College Championships Included Clinic for Local Youth and Coaches

Posted: May 28, 2014 01:49 PM

While the top college ultimate teams in North America were competing against each other in pool play at the College Championships on Saturday morning, another corner of the park hosted a Learn to Play clinic, where more than two dozen people signed up to learn what the sport of ultimate is all about. Interested players younger than six and older than 35 were taught how to throw both forehands and backhands, as well as basic cutting drills, by volunteers from USA Ultimate and the Cincinnati Ultimate Players Association (CUPA). After the drills had given the players the basic building blocks of the game, they were divided into teams and played a game, to help hone their new skills and further develop into the future of the sport.

"It’s really good to see these players coming out so young and trying to improve their skills at such an early age," CUPA volunteer Neil Narayan said after helping one of the participants with his forehand technique. Like many, Narayan didn’t start playing ultimate until college. He learned the sport at Rice University. Already in his late teens by then, Narayan had to quickly learn the game and perfect the fundamentals that are required to play ultimate at a high level. Through hard work and dedication, he was able to develop as a player and has played at some of the most competitive levels of the sport. Nevertheless, he sees these Learn to Play clinics as a great opportunity for new players to get better at the game. "I wish I had something like this," he said with a chuckle.

USA Ultimate National College Men’s Director Kevin Kula also volunteered at the clinic and stressed the importance of clinics for more than just new players, as well.

"Clinics are all about making sure that the building blocks are there in a player," Kula stated. "After you start playing ultimate a lot, you can start to get sloppy and not think about techniques." Clinics such as these, which use simple drills to quickly teach players the basic abilities needed to play well, are great ways for players to return to the sport’s fundamentals and improve their game.

Even players who grew up playing the game recognize the importance of these clinics. Will Huffer, another of CUPA’s volunteers at the clinic, grew up with parents who met playing ultimate, so he got started at a young age.

"I enjoy watching kids grow up playing ultimate, because I grew up throwing," Huffer said. "Obviously we want to foster the future of the sport; we don’t want it to stay where it is. We want it to grow."

To help facilitate this growth, the Learn to Play clinic also had a Coach’s Corner where USA Ultimate’s Manager of Youth and Education Programs, Mike Lovinguth, talked with a handful of local ultimate coaches about best practices and shared some ideas on spreading the energy of the sport. The focus on coaches there also helps the development of the sport of ultimate, as a single coach can get an entire team of young players excited about the game, which is often the catalyst needed to turn a student population uninterested in ultimate into a strong program.

Cincinnati has already benefitted from years of this rapid growth. The city has one of the largest high school leagues in the country, with 30 schools fielding teams, several of which are national contenders at the high school level. These schools feed their top players into under-16 and under-19 club teams that compete with the best in the country at the Youth Club Championships each year, making Cincinnati a somewhat-surprising hotbed of ultimate.



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