by Fergus (Chairperson of the GFDA)
For 12 days the GFDA hosted Felix Shardlow, an extremely experienced and knowledgeable coach from Brighton, UK, who ran clinics for the players and coaches in the Gauteng and surrounding regions. Sessions were run in Soweto, Pretoria, Orange Farm and Johannesburg, with people coming from as far as Pietermaritzburg and Durban to attend. There were 7 clinics hosted in total, six of which were player focused and 1 specific coaching session. Felix even played a league match with Soweto Ultimate Dikwangkwetla thanks to the welcoming hospitality shown by Zone Rangers. Unfortunately for Soweto, his influence wasn’t enough to stop a very strong Rangers side, who ended up winning 15-9, despite Soweto taking an early 2 point lead.
The aim of the “Bring Felix to South Africa” programme was to assist in the upskilling of the players in the Gauteng region by introducing a new and novel way of thinking about ultimate and demonstrate unique and exciting drills to hone the skills required to be an effective Ultimate team. Everyone was re-taught the basics of catching and throwing, before moving on to more detailed, strategic training. Felix teaches his own brand of Ultimate called Hexagon, which looks to maximise the space available on the field and keep the disc moving (or flowing as he likes to call it). Orange Farm, who took Felix’s philosophy to heart during their private session were an early success story, recorded their first league win since inception with a solid win over Wits 15-7 in their first encounter since being introduced to Hexagon.
The coaching clinic was specialised towards giving the administrators new ways teach Ultimate, how people learn new techniques and what to look out for and avoid when trying to teach people who have never played. The aim was to give longevity to the player sessions given by Felix, by empowering our local coaches with the fundamentals required to drive a team to a higher standard. This also brought together some of the most competitive players in the region for a game of pick-up once the session was finished that wouldn’t have been out of place in the final round of a national tournament.
Despite the full programme, the GFDA ensured that Felix got a taste of South Africa, taking him to the Pilanesburg National Park, the Lion and Rhino Reserve, a day trip through Pretoria in Brutus, Justus’ imitation MX5 convertible, and nearly getting thrown down the Soweto Cooling Towers. On his outing to Lion and Rhino Park, his Ultimate future was put in jeopardy, as well as his favourite disc, when he was mauled by a 10 week old lion cub. He was luckily rescued by Wits Chairperson, Paul, who reacted quickly and distracted the ferocious beast by offering it a Frisbee in place of devouring Felix.
The overall impact of the clinic so far has been positive. The community has a buzz around it because of a great shared experience and the individual players who attended the sessions feel like new skills and techniques have been learned. The community has also been shown that there is a higher standard of Ultimate than what we have been exposed to in South Africa, which is not beyond our grasp. But have also been shown that to achieve this higher standard will require hard work, togetherness and commitment towards the goal of success. It is still too soon to say what the long term effects of the Felix sessions will be as they are still to be measured, but with a national tournament just around the corner, the first bench mark will soon be taken. Watch out South Africa, the Gauteng teams have a point to prove.