Tuesday, May 10, 2005

BUDA Youth Program: Spring 2005

I have been working as BUDA’s Youth Educator since May of 2002. My job is to go into middle and high schools and teach clinics in the PE classes. The clinics have a simple agenda: teach the students backhand and forehand throws, review the basic rules of the game, and then play. I also provide the teachers with a Teaching Kit, which includes 10 discs, 8 cones, a skills and drills manual and curriculum for teaching Ultimate, other BUDA literature, and UPA rulebooks. Our hope is to teach the teachers how to be confident in teaching the sport. The clinics and Teaching Kit are provided free of charge!

This spring I am running, for the third time, clinics at Newton North High School and Lincoln-Sudbury High School. I consider these schools to be my flagship programs as all the pieces have come together in a very positive way. First, both of these schools have enthusiastic faculty. At NNHS, Bill McAndrews and his staff have set up a program in which I teach Ultimate to their entire first year class. They are welcoming to me, and have specifically stated that the clinics have made them more confident in teaching the sport. At LSHS, Chris Belmont has been integrating Ultimate into his curriculum to the point at which the agenda for this spring will be advanced tactics, and opportunities for a lifetime of Ultimate. Wow. Second, both these schools have robust club Ultimate teams. The teams have, on occasion, served as assistant teachers during the clinics. I love this. It legitimizes what I do as it is easier for the students to buy into something that their peers are passionate about. It also provides recruiting opportunities for the club teams.

I have just completed three days and 15 classes at Newton North, and I will be at LSHS on May 23-24. Here are some observations about teaching the sport in the PE setting:

1) The skills of the sport are hard- Throwing and catching provide an impediment to understanding and enjoying the sport. Obvious statement. I spend about 25 minutes teaching backhands and forehands and having the kids throw in pairs. My main goal is to show them the range of skills needed to be successful. The lack of throwing skills makes jumping into games difficult, and I sometimes worry that the quality of play is too low for enjoying the sport. I check in with the teachers, however, and most of the time they feel that the “look” of the sport is similar to other field sports that they teach.

2) Inertia- Many of the kids literally do not want to move. I tried some drills in my first few clinics. Bad idea. There is no context for understanding why a drill is useful. Sometimes I think a highlight video would be useful so the kids could at least see the sport.

3) Some classes are just not into it- I have to have a pretty thick skin sometimes. I notice that the classes later in the day are especially hard. The kids lack focus and interest. Regardless of the time period, many classes disintegrate into the boys running around and the girls standing around in a clump in the middle of the field. We work on that.

On the other hand, I had a great class the other day. Six on six, indoors in a field house, and, as I had a volunteer, each team had an experienced player. It worked great. Every kid got a lot of touches, and there was lots of running and good play. I set my expectations pretty low. My goal is to have a couple of kids each day really get it.

4) Self-officiating is met with skepticism- I make sure the kids are clearly aware of self-officiating and Spirit of the Game. I think that these aspects of the sport can provide an opportunity for responsibility and accountability that is positive for kids at this age. The kids are skeptical, and rightly so. I do not spend much time digging into how self-officiating works, as I feel it would bog down the class, but I do provide them with a few examples (stall count, marking fouls, etc) that can at least provide a framework for understanding that self-officiating does not mean chaos.

5) The flight of the disc is appealing- I try to find a kid or two that are willing and interested in doing some running. It is pretty easy to tell with a quick survey of the field as the kids are practicing their throws. I might jump in and throw a bit, and as I do, start to make the throws such that the kid has to run for it a bit. This quickly moves to the kid running long for a big throw. A lot of kids just love this (I did when I was that age). I am certain that they flight of the disc and running it down is appealing to us. I find it a great way to hook the kids on the sport.

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