Q&A with 3rd year Breeze player and Strength & Conditioning Coach Alex Jacoski
Tell me a little bit about your background. When did you start playing? What hooked you on ultimate?
In middle school my best friend’s older brother started the team at Neshaminy High School outside of Philadelphia, called the Llamas. We started throwing in 9th grade, and playing ultimate in 10th grade in 2003. I feel lucky to have had access to a very well established league in the Philadelphia High School Ultimate Education League (PHUEL). What hooked me first was just the flight of the disc- I really enjoyed throwing and figuring out how to throw better. Also, the broship of my teammates, we were a bunch of bandos with an ultimate addiction.
I went on to play at Salisbury University with Buzz Ultimate where I met Tim Morrill and later we became Captains and got really into training.
Biggest success/adventure as a player was moving to the Phillipines last year and training full time for 2 months with Tim Morrill and the Boracay Dragons. I played with the Phillipines Men’s team and ended up finishing 3rd at the World Championships of Beach Ultimate in a universe win over Canada.
I’ve also had the opportunity to grow ultimate at the grassroots level around my current home Ocean City, Maryland, and created the organization Ocean City Beach Ultimate. We play a beach ultimate summer league every Thursday and an annual tournament the OC Beach Classic (Sept. 24-25!) We also do youth clinics through OC and Worcester County Parks and Recreation, and a competitive adult fall league on grass. Being able to spread the game to new players young and old has been the most rewarding thing for me.
Biggest struggle/failure was last year finishing 2nd place in 5 tournaments, with Humiliswag and Medicine Men. Being so close to so many tournament victories and not being able to get over the hump was extremely frustrating after so much time training, practicing, and analyzing yourself and your teams. Despite the losses I have used it as motivation to continue to improve myself and my ultimate knowledge. Winning is great too, but I seem to learn more from losing.
How has fitness coaching impacted your playing style?
Something we teach at Morrill Performance is that playing your best on the field is a culmination of 4 key influences: lifestyle, nutrition, sport skill training, and functional performance training. The more I learn about human performance, the more my life changes to completely revolve around health and ultimate.
On the field I try to win matchups with efficient movement, speed, and endurance.
Being a strength and conditioning coach with Morrill Performance has given me great perspective on the player/coach relationship. Coaches look at things from a distance and analyze how they will help in-game performance. Now as a player, I try to view situations and games very objectively and see through any fatigue or drama in the game. I try to determine what exactly is occurring and how I can be more effective to help my team win.
Tell me a little bit about goal setting around ultimate. Do you make skill goals for yourself? Mental goals? Smaller goals for a practice or for a game? What are some keys for setting attainable, measurable goals in ultimate?
Goal setting is very important for players that want to improve. At the base of that drive is simply having the desire to constantly learn and maintaining that growth mindset. Being able to be self-reflective and objective is important, and also being able to take constructive criticism from your teammates and coaches. If you see something you want to do better like a sweet bladey, outside-in forehand, or on a larger scale want to understand your team’s offense better, don’t be afraid to ask other players, captains, or coaches for advice! Always ask questions and keep an open mind.
Personally I set season-long goals based on the player I want to be, and the role I play on my teams. I also set smaller goals to focus on at an individual practice or weekend. It should be something challenging yet achievable. A skill-based goal is something like, “I’m not going to turn the disc over this practice,” so focus on field vision and decision making. A mental goal is, “I’m always going to run my hardest whenever I am on the field.” Set smaller goals which will bring you closer to your larger goal. Focus on things you can control.
First was my high school ultimate advisor and role model, Dave Bender. He only taught us a vertical stack and what a dump was, and then just played with us. He could bomb forehands full field and was an amazing player that set the bar very high for me in high school. First and foremost he taught us Spirit of the Game, and that is what I have carried with me since day one.
Second, when I was trying out for Medicine Men in 2009 as a travelling college player, the old coach of Medicine Men, Farrell Sullivan, once told me “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” Now I drive from OC to play pro and club and it’s always worth it.
Last, being coached by Dutchy has been a great experience for the last 2 years. I continue to learn a lot and really like the offense.
What is the biggest mental lesson you’ve learned throughout your years?
Mental toughness is always believing in yourself and your team and never giving up no matter how much adversity you are facing. Hard work, preparation, and fun makes you believe and builds the team bond.
In your eyes, is Spirit different than Sportsmanship? How so or why not?
I think they are one in the same. Both are about respect for yourself, your opponents, and the game of ultimate.
What are you looking forward to most about playing for Breeze 2016? Any nerves or reservations?
I don’t have any reservations, I am just excited to play and see what we can do. Its really cool to be a part of the AUDL at such a crazy time of growth. I am also excited to play with many of the Truck guys for the first time and to huck biscuits with my fellow MP Coach Goose Helton and the Humiliswag bros.
— Libby Chamberlin, Breeze Staff Writer