Glasgow Ultimate

So far we have read about university level leadership and development, having survived the AGM I think I’ll leave that subject well alone, then Dick told us all about ulti down under, given you’d stop reading now if I followed a similar route of discussing my pre-Glasgow career I’m going to write about how to get into the first team and the commitment levels I expect once you get there – who knows maybe this topic will strike up a debate feel free to share your opinions.

The thing I noticed most about Glasgow ultimate is we routinely place higher at Edinburgh beginners than regionals. Having come 1st and 3rd in 2011, and 2nd in 2012 at beginners (without even using a Webb!) yet haven’t qualified for division one nationals for as long as I’ve been playing ultimate! Worse still than this I don’t THINK any of the beginners from those teams have broken into the first team. WHY!?

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Evidently we are recruiting large numbers of promising noobs and either Glasgow students have a natural talent for ultimate (myself and anyone else who has read ‘bounce’ will doubt that), or (the more likely reason) we are initially training beginners to get better faster than the other clubs in Scotland before they reach a plateau and get stuck there.

Why then does this development stop?  As I see it there could be a number of possible explanations –

  1. Our coaches are expert beginners, but that’s their limit.
  2. The training facilities aren’t adequate for a top-level team.
  3. The firsts are a social team that aren’t fussed with competing.
  4. Commitment is variable, players gradually get good enough during their 4 year career, get selected for the first team due to previous players graduating as opposed to earning places on merit.
  5. Training is the issue.
  6. Individuals don’t take enough responsibility for getting better.
  7. A. N. Other.

I’ll try and address these in order in an attempt to keep this shorter than my under grad dissertation.

1. Our coaches are fantastic, we are blessed to have them, the fact they provide stability and structure to the club year on year is invaluable, an asset most teams in Scotland can only dream of. They prove they can get results with their initial results at Edinburgh beginners . . . so are they beginners specialists? Can they train a first team to compete in division one? Well yes they can, a little known fact is that they as player/coaches led FarFlung to win div 1 nationals both indoors and outdoors in 2002. Due to that, I’m going to rule out low quality coaches as an explanation.

2. So are the training facilities good enough? Do we have enough pitch time to compete at the highest levels of university ultimate? Whilst outdoors I would say absolutely not. Not only due to the sub par playing surface, or even the fact that the university doesn’t provide a full size pitch for us to train on but also the fact that we only get our small sub par pitch once a week meaning a choice must be made between club training or first team training. Naturally a compromise is made, we try to accommodate everyone and pitch a training session to all levels. Whilst admirable and I think a relatively successful attempt is made at this, it clearly limits the intensity and level the first team can play at. I don’t know of any other sport where the first team are expected to do their training amongst complete beginners (please don’t misinterpret this, I think this is a very important session and beginners need the experienced players to help out at club sessions, however I would say a first team training is required IN ADDITION to a club session – that’s a whole post in itself). So I’ve solved it! All we need is a bigger, better pitch we can use more often . . . well no (if that was the case I wouldn’t have written another 1000 words), even if that did explain outdoors there is indoors to consider where we have played, on a full size pitch, with first team specific sessions yet still failed to qualify for div 1. So I’m going to let the uni off the hook for the time being and continue my hunt for the real reason.

3. So do the firsts want to compete? Or are they a bunch of players content with mediocrity? Well I’m on that team, and I can tell you there where glum faces all round when we lost at regionals. As for when we lost the semi final at div 2  (only to see a team we beat win the final) the disappointment was obvious, just ask our 3v4 playoff opponents (pre tournament top seeds) who got chumped 15-2 and point capped with plenty time left on the clock. So the first team are a competitive bunch and do want to win. Whether they know what it takes to win at that level is what I’m trying to address.

4. Clearly commitment varies from player to player. The nature of our sport, and the unusualness to have played before coming to uni means that naturally the first team is dominated by players in the latter stages of their university career, and with that often comes more work, dissertations and exams that actually count towards degree classifications. Also the fact that many players feel their position in the team is safe and the increased importance of university work leads to missed training sessions, decreased effort and thus a slowing in development. This takes me back to point 3, are the first team REALLY competitive or do they just want to be? But that doesn’t explain why the beginners aren’t getting onto the first team.

Competitive? So we all know I like to post motivational videos in the build up to tournaments the focus of these are always about hard work, commitment and sacrifice busting your balls because you know your team mates are doing the same. I’m not suggesting anyone prioritise ultimate over university. However I would suggest that no one is so busy that they can’t commit to a bear minimum of a first team training, a club training, and preferably fitness and throwing sessions each week. I think that sometimes people forget that hunger to win until they get to the tournament, by which time it could be too late, our opponents may have been hungry all season, training hard and training properly months in advance of the matches that matter. Most final year students want to go out with a bang, a last hurrah, one big chance to win that medal they have craved since first year. So what I’m saying is remember that disappointment you felt last regionals having to make do with div 2 again and use that to drive you to get that essay written in advance of the deadline so you don’t have to miss training and let your team mates down. If you really want it you’ll get out of bed before midday at the weekend and do your work then. I think the biggest improvement we could make as a first team, with the smallest change in what we are doing is by changing the mentality of the first team away from a ‘please may you attend training’ to a ‘first team are expected to attend training in the absence of a dam good excuse’. More than that the first team training squad should be desperate to train, not just to improve as a team and individually, but to earn a place on the first team. If this was to happen the captain and coaches could focus their efforts on training and getting the best out of the team, as opposed to getting the team to actually turn up!

5. Training I think is an issue. Not the training sessions themselves but the lack of first team training commitment and the apparent belief that going to Monday night training once a week is good enough training for a first team wanting to win BUCS points at Div 1 nationals. The best resources we have at our disposal in Glasgow are our coaches, and the ability to train against top quality opposition thanks to Strathclyde University and the Glasgow Ultimate community. Yet despite Glasgow Ultimate training sessions being put on only half of each university first team actually attend regularly. If our entire first teams committed to playing with Glasgow Ultimate at each session and attending AT LEAST one non student tournament a year we would undoubtedly make a spectacular return to div 1. If for no other reason than the best way to get better is by playing people better than you, Glasgow Ultimate provides this opportunity like no other city in Scotland yet it remains a resource frightfully underused. At the start of each academic year there are always a few players who have played tour over summer, and they always make massive improvements and surprise the university scene at Stirling tune up. It’s obvious the players who play tour so lets do exactly that

6. Do individuals take enough responsibility for getting better? I think not. If they did they would jump at the chance to play with Glasgow Ultimate. More fundamental than this is the fact that I think skills should be learnt outside of training, training should be for plays, tactics, games and teamwork. Like in Coach Carter shooting practice is done in your own time, I think throwing practice should be the same. Buy/borrow a dozen discs, drag a team mate to viccy park/kelvingrove and practice throwing. Make it your personal goal to learn the full pitch huck, get invited to become the team puller, and wow your team mates next time you rock up to practice and break Phil with that full pitch forehand you spent the weekend practicing. We don’t have enough training time as it is, so lets maximise it by learning individual skills outside of practice!

7. A. N. Other, so in reality there are a combination of possibilities as to why neither of the Glasgow Universities have been to Div 1 for far too long. Maybe it’s a combination of what I’ve outlined, or maybe you have spotted something you thinks glaringly obviously missing. Use the comments below to share your ideas. I’d be interested to hear what you have to say.

That’s me done, I hope you enjoyed what I had to say, and look forward to some discussion on the subject of how to get better. Laurie Brown, you’re up next.

Written by Rory Curran – Flung 1sts Captain 2012-2014.

8 Responses

  1. I think Rory hit the nail on the head.
    Training at the level you want to compete at is a major issue for all Glasgow clubs! It is stupid to think that you can piss about all winter and then rock up and play well at nationals.

    A mentality that I think we need as a Glasgow community is that when you are on the force that you aren’t trying to ‘dick’ on the person with the disc but you are giving them your best force so they know what it feels like when someone from the other team puts a tough force on. Likewise on offence by pivoting to your max and working the force prepares them for game realistic play!


    By doing this I believe that beginners and experienced can train to an extent together. But matching similar abilities together (Shaun this may be tough for us to find someone for you) they can compete with each other and push each other to improve. Then mixing it up and matching up against someone of higher ability will show what work is required to improve further.

    1. Yes Tubby, whilst a major issue, it is an issue we are much better placed to address than most other universities in Scotland/GB. With the 2 universities and an active non student ultimate scene in the city we have the ability to attend high level trainings and everyone can play against people who can provide a challenge (I heard some GBU23 guy was coming back next year to chalenge Shaun). Shauns idea regards Glasgow Leagues will hopefully help with this.

      More than just the ability to have these trainings you are spot on with the fact people need to play at training like they would at a tournament. No point in letting your team mates learn how to break a passive force, and there is also no point in learning a passive force. The guys attending top level trainings should be training to the top of their ability.

  2. I know it’s been a long time since I’ve been a Flunger (and even then I didn’t go to a tournament) but I think that Rory’s really hit on something with this feeling of disappointment at tournaments and I’d just like to add to that observation.

    I went to a number of tournaments with the Dark Horses and found that the two teams placed not too differently in the rankings, so hopefully this will translate. At beginner tournaments, if one of our teams lost out, they felt disappointed, but they had improved significantly along the way and could continue to do so to what I would term a university player of average ability. Because of the small size of our club, a number of “average” players could make it onto the first team and I will confess that I was one of those people at the Dark Horses. I feel there was a key difference between the likes of myself and those who were first team players in the true sense of the term.

    If you are feeling disappointed after not winning a game or attaining a certain position in a tournament, chances are that you’re disappointed that you didn’t get what you wanted and it’s as simple as that. Chances are, with that mentality, things won’t get much better unless your fitness skyrockets. The people that I noticed get better tournament after tournament were those who, rather than feeling disappointed in general, were getting annoyed with themselves. Without naming names, it was generally people who said time and time again “I shouldn’t have dropped that” or “I should have cut harder there” that improved and were the ones motivating the rest of the first team. These were also the people who generally made it to be president or captain since people had faith in them to bring improvement to the club.

    In summary, I’d say, rather than just feeling disappointed, keep asking, “what could I have done to improve there” and be really critical if you want to see results. As I’ve said before, don’t look to me as an example of this since I’ve only just tried to start down this path myself and really slacked off while I was at uni, but look to the more experienced players, particularly the more vocal ones, and I think that you’ll largely see that those who are the most established in the club and the best players are the ones who are analysing their game the most.

    When you lose a game and ask yourself “why didn’t we win that?” really search for the answer and don’t just let it be “I guess we were unlucky.” It’s a harsh truth, but drive makes all the difference.

    1. true Richard, analysing mistakes instead of making excuses is a great attribute to have. Whilst initially coaches and captains can help with the analysing, as you pointed out it reaches a stage where individuals need to focus on more details than coaches have time for. If you speak to the top players in the club after a tournament you will likely find they remember everyone elses highlights, but only there own turnovers and mistakes.

      I’ve one coach who always says if at the end of training you don’t know how many times you’ve turned over then you aren’t focussed enough. I think it’s a very good approach to take.

  3. So this is my first year of ultimate, and I went along to nationals this year. It was a great tournament for me, giving me a lot of confidence. Best of all however, was that winning feeling.

    I really think our team has the potential to be an ever stronger outdoor team, we definitely have the right motives and guys to do it. Just gotta be a bit more focused as a first team, prepare early and often. (Also if Joe could run just a little more that would be great) But in all honesty, I’m up for getting that competitive edge and bringing back that title to our mighty fine University.

    Lets go win some nice medals.

    1. True George, many newbies don’t believe that they can get good enough to make the nationals squad that year, whilst tough indoors, outdoors has more time and a larger team so is very doable for a committed player. Hopefully we can impress that upon new players next year.

  4. Good stuff Rory. Agree that the first team did not get enough dedicated time to prepare this year. As a result the club training sessions were often aimed towards the first team and everyone else had to catch up. A definite gap exists between how we approach coaching for beginners at the start of the year and how we coach the first team. There definitely needs to be more emphasis on running sessions and coaching for improving/intermediate players and allowing them to experience competition at their level. Teaching the experienced players how to coach the less experienced players will also help to plug the gap between freshers and firsts. As far as improving the first team goes you could perhaps motivate them with more competition, maybe get a Glasgow league going during term time.

    1. Glasgow league is a very good idea Shaun, hopefully with pitches from universities it can take off come september. Solving the long term motivation issues by giving shorter term targets to train towards.