Part one of this post can be found here

Transition Of Club Administrative Positions

The committee’s job is to keep the boat afloat, find novel ways to attract new passengers and aim to transform the club from tug boat to tanker to cruise liner. But it is also your duty to help the new crew find their sea legs. Put together a cohesive plan to prepare the new hands before you jump ship and avoid putting one of these guys at the helm:

drunkphil The Drunk: You return to university 2 days before term starts, having not checked your email all summer, to find a barrage of messages from your fellow committee members begging for guidance on how to organise freshers week. It’s at this point you remember drunkenly accepting the role of club captain at some party a few months back and decide to text the previous captain for some tips.

fidel The Dictator: This is going to be your year! You’ve spent all summer at the desk beneath your Stalin poster reading management books and Frisbee blogs and devising your revolutionary plans, it’s time to take control!

Ensure that those stepping into your shoes are suitably prepared and understand the long term aims of the club. Don’t let your hard work go to waste, make sure the incoming committee shares your vision for the club and hopefully has a few new ideas of their own.

It is up to you to find the most effective method to transfer your knowledge. This might involve sitting down with your successor and explaining your responsibilities and duties, providing them with notes, documents or diagrams and importantly discussing any of your failures or problems from the previous year. By documenting your wisdom and an outline of your post, you will provide a valuable resource for the future of the club and flatten the learning curve for your successors.

Often the best way to learn is by guided experience; introduce a period of overlap during the transition, share the shoes for a while. Hold your AGM early so that the incoming committee slots smoothly in to position and maximises continuity. Then set them free; sure, they will make some errors but as any junkie will tell you we learn more from our own mistakes than others advice.

The AGM

The annual general meeting is your chance to elect a new governing class, to assess your achievements from the previous year and set goals for the upcoming season. The AGM should always be conducted with last years minutes at hand to discuss the aims previously set, to what extent these have been achieved and if they need to be altered for the year ahead. Highlight ways in which you can improve the club and choose specific goals that allow you to measure your success at the end of the year i.e. get a better training facility, send a competitive 2nd team to outdoor regionals etc. Plan to continually assess performance of the club and committee and put in place methods for other club members to provide feedback. Then get drunk.

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When it comes to electing positions don’t feel you need to stick with the traditional appointments. Identify the duties that need to be performed, the weaknesses and strengths of the previous structure and create roles based on your expectations for next year. Clearly define the roles, tasks and duties for each position. For instance, who is responsible for planning each training session? Who is in charge of keeping the club calendar up to date? Who will register teams for tournaments?

Take on the role if you are committed. Make sure you are aware of the responsibilities you are taking on and how much effort and time they will consume. Think about your year ahead, your potential workload and other commitments. Once elected get in touch with your predecessor (if one exists) and get to know your position and any potential issues you should be aware of. Finally, sit down with your committee and write your two year plan. Ensure your individual goals are transparent to the entire club and not just on your own private checklist.

How Can We Develop?

“Player turnover is relentless in university ultimate and the committee changes every year. How can we set long term goals?” – scared new committee member

By setting 1 or 2 year goals, encouraging a communicative transition between committees and constantly transferring your skills and knowledge to other club members. Focus on the parts of the club that are consistent e.g. funding, training venues, a large population to recruit from, registered coaches etc. Here are a few things to think about:

Recruitment
A bigger club means more money and better recognition. Recruitment is something that can be accurately measured. Not only initial recruitment but player retention. Set goals to increase your membership each year and use novel ways to do it. Think about your audience, are you are able to attract total beginners and elite athletes? Can you interact with other sports clubs and societies? Can you have multiple recruitment drives and taster sessions?

Most players start as complete beginners and take 4 years to become good players and coaches. Due to this cycle a bad recruitment year can have a profound effect on the following 3, leaving holes in your talent base.

Funding
How can you get more? Make sure you are aware of all the schemes your sports association has to offer. Quite often they will pay for travel, kit, coaching courses, gym sessions etc on top of the funding you have applied for. Find out what entitles you to a larger budget. Is it club subscription? Better results or BUCS points? A raised profile of the sport in the community? Whatever it is make it a focus for your club. Can you apply for external funding or sponsorship outwith the university? Can you fund raise at all or host more lucrative tournaments?

What do you do with any extra money? The best use of funds is usually anything that gets more people playing ultimate. This means that fully subsidising tournaments your members would go to anyway isn’t always the best use of resources. You do want to give something back to your committed members but you are also trying to increase that demographic.

Other University Perks
Find out what similar sized minority sports/societies are getting at your university. Find out what other ultimate clubs at different universities are entitled to and try to fight your case. For instance:

  • St Andrews are offered access to gym facilities, pitches and fitness coaches for a week of pre-season training (more on that here: Benji Heywood on being a professional coach).
  • Ro Sham Bo elite players have free access to personal training programs.

What other contacts can the university provide you? Nutritionist, gym instructors or fitness coaches to run one off sessions. Coaching course, First aid courses? Venues for social events? What can the unions do for you on social occasions? If you don’t ask, you don’t get.

Help players reach their full potential
Make sure you are connected with club teams in all divisions in your local area and can provide the correct information for players that want to play beyond university level. Make them aware of club trials, GB trials and national/international tournaments. How can your teams and players earn sporting colours? Has anyone been nominated before?

Training venues
Training venues and schedules should be reassessed each term. Don’t stick with the status-quo because it’s the way things have always been done. Constantly harass your sports association for better training venues if available.

Stay in touch with UK Ultimate
Find out what UKU (www.ukultimate.com) are doing to promote the sport and to help out their affiliated clubs.

Why Should You Want To Develop?

Why should you be the one to do this? University clubs are not under pressure to survive, they will always have the funds and resources available to exist and allow students to play Ultimate, isn’t that enough? Can’t I just do the bare minimum?

Firstly, setting goals for the club and achieving them is a huge learning experience and demonstrating these skills will look good on your CV. A matter of pride should also compel you to hand over a better club than the one you received. Honour aside, it is actually your responsibility.

frisbeepapua As an elected committee member you are obliged and trusted to keep the club in good stead and produce a plan for the future. By improving membership, funding, quality of training and social interaction you are setting up a better base for ultimate when you leave. I’ve always said “all I need is a disc and my body”, but it’s so much more enjoyable when you have an organised club, committed team mates and a structure in place to improve and recruit. You can make a significant contribution to the sport in your local area that will make everyone’s Frisbee experience more fun and probably cheaper. Cheaper = More Frisbee (or more money to spend on food as you spent it all on books, beer and Frisbee).

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Prologue

nationals2000 Far Flung and I have been on/off lovers for around 13 years. I first met her as a fresh faced beginner, fell in love as a national champion, finally agreed to be her first team captain in my post-grad year and now have the privilege of watching our children grow in my role as coach.

These experiences have had a huge impact on my life, not just in the form of friendships and sporting achievement but in maturing my confidence and developing leadership and management skills. So I care, at least a little, about the fate of my future grandkids and seeing the club succeed and continue to develop and enrich other peoples lives. Given that I have somewhat arrogantly portrayed myself as a father figure I should back that up by imparting some wisdom to you all, or at least a few observations and useful tips to consider as the club is passed on to the next generation. I will try to talk in general terms so hopefully this applies to Dark Horses as well, although I don’t know much about your club setup and tend to think of you more as Phil’s bastard child…

Legacy

We are now approaching the time of year where those in charge should be thinking about how to pass on the reins and the up-and-comers should be readying themselves to take the wheel (that’s a stunning metaphor for progress….). Many of you will be final year students, readying yourself for the real world and moving on to greener astroturf. But spare a thought for those you leave behind; think about all the positive experiences you have taken from being part of the team and ensure you bestow your club to capable hands and allow that legacy to continue.

The Next Generation of Players

Player Development
Results on the pitch are ultimately the responsibility of the first team captain and success is frequently measured by a first teams placing at Nationals. As a result, long-term development is often sacrificed in favour of short-term goals with captains eager to secure the best results during their year in charge. I have seen Scottish clubs go from top 5 UK to 6th at regionals after one round of graduation. This shouldn’t happen if you have a proper plan in place for team development. Think about your part in the club as an ongoing entity that will exist after you are gone.

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“I guess it’s not what you take when you leave this world behind you,
it’s what you leave behind you when you go.” – Randy Travis, Cowboy

Well Randy, in the context of university Ultimate Frisbee, you’re half right. It’s about finding the balance between achievement and development. There is no point in constantly sending development teams to tournaments if your aim is to compete, but there is a lot to be said for providing players with first team experience. The decision to take 8 or 10 players to indoor tournaments is always a tough one but a 10 man squad can be just as competitive as an 8 man squad if managed effectively.

Unlike most sports, the majority of club members start their ultimate career at university and require opportunities to improve and develop rather than showing up ready-made. This also puts responsibility on the first teamers to ensure they are playing regularly with other club members at training and less serious tournaments. Beginners especially need to learn from these players, get to know them and understand what it takes to make the top team if that’s their goal. The added workload for later year students often makes it difficult for a lot of first teamers to commit to multiple training sessions but try to integrate as much as possible with the rest of the club and avoid becoming an elite, exclusive gang.

Impending graduation is an inherent issue with University ultimate as your most experienced players often see their final year as a last chance to claim success. This naturally, but somewhat selfishly, comes at the price of excluding developing players from training sessions and tournaments in order to focus on the top players. If you truly enjoy ultimate then this won’t be the end of your playing career and you will realize there are bigger prizes out there than student indoor nationals.

Perhaps the role of first team captain does not extend to the whole club but there should be a clear plan implemented for player development. This should be discussed by coaches, captains and other senior players to identify who is responsible for raising the level of play in the club as a whole and progressing competitive players towards the first team.

passthebaton Who is going to replace you?

Grooming. No, not like that. You are going to lose some big players at the end of the year, it might even be yourself. Someone will need to step up to the plate. You need to earmark your replacements and give opportunities to those that could replace the replacements. Traditionally many players make it to the first team in 2 ways:

  • Show a bit of athletic promise in your first year, get promoted to the first team and play as a deep, you can’t be trusted to throw just yet. Spend a few years playing in the endzone and still only know how to throw a dump pass.
  • Didn’t show enough athleticism to make the first team early on. Spent a few years on 2nd teams where you got to do most of the handling as you were one of the more senior / better seconds players. Good at throwing a disc now but lack competitive experience and knowledge.

In the first scenario a player has been brought on the first team early and forgotten about, in the second the promotion to the first team environment is too late. In both cases the players talents have plateaued due to a lack of development opportunities.

Give your developing players experienced mentors that they can emulate or accept advice from. Open up your first team doors at suitable opportunities e.g. after big tournaments or by running extra sessions for the whole club or even posting summaries of first team training to the entire club. You need to find the most effective method to pass on the knowledge you have acquired to those who will eventually take over. Expose your players to multiple positions and roles in training and at tournaments whenever possible. Give them the freedom to make big plays and learn from mistakes in the right environment. As a captain you need to lead and teach others to lead.

Who should be the next captain?

It’s time to pass the baton to your successor:

“Here’s a few cool drills and join this email group, good luck!” – Bad Captain/Committee

Not the sort of transition that will ensure ongoing success. I would personally like to see a captain that has more than one year left at university and doesn’t see it as a one year job. Ideally the captain should come in to the role with a 2 year plan, spend a year as captain, transition smoothly to the next leader and stick around as an experienced player that can offer guidance and maintain a committed first team culture that is instilled in new players.

So what if you find a great captain? Shouldn’t they stay captain? What if they decide to do a PhD? They can be captain for another 4 years right? Being a captain is a skill and an immense learning opportunity. It requires you to lead, coach, manage, strategise and speak to large groups; it can turn men in to more manly men. I believe it is definitely an opportunity worth passing on to others and not one you should deny a willing and committed teammate. In your post-captaincy year your presence will be extremely supportive and your experience invaluable. Plus there is always room for fresh ideas and innovative blood.

What should the next captain do?

Be your own captain, not in a self help sort of way, but in a non-sheep sort of way. You may have the added challenge of captaining your previous captain and more experienced players than you, but don’t be afraid to shake things up a bit and introduce your own style. It probably doesn’t make sense to radically change tactics and training if the previous team has done well, but it is important to reassess those methods, goals and strategies and adjust them to the current player pool. Make that 2 year plan; sit down with the previous captain or other experienced players/coaches and write it out.

Decide on the role you want to fill as captain. For many clubs the first team captain is an umbrella term for captain, coach, manager, transport organizer, pitch booker, strategiser, selector etc. Feel free to delegate roles; give people responsibility and they feel a stronger connection to the team. If you have access to decent (ahem) coaches then use them to plan tactics, run sessions and select teams.

Your role as captain starts the moment you are elected, not the first training session of the academic year. Take on the role immediately, groom your players for the next year and prepare over the summer. Get your tactics and training sessions planned, maybe plan a pre-season to give your team more time to get in shape. Set a team meeting and schedule them regularly, even if it’s a 5 minute chat after training.

Written by Shaun, part 2 touches on the role of the committee and other senior players.