tSG Awards ’21: Coach of the Year

This award is combining all three divisions for a pretty simple reason: coaching for elite teams in the UK is still in the very early stages of development so there aren’t many people that we could think to nominate. Every time I speak to European colleagues they are baffled by the dearth of coaches available for teams in the UK, especially at the Great Britain level, and think it holds us back. However, that is starting to change and people up and down the country are starting to dedicate themselves to developing players and making teams better. This is the only award where we’ll highlight the entire shortlist because all of these people deserve a shout out for the time they’ve put in. Hopefully in future years we can split this out to three different awards.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

Sam Vile, Oxford Ultimate

As well as playing for Deep Space, Sam spent time coaching the Oxford Ultimate players every week during their National Cup and Nationals runs. Combining playing at such a high level with coaching another team is hugely impressive and Sam (along with the other coaches who help out at Oxford) deserves huge credit for doing so.

Mike Lewis, Devon

Devon branched out this season and accepted players from all over the country. Mike and his coaching team spent time early in the season instilling the kind of things that such a new group would need when it got to Nationals, and was rewarded with a semi-final place.

Paddy Ward, Bristol Open

Paddy coached Bristol Open through an excellent season, reaching the National Cup final and Nationals. He also does other work in Bristol, maintaining the club as a whole and playing a role alongside others in helping to ensure that anyone who wants to play in Bristol has somewhere to do that.

THE TOP THREE

Third place: Oliver Browne, SCRAM

Oli has coached at a number of levels, including currently coaching the St Andrews teams to excellent results in Scotland. His work this season with SCRAM was impressive, taking a young team and helping to develop them to the point where they finished sixth after running teams above them close. He worked with captains Lulu Boyd and Rhona Gordon to build SCRAM’s tactic and continued to offer a calm presence on the sideline. They’ve now qualified for WUCC in their second competitive season and will head to Cincinnati to continue that development.

Second place: Philippa Hackett, SYC

Phil has been involved in coaching SYC for a number of years, first as part of a group and this past season on her own. She played for SYC for a number of years so knows the team well, and was able to integrate a number of new players last season while also ensuring that the veterans of the team were able to maintain their high standards. A semi-final spot at Nationals, where they pushed eventual winners Bristol very hard, shows how effective that work was and the reward is another spot at WUCC.

WINNERS: Ruth Tayler and Ben Hall, Bristol Women

This coaching duo came together largely by chance but captured lightning in a bottle this season. Ruth, a Bristol player, was injured for the season and Ben worked more on one-to-one skills and development, leaving Ruth to cover the big picture approach. While Ben was the quiet, calm presence, Ruth was the motivator and the energy on the sideline, working with the captains to drive the team on and play to their fullest potential. With Ruth unable to go to Nationals, Ben stepped up into a more primary role and helped the team on their way to the title. While it came about by chance, it seems to have worked brilliantly and they are our coaching duo of the season.

tSG Awards ’21: Community Spirit Award winners

For the first award of the inaugural tSG awards, I thought it would be best to focus on the people that were nominated as those who have helped to develop the ultimate community this year and in previous years. These people have given a lot of their time to grow the game and invested in the sport across the UK. Many of them have done that in very different ways, but our sport is in a better place because of all of them.

A quick note here – we had so many great nominations. There were university coaches who coach for free, there were university captains who travel with every team and provide support for the whole club, there were people who’ve helped establish and maintain clubs and there were a few people who were just great teammates who were welcoming, friendly and the lifeblood of their clubs. To everyone who nominated someone, thanks for sharing so many wonderful stories.

A final thing before we get to the nominees is to say a separate than you to all the Covid officers across the UK. The last two years have been so different to what we are used to that it’s been almost unrecognisable. The hard work of volunteers to make sure everyone was kept safe throughout the pandemic has been incredible, and everyone who has played a part should be commended and should feel proud of themselves. Hopefully your jobs become obsolete sooner rather than later.

Without further ado, here are the winners. We’ll have more on each of these people in the coming weeks, once we’re able to talk to them and to the people that nominated them and who see them all the time, but here’s what we have for now:

SHAUN AND PHIL WEBB, GLASGOW

Scotland has been churning out good players for many years, but Glasgow in particular has been a breeding ground for players that have made a huge impact on all levels of the game. Shaun and Phil have led those efforts for many years through Glasgow Ultimate, an organisation which now has a huge array of opportunities for those in the local community. There’s an elite team but there’s also pickup games, leagues in summer and winter and a youth development programme to get more kids playing the sport. There are plenty of people who have played a role in making Glasgow Ultimate a success but Shaun and Phil stand out as worthy winners here.

JAKE WALLER, BRISTOL

Jake established North Bristol Ultimate several years ago to get more beginners into the sport. Since then it has been brought under the Bristol Ultimate umbrella and is now called Bristol Ultimate Development (BUD). He spent time coaching, organising and developing both the club and the new players, with three sessions every week now dedicated to bringing more players into the sport. He’s also played for and captained Bristol Open and Mixed, as well as coached the elite teams for Bristol Ultimate, and next year will be branching out the help develop ultimate elsewhere in the country as he coaches Spice ahead of their WUCC 2022 campaign in Cincinnati.

FI RAE, SYC/BRIXTON/MESH

Fi plays for SYC and has been one of the Brixton captains as well, helping bring more beginners and inexperienced players into the sport that way. She’s also hosted a forum for women to discuss leadership and team building (and an episode of our podcast on that very issue) and is part of the UKU women’s mentoring programme. But the reason she was nominated specifically is the huge amount of work that she has done to help facilitate the MESH project alongside Rupal Ghelani and Fowzia Mahmood, doing admin work and organising and helping the whole event happen. With all this stuff going on she also found time to make the GB mixed masters going to Los Angeles in 2022.

CHRIS BAMFORD, LEEDS

Bamford has been instrumental in the Leeds community for a number of years, but this season set up numerous new sessions to help people get back into playing after the pandemic, catering for all experience levels, and has continued to help develop players that were playing with Leeds already. He’s always looking for ways to improve what the club can offer, and always keen to help players improve.

NATHAN SANDERS, LEAMINGTON LEMMINGS

Nate was one of Lemmings’ star players this season and combined that with being the key conduit between his old school team, Aylesford School’s Evolution, and Lemmings. That has created a pipeline of extremely talented players into Lemmings and they have reaped huge benefits, qualifying for Nationals in two divisions this season. Nate took on the responsibility of coaching the mixed team, leading multiple sessions every week, as well as leading sessions at Aylesford to help the kids in the club there develop as well. Their beginner team won a tournament in Warwick against university beginners teams, so it looks like this is just the start for Lemmings.

BECKY THOMPSON, LONDON WILD

Becky, one of Iceni’s new captains, was instrumental in setting up London WILD last season. WILD provided an opportunity for women in London who didn’t play for one of the top teams to play, develop and enjoy the sport. She led sessions and helped younger, less experienced players in taking on leadership roles. WILD helped to address the issue of women having few places to play in London outside of elite, competitive teams and has provided a place for them to learn and develop in an encouraging, empowering environment.

PAUL RUFF, AIRBADGERS

Paul has led the ultimate programme at St. Peter’s School in Exeter since 1997. He has developed dozens of players who have played at a high level in the UK, including plenty of GB representatives at all levels up to masters, but just as importantly has introduced the game and the concept of spirit to hundreds of kids who never played after they left school. Despite never having played the sport to a high level, his coaching and guidance has built an incredible club that has dominated junior-level ultimate for years, with AirBadgers now one of the models for people trying to develop ultimate in schools.

CONOR HOGAN, SEND IT

Hogi has developed ultimate in a slightly different way to everyone else this season. He’s travelled around filming games, particularly those in the National League and at Nationals during the summer, so that more people could see the games they might usually be able to keep up with at Tour events. Media coverage is growing in our sport but it’s still difficult to find coverage of games outside the main tournaments, and Hogi was able to provide that in plenty of instances this year including the MESH game in September.

The ShowGame Awards 2021: an overview

Over the next few days, we’ll be announcing the winners of the inaugural ShowGame Awards. These awards will try to reflect the best of what we’ve seen this year, as well as recognising the people who have worked hard to make the sport what it is.

This is obviously the first time we’ve done these awards, so the process is brand new. That means we might have missed people you think were obvious picks, or maybe we picked the wrong people or even the wrong order. That’s fine! We’re after discussion here after all, but rest assured that any omissions were not for the want of trying and that we don’t hate your team or anyone in it. We’ll see how this year goes and try to improve the process for next year whatever happens, so if there’s anything that you’d like to see changed or needs to be done differently, let us know!

As a reminder, here are the categories we’ll be awarding:

  • Player of the Year
  • Best Newcomer
  • Best Thrower
  • Best Cutter
  • Best Defender
  • Best Young Player
  • Best of the Rest

  • Coach of the Year
  • Play of the Year
  • Community Spirit Award

We’ll be doing separate awards for all three divisions in the first list with two POTYs for mixed. Otherwise, those awards will cover both male- and female-matching players in mixed. The final three awards will combine all three divisions into one category.

The final thing to note: if a player wins POTY, they are automatically ineligible for any other award. That’s why we’ll be doing that one first, since the detectives amongst you probably would have been able to work out who won POTYs after not seeing people mentioned in the slightest ahead of the announcement.

Here’s a timeline for when we’ll be announcing everything:

December 19: Community Spirit Award

December 20: Coach of the Year, Player of the Year

December 21: Best Young Player, Best Newcomer, Best of the Rest

December 22: Best Thrower, Best Cutter, Best Defender

The voting for the Play of the Year award will start on New Year’s Day!