Valkyrie Ultimate: Lessons From A Successful Development Weekend


South Australian women haven’t been exposed to a lot of high-level coaching or new ideas in the past few years. To help inspire SA women and build a base for future growth, Valkyrie Ultimate hosted a development weekend in Adelaide last month.


The weekend was a resounding success and I’ve compiled some of my methods and learnings in the hope that it will help others replicate the event in their home states.



The Coaches


The six coaches came from a variety of cities and backgrounds, and could teach a great range of skills sessions including throwing, handling, cutting, and defence, and theory sessions such as mental strength, watching film, and coaching strategies. They also included coaches of future Australian national teams, which allowed us to provide exposure for SA talent.


Bree Edgar (Sydney), Sarah Brereton (Perth), Yew Eng Ng (Sydney), Laura Manescu (Sydney), Shani Webb (Perth) and Viv Yuen (Brisbane).


For people not sure they have the connections to invite this many coaches – just ask! I hadn’t met most of our coaches in person beforehand and when I asked for recommendations, received way more than I had spots for coaches.


The Schedule


When players registered, they chose the topics they most wanted to learn about from a list created by local representatives and the coaches themselves.


The final schedule was spread across four time slots each day. Players could sign up to one session per slot. This included 26 group sessions, plus 5 sessions of individual 1-on-1 player mentoring and 2 of 1-on-1 mentoring for coaches. We also hosted a Coach Q&A during the group dinner on the Saturday night.


It was a real challenge making such a complex schedule work but it meant players had a great range of flexibility and could target what they wanted to work on.

Sessions included:

  • Pressure decision-making

  • Who wants to pull?

  • Planning mental strength programs for clubs

  • Hucking under pressure

  • Intro to mark and dump defence

  • Getting free at will

  • Learning from film

  • Advanced handler skills

  • Reading, boxing out, and taking the grabs



One On One Sessions


We offered several different one-on-one sessions, as well as some that happened to turn into very small group sessions due to sign-ups. These were incredibly successful and valuable for our players.

  • Laura offered one-on-one player mentoring, which gave 5 of our players a chance to sit down with her for an hour each and discuss their goals, challenges, and how to achieve the next steps in their ultimate career.

  • Sarah and Bree offered a similar session for coaches, and one of Sarah’s later sessions on coaching turned into a great small-group discussion which allowed SA coaches to get a lot of personalised info.

  • Yewy and Viv offered small group throwing sessions (2-8 players) which enabled them to really focus on the players’ needs. I had great feedback about these sessions from beginner players as well as advanced players working on more complex throws.

I am so glad we were able to offer these opportunities to our women. All the coaches were extremely generous with their time and knowledge and are keen for our players to get in touch with further questions in the future.


This kind of network-building is sometimes difficult, but now that our players have made that intro I hope they can continue to expand their interstate contacts and resources.


The Organisation


We had a three person team - myself (Emma Victory), our fields/food/on-the-day person Jessie James, and our design and social media manager Laura Franklin. With the exception of lunches and a bit of set-up/pack-up on the day, the majority of the work on our side took place in the lead-up; the coaches did all the work once we were there!


We paid for a photographer, who was able to come out both days, and had a few volunteers help us on the days too.


Social media was a huge part of our event planning, because we wanted people to get excited about the event. A full social media plan really helped us get numbers, with hype building following reveals of the event name and logo, coach announcements, and countdown posts. But don’t underestimate the value of personal, face-to-face invitations for recruiting!


The total cost of the event was under $5000. With SA Ultimate providing a grant and multiple local clubs subsidising player rego fees, costs to individual players were kept to a minimum while still ensuring a high-quality event.



Feedback


Remember to ask for feedback on the day! At the end of the camp, we broke players into groups and asked them to provide us with three things they liked and three things they’d change. We got great responses and more importantly, this made sure we did receive some feedback. Our responses to post-event surveys were very low - on-the-day feedback is our best source of information.


Lessons Learned


The number one piece of feedback from players was that they wanted game time. This could be a valuable way to practice skills being taught, but scrimmages would have to be structured carefully to ensure focused outcomes.


Players also wanted more information about the sessions to help them with signing up. A catchy title is good, but providing more written information ahead of time will help players to ensure they are selecting sessions that are most appropriate for them. Don’t forget to have a combination of local needs plus new ideas when planning the sessions.


Our top sessions were:

  1. Pressure Decision Making

  2. Breaking the Mark

  3. On Field Communication

  4. Boxing Out and Taking Grabs

The sign-up format meant that coaches had to be ready to adjust to different group sizes and skill levels for each session. I wouldn’t change this format, but it is a factor - the coaches have to be ready to adjust on the fly!


Something that I would like to see considered at future camps is a coach mentoring program, for local coaches or less experienced guest coaches. An experienced guest coach can share their planning, jointly run a session, and then review it afterwards with a newer/local coach. Coach feedback showed us coaches keen to be involved in both sides of this.


It would be amazing if we could run this event once a year. I have already had players talking about and volunteering to help with “next year’s weekend” so the demand is clearly there. It would be great if the same thing was happening around the country.


I’m producing a pack to help other states run similar events so please contact me at valkyrieultimate@gmail.com if you have any questions or ideas about this event or other women’s events you’re running!