Monday, February 12, 2007

How to Build a High School Program

Hello all,

There was something on RSD a week or so ago about how to build/start a high school program. Tiina had some good ideas as usual and of course the UPA has some great step-by-step ideas as well. Below are some of my random opinions concerning how to build a program. Feel free to disagree.

- Get your liability covered. The first question most HS athletic administrators will ask is: "What is liability situtation on this?" If you can provide UPA documentation showing that the liability issues are addressed by a national governing body that is a great start. If you are lucky enough to have a local governing body as well (DiscNW, BUDA, etc) that is even better. It is also a good idea to get yourself covered liability wise.

- Have a code of conduct for your players similar to the code of conduct for the athletes at the school they attend. The image that some people have of the pot smoking hippie playing barefoot in a dress who is more concerned with the post game cheer and party than with playing the game is not helpful in trying to build programs. Try not to sell ultimate as an "alternative sport", just sell it as a sport.

- Communicate with parents. Show them that you are trying to run a healthy sport for their child. Parents can be a huge help with external and internal organization as well as helping get official recognition from a school. When parents see their child getting positive self-esteem from your activity, they will be your biggest help.

- Students organizing: Yes, on the internal stuff but absolutely not on the external stuff. It simply won't seem like a real program to admins, other potential players, and parents, if the kids do all the organizing not to mention that it takes time away that those kids could be using to do more internal stuff. (This is not a put down of South Eugene or anyone else who plays without a coach, this is about making it so the players can focus on what they need to do within their own team situation which in some cases means doing their own coaching)

- Build middle school teams and programs at the feeder schools. That way kids can show up to the high school with more experience and skills and their parents will ask about ultimate Frisbee when they are touring prospective schools. That equals pressure on administrators to add a program.

- Be a coach or assistant coach in another sport at the school (or a feeder middle school) in fall and/or winter. It makes it easier to get kids to come out to play ultimate and makes the sport more respectable to the community. If you want to become a national powerhouse in ultimate help coach football, basketball, soccer, volleyball, or gymnastics at a big school and get those kids to come play ultimate for you.

- Never ever bad mouth the administration or other sports/coaches at your school. Work to build bridges with admins and other programs. If you get a kid showing up for ultimate who has potential in another sport they don't play, actively work to get that kid to tryout for the other sport. If other programs know that you are trying to feed them athletes they may do the same especially because ultimate is such a good cross training sport.

- Be patient. Chances are that it will be your first generation of players youngest siblings and their friends who will look at ultimate as just another sport and will expect to be in a program that is well organized and run like any other varsity sport when they arrive in high school. That is when you will know you have succeeded in building a program.
Hope this helps. - Mike Mullen


jason said...

Thanks a lot Mike. It actually gave me some ideas for recruitment which we need oh so much. It's really helpful.

Lukester said...

South Eugene HS is now coached by Seth Wiggins of Rhino.

Scott said...

If you have a small program and want to start playing, what's the best way to find tournaments or schools nearby?