Weeks after Keven Moldenhauer’s announcement that he will be playing the upcoming season and Will Smolinski will step in as the DC Current’s head coach, the team has announced that Samantha McClellan and Jacob Nuxoll will be assistant coaches for the 2016 season. These new additions were made with regard to the Current’s new focus on growth development of young players and pursuit for their second championship.
Wasting no time as the team’s new head coach, Smolinski has assembled two figureheads in the D.C. ultimate community that bring years of playing and coaching experience to the squad. McClellan will join the team after playing with Scandal for seven seasons from 2008-2014 and co-coaching GRIT this past summer. Nuxoll joins the coaching staff after officiating the D.C. Current’s home games for the past two seasons. He has coached at the high school level and the D.C. area women’s club team GRIT this past year.
“Our theme this year is growth and development, and both bring in something that we will need as part of that process” said Smolinski. “Sam has played at the highest level and has the resume as a player to back the parts of our process that are important. She is assertive, very smart, and ready to coach. Jacob and I have worked in parallel for years at the youth level, and his strategies for boosting morale, seeing value that others don’t, and interpreting what I am trying to teach to the rest of the team are all assets.”
Both McClellan and Nuxoll were on the professional field during 2015 season with a whistle around their neck. As officials, the two stood out and were top of their craft. McClellan donned the stripes in 2015 for the AUDL and was offered a head referee position for the upcoming season. However, McClellan prefers the role on the sideline.
“I love watching and helping players develop their game, and found that I have strategic mind for the game. Although I enjoyed refereeing, I did not find as much joy in simply enforcing rules during a game as I found in helping players and a team develop and win games” said McClellan.
Nuxoll is a ‘veteran’ of Major League Ultimate, for the past two seasons he has served as an official in the league. His success at this position did not go unnoticed by the Current organization.
“I was hesitant to ask Jacob to come on because he was a really good ref. Our DC crew is the best, and I say that because they are fair. I hope we can get somebody who can do as good of a job as Jacob back on the field” said Smolinski.
“I had assumed that I would be returning to the MLU as a referee. I really enjoy refereeing, and I really enjoy coaching. They’re very different skill-sets, so I enjoy them for different reasons” said Nuxoll. “I’m also excited to be coaching at a higher level. I’ve worked with developing players my entire coaching career, and this new opportunity is going to ask a lot of me. I’m excited for the challenge, and I’m excited to grow.”
As mentioned before, coaching will not be a new task for these two. Nuxoll has coached five seasons of high school ultimate, four at H-B Woodlawn in Arlington, Virginia and one at The Field School in Washington D.C. He has also coached three years at the club level, starting with two seasons with Backhanded then moved to GRIT this past year. Nuxoll will bring 10 years more of playing experience to the coaching staff and has previous experience working alongside Smolinski at the youth level, their coaching chemistry will surely benefit the squad this upcoming season.
McClellan’s main accolades have come as a player and it was not until 2015 that she decided to move into a coaching role. While on Scandal, she was a huge part of the team winning back-to-back national championships. This past year she played for the D.C. based mixed team Ambiguously Grey during the postseason, who made a return to Club Nationals. As mentioned earlier, she also co-coached GRIT this past club season for her first coaching experience.
While McClellan will not be the first female coach for the D.C. Current, Lizzie Bellinger joined the team as the strength and conditioning coach last season, she will be the first in the assistant coach position for the team.
“It was important for us to make sure we got the best candidate, regardless of gender. We purposely were looking to interview women because [there] are great female candidates who have not been given an opportunity to work and be successful. We also have coaches with experience coaching women or mixed but have not been given an opportunity to coach pro. Great coaches find a way to reach their players. Both Sam and Jacob have shown me they can do that” said Smolinski.
With the welcoming ultimate community, this is not the first time that a female will be coaching males. Often times ultimate has transcended cultural sports norms and this should be no difference with McClellan.
“I think respect will need to be earned, rightfully, since I have no proven track record of coaching men. However, I feel very up for the challenge! Also, I am excited to work with the MLU sized field and see what kind of possibilities open up on the larger field (versus club sized fields). I think the larger field certainly adds to the inherent offensive advantage, and with the speed and size of the men’s game, I am so excited to be the offensive coordinator” said McClellan.
With these two additions the coaching staff appears to be set for the 2016 season and is tailored to fit the new mentality of the franchise going forward. McClellan and Nuxoll have a proven track record of growth and development.
“Our staff will have the same attitude and focus on building a dynasty because that’s what we’ve been preaching from Day 1. After winning the title in 2014 and a disappointing year last year I think it says a lot about our organization that we had one coach want to play again with the full confidence that it would be in good hands with the other” said General Manager Matt Dewhurst. “On top of that, we had staff and coaches down with multiple year contracts. We are truly trying to build something here that is more than a flash in the pan. It is about building a franchise that can develop young talent mixed in with talented veterans, and have that trend continue for years to come with practice and pod players eventually earning a spot on the roster.”
Next month, the Current will kick off the 2016 season with players, staff and fans at its annual signing day party where the team will announce the re-signing of last season’s top players.