ you should be doing as without this focus some users may find it difficult to truly utilise the deep knowledge on offer. For a team captain or coach, the premise of having an easy and attractive visual way to plan drills and compile sessions is both an Ultimate nerd’s dream and a potentially radical way of altering how organised our approach to training is. Getting this visualised training plan out to the players will be another challenge as Flik is developed, but if it can be achieved and taken on by its target users then it could become a very powerful coaching tool, as well as just a slick way to plan and communicate your sessions.

The Kickstarter page explains the collaborative intentions of Flik between producer and consumer. It has already had input from an impressive list of coaches and players, and many of the donation gifts include the ability to be involved in its production. It is clearly a project from within the Ultimate community, built with this community interaction in mind; it is appropriate then that it will require the community to get it out of the planning stages and into a reality. The openness to such feedback is quite a claim, but if carried out could very effectively draw upon a vast amount of Ultimate minds, and this built into the already polished work of Pringle and Brummie could turn out to be something very impressive.

Check out the Kickstarter page here – and see what you think for your self. The campaign has been strongly backed so far but ends on Saturday 20th June (11 days at time of writing!) so if you want to make Flik a reality, then get involved!

Thanks must go to our field testers: Sam “Bunny” Brown (Fire of London), Alex Cragg (GB/Fire of London) and James Ward (Flump).

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