Ultimate is a non-contact team sport where you throw a flying disc to a teammate in the other team's end zone. It's a unique, fun sport that's played by millions of people around the world.
One of the world's best Ultimate coaches is an X-Teamer. Ciaran Hudson recently coached the Ireland Mixed team to his tenth Ultimate World Championships. I asked Ciaran about his experience coaching Ultimate and guiding teams to World Championships.
Could you tell me a bit more about how you got into Ultimate and what makes the sport so unique to you?
I got into Ultimate when I fell for a girl who played and invited me to training. I never expected to turn up to a training, but one morning of my exam period in university, I decided to procrastinate by having a go. And I love the fact that the sport is completely self-regulated. All players on the field are the referees. This has led to a super open and honest and socially conscious community, the likes of which I have never ever seen outside of Ultimate.
That's a wonderful story! Given that most people don't know Ultimate, what are some of the things they get wrong when they ask you about it?
They think the sport is played with dogs, or just involves standing still and throwing...
Played with dogs? That sounds far-fetched (no pun intended). And how did that end up with you coaching an Ultimate team and getting them to the World Championships?!
I have an Irish passport and played nationals in Ireland a few years ago. I helped the team win their first-ever title. From this, I was invited to coach the opposition that we'd beat in the final. The captain of that team was part of the team I ended up coaching in 2018 and I was invited back for 2019.
It can be hard to balance, as with most of life's challenges. I allocate time outside work to training and coaching Ultimate, as both of these are my passions (along with wine-making). I find that having a solid plan and always readjusting and re-evaluating is key.
Planning is vital! About the World Championships, what are they like? Which one was your favorite one so far and why?
The 10 World Championships I've done have been the best 10 weeks of my life. It's a break from reality, to a fantasy world where everyone knows the silly sport you play or coach. Everyone is very respectful and friendly. I have made most of my best friends through playing against them on the field.
The emotions, the highs and lows, are very extreme. I find myself ending world campaigns thinking what the heck just happened? Was that real? How am I supposed to explain to my friends how this week was?
Not to mention the absurd amount of pride I feel when I get to put on the Aussie Green and Gold, or Irish Greens - wearing the colours of my nationalities is one of the absolute best feelings I've ever experienced. Nothing seems to come close actually. Putting on my countries colours for a world championship makes me feel incredible! And for a lad who grew up on Australia, I get to feel Irish for a week when I put that top on. It's something I'll always cherish.
My favourite World Championship so far would have to be the Open Age World Championships in 2016, where I helped to coach the Australian Mixed Team to second in the world. The silver medal hangs above my head and brings me close to tears often...
That's a huge accomplishment, congratulations! It sounds like you've had a lot of great experiences, but what's been your best experience so far and why?
Coaching is a crazy ride. Everything that you didn't think of always goes wrong, and sometimes it can seem so intense and feel like you're herding a bunch of family members through life and death situations. Emotions are high, and you're tested numerous times a day. For me, what gets me through it is knowing that I'm not just coaching a sport. I'm coaching these people's lives, and they are, in some ways, coaching me. This keeps me going and gives me extra boosts of patience when I think I've run out.
My best experience coaching would have to be the Asia Oceanic All Star team I coached. This was an initiative to boost the visibility of women in sport, and push the gender equity envelope. I coached around 20 women which, between them, spoke more than 8 languages. We had cheers in 5 different languages. It was an unreal experience. Translation was needed for the strategies we delivered, as we played against a large group of the USA's top women's club teams (who I had personally idolised for years).
The little I know of Ultimate is that the US has very strong teams. Must've been exciting. Finally, what are the coaching goals that you'd like to achieve over the next few years?
Over the next few years, I'd like to see more Head Coach roles for myself, stepping out of the Assistant shadow. I'd also like to win a World Championships, although beating the USA is close to impossible!
An inspiring goal. Thank you for taking the time to talk to me. Best of luck coaching!