Wednesday, February 23, 2005

On Programs

I’ve been noticing a lot of people throwing the term “program” around on RSD recently, and I can’t say that I’m totally confident that I know what it means. However, I do think it’s a somewhat interesting topic as several of us are essentially building teams up from the ground up. For me it’s been interesting to compare the rate of development among the three classes of rookies I’ve had. Each year, the rookies have developed more quickly than the previous year. When I talk about development here I’m talking about it independent of athletic ability. In other words, we all cases where a rookie comes out and is a sick athlete and can help you right away purely by virtue of their athleticism. When I talk about development, I’m just talking about picking up the real nuts and bolts of the game – what pass do I throw in this situation, what cut do I make in this situation. In any event, each of my rookie classes has developed more rapidly than the class that preceded them. Hopefully, some of this can be attributed to the fact that I’ve learned a little bit about coaching and I’m doing a better job than I have in the past. However, I think more of this developmental pattern can be attributed to the fact that we’ve finally laid the foundation for a real program. (Note: I don’t think we’ve developed a true program yet, but I think we have laid the groundwork and if things continue in the next 2 years as they have in the last 2 then Emory should have a sustainable program).

Just saying we’ve poured the foundation for a program is a little abstract (although the metaphor is strangely concrete) so let me try to be a little more specific about what I have in mind. I think the biggest factor in the more rapid development process is just that there are more players ahead of the rookies in school that have developed good fundamentals. As a result, rookies always throw with someone who knows how to throw; they always play with people who have an idea of how to play etc. For this reason, new rookies are less likely to develop bad habits. The reason I say that Emory hasn’t fully developed a program yet becomes clear when you look at the distribution of experience. Emory has 1 player in her fifth year, 1 in her fourth, 2 in their third, 8 in their second and 8 in their first. Given this distribution rookies are primarily learning from watching/playing against second year players. Presumably, next year’s rookie class will develop faster because they’ll learn primarily from 3rd year players, and the following year’s class will develop even faster because they’ll learn primarily from 4th year players. After that the rate of development should plateau as every subsequent class should be learning primarily from fourth year players. It seems to me that as long as a program can continue to recruit 7 or 8 motivated players every year they should be able to produce strong teams pretty much indefinitely. This is what I think it means to have a program. True programs can literally reload every year because as their stars graduate they have a new crop of experienced players to step in.


Martin said...

Hmmm . . . programs. This repsone is a long time coming, but now is as good a time as any to respond.

A program IS a place that can "reload" from year to year, by replacing talent, however that isn't where the program lies. Sure, you can try to get a good 7 or 8 movtivated players a year, and that will replace your losses personell-wise, but that just gets you numbers. The issue is those players getting better so that they can lead the team in a few years. Perhaps this is what you meant by motivated, but I see it in another fashion.

I order to build a program you need to start with a core of young players and teach them a philosophy and skills (the second being the most important). We can all agree that there isn't enough time in a practice to cover all the skills that you need to teach players, which is why this initial core is so important. Their job, aside from doing well, is to be competent enough next year so that they can ease your burden of coaching and teach the new crop some of the skills so you don't have to spend as long on them in practice.

When I was coaching Tech I referred to it as building a knowledge base. Georgia's success at being a contstantly good team isn't just from them reloading with athletes, it is that those athletes aren't terrible players. Why aren't they terrible players? True they are motivated, and that helps, but really it is because they have learned from the upperclassmen that aren't bad players. A long time ago (I imiagine even before Will) someone taught some UGA guys how to play. They then took that knowledge back to school and taught it to other people. The cycle continues until new people pick it up because that is the way things are done, and everyone understands them.

Finally now I can see the benefit of this technique with Tech. The players that I taught fundamentals are carrying them over to the new players so they are getting better faster, and that is how you reload your talent.

So a program to me is a school/place where an ethos of ultimate exists and is consistent through most of its players. As a result people learn faster (at least learn the ethos) and if you are luck enough to recruit good players (which UGA has done a better job of in recent years) then you might actually go somewhere. Note: in my mind the existance of an ultimate program is independent of the success you achieve.

So, at Emory AJ has done a good job getting things going, but it will be seen in the next few years if the seeds he has planted will take root, and the overall knowledge of the game tha the Emory women have might take root. Not so much for his actions at the time, but rather his actions now.

This is why it takes at least two to three years in the college coaching ranks (Bball) before a coach does any good. It takes time to build that knowledge base.


Tarr said...

Yes, it's about consistent recruitment, and having everyone be on the same page, passing the knowledge down the line to younger players.

I just started coaching Purdue women this spring. The core of this team is a set of three 4th and 1 5th year handlers who are fantastic. All of them were freshmen (or a sophmore) when Purdue women had their last really good team. Without a "program" like you say, I think a lot of teams tend to get caugh in three year cycles like this.

Another big aspect to the teams that NEVER have down years is a solid B team that plays tournaments throughout the spring. This means your younger players are picking up actual game experience right away - the value of that can't be overstated. Brown has even gotten to the point where they have a tourning C team, since rawer freshmen (and some sophomores) can't get playing time on the B team anymore.

Wow, I made it three whole comments before bringing up Brown. Aren't you proud of me Martin?

eric said...

How do you acheive "consistent recruitment?" I'm a senior and captain of the Purdue mens team, and this a problem our team has struggled with for some time. We get ~80 players to show up to play after our callout, but we drive away all but ~4 or 5 (and rarely keep any stud athletes). So I'm wondering is there any "tried and true" methods of recruiting out there? Is it better to just throw them into a game, or try to teach them some fundamentals first? Some thoughts would be greatly appreciated.


Noah said...

at uga we host a fall league, which serves as both a recruitment tool and also to get new players acquainted to the rules of the game, and into game situations. after several weeks of fall league, there are usually a large handful of players who get hooked, and another large handful who enjoyed playing but aren't intereseted in playing more competitively, or who stopped showing up. we've been doing fall league for several years and had about 60 interested players total come to a-team and b-team tryouts last year (for about 50 total roster spots - the rest continued to play pickup and "d-team"...)

Anonymous said...

along the lines of uga's fall league, NCSU holds a one day tournment the first or second weekend of the fall semester. The tournment is their major recruiting tool and allows the vetern players to scout out all the incoming students that have even the slightest interest in playing. The veterns keep a look out for any significant height, speed or experience and make sure to make get that persons name and give them info on practice times.

This tournment which is sponsered by a local CD shop which helps advertising and i think even prizes for winning teams.

charlie kerr wrote an article on recruiting which after ncsu won nationals in 99 it can be found here:

other good tips in the article include talking to university coaches about lists of failed walk-ons....seems like a great idea.