Ultimate Frisbee – Coach Interview
You were one of the first coaches in one of the first schools that UCC started coaching back in 2010. Tell us a little about it.
At the start there wasn’t a whole lot of thought put into it on my part. I mean the club as a whole was definitely putting a lot of effort into getting Ultimate into Cork schools. Ray Consedine had got the ball rolling the year before but had by and large been working alone. Donal Murray took up the reigns in 2010 and started to expand the program. Donal reached out to people to see who were interested in coaching. Barry, myself and several others were very excited by the opportunity and given our friendship and his possession of a car Barry and I teamed up to take on BCS. On that first day it was Barry Gleeson, George Pardoe, Graham De Barra and I, although god forgive me Morgan Theze might have been there too, it’s hard to remember exactly.
The important thing to note about the start of the programme is passion. That was the great denominator. Everyone involved wanted to improve the Cork Ultimate community and help establish a youth programme. When we were met with the same level of passion and drive from the students it was a perfect storm.
How long had you been playing when you decided to start coaching?
About a year.
What made you want to start coaching?
Just had a natural inclination towards it. I loved the sport and wanted to help it grow. At the start I just wanted to play more Ultimate and introduce it to others. It wasn’t until we started coaching that I realised how much I loved it. In all honesty there is probably an ego aspect to it. I love to perform and that’s a huge part of teaching. Those cute little faces buying into your bullshit in a way that an adult never would. God the damage we did to their psyches.
Did you know then you were coaching future UCC players, coaches and captains and so many international athletes?
I tell you I always had an incling. When you walk into a sports hall and you see twenty odd kids throwing disks to each other, bear in mind in a part of the world you’ve never been. We knew we had something. As the year went on and the players advanced so much we would chat about how we had to get them to UCC. We would try and discourage them from going to other, foreign (beyond Cork) schools. We would be in the car talking about how they were the future of the club and how we were securing our dominance for the decade. It was sad to think of being gone before the fifth years would make it to Uni but we consoled ourselves with the prospect of a year with Ben Noonan.
What was your favourite memory of coaching in BCS?
Too many. There’s the time Richard layed out indoors, caught the disk and slid out the fire exit doors. The first time Matthew Staunton skyed me (I tripped) and how he and everyone else went nuts. Introducing the concept of zen to them through dated pop culture idols. When they made the Irish junior teams in their first and second years. Slowly getting to know the players as adults. Watching the way they took losing the schools final with a grace and maturity far exceeding my own. Coming to the school in 2011 and seeing a whole new generation of smart-mouths to break. All the players picking Feely as the MVP at the end of the first year. The thank you card they gave us at the end of the year. Winning UK Nats and chanting BCS in a circle with the boys. The credit I get to take for all their subsequent successes that I have been completely uninvolved in. All the times the love I put into the coaching was repayed tenfold down the line. I’m sorry, got a bit caught up there.
There was a moment, during the game at the end of the first year. Staunton had been getting a little too sexual towards the coaches, as he was wont to do. I admonished him; ‘Matthew you can’t do that, it’s illegal’. To which via his exuberant wit he retorted; ‘in six months it wont be illegal, it’ll just be banter!’. Perhaps not quite the epic moment but it encapsulates what those sessions had become. It was a beautiful sunny day and we were playing Ultimate with our friends.
Is there anything looking back now you wish you could have done differently?
Somewhere there is a list of names and a beautiful drawing of Yoda that never made it to a jersey. I still feel bad about that one.
Do you have any advice for anyone thinking about coaching in schools?
Do it, it can be tough, it can be trying, it can cost you money at times, but it can also be one of the best things you’ve ever done. There are a lot of different ways to approach it. A lot of ways to screw up. We didn’t know anything going in, not really, but we cared. Passion and enthusiasm are essential, after that you can plot your own course. It is important to note that it was Barry who planned and led the sessions so maybe listen to him more than me about this. I was more of a Hype Man/tutor.
Anything to add?
Colaiste Choilm Sucks!
Ahem, schools Ultimate is one the most important areas of Ultimate to cultivate. It becomes much easier to guarantee freshman players if you have experienced hands coming in from schools. Not just because they can play, but also because they are the peers of those you are trying to attract. Schools Ultimate is the next big step we have to take to improve Irish Ultimate. Dublin and Cork are wonderful examples of this and ones we need to emulate. Plus its great craic.