Photos by Brian Canniff and Paul Andris – Ultiphotos.com
After their first season coaching professional ultimate in 2016, assistant coaches Samantha McClellan and Jacob Nuxoll have agreed on terms to return to the Washington D.C. Current for the 2017 season.
Last year saw a new-look Current team, not just with who was on the field but holding the reigns in the 2016 season. With a transition season for the organization, the team leadership began to put together a highly documented ‘three-year plan’ for the next several years. Looking to continue with the plan, General Manager Matt Dewhurst, and Head Coach Will Smolinski will bring back both assistant coaches from the 2016 season.
“One thing that is so hard in ultimate is to build a team that has such little turnover year to year. It’s just the nature of our sport,” Dewhurst said. “So once we were able to find two great assistant coaches in Sam and Jacob, I think it was clear that we wanted to keep them around, and try to build off what we started in 2016.”
Last season, McClellan served in an offensive coordinator role and Nuxoll managed the defense. Building chemistry, not only among the players, but the amongst the coaches proved to be a task that took the entire season. Implementing a new system that coincides with the ‘three-year plan,’ especially on the offensive side of the disc, saw D.C. finish with their worst record in franchise history at 3-7.
McClellan’s offense last year held an offensive scoring efficiency (OSE) of 56.3 percent, the team’s lowest total ever. However, their OSE was the highest among non-playoff teams. Not only was McClellan the new offensive coordinator, but the team saw Coach Smolinski at the helm by himself in 2016 (he was co-head coach with now player Keven Moldenhauer in 2015), and only had one offensive starter returning.
“I had a great experience with the team last year, and I felt like we laid the foundations for building the program over the next few years,” McClellan said. “Last year we basically had to erase a lifetime of learning by the players and instill some new concepts and approaches to the game that they had never done… This year, hopefully a lot of the O-line guys will be returning, such that the system part will be easier, and all that will need to be focused on is chemistry, fine tuning, and more case-specific scenario planning, as opposed to the only big-picture work we did last year.”
The defense had a slightly better season than the offense. With Nuxoll coaching defense, the defensive line created a turnover (DTE) 50.2 percent of the time, second highest in team history only behind the 2014 championship season. The defensive scoring efficiency was 28.3 percent tied for second highest.
“This allows us to hit the ground running in week 1, with higher expectations for what we are capable of,” Smolinski said. “Year two is about patching up big gaps. Having the leadership back together, we have already started working on that and try outs haven’t even been posted yet.”
Last season was the first season coaching professionally for both Nuxoll and McClellan. Nuxoll brought eight seasons of coaching experience in high school and club, while McClellan had one club season of coaching under her belt.
Before 2016, both coaches spent time on the professional field as referees, Nuxoll in the MLU and McClellan in the AUDL. Still an elite player, McClellan just went back to USAU Club Nationals with Washington D.C. Scandal this season. She also coached the women’s club team, Grit Ultimate who made their second straight Regionals appearance in their first two seasons.
“We, the coaches, are excited to expand on the systems we put in place last year. We spent much of our practices teaching and refining, but this year we can cement and expand,” Nuxoll said.
For Coach Smolinski, this is the final year of his three-year deal that he signed before the 2014 season.
While the league still operates on it’s 2016 budget, neither coach has officially signed their contracts for the 2017 season, but both the team and coaches have agreed to a deal. Once the 2017 budget kicks in, it is expected that McClellan and Nuxoll will sign their respective contracts.
This is the first round of contract announcements for the 2017 season. Within the next several weeks, the organization will begin to announce player re-signings already in place.