Friday, March 25, 2011

Season Picks - Girls

Last week, I looked at some of the top Open programs in PHUEL (Philly HS League), today, let's take a look at the Girls.

This year, the PHUEL Girls division has expanded to have 7 teams.

After back-to-back State Championships, Lower Merion lost Emily E. to graduation last year.  Still, captains Beah J and Rebecca H, and a huge number of girls give LadyBaba a solid chance at 3-in-a-row.

Haverford graduated a number of girls last year, but the entire team is incredibly solid.  While they don't play ultimate in the fall, most of the team is highly involved in other sports, making HUDA one of the most athletic teams in PHUEL.

Radnor Girls also have a substantial roster, full of girls with tremendous disc skills, and captains Amy M, Viv C, and Margie G provide awesome leadership, and Hannah H is a tremendous talent.

After a tumultuous 2010, O'Hara GirlSquad is led once again by Reg W, pound for pound, one of the best players in PHUEL.  Kaitlin M and Alex D add more veteran leadership, and an influx of freshman girls will put COHS back in serious contention for a State Championship

Pennsbury PUFF is returning for their second year, lead by Lindsey M, PUFF should make some solid gains on their performance of last year.

Pennsbury DiscThrow Inferno begins play this year after an off-season split with PUFF.  Led by Alyssa N, DiscThrow has yet to play a game as a team.

Central Girls also join the PHUEL ranks this year, with a great coaching staff, excited girls, and lots of passion, Central Girls are a welcome addition to the PHUEL Girls Division.

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Friday, March 18, 2011

Season Picks - Open

With the NCAA Tournament happening, I started thinking - "Who are the big players in the hunt for State Championships?"

PHUEL looks more wide open than ever before, in both the Open and Girls Division.

For the Open side:
Haverford graduated a ton, but the coaching there is amongst the best around and Connor L. will provide some matchup problems.
Radnor has a very strong core, notably Trent D., and will kick off their tournament schedule with their own Green Eggs & Spam.
Mastermann lost a good bit of players to graduation, but still retains some very good chemistry with Jake and Eli leading the way.
Lower Merion is just tenacious, and their tournament win at KitKat in the fall proved that Tim G. can lead his team well, even in times of adversity.
Cardinal O'Hara is getting their act together, and has a core of 8 juniors & seniors who have been playing together for 3 years, Zack P. and Brian O. will simply will this team to some victories.  COHS starts next weekend at the YHB Invite.   
Pennsbury is looking strong again, after a year absence, and led by Paul K., with plenty of chances to get better, starting this weekend at Bring the Huckus.

Anyone I missed?

Girls next week.

Quick Note:  I am the coach at COHS, but have tried to remain impartial.  Did I succeed?

Friday, March 11, 2011

Pre Season Routine

HS Ultimate has a great structure.  Our big, competitive season is the spring, which lets us use the fall to recruit and have some fun teaching the sport.  

At the school I coach at, we set up our year in two distinct seasons.  The fall is set up like a hat league.  We teach a lot.  Almost the entire fall, we are teaching how to throw, catch, cut, play D, and most importantly, we are building a solid foundation of Spirit.  We only play one tournament, KitKatInTheHat, and then, lots and lots of pick-up.  I love the fall, I love the ability to focus on the fundamentals, and recruit.

Our veteran players love it too.  Some of them love to teach, and some of them really love pickup.  Others really like the chance to assemble something on their own, and this year, they put together a mixed team for Club Sectionals.  Nevermind that they didn't win a game, they learned a ton.

Spring is when we break out the big guns.  We talk to the new recruits from the fall, and we make it very clear, if you are not here to work, see you next fall.  We don't want to chase anyone away, but, we also don't want players to get the wrong opinion of what we are doing.  We workout to get better at Ultimate, so that we can play the game at a higher level, and have a great time.

Our workouts start with a captains' meeting.  The team captains meet with me and set our goals.  Usually 3-5 team goals.  We also work out 5-10 strategies to meet these goals.  I want my captains to see and experience the process of planning to win.  It is crucial to actually playing good Ultimate and success.  We then explain these objectives to the team, get complete buy-in, and start working out.

We have a 12 week workout that meets the players where-ever they are in their own fitness.  We set realistic goals for each other and ourselves, we push each other, we encourage each other, and when necessary, we heckle each other.  We workout twice a week, and we also include a classroom session every week.  In the classroom, as a coach, I attempt to teach the rules more in-depth, I teach more about SOTG, and strategy.  Players don't seriously touch the field without a solid foundation of practical knowledge about the game.  Our favorite part is watching other games, muting the commentary, and providing our ow.  YouTube and UltiVillage are AWESOME for clips, and full games.

We try to plan our workout season to end with our first tournament.  I schedule our tournaments, the captains schedule all the individual games with minimal guidance from me.  I just give them a calendar of other activities and limit of games.

Preparing for the season is a long process.  As a coach, it is vital that I plan, or else every practice, and the entire season loses focus.  I have found that my players love a solid structure, they don't want to waste their time.  Neither do I.

How do you prepare for the season?

Thursday, March 03, 2011

New Contributor - Tom Cook

It has been a while since PlayUltimate was updated, but, I hope to start changing that.

I have just signed on as a new contributor, hopefully getting some conversations started about Pennsylvania youth ultimate, and youth ultimate in general.

First, introductions are in order:

I am Tom Cook, coach at Cardinal O'Hara High School, just outside of Philadelphia.  I have been coaching for about 8 years, for the past 7 I have been coaching both the Open and the Girls team, and I have one Girls State Championship (2008) under my belt.  This year, an alumni came back to take the reins of the Open team, leaving me to focus on the Girls, and a few other jobs.  This year, our Girls tournament, the O'Hara Invite, in in its 4th year and is shaping up to be one of the biggest and best in the country.

I have been serving on the PHUEL (Philadelphia High School Ultimate Education League) Board for the past 3 years, helping to direct competition, contribute to City and State Championships, advise new and existing teams.  I don't see many other leagues outside of PA, but I feel PHUEL is amongst the best in the country.

I hope to bring some of the workings of PHUEL to a larger audience so that other leagues can see what we are doing, how we manage, and maybe get some ideas on how to grow other leagues.  I hope to talk a bit about competition in PHUEL and hopefully PHUL (Pittsburgh High School Ultimate League), a lot about SOTG, and a bunch about organizing in general.

Lastly, I hope for weekly posts.  Let's see if I can hold myself to that one.