UK Elite Skills Clinic makes successful debut

The first UK Elite Skills Clinic  with coaches from the United States lending their experience not only to British players, but players from across the continent, was held in Loughborough on the weekend of the 26 and 27 June. The event, organised by Sion 'Brummie' Scone, was the first of its kind in Europe, allowing British players to learn from the very best players in the World.Coaches demonstrate a drillCoaches demonstrate a drill

The coaching staff included six Team USA players and eight players who played in the semi finals of the World Ultimate Club Championships (WUCC) 2010 in Prague. They ran participants through drills and game simulations, went through plays and training methods in a series of lectures and finally played a show game to demonstrate all that they had been teaching.

At the end of both days, participants were divided into teams and played games against each other, with a coach supervising each game to give advice to players on both teams.


'Not enough guidance'

‘It occurred to me a while ago that a lot of players in the UK don’t have any access to high level coaching,’ explained Brummie when asked how he came up with the idea to run the event. ‘Players who haven’t had access to the GB program or any other external input struggle to develop, so you see teams with all the raw talent but not enough guidance.’

‘Initially I thought we could get a bunch of ex-GB players together and run a weekend session teaching people how we did things with the national teams.’ Brummie went on. ‘The problem was that none of us had ever done anything like that before.’

Camps such as this are common in the USA, where week long skills programs and weekend clinics are held in several states. Players at the highest level run camps semi-professionally.

‘I got chatting to some of the Team USA guys about the idea at the World Games last year. Initially I was asking for advice, but then I thought that these guys were coming to Europe for WUCC anyway so I asked if some of them would like to come to the UK to help run the Clinic.’

Brummie was forced to rethink initial plans for only a few American coaches to come over when faced with the level of interest in the event.

‘It was going to be myself and one or two of the Americans with a small group of people attending, but there was just so much interest we were able to get more and more coaches. We’ve been really lucky to end up with ten really experienced coaches, and I think people have been told not only what to do, but why they do it. That’s really helped understanding and means they’ll be able to go out and bring this stuff back to their teams.’


Positive feedback

The weekend was very successful both in terms of attendance and enjoyment, and could lead to similar events in the future.

‘All of the feedback has been really positive so that’s great. There’s been a lot of interest in it happening next year and some of the coaches have already said they’d like to come back. If both parties still want to do it 12 months from now, then why not?’

However, he also makes clear that the UK ultimate scene cannot rely on American input to improve the standard of British players.

‘We’re trying to set up a domestic Clinic with some of the more experienced GB players. There’s no point relying on always having to fly coaches over from America and there’s no reason that the top players in our own country can’t run a similar thing. We can get some of the top players from the top teams in the country and give people the chance to learn from the best of the best in the UK. I think people would get just as much from that as they’ve gotten today.’

Overall, the weekend provided exactly what Brummie had hoped it would; some excellent guidance for developing players, a different perspective on training methods and a chance for players to do something different to what they are used to.

‘The coaches have been great, they’ve done a lot of good prep and been great during the weekend. It’s good to get external input from outside the UK, and these guys have brought that really well.’


Coaching staff

The coaches who attended the event were from all over the USA. Dylan Tunnell, Jolian Dahl and Ben Spears play for USA Ultimate 2009 open champions Chain Lightning (Atlanta). Beau Kitteridge and Bart Watson play for WUCC 2010 open champions Revolver (San Francisco), while Michael ‘Tank’ Natenberg plays for Doublewide (Austin) and Sam Harkness plays for WUCC runners-up Sockeye (Seattle). On the women’s side, Cree Howard of reigning USA and WUCC 2010 women’s champions Fury (San Francisco) was joined by Cara Crouch from Showdown (Austin) and Jinny Eun of Riot (Seattle). Tunnell, Watson, Kitteridge and Crouch played for Team USA at the World Games in 2009, while Dahl and Howard are also Team USA squad members.

Skills Clinic coaches(r-l) Dylan Tunnell, Cree Howard, Bart Watson, Cara Crouch, Michael Natenberg, Jinny Eun, Jolian Dahl, Ben Spears, Sam Harkness, Beau Kitteridge


Photos courtesy of Luke O'Rafferty.