Written By: Naomi Redmond
UCM Archive December 2016 Issue

Ultimate Canada recently announced the contracting of Mike Haddock, Toronto-based coach, to be the official strength and conditioning coach. As someone who has been playing Ultimate and studying exercise science since high school, Haddock has been scrutinizing the way Ultimate players could benefit from training for years. While he was touring in the club system himself, he began to put together training programs for a small handful of Toronto Rush players, which steadily expanded every year as interest grew. Now, Haddock works with most local elite players in the men’s division. With the World Games and U24 tournaments on the horizon, he has been developing programs and resources for athletes across the country.

Q: Why Ultimate? When did you start playing, and when did you start investing time in training Ultimate players?

A: I started off playing all sports when I was younger, but I think like a lot of people, I really fell in love with Ultimate right away. At my high school, I was able to take Exercise Science, which led me to Kinesiology. By Grade 12, I knew that I wanted to train Ultimate players. After I had finished at York University, I went through Olympic lifting and high-performance training courses, where my mentor encouraged me to find my niche. That’s when I wrote my first proposal for the Rush, but it was the following season that I started helping with their physical preparation.

Q: What inspires you to train athletes? What do you think is the best way to improve an Ultimate player?

A: The players are a major incentive. I have worked with professionals in other sports, and they have a sense of “I am a professional, so I know best.” It’s the opposite in Ultimate, where there is a deep sense of gratitude and desire to be better, and a willingness to put in the time and effort.

What really makes this “job” fun is the enthusiasm from both the coaches and athletes. Because those athletes take everything you advise, and implement it, which makes me want to work harder, do more, and help as much as possible. It really is the environment and atmosphere of fun within Ultimate that makes it an incredible experience.

In terms of improvement, you need to go slow to develop a complete understanding–we can’t build a pyramid on a faulty base. Even if a player is looking to peak at a certain tournament, we always have time to improve them in the long run.

Q: What separates a good Ultimate player from a national-level one?

A: There are lots of good Ultimate players out there, and although natural build and athleticism definitely mean something, what really separates the good from the great is mental quickness and body control. Elite Ultimate happens so fast. It’s almost like you need to take a helicopter-view of the field to see how fast the players are making decisions and how they’re reacting to what’s happening with the other thirteen bodies around them.

Q: What are your plans with Ultimate Canada? What projects are you hoping to tackle?

A: Right now, we’re focusing on the World Games and U24 training programs. The World Games athletes need to be prepared to play an extremely rigorous schedule, so we’re building individualized programs based on demands and needs versus injuries and past training history. I’ve been video chatting with the athletes, and I’m building their programs off of what will make them most successful, but it’s going to start with a lot of communication from the beginning so that they can find the value in preparing with me.

With the U24 prospects, we’re looking to put together building blocks for success that will best improve their basic physical literacy. We always say things like “engage your glutes”, but do people actually know how to do that? Now is the best time to work on the fundamentals.

Q: Any advice for the prospects getting ready for U24 tryouts?

A: Be ready to go back to the basics. Everyone wants to do the cool stuff, but you can’t even do sprints properly without perfecting the form. I’m working with Ultimate Canada to put together a huge database of videos that anyone interested can have access to. Especially with the U24s, we know that some players could totally blow up if they had the resources to learn something as simple as how to stabilize their ankles. Sometimes, it’s actually the exercises that seem boring or easy that will help you succeed down the line the most.