Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Split development or all together and other challenges

We've been working in London with something we're calling the Ultimate Academy. Every Saturday, college teams (Kings and Imperial) come together to get some Ultimate theory. The goal is to impart some theory of the game of Ultimate to up and coming College Ultimate players.

I've really enjoyed the process, and I'm documenting the sessions in hope of developing an e-book some time in the future. The goal being to provide drills and a progression of drills on ways to teach Ultimate. Of course, as much as this is meant to teach new comers, I think the progression is a good approach to reviewing Ultimate technique and team concepts.

You'll have to wait for the e-book, but in the meantime, much like the lessons I talk about with tournaments, I've started to learn a few things in this process. In particular, there are a few challenges that are making things tough. The are:

  1. How do you develop sessions that are good for beginners and intermediates?
  2. How do you deal with irregular attendance?
  3. How do you keep people interested?
  4. What size of group is reasonable to coach?
In terms of teaching beginners and intermediates, I've found it hard to keep on introducing concepts. The pace of progression will either lose the beginners or bore the intermediates. I don't know if there's a perfect solution in this case, unless you have the teaching personnel to divide the group into smaller sections and ensure that each group is getting what they need.

This problem is even more difficult with irregular attendance. The major problem is the Academy is based on progression. When people don't make it to every session then their are holes in knowledge. These holes cause more variance across the group as a whole, and the result is nobody gets the full benefit of these sessions. The solutions are to demand commitment (if that's possible), have multiple progressions built over shorter session spans, or just push on and accept the inefficiencies of ongoing progression.

The next two challenges are classic coaching decisions. Both problems are highly dependent on the audience. The more keen the audience, the easier it is to keep people interested and have a large group. As keenness drops, a coach needs to introduce techniques like limited talking periods, competitions, and fun elements. These solutions help, but in the end you can only do so much, and the boring important stuff has to be presented and worked on for the benefits of the minority who care.



Mackey said...

I think it IS really hard to tailor your work for a range of levels--you're certainly right that some will get bored and others will simply not be motivated to work.

It's really no different from any teaching situation. You have your motivated kids, and you have your slackers. You have the ones that "get it" and the ones that struggle with the examples, much less working on their own.

In my mind, you work around this by building in levels of progression within any given drill. I haven't fleshed this thought out to any concrete point, but returning vets marking up against each other in the fundamental drills is an example of this.

To make it a bit more structured, I think you throw out a few "levels" of goals for your players. If you're doing a break mark drill, you give the beginners 10 seconds, people who need more challenge 6 seconds, restrict to 1/2/no pivots, etc, to shift the focus from a simple execution capability to a concern with efficiency (and therefore mastery).

This doesn't really address a question of strategy/discussion disparities, but in some senses I think you can offer a lot of depth without going on at length, allowing those who are able to key in on finer points while not going on so much as to overwhelm the less experienced. I think talking this way is very much a skill that can be honed, and, like most good teaching, functions primarily off of easily-accessible analogy or simple directives that can be grasped in an instant but have some nuance or depth that gives them staying power as a learning tool. Unlike this comment.