The Ultimate Athlete Project in...Ireland

author - melissa witmer clinics

“I didn’t expect Brodie to be quite so large and I didn’t expect you to be quite so short.”  is what one of my clinic attendees said to me at the pre-Siege-of-Limerick party.  One thing you can say about the Irish folks, they’re not afraid to razz you a bit.  Whatever, I’m fine with my reputation outpacing my stature.  In all seriousness, the students at the University of Limerick were excellent hosts.  From the first party I attended Thursday night, everyone went out of their way to make me feel included, taking the time to explain their slang and inside jokes.  It was great craic!

February 18-19th I did my first international fitness clinic at the University of Limerick in Ireland and stayed for The Siege of Limerick (a tournament, not an actual Siege) the following weekend.  Brodie Smith was also brought in for the week (hence the comparison).

The Clinic

Over an intense two days, we covered all the principles of training for ultimate.  The two-day format allowed us to go in-depth into the not only WHAT to do, but also the science behind WHY we should do things a certain way.  The small size of the clinic allowed for personal attention and coaching of movement.  We had time to explore everyone’s questions, discuss theory, and adjust the clinic on the fly to fit the players’ interests.

The clinic days were divided into four sections in much the same way that the Ultimate Athlete's Handbook has four chapters:

  • Mobility
  • Strength
  • Speed, Agility, and Jumping
  • and Conditioning.

Day 1

In the morning we started with mobility.  We went outside for full mobility and warm-up routines.  Once warmed up, we did speed and agility drills.  After lunch we hit the weight room to try hip dominant, knee dominant, pushing, and pulling exercises could be put together as part of a complete and functional strength training program.  We finished off the day with a short conditioning session where we sampled the linear and lateral workouts that are the pillars of my conditioning program.

Day 2

The first day of trying things out brings up as many questions as answers.  The second day we had time to address those questions thoroughly.  With this group, I went into detail on strength training theory.  We discussed different set/rep schemes and different ways to organize a long term strength training program.  I also gave a lecture about the different metabolic pathways and why this matters for how we do our conditioning.

The second day included practicing what we learned on day 1.   We went through a complete warmup at a normal pace and did a complete lifting session in the afternoon.  I also added some progressions on things we’d learned the previous day.

Agility and Footwork

Below are a few exercises we did during our agility portion of the day.  The goals of footwork and agility drills are to learn to control the feet and allow them to move quickly and freely in relation to one's center of mass.  Jon demonstrates this pretty well in his first attempt at some gridwork:

Agility and footwork modules are easy to put at the beginning of a practice or a workout. Because footwork is a motor skill, focus is needed to reap the benefits. The good news is, it doesn’t take a lot of time. A few repetitions of focused footwork and agility drills prior to every practice or training session will yield results over the course of a season.

In teaching footwork and agility drills, emphasize the importance of accurate foot placement before speed. Learn the movements well at half speed before concentrating on minimizing ground contact time.

Here Donal demonstrates the jab step and its similarity to cutting from the outside of the foot:

Wally demonstrates the waltz and how it translates to cutting from the inside foot:

My hope is that the format of learning, trying, questioning, reviewing, and progressing allows for the greatest learning retention.  I must say, I was really pleased with having two days to get a lot of work done.  I was a little worried that the days might be too long and people might get burnt out by so much information or just tired by the end of the day.  But athletes don’t get bored or tired as long as they’re moving.  We even snuck in a throwing session during our lunch break Sunday.

For another take on the clinic, read a write up from Donal Murray, player for Rebel Ultimate who won the Siege in the open division.

Next Clinic?

So what’s next?  As much as I enjoyed this experience, I don’t have plans for another weekend clinic any time soon.   For the next 8 weeks I’m going to mostly be hanging out in Lancaster, training at Power Train Sports Institute, and helping my members inside the Ultimate Athlete Project get ready for the start of the season.

If you would like to schedule a clinic with me, I may be available sometime in July.  Other than that, it’ll likely have to wait until after the end of October.  Feel free to email me using the contact form if you’d like to set something up.

If a clinic is not a possibility where you’re at, check out the Ultimate Athlete's Handbook.  As I’ve mentioned, the clinic followed a similar format to the book.  Many of the principles we talked about and the exercises we did in the clinic are also in the book.  In the book, you can find the above footwork drills and many more.