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.
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.